Saturday, November 29, 2008

Green Your Thanksgiving


As the Holiday Season approaches, we all tend to resort to our own family traditions, which may not include any thought of sustainability. One possibility? Start some new Green traditions. Here are a few ideas for a Green Thanksgiving from Lynn Colwell, and her daughter, Corey Colwell-Lipson, authors of the book: "Celebrate Green":

Decorations:
— It's easy to make Thanksgiving decorations green because so many of them are edible. Colwell likes to decorate with gourds and berries. "It looks beautiful, it's colorful, it's enjoyed first and then consumed," she said. These items could also be composted.

— For place settings and wreaths, gather natural materials you can easily find in your own yard - branches, pinecones, beautiful autumn leaves. Not only will it create less waste, but you'll also have fewer items to store, since everything is disposable. It's fun for kids, and better yet, it's free. For daily green decorating tips with a natural feel, check out decorator Danny Seo's blog.

—Find new uses for things you already have. "We were setting a Thanksgiving dinner for a talk we gave, and we didn't put too much planning into what we would do. We did a hunt around the house," said Colwell-Lipson. "We had a fun time opening cupboards and putting things together, and came up with 90 percent of what we needed there. We found a glass bowl, and had idea that if we filled bowl with leaves, pinecones, berries, and put a glass plate on top, it became a seasonal centerpiece. We found some table cloth that wasn't so fancy - it was my grandmothers. It's not something you would have picked up at the store, but with everything else it worked."

Place Settings:
—"Many people don't have enough glassware and they buy disposable items," said Colwell-Lipson. "It's not good for the planet. So, to bring meaning into the place setting, you could ask each guest to bring their own, and tell the story behind it. It could be their grandmother's, or it could be from a thrift store. People laugh and learn and reduce their footprint."

— You could also try a thrift store for place settings, tablecloths and flatware. Mix and match to add character to your table.

Giving Thanks:
— Colwell's idea for a new tradition: Ask each guest to bring an item that represents something they're thankful for. "Put the items in a glass bowl or spread it down your table, and ask everyone why they brought each thing," she said. "You create a tradition, start a conversation, and ask a question that many people never ask on Thanksgiving."

— If you need to cut back a little this Thanksgiving, whether you're doing so in a green way or not, "look at it as an opportunity and not as a punishment," said Colwell. "When you were a child, you were creative. Talk to your family about how to make it fun and spend less money on food. Get neighbors together for a potluck. There are wonderful ways to do it."

— Look to the past. Ask grandparents how they celebrated with less, and how they brought together the family. "We've been convinced that we need more than we do, and we need to spend money to be happy," said Colwell. "We don't believe that's true."

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Differentiating by Going Green


As any experienced marketer knows, differentiating your business from your competitors is a primary key to attracting new prospects and customers and retaining them once they decide to become your customers. But will the same “hook” that attracted them to become your customer be enough to maintain their loyalty? Let’s examine a few strategies:

Low Price: As people are always price conscience, especially in this slow economy, this can be an excellent method to attract new customers. However, unless your company plans on being a “discount house” operation, you will need to evolve a different strategy to retain those customers, otherwise they will simply seek out the next big discount elsewhere.

Great Products: Every business advertises great products. Why is your product better than your competitor? Provide your prospects with a reason to walk in your door. Then make sure your products are updated and tweaked regularly to ensure a competitive edge.

Great Service: This strategy typically does not attract new customers, unless you detail how your service will exceed your competitors. On the surface, there is nothing to differentiate your company from your competitors. Of course, great service is a major key to customer retention.

There are many other innovative marketing strategies being employed in the marketplace which are based upon surveys. These studies can give you an understanding of your target market’s concerns as well as focus on the latest trends. One such trend which every major survey (Harris, Nielsen, Mintel, Intellitrends) has been following is Going Green. With unstable fuel prices, new energy tax credits, and the promise of an upcoming New Green Economy, there has never been a better time to incorporate Green into your company’s business practices and products.

Will Going Green help attract new customers or members? According to Intellitrends, nearly 35% of those surveyed considered a company’s environmental policies before purchasing. Monster Trak reported that, for college graduates, this number was above 80% and 92% of these “Gen Y’s” were seeking to work for a company with a solid environmental and corporate social responsibility policy.

Even with all of the news and surveys on Going Green, business journals have estimated that less than 2% of all small and medium sized companies in the U.S. have begun any green initiatives at all. Pity. According to the Makovsky Green Gap survey, people are looking for businesses to take the lead in improving the environment. That could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to differentiate and really make a difference.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How is Your Company's Indoor Air Quality?


Sounds like a simple question, with a simple answer. But based on several recent studies which showed various levels of contaminants in many company facilities, it may be time to take a serious look at what the air quality is at your place of business. Going Green does include minimizing or eliminating any inherent health hazard.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): "In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors."

Over the past 20 years, many states, such as Florida, Pennsylvania, NY, California and others have passed legislation creating their own Indoor Clean Air Acts. These acts referred primarily to tobacco smoking and the proven harmful effects of second hand smoke. Decades prior, federal legislation banned the use of asbestos in building products and lead in paints. Based upon their health endangerment, these factors were of course, the most obvious. But there still remains other less obvious factors that can affect air quality.

Many of us are aware of mold, which has serious health implications, and can normally be controlled by adjusting temperature and humidity. However, even the smallest unnoticed water leak can eventually cause mold to multiply. Also, emissions from your building's HVAC source must be consistently monitored. While the EPA encourages proper ventilation, this method simply shifts the emissions to our atmosphere. A healthy green strategy would be to eliminate or drastically reduce all emissions.

Indoor air quality is also greatly affected by Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). VOCs are gases emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions. Little testing has been done on the health effects of these gases, and virtually no testing on the effects of combinations of these gases, which is evident in most business facilities. The best advice is to seek out and use products with No or Low VOCs.

A green facility or business can not only create a healthier workplace, but also reduce employee sick days and turnover adding to more financial benefits for your company.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Photo credit: Dboo - Flicker

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Funding the New Green Economy


We have heard lots of talk and seen lots of news on the so-called “New Green Economy”. It has become a central theme in the U.S. Presidential debate, where some candidates estimate it will bring 5 million new, high paying jobs over the next ten years. With fuel prices hurting consumers at the pumps and, with winter coming, many northern people looking at paying out close to $1,000 USD per month to heat their homes, combined with the feeling that outside influences are controlling these costs, the concept of energy independence will certainly fuel this budding industry.

But where will the needed billions in investments to start us on the road to new, clean energy come from? Here in the U.S. it has already started, and from an unlikely source. The banking crisis. Unbeknownest to most people, not all of the monies will go towards bailing out the banks and fat cats who created this mess. The same $700 billion bailout of the banks, which is officially named the Emergency Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 (EESA 2008), has officially started the green ball rolling. EESA includes billions of dollars in energy tax credits for consumers and businesses, as well as companies engaged in the development of these technologies. These include credits for solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and other alternative energy producing devices. Looking towards the future, the Act also provides tax credits for purchasers of plug-in electric vehicles. Upgrading to more energy efficient appliances is not forgotten and also receives tax credits. In fact, there are 32 sections of the 442 page Act, which refer specifically to energy tax credits. There is even a section on tax credits for bicycle commuters!

Many of these credits are extensions and enhancements of federal programs which were due to expire in December 2008. And these could not come at a better time. Even with the downturn in the overall economy, surveys from bizJournals Green, still show the green industry as “the one bright spot”. However, as with any good news, there is bad. With the recent credit crunch, according to American Public Media, start up companies are finding it more difficult to get the funding they require. Those with solid funding acquired prior to the Wall Street fiasco will have a green light to take advantage of consumer and business purchases through the tax incentives.

It will still take some time before companies realize the opportunities and develop marketing strategies of their products to take advantage of EESA. And it will also take some time to reduce the overall public fear in the economy in general and move consumers back into consuming.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Photo credit: Steve Wampler on Flickr