Improving local economies may not be an obvious part of the green movement, but consider the potential positive financial and environmental gains we would realize if all of us followed a buy local, buy green policy.
The federal government’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing policy, for example, uses their enormous buying power to stimulate market demand for green products and services.
Many Iowans may be pleasantly surprised to find the growing number of green product vendors and service providers close to home.
1. Buying local reduces the environmental impact of bringing the product or service to your organization by minimizing transportation and shipping resources.
2. Using locally made products and services helps keep jobs at home, promotes community growth and provides better service. Think of it as a positive investment in your community.
3. Buying the ‘right’ green can get a little tricky, but there are ways to be better aware of what to look for when buying green. Check the web for local green awareness events, service providers and product vendors. Another great way for businesses to become more aware is to create an internal green task force to research and adopt a Buy Green, Buy Local policy.
4. Non-profit organizations receive a lot of support from small, local business owners.
5. A growing number of economic research studies show that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.
Many restaurants are paying attention to consumers who are looking for environmental dining options. In addition to the catering to the customer, many owners and managers are looking for new and innovative ways to reduce cost and waste through green solutions.
So today we pass along some common practices that restaurants are adapting to as part of their efforts to become more sustainable and less wasteful.
10 suggestions you might find useful when turning
your restaurant green:
1. Consider serving a glass of water only if customers accept your invitation.
2. Use tent cards at tables and bar areas to alert customers of your sustainability efforts and savings.
3. Replace paper napkins and tablecloths with cloth.
4. Use and promote local organic produce in your menu items.
5. Consider electronic coupons for special promotions in lieu of paper ones.
6. Use hybrid vehicles for delivery services.
7. Use motion sensors in restrooms and other areas not occupied the majority of the time.
8. Eliminate or reduce the use of Styrofoam and plastic to-go accessories.
9. Avoid grease, oil, fats, etc. going into the sanitary sewer by disposing of them in containers.
10. Replace incandescent lighting with longer lasting CFL light bulbs or LED lights. Replace traditional exit signs with LED exit lighting. Check with your local energy provider for rebates and incentives.
As is the case with many other sustainability ideas, it’s the sum of all parts that makes a difference. You might also be surprised to find how your green practices can lead others toward positive change as well — and your customers will notice, in a good way.
Each day more of us learn about the challenges we face in making our world more sustainable for
The Great Law of the Iroquois says that “in every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation … even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark on a pine.”
There’s a lot of meaning in that single simple sentence, and it goes a long way toward helping explain why we collectively feel the need to re-evaluate and re-prioritize our lives and businesses to reflect that message. Enter the Green Culture …
Some of us have already lived through the Industrial Revolution and the Computer and Technology Revolution. I think the next revolution in our lifetimes will be the Green Revolution.
The Green Revolution takes the advancements by industry and technology and retrofits them into a culture that chooses to give preference to those which are socially and environmentally responsible.
Here are a few simple ways bringing sustainability into your daily culture:
n Stop, look and listen – For one day reflect on the individual impact you have on the environment based on your decisions and habits at home, work or school.
n Education and awareness – Nothing ever changes until there is a valid reason for change. Be proactive and learn why sustainability is important to our generation and base your change in habits on acquiring good information.
n Don’t be intimidated – There is a feeling out there of “What difference can I make?” or “I do what I can.” We can all do better and you’d be surprised to see how your participation will lead and influence others.
n Products and services – Consider the products and services that are part of your lifestyle and the life cycle behind them. How important is it to you to make purchasing decisions based on the environmental and/or social impact of the product, service or vendor?
Students walk around central campus to get to classes at Iowa State University on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009, in Ames. ISU has installed a new solar trash can outside of Curtiss Hall to improve sustainability as part of the Live Green Initiative.(AP Photo/Ames Tribune, Ronnie Miller)
Recent studies have shown that most of us are increasingly drawn to work for companies that have environmental policies in place. This number spikes upward when talking to employees under 30. Most colleges and universities are slowly developing new curriculum and campus policies that bring the student closer to the issues they will face in the new green economy.
With this in mind we find college campuses to be ideal training grounds for local leaders to learn about sustainable buildings, practices and products. Listed below are a handful of ideas for students who want to make their college campuses greener.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle – Think of dorms and housing units as small communities. Take the lead in developing a reduce, reuse and recycle campaign for your community and look for support and help from others to join the challenge. Creating challenges, competitions and incentives are great ways to bring others on board.
- Start a Green Team – If you have the passion for sustainability then why not start or join a Green Team? Green teams within school environments can sometimes take advantage of funding opportunities to help expand their efforts.
- Walk or bicycle – Owning a car is a luxury for many students but even those who do can reduce their carbon emissions by walking or bicycling to classes and events.
- Engage with local businesses – Local businesses who specialize in various areas of environmentalism or sustainability are typically very open to sharing their knowledge and experience with students. Many community colleges are also adding environmental business and homeowner classes to their continuing education programs.
- Have a Green Day – My personal favorite. Pick a day and promote it as your Green Day on campus. One simple idea is to encourage everyone to spend the day thinking about their daily routine and how it impacts the environment we live in both today and tomorrow. You’d be surprised at what you witness in one day’s time when you’re paying attention to the impact we each have in our daily practices and product use.
As we learn more about the importance of using earth friendly products and practices in our daily lives we find that most of our behaviors have some form
of impact on the environment we live in.
For example, cosmetics and personal care items are often not very earth friendly when it comes to the chemicals used to create the product, the packaging and disposal options.
Fortunately, there are alternatives
to such products that work just as
well while minimizing their environmental impact.
- Become more aware – Most of us are creatures of habit and simply don’t welcome any type of change in our routines and habits. Do a little research on the products you’re using and the alternatives. A convenient starting point might be the Cosmetic Safety database at www.cosmeticsdtabase.com
- Check the ingredients – As with many other products on the market today you are likely to find that some of your favorite cosmetics use petroleum, petroleum based derivatives, or other toxins used to enhance their appeal. Better options are those that are natural and made from sustainable resources such as minerals and bees wax. For example, Cedar Rapid-based Eco Lips makes an organic lip balm product
- Packaging – A good majority of cosmetic items come in small packages but number in the millions worldwide. Check the packaging and recycling options on the item.
- Reduce your usage – Sometimes less is better. As with anything else in our consumer-filled lives there are opportunities for consolidating and minimizing our usage.
- Make your own – People are doing it with good results and not just hard core tree huggers. Search the web for terms like “Make your own cosmetics.”
This year, for Iowans, the holiday travel season is extended by a few days due to the University of Iowa Hawkeye’s appearance in the Jan. 5 Orange Bowl in Miami. As Iowans take to the airs and roads en route to the bowl game, consider the some small actions that can minimize impacts while on the road or in the air.
If your travels take you to places that require overnight stays why not consider staying at a hotel or motel that has made the commitment to adopting practices and practices that minimize their environmental impact. The Green Hotels Association Web site www.greennhotels.com lists green hotels across the country.
It’s always a good green practice to minimize waste. We’ve all seen the waste left behind from tailgating events we’ve been at, and it’s a relatively simple and painless process to simply try to leave nothing behind after the game.
Although this can be challenging due to logistics and such, carpooling to and from the airports or while on the road to your destinations will reduce carbon emissions.
Many airports are incorporating on-site recycling bins to reduce waste within their airports. Look for the signs or simply ask. While traveling recently through the Atlanta airport I noticed they have implemented a new system called GreenSortATL, which eliminates the need for separate recycling containers. Under the new program, all waste generated by passengers, employees and businesses goes into the same container and is taken to a facility, where it is sorted and recycled. The airport plans to reduce the amount of trash it sends to landfills by 50 percent by the end of the program’s first year — and by 70 percent by the end of the second year. How cool is that?
We’ve certainly seen a rise in the number of what we’ll call Green TV programming on our cable, satellite and public television networks. As you can imagine, there are various degrees of usefulness on some of these shows depending on where you’re at in your environmental awareness journey.
At one end you have those which are based more on entertainment with a green twist and at the other you have the philosophical environmental shows deeply rooted in theory and science about our changing planet and ecosystems. All serve a purpose but for the sake of this space we’ll try to give you a shortlist of those we think you’ll find most applicable to your daily lives.
B. organic — Without even leaving Iowa you will find a local Iowa Public Television show called B. Organic with Michele Beschen. Michele does a great job of presenting a wide variety of ideas and do it yourself green projects that can be done
by most anyone. She also has a great Website at www.borganic.net
Living with Ed — This Planet Green network show stars Ed Begley Jr. and lightheartedly showcases the trials and tribulations experienced by Ed and his wife as they dedicate themselves to living more sustainably in their California home.
Nature Inc. — Planet Green also brings us a show called
Nature Inc. This is an extremely interesting new show that focuses on the connections between nature, our economy and the newfound business solutions we are finding through nature’s use.
Focus Earth with Bob Woodruff — Another Planet Green show, this one focuses on green movements across the globe in a fast-paced newscast type of format that explores the latest events and happenings that are of applicable to our personal and professional lives.
Eco-Tech — This is The Science Channel’s thinking man’s show about how technology is being used to solve our ongoing environmental challenges. You will likely be amazed at how many things are being done behind the scenes in research and in the field to help combat our growing concerns over a sustainable planet.
The season for holiday music is upon us and in concert with that theme it’s worth noting how today’s musical instruments are evolving in our quest for redesigning products using sustainable methods and materials.
For the sake of space and time we’ll focus on guitars, and more specifically the woods that are used to give us the sounds we all love and appreciate. Common tonewoods such as rosewood, mahogany, koa, maple and spruce have been traditionally used in guitar construction for many years and have become the standard materials for quality construction and sound.
Deforestation and other man made factors have contributed to a dwindling supply of such woods. Forward thinking manufacturers have begun using alternative and sustainable wood sources in their construction practices while retaining a high quality product that is also priced competitively.
Most guitarists become very loyal to a certain sound or tone in their instruments. This tone is achieved by the mixture of woods used for various parts of each guitar. Major manufacturers such as Gibson, Fender, Martin and Taylor have taken the lead in this effort to educate the players and re-sellers on the environmental factors driving the change in materials and alternative construction solutions. Such efforts will help make playing the guitar a lasting art for our generation and others to come.
Here’s a few Web sites with information on green guitars and sustainable woods:
Music Wood Coalition — www.musicwood.org/index.htm
Premier Guitar: “Sustainable Tone” — www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2009/Jul/Sustainable_Tone_The_Forest_and_the_Trees.aspx?Page=1
Top 13 Green Guitars — www.greenecoservices.com/green-guitar-music-
The holiday time finds us shopping for gifts for our loved ones and friends. This year has been a challenging one in these tough economic times. Perhaps, however, we have learned a little from our experiences and will take
extra time to consider the words “need” and “longevity” as opposed to “chic” and “disposable.” Too many
gifts end up in landfills before New Year’s Day or are made of inferior quality and parts.
In a perfect world, all gifts would be made from socially and environmentally conscious methods and materials, but for now spend a little extra time this year thinking about your purchases in terms of how the gift was produced and how much the recipient really needs it.
Five ways to shop green:
1. Consider quality over quantity.
Why buy junk for the sake of
2. Challenge yourself to make your gift significant. We’ve all been guilty of thinking we need things only to find them buried in a closet, box, landfill or posted on eBay. Remember the song lyric: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need”?
3. Buy locally made products or services. Most products made locally are done so using a significantly lower environmental footprint and are of higher quality, especially here in Iowa.
4. Reuse your wrapping paper if possible (or buy recycled brands) and bows. Reusable bags are also good choices in lieu of traditional wrapping paper. Be creative and reduce the day-after-Christmas trash pile.
5. Consider organic food and drink gifts for the non-greenies in your
life. Once you get past the initial squirm and frown you just might
have a convert.
The word pollution conjures of images of smog choked cities, oil spills, garbage strewn rivers and the like. While many of these so called traditional outdoor pollution issues challenge us to this day and are still threatening issues, we now face a rising concern over what we are learning about our indoor pollution.
For the sake of space we’ll limit this discussion to situations that exist in offices, schools and other workplaces where workers (and customers) spend time ins a closed environment.
Specific numbers vary, but recent Environmental Protection Agency Indoor Air Quality estimates have shown indoor air quality to be more of a threat to our health and wellness than outside air. Consider that most Americans spend between 80 to 90 percent of their time inside closed environments and it’s not surprising to find recent studies connecting the rise in illnesses such asthma, allergies and other seasonal sicknesses. Reducing lost time at work due to illness, (particularly for those than can be avoided) is a significant cost savings to businesses large and small.
There are many ways we can limit and prevent pollution in our businesses and workplaces. Part of the green movement is bringing awareness to the forefront of such issues and connecting them with new and innovative solutions that introduce healthy and sustainable alternatives.
Five common contributors to poor indoor air quality:
1. Cleaning products and application methods
2. Furniture, carpet, paints, and other office products with high VOC (volatile organic compound) content
3. Pesticide products and application methods
4. Inadequate or poorly maintained HVAC systems
5. Undetected mold and spores