Environment Energy Efficiency

How Inefficiency Hurts Your Business for Sustainability

Saturday, February 22, 2014 by

In today's technologically driven world, there are many ways a business can become more efficient. This efficiency translates to greater net income as well as promoting a stronger future for humanity. Let's face it, without focusing on the continuation of humankind, there will be no customers in the future. With all of the innovative developments at our disposal, there are still many people that prefer to perform archaic principles in business that are not conducive to growth. In what ways can this inefficiency hurt your business for sustainability?

1. Wasting Time - One of the most valued commodities of any business is time. By not investing in ways to increase efficiency in the workplace, your business is losing money through wasting the one thing that cannot be recuperated. Instead of the pencil and pen ledger, software exists to allow you to reduce the time spent on record keeping exponentially. This means less paper is used, less time is wasted and more money remains in your bank accounts instead of paying staff to do the work that only requires a few clicks of the mouse.

2. Wasting Electricity - By not examining the electronics that are turned on all the time that don't need to be, you are wasting electricity. Not all computers and monitors need to be left on day-in and day-out. The only real appliance that should be left on is the server. That staff member you may have that is only at his or her desk once per week doesn't need the computer left on. This waste of electricity is damaging to your energy bill as well as hurting the rest of the community by taking energy that could be used elsewhere.

3. Wasting Paper - Did you know that nearly every aspect of any given business can be done digitally? Even receipts for purchases can be emailed instead of printed. Since tablets and smartphones can open most office documents, there is no real reason to have hard copies. Digital documents can be stored and backed up far easier than the printed counterparts - and will take up less physical space. The only real forms that may be needed are those that require personal initials or signatures such as real estate documents or contracts. Memos, correspondences and many other forms of printed material are no longer needed if you have the right alternatives. The financial savings alone from ink and paper should be more than enough incentive to look into efficient alternatives. 

4. Wasting Water - Faucets and toilets within the facility may be wasting water, but what about outside the business? Everyone likes to see greenery surrounding the headquarters or business establishment. However, is the water being put into keeping it green used wisely? There are still organizations out there that have sprinkler systems that operate when it's raining outside. There are products available now that can reduce the amount of time you spend watering the grass and flowers by up to 50-percent. This means you are wasting less water on the ambiance of your business while keeping more money in your bank.

As a business owner, you should be setting an example of professionalism. In a world where so many resources are dwindling rapidly, you need to realize that the business establishment greatly contributes to the loss of these resources. Look around your location and develop a strategy to become more sustainable for the environment and your profitability.

Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.

Six Reasons Why I Love the Green Festival

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 by

Green FestivalWhen the organizers of the Washington, DC Green Festival approached me this past spring about becoming their regional director,  I wondered if an event like this still resonated with consumers. Even though the event is widely recognized as the nation’s premier sustainability event, I asked myself if there was enough demand for an actual event in today’s age of virtual this, "there’s an app for that” and hash tags becoming part of our ever day lexicon.  Especially in a sector where green events have come and gone. Well, I found out that the resounding answer is YES! If my experience in September is any indication, while technology may have taken on a prominent place in our daily lives, there is absolutely a place in consumers’ lives for good, old fashioned face-to-face events.  We crave community and in-person interaction now more than ever. Technology hasn’t lessened the demand for this type of interaction. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  It has increased.  People want to talk with others, gather information and look someone in the eye while doing it.  They want to touch and try out products, taste samples and see for themselves what resources are available to them.  Most importantly they want to be part of a like-minded community and participate in that community.

As my colleagues working on the San Francisco Green Festival gear up for the last event of the year November 9 & 10 at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center, it seems like a good time to  reflect on some of my favorite elements of the Green Festival.

1.       At its core the Green Festival message is about celebrating what is working in the community and providing consumers easy-to-use, actionable solutions they can take home with them and implement right away. Whether it be delicious vegetarian recipes from  Washington Post Food Editor Joe Yonan’s new book ‘Eat Your Vegetables’  to DIY ways to repurpose furniture courtesy of Habitat for Humanity, to tips on bike commuting, composting, gardening, energy efficiency and so much more, there truly is something for everyone.  Kids too.

2.       The opportunity to connect with and learn from inspirational businesses, organizations, nonprofits and other like-minded individuals who believe in making a difference, leaving our planet in better shape then we inherited and finding ways to live an eco-friendly life.  The Festival routinely features well-known, national change agents like Ralph Nader or Amy Goodman, as well as locally-based leaders like Bernadine Prince, co-founder and co-executive director of FRESHFARM Markets, yoga teacher Faith Hunter of Embrace DC, who lead free yoga classes all weekend long in the Yoga Pavilion  and Fashion Fights Poverty, which curated a green fashion show .

3.       The event talks the talk and walks the walk.  Organizers actively encourage attendees to bike or take alternative transportation to reach the Green Festival. Anyone who bikes to the Festival receives free admittance.  Over 90% of waste generated by the Festival is diverted from landfills. There is even have a dedicated team of volunteers who sort through the trash making sure nothing is missed.

4.       As consumers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from, who prepared it and how it was made, that evolution has been reflected in the programming at the Festival. Food as a topic was addressed from every angle imaginable from the control of food production by a handful of large companies, to vegan baking tips from ‘Cupcake Wars’ veteran Doron Petersan, to growing gardens and food in small spaces, to leading area farmers markets and nonprofits showcasing how they are making it easier for consumers to have access to fresh, healthy and local foods.  Exhibitors offered healthful options for mom’s and mom’s to be, fair trade chocolates, juicing and smoothies, raw foods, and organic products just to name a few.  There were panels on how food creates opportunities for conversation about the environment and more.  Food is such an integral part in allowing us to live full lives, and there is so much going on behind the scenes that the average consumer has no idea about, so it’s important to provide opportunities to entertain, educate and inspire change all under one roof.

5.       The creativity and diversity of the exhibitors and sponsors.  They ranged from larger companies like Ford Motor Company test driving their fuel efficient vehicles and Equal Exchange Fair Trade Chocolates sampling and selling their tasty chocolates to small mom and pops like Karmlades selling environmental friendly cleaning products that smell wonderful and clean naturally without chemicals. I fell in love with one-of-kind scarves from a local clothing designer that were designed in the DC area and made with bamboo, an eco-friendly and super soft material.  Other exhibitors whose creativity caught my eye included a woman who used old scarves, jackets and other materials to make home goods, including a pillow made out of a World War II Army uniform, as well as the exhibitor who made bags, wallets and iPad covers out of old football and basketballs. Talk about reusing and recycling!

6.       Organizers are committed to reaching out to the community and making the event accessible to everyone. Complimentary tickets to the event are handed out at events throughout the area, can often be found online and through special social media promotions.

I think the most powerful take away for me was that there continues to be a thriving community, whether they be consumers, speakers, businesses or nonprofit organizations, who are devoted and committed to creating change.  To steal an oft quoted phrase from Ghandi, the Green Festival gives me hope that we will be the change we want to see in the world.

Hope to see you at the San Francisco Green Festival!

In Praise of Telecommuting

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 by

telecommutingYahoo's decision to end their work-from-home policy caused quite a stir. I won't second-guess Marissa Mayer's decision to do this, because I'm not there. She's got on-the-ground knowledge.

However, as a long-time telecommuter and huge fan of this mode of work, I would leave Yahoo rather than give it up. Here's why:

From a green business perspective, telecommuting is a Triple Bottom Line practice.

People - Commuting to work is generally not adored by those who do it. Telecommuting:

  • Gives you back your life - literally. How much of your life do you want to spend sitting in traffic? My last employer was 15 miles away, a 30 to 45-minute trip during rush hour. When the traffic was really bad, it was closer to 90 minutes a day. Conservatively, that's 5 hours a week for 50 weeks a year or 250 hours a year. Do the math for your commute. Really think about that number. You never get that time back.
  • Reduces stress. For me, almost any activity is less stressful than driving in rush hour traffic. And stress, as a recent Fortune article reminds us, can kill you. Among other things, I use the extra time to sleep. That's not lazy - that's healthy. Wondering if being crazy-busy is bad for you? It is.

Planet - If the Earth could hug people, it would hug telecommuters because they:

  • Use less gas. And thus are responsible for less pollution related to the drilling for, transporting, refining and distributing of oil and gasoline.
  • Produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. In my case, not driving an extra 7500 miles per year avoids about 3400 pounds of GHG emissions. TerraPass has a simple calculator to help figure out what you could save, based on your specific car and commute.
  • Can drive their cars longer. My Honda Civic Hybrid is 10 years old. Not buying a new car - with all the attendant steel, rubber, plastic, glass, fabric, electronics, wiring, etc. required - conserves natural resources for the planet.

Profit - Telecommuting cuts costs and boosts revenues for my business.

  • Cost savings include:
    • Lower car maintenance bills. I replace tires, brakes, oil and so on less frequently because I drive my car less. The Honda dealer has actually tried to buy my Civic back becuase it's in such good condition.
    • Lower bills for gas. Driving 7500 miles less per year means using about 166 fewer gallons of gas. At $3.50 a gallon X 166 gallons, I save about $583 a year. If you don't drive a hybrid, you'll save a lot more.
    • No tolls. My old route cost $3.50 a day, $17.50 a week, about $875 annually.
  • More revenue comes from:
    • Using the extra 250 hours a year to do more billable work. I don't burn the midnight oil. I just use the time otherwise lost in commuting.
    • Using the extra time to invest in ongoing business education. From conferences to courses to reading business books, it's essential in order to provide the best client service. 

These are MY numbers. According to Global Workplace Analytics, some 3 million Americans telecommute some or all of the time. That's a fraction of the number who could telecommute. I encourage you to try it!

Tips for Successful Telecommuting

How you telecommute really depends on your work style. There's no one right way to do it. Here are 5 tips that work for me:

Logistics

  • Have an office space with the proper equipment. Have people who can troubleshoot your equipment when it acts up.
  • Office doors physically separate my workspace from the rest of my life. When my daughter was young, she knew that closed doors meant that Mom was working and she had to wait. Unless she was bleeding. My doors have big glass insets, so I could see if she was bleeding.

Mindset

  • Focus on results. When I write something for a client, they don't care if I wrote it at Starbucks or behind my office desk. They just want it to be good and achieve their business objectives. Businesses that don't trust that you are working unless they can see you are behind the times.

Operating procedures

  • Maintain regular communications with your boss and co-workers, or with clients. It keeps isolation at bay and ensures you are in the loop when circumstances change. Take the initiative to overcome the "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome.
  • Get out of the house every day. Continual sitting is actually a health risk, so don't feel guilty about taking breaks. It gives both body - and your creativity - a boost.

Telecommuting and kids

One thing I did not do was work from home and try to care for my child at the same time. My daughter always had childcare in a different location. That choice worked well for my family. Your choice may differ.

So telecommute if you can!

It's a win for you, your clients, and the planet. How often is that the case?

Final shout out: Here's A Visual Breakdown of the Benefits of Working from Home from the LOHAS blog in October 2012.

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal of Great Green Editing. She provides writing and editing services to businesses and social enterprises that value high-quality content. She earned her Bronze seal from Green America in April 2013 and Platinum-level recognition from the Green Business Bureau in 2012.

 

 

 

From Growth Capitalism to Sustainable Capitalism: The Next 20 years of Sustainable Investing

Monday, December 3, 2012 by

By Joe Keefe, President and CEO, Pax World Management  (From the special 20th Anniversary issue of the GreenMoney Journal and www.GreenMoney.com )

Twenty years from now, we will have either successfully transitioned from our current economic growth paradigm to a new model of Sustainable Capitalism or we will be suffering the calamitous consequences of our failure to do so. Likewise, sustainable investing will either remain a niche strategy or it will have supplanted mainstream investing. This is the critical point we must embrace: sustainable investing can no longer simply present itself as an alternative to traditional investment approaches that ignore environmental, social and governance (ESG) imperatives; it cannot simply be for some people; it must actually triumph over and displace traditional investing.  

The current model of global capitalism - call it growth capitalism - is premised upon perpetual economic growth that must ultimately invade all accessible habitat and consume all available resources.[Footnote 1] Growth capitalism must eventually collapse, and is in fact collapsing, for the simple reason that a finite planet cannot sustain infinite growth. Moreover, the dislocations associated with this infinite growth paradigm and its incipient demise - climate change, rising inequality and extreme poverty, resource scarcity (including food and water shortages), habitat loss and species extinctions, ever more frequent financial crises, to name just a few - will increasingly bedevil global policy makers in the years ahead. The public sector is already experiencing a high degree of dysfunction associated with its inability to confront a defining feature of this system: the need for perpetual growth in consumption spurs a corresponding growth in public and private debt to fuel that consumption, which has roiled financial markets and sovereign finances across the globe. 

Meanwhile, the environmental fallout from this infinite growth paradigm is becoming acute. All of earth’s natural systems – air, water, minerals, oil, forests and rainforests, soil, wetlands, fisheries, coral reefs, the oceans themselves – are in serious decline. Climate change is just one symptom. “The problem is the delusion that we can have infinite quantitative economic growth, that we can keep having more and more stuff, on a finite planet.”[FN 2] The problem is an economic system that makes no distinction between capital investments that destroy the environment, or worsen public health, or exacerbate economic inequality, and those that are aligned with earth’s natural systems while promoting the general welfare. Under growth capitalism, a dollar of output is a dollar of output, regardless of its side effects; short-term profit is valued regardless of the long-term consequences or externalities. 

It is therefore discouraging that, in the U.S. at least, there is no serious discussion in mainstream policy circles about alternatives to the present system. Nor do I think there will be for some time given our current political/cultural drift. Political and economic elites, and the public itself, remain committed to growth capitalism, accustomed to “having more and more stuff,” for a host of economic, social and psychological reasons. As Jeremy Grantham has written, “[t]he problems of compounding growth in the face of finite resources are not easily understood by optimistic, short-term-oriented, and relatively innumerate humans (especially the political variety).”[FN 3] Our campaign finance system, wherein policy makers are essentially bought off by and incentivized to advance the very interests that stand to profit most from the current system, is no help. Making matters worse, large segments of the public do not even accept what science teaches us about climate change, or natural systems, or evolution, or a host of other pressing realities. The late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. Today, it seems that a growing number of people, aided and abetted by special interests that stand to benefit from public ignorance, are increasingly opting for their own “facts.”

So, neither the public sector nor corporate and economic elites, as a result of some newfound enlightenment, seem poised to consider alternatives to the current system. To the contrary, their first impulse will be to resist any such efforts. This is the critical problem at the moment: while there is an array of powerful forces aligned against the type of sweeping, systemic change that is needed, there is no organized constituency for it. There are individuals and groups who support this or that reform, or who are focused on critical pieces of the larger puzzle (e.g., climate change, sustainable food & agriculture, gender equality, sustainable investing), but there is no movement, no political party or leader, no policy agenda to connect the dots.

That is a shame because there is a clear alternative to growth capitalism that has been articulated in recent years by a diverse body of economists, ecologists, scientists and other leading thinkers - including leaders in the sustainable investment community.[FN 4]

Although there is as of yet no unified theory or common language, let alone any sort of organized movement to speak of, what has emerged is essentially a unified vision, and that vision might best be described as Sustainable Capitalism.[FN 5]

Sustainable Capitalism may be thought of as a market system where the quality of output replaces the quantity of output as the measure of economic well-being. Sustainable Capitalism “explicitly integrates environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into strategy, the measurement of outputs and the assessment of both risks and opportunities…. encourages us to generate financial returns in a long-term and responsible manner, and calls for internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing.”[FN 6] Essentially, business corporations and markets alter their focus from maximizing short-term profit to maximizing long-term value, and long-term value expressly includes the societal benefits associated with or derived from economic activity. The connections between economic output and ecological/societal health are no longer obscured but are expressly linked.[FN 7]

There is no question that growth capitalism must give way to Sustainable Capitalism. It’s as simple, and as urgent, as that. Over the next 20 years, the sustainable investing industry must play a pivotal leadership role in ushering in this historic transformation. We will need to connect the dots and catalyze the movement. Why us? For the simple reason that finance is where the battle must be joined. It is the financial system that determines how and where capital is invested, what is valued and not valued, priced and not priced. The sustainable investment community’s role is vital because the fundamental struggle is between a long-term perspective that fully integrates ESG factors into economic and investment decisions and our current paradigm which is increasingly organized around short-term trading gains as the primary driver of capital investment and economic growth regardless of consequences/externalities.

The notion that sustainable investing can simply keep to its current trajectory - a few more assets under management here, a few more successful shareholder resolutions there, a few more GRI reports issued, another UN conference, an occasional victory at the SEC - and achieve what needs to be achieved on the scale required is, frankly, untenable. We need to be more ambitious in our agenda.

We will also need to take a more critical stance, not only advocating for ESG integration but against economic and investment approaches that ignore ESG concerns. We will need to consistently critique the notion that externalities associated with economic output are somehow collateral, or that financial return is sufficient without beneficial societal returns, or that markets are inherently efficient and self-correcting. We will need to unabashedly offer sustainable investing not as an alternative approach but as a better approach - as the only sensible, responsible way to invest.

I believe the sustainable investing industry will also need to align itself with a more explicit public policy agenda - while remaining non-partisan - and work with like-minded reformers to advocate for that agenda. For example, sustainable investors should be sounding the alarm about resource scarcity and advocating for a massive public/private investment plan in clean energy, efficiency technologies and modernized infrastructure.[FN 8] The age of resource scarcity and the need for efficiency solutions is upon us.[FN 9] At Pax World, we offer a fund - the Global Environmental Markets Fund (formerly the Global Green Fund) - whose investment focus is precisely that. Our industry needs to fashion such investment solutions, and I believe there will be opportunities to do so collaboratively as well as competitively.

I also feel strongly that the greatest impediment to sustainable development across the globe is gender inequality. Advancing and empowering women and girls is not only a moral imperative but can unleash enormous potential that is now locked up in our patriarchal global economy. Sustainable investors need to press the case that gender equality needs to be a pillar of Sustainable Capitalism. At Pax World, we also have a fund - the Global Women’s Equality Fund - whose investment focus is exactly that.

In my view, the sustainable investing community should also be advocating for public funding of federal elections, either through a constitutional amendment or, absent an amendment, through a voluntary public funding system. The notion that we can tackle any major public policy issue, let alone undertake the epochal transition to Sustainable Capitalism, while politicians and regulators are captive to the very interests they are supposed to regulate, is beyond naïve. We will not be able to reform capitalism if we cannot reform Congress. 

Finally, asset management firms like my own will need to find ways to craft new, more persuasive messages, launch new products, form new partnerships, and fashion new distribution strategies and alliances that are focused on lifting the industry as a whole, because a rising tide will lift all boats. Pax World has taken a step in this direction in launching our ESG Managers Portfolios, where many ESG managers and strategies are now available under one roof in one set of asset allocation funds. There is more to be done - together, as an industry. 

The times call for leadership. The transition to Sustainable Capitalism is necessary and urgent, as is the triumph of sustainable investing over investment approaches that effectively prolong and exacerbate the current crisis. Twenty years from now, our industry will be judged by whether we have met this burden of leadership. Our impact either will be dramatic or inconsequential. We either will succeed or we will fail. We should resolve to succeed, and to work collaboratively toward that end. 

 

Article by Joe Keefe, President & CEO of Pax World Management, headquartered in Portsmouth, NH. Pax World manages approximately $2.5 billion in assets, including mutual funds, asset allocation funds and ETFs, all of which follow a sustainable investing approach. Prior to joining Pax World, Joe was President of NewCircle Communications (2000-2005), served as Senior Adviser for Strategic Social Policy at Calvert Group (2003 – 2005), and was Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Citizens Advisers (1997-2000). A former member of the board of US SIF (2000 - 2005), Joe was named by Ethisphere Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics” for 2007, 2008 and 2011, and in 2012 was recognized by Women’s eNews a one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century, where he was the sole male honoree. 

You should consider a fund's investment objectives, risks and charges and expenses carefully before investing. For this and other important information, please obtain a fund prospectus by calling 800.767.1729 or visiting www.paxworld.com . Please read it carefully before investing.

Equity investments are subject to market fluctuations, a fund’s share price can fall because of weakness in the broad market, a particular industry, or specific holdings. Emerging market and international investments involve risk of capital loss from unfavorable fluctuations in currency values, differences in generally accepted accounting principles, economic or political instability in other nations or increased volatility and lower trading volume.

Distributed by ALPS Distributors, Inc., Member: FINRA            PAX002590 08/13

Footnotes:

[1] See, William E. Rees, “Toward a Sustainable World Economy,” Paper delivered at Institute for New Economic Thinking Annual Conference, Bretton Woods, NH, April 2011, p. 4.

[2] Paul Gilding, The Great Disruption, Bloomsbury Press, 2011, p. 186.

[3] Jeremy Grantham, “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever,” April 2011 GMO Quarterly Letter.

[4] I am thinking of such writers and thinkers as Wendell Berry, Lester Brown, Paul Gilding, Herman Daly, Thomas Friedman, Paul Hawken, Richard Heinberg, Mark Hertsgaard, Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, Bill McKibben, Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers & Dennis Meadows, James Gustave Speth and, of course, E.F. Schumacher. Contributions from the sustainable investing community include Steven Lydenberg’s Corporations and The Public Interest, Robert Monks’s The New Global Investors, Marjorie Kelly’s The Divine Right of Capital, and The New Capitalists by Stephen Davis, Jon Lukomnik & David Pitt-Watson. See also the work of The Capital Institute, www.capitalinstitute.org

[5] Credit Al Gore, David Blood, Peter Wright and the folks at Generation Investment Management for putting a stake in the ground and endeavoring to define and popularize this concept.

[6] “Sustainable Capitalism,” Generation Investment Management LLP, 2012, p. 2.

[7] This notion of Sustainable Capitalism is not unlike the concept of “shared value” s advanced by Michael E. Porter and Mark E. Kramer. See, “Creating Shared Value,” Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2011.

[8] See Daniel Alpert, Robert Hockett & Nouriel Roubini, “The Way Forward: Moving From the Post-Bubble, Post-Bust Economy to Renewed Growth and Competitiveness,” © 2011, New America Foundation, www.newamerica.net

[9] See Jeremy Grantham, “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever,” supra; See also, “Resource Scarcity and The Efficiency Revolution,” Impax Asset Management, www.impaxam.com

 

For more information go to- www.GreenMoney.com

 

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Video: EmPOWERing Education in Indiana with On-site Wind Turbines

Monday, November 19, 2012 by

Wind energy is revolutionizing science education. In Indiana, NativeEnergy is helping schools build wind turbines that provide hands-on learning opportunities.

Facing budget cuts, Indiana schools needed a new approach.

The answer was an everyday resource: the wind.

Harold Seamon, assistant superintendent, Northwestern schools in Kokomo: “We looked at the possibility of building a wind turbine for several years. After doing a number of projects—we purchased equipment to improve our energy efficiency and the environment in our buildings—we finally said, ‘It would really be neat if we could generate some of our own power.’”

But they couldn’t do it alone. They turned to Performance Services to help assess the wind energy potential. Performance Services is a design-build engineering and construction firm with experience in developing community scale wind projects in Indiana.

Together, they discovered more than enough wind and expected major energy savings. But the project was still too costly to be built.

Carbon financing from NativeEnergy sealed the deal.

Jeff Bernicke, president, NativeEnergy: “When NativeEnergy heard this project needed additional funding, we were excited to help. It has so many benefits for the students, the school, and the community. Not only does it provide a stable source of locally produced energy, but it’s also a real life, full-scale renewable energy learning lab for the students and faculty.

“Our customers are buying the carbon reductions that will happen over the life of the project. These are known as carbon offsets. When our clients such as AVEDA, Clif Bar, Ben & Jerry’s, REVERB, and Touring Green make this offset purchase, they are playing a critical role in making this project happen.”

Harold Seamon: “The combination of utility savings on the one hand and carbon offsets on the other made the project viable for Northwestern schools.”

Finally, the turbines were built, and the excitement was contagious. Students are now learning about renewable energy, and some are even earning college credit.

We celebrated the project on October 19 at Northwestern High School.

Principal Al Remaly rode with NativeEnergy and Performance Services to the school. Then, a school-wide event taught students about their turbine. The companies also shared career advice with students. People even had the opportunity to climb the turbine.

Today, the three turbines are generating power throughout Indiana. They will cut 4,800 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year.

>> Learn more about this project

 

About NativeEnergy
NativeEnergy is an expert provider of carbon offsets, renewable energy credits, and carbon accounting software. With NativeEnergy’s Help Build™ offsets, businesses and individuals can help finance the construction of wind, biogas, solar, and other carbon reduction projects with strong social and environmental benefits. Since 2000, NativeEnergy’s customers have helped build over 50 projects, reducing more than 2.5 million tons of greenhouse gases, and the company has over 4 million tons under contract. All NativeEnergy carbon offsets undergo third-party validation and verification. Learn more at www.nativeenergy.com.

Making Sense of the FTC Revised Green Guidelines

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 by

It only took them 20 years (The first Guides were issued in 1992), but then again, as the saying goes, every overnight sensation is twenty years in the making. Maybe the FTC Green Guide staff put in their 10,000 hours, but, at last, they nailed it. The revisions to the Green Guides, published on October 1, 2012, shows that the FTC is finally putting their foot down (both of them) about the term 'green', along with such related generalized environmental claims as 'eco-friendly' and 'Earth smart'.

While they are at it, they're advising against the use of any label, logo, seal or product name or image -- what I like to call 'daisies, babies or planets' --  that can imply any hint of environmental (or health) superiority without adequate scientific support. Because chances are such claims are nearly impossible to support, the risk-adverse will stay far away from suggesting same.

And just in time, too. Interest in green claims continues to swell despite tough economic times. As global population climbs to an unimaginable 9 billion by 2050, we'll no doubt find many more ways  for consumers to 'go green', with accompanying eco-language to boot (Will "Mars friendly" be next?) But for now, we're all still here. So hopefully there's still time to clean up the green marketing business so we can one day harvest the potential to lighten consumers' size-18 planetary footprint.

The lawyers at the FTC did what 'greening' requires everyone to do — to think holistically, acknowledging the need to back up environmental marketing claims with life cycle assessments. They obviously consulted with some smart ecologists and biologists because the revised Green Guides demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of sound science. The Guides don't explicitly state the science, but for us laymen, here's a quick crib sheet that can help you understand why they're saying what they're saying:

There's no such thing as a green product. Every product uses resources and energy and creates waste.
One attribute does not a green product make.  An Energy Star certified compact fluorescent light bulb has a tinge of mercury (and as such require a hazardous waste permit to landfill in quantities of five or more.) Organic strawberries grown in California and eaten in New York are responsible for creating so many greenhouse gases on the trip cross country we might as well eat berries conventionally grown in New Jersey. Paper made from sustainably-certified wood still needs to be bleached and / or otherwise processed with dangerous chemicals and shipped to Staples.

Should CFLs not be Energy Star qualified? Should strawberries destined to hit the road not be labeled organic? Should paper that's on its way to be bleached not be described as 'sustainable'? Definitely not! Let's simply be more specific, as FTC recommends, and not suggest they are totally 'green'. (More on this below.)

100% recycled content can be less 'green' than 10% recycled content.  Depending upon the nature of the recycled content and how far it must be shipped to a recycling center, environmental costs of shipping and other impacts can actually make a recycled product less 'green' than a virgin counterpart.
Natural is not necessarily green or more healthful. Arsenic is naturally occurring.

Sustainable is a moving target. Corn may be in plentiful supply today and able to be regrown year after year, but when water supplies wane, it may not be so 'sustainable' to continue to grow it, no matter how fast or how economically it can be converted into bio-plastics and biofuel.

So, green is a relative, rather than absolute, measure. The best way to determine relative greenness is a bona fide life cycle assessment covering all facets of a product's environmental impacts, from raw materials procurement straight through to disposal. This is duly acknowledged in the latest installment of the FTC Green Guides.

We are the next endangered species on the planet. The planet is not at risk, we are. (Yet another reason not to include images of planets in one's advertising or to make grandiose claims about saving it.) This is not a political issue, but an issue of our future, and particularly those of our kids' and their kids.

So it's incumbent upon every marketer, manufacturer, retailer, producer, and everyone else in the supply chain and their stakeholders to understand not just these Guidelines and ideally their scientific underpinnings, but to do what we can to make all green marketing work as it's supposed to.
We in industry -- and concerned consumers, too -- should get on the case of questionable green claims. In their infinite wisdom and thoroughness, the FTC provides lots of helpful information for marketers and to the public to make the process of reporting such claims easy. (The National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau can help too.)

Green marketing is just good marketing. As I've been saying for a while now -- and it is admittedly counter-intuitive, the best green marketing doesn't lead with a product's 'greenness'. The good news about many green(er) products these days is that, thanks to advances in design, materials and technology, they offer superior delivery on the primary benefits that consumers buy products for. So why not focus on those things instead of altruism and planets that don't need to be saved?

At a minimum, consider that environmental marketing, reflecting the planet itself, encompasses so many potential product-related attributes, organic, VOC, recycled, biodegradable, among them, as to render the term 'green' meaningless. Rather than confuse, even deceive, consumers intentionally or unintentionally with messages about 'eco-friendliness' and 'natural' (which in their infinite wisdom, the FTC refused to define) why not hone in on those green-oriented terms that a now mass market seeks via all its segmentary splendor: 'energy efficient', 'organically grown', 'water efficient', 'recyclable', among them, and render your marketing both relevant, targeted, and credible? (FTC would love you for being specific.)
Moreover, let's link those same 'green' attributes to the benefits they deliver to consumers. For instance, let's tout all things 'water efficient' as 'cost effective', and 'fuel efficient' as 'convenient (fewer fill-ups and the ability to drive in the HOV lane).

Does this mean we should not talk about 'the environment' at all?  Not in the least!  Consumers still want specific, well-documented and genuinely helpful environment-related information -- so let's include them in our marketing messages in its secondary or tertiary place in line with its importance on our customer's shopping list.

All of us environmental types like to talk about how, 'if we do our jobs right we'll put ourselves out of business'. Well, before we get run out of town for more greenwash and hogwash by a now enlightened FTC (and the Enforcement Division that stands ready to pounce) let's agree to put ourselves out of the 'save the planet' business and into the business of saving our customers some money, time, etc. in an environmentally sound way -- and make our marketing more legitimately green for our bottom lines, rather than our faces red with shame.

Jacquelyn Ottman is principal and founder of the New York City-based J. Ottman Consulting, expert advisers on green marketing to Fortune 500 sustainability leaders as well as several U.S. government labeling programs. The author of four books on the subject, her latest is The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, February 2011).

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com


 

Slipping Green Through the Back Door

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 by

Laguna Niguel, CA — America is going green, but not the way environmentalists had planned it. The unlikely hero is none other than Corporate America, which is giving consumers the green whether they realize it or not. Why? Because it’s good for the customer, it’s good business, and let’s face it, as MGM Senior Vice President of Environment and Energy Cindy Ortega articulates, “It is also good for employee morale and retention — people want to work for companies who care about the world around them.”

 

"Over 70 percent of the wood we now sell is certified. But you won't find us advertising or promoting that fact," said Ron Jarvis, senior vice president of Environmental Innovation for The Home Depot. Photo by Mathew Wilson (Courtesy of Flickr).

Here’s a great example of this sales strategy as employed by The Home Depot: “Over 70 percent of the wood we now sell is certified. But you won’t find us advertising or promoting that fact,” said Ron Jarvis, senior vice president of Environmental Innovation for The Home Depot at its Atlanta headquarters. Jarvis was in Laguna Niguel recently to attend “Fortune Brainstorm Green,” a high level conference attended by many prominent green industry corporate and NGO executives.

“Our data shows that most customers will not pay extra for sustainable wood, and in some cases, they consider “green” wood a negative. We believe that FSC wood is the best way to go for both quality and sustainability reasons, so, most of the wood we sell in developing countries is FSC certified. We do believe in educating our customers and employees about sustainability, but at the same time the voice of the customer is always our top priority. Thus including FSC wood without charging a price premium is the right thing to do, and thankfully, due to our enormous volume and purchasing power, we can make this equation work business-wise,” Jarvis explained.

Jarvis’ competitors at Lowe’s also have a couple examples of this same premise. “There are multiple variations of a “green” consumer. In fact, according to the 2011 US LOHAS Consumers Trends poll, 83 percent of consumers identify with “green” at some level. However, the greenness of consumers changes with multiple factors, including the economy and available income, as well as age and generations,” said Michael Chenard, Director of Corporate Sustainability for Lowe’s at its Mooresville, NC headquarters. “Today, 100 percent of the bathroom faucets Lowe’s carries are WaterSense (low flow) certified, and that’s been the case for more than three years. Lowe’s also has more in-stock Energy Star-qualified appliances and lighting fixtures than any other major home improvement retailer.”

 

According to the 2011 US LOHAS Consumers Trends poll, 83 percent of consumers identify with "green" at some level. Graph by Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), 2009 LOHAS Consumer Trends Database.

Keeping with the theme of “going green through the back door,” shipping giant UPS is using sophisticated software and data to develop the cheapest, most fuel efficient way to move packages from point A to point B. These savings are passed along to the consumer, according to Scott Wicker, UPS’ chief sustainability officer at its Atlanta headquarters. Also in attendance at Fortune Brainstorm Green, Wicker said UPS is testing all types of fuel efficient vehicles in its massive fleet, including full electric, hybrid, compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas, among others. Vehicles that operate out of central depots in large urban areas are the best prospect for going full greenfleet because of the range limitations of electric and other nascent technologies. “We also use telematics to monitor over 200 data points via satellite from our trucks, which helps us train the drivers in maximum fuel efficient driving techniques and ensure they are taking the shortest routes, not letting the engines idle excessively, among other factors,” Wicker said. Alas, out of over 100,000 vehicles, only about 2,600 are truly alt-fuel at this time. Wicker says that number will grow over time, but not surprisingly, cost will ultimately trump all other considerations.

 

 

UPS is testing all types of fuel efficient vehicles in its massive fleet, including full electric, hybrid, compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas, among others. Photo by Schnaars (Courtesy of Flickr).

How about the clothes we wear? Levi’s is also employing the “going green through the back door” technique. “We are committed to the Better Cotton Initiative because we believe it can change the way cotton is grown around the world, positively impacting the environment and supporting 300 million people engaged in cotton farming around the world — without creating higher prices for consumers,” said Brianna Wolf, Manager of Environmental Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co. “Last fall, we started blending the first Better Cotton harvest into Levi and Denizen products. To date, we’ve produced more than five million garments containing a Better Cotton blend.” However, you won’t find a label identifying clothing made with Better Cotton quite yet. “Participating brands are holding off on direct product labeling during this start-up phase, to allow supply to scale to meet demand. For now, we encourage consumers to learn more about Better Cotton and support brands who are integrating it into their product lines at bettercotton.org,” explained Wolf.

And what about that all-important cup of morning Joe? While many consumers are frustrated by Starbucks’ lack of recyclable cups, the company does take good care of its key suppliers — the coffee growers toiling in the fields of faraway places. “When someone buys a cup of our coffee, they probably don’t know that the beans are produced with social, environmental and economic best practices in mind. Our C.A.F.E. Practices coffee-buying program includes rigorous sourcing standards covering: fair wages and benefits; access to medical care and education; specific high standards for conservation and biodiversity; amongst other criteria.” said Kelly Goodejohn, Director of Ethical Sourcing for Starbucks. “For the past ten years we have partnered with Conservation International on C.A.F.E. Practices. Currently, 84% of our coffee is ethically sourced through this model. By 2015, 100% of our coffee will be third party verified or certified, ensuring that all the coffee we purchase has been grown and processed responsibly.”

 

 

By 2015, Starbucks vows to have 100% of their coffee be third party verified or certified, ensuring that all the coffee they purchase has been grown and processed responsibly. Photo Courtesy of Starbucks. 

Indeed, there are some case histories that bear out the thesis that mostly due to the economy, consumers simply have not embraced going green over the past several years. This is a bitter pill to swallow for green opinion leaders, but may explain why products like Clorox Green Works home cleaning products have gone straight up, then plunged back to earth with a resounding thud. Recall that Green Works was launched in 2008 with great fanfare, and zoomed to over $100 million in sales within two years. Inexplicably, sales started to drop off, and even a price reduction to parity with non-green competitive products could not revive Green Works. Adding insult to injury, general opinion of experts was that the Green Works products performed very well, and backed up the claims made by Clorox. This is worthy of mention because a number of green products have been rushed to market without proper testing, bringing a black eye to the movement when consumers felt snake bit by paying premium prices for products that did not live up to their hype.

“In the past, consumers have felt that purchasing green products would require some form of sacrifice — spending more money or an inferior design. Today, that has changed,” declared Joel Babbit, CEO and co-founder of online daily green news magazine Mother Nature Network (MNN). “Not only have prices become more comparable — but the associated savings in lower energy bills, water usage, and using lesser quantities that come with green products often result in a cost advantage. On the design side — as opposed to the clunky or boring approach so common just a few years ago — many of the most innovative and attractive products now entering the market are green.”

You can read more by Jennifer Schwab by following her blog, Inner Green.

 

 

Is There Such a Thing as Green Asbestos Abatement?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 by

Many old homes and buildings contain asbestos, a known carcinogen that is proven to cause life-threatening diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The owners of these older properties often abate asbestos because they want to remove the health hazard. (If asbestos is discovered on a property, it is usually mandated to be removed.)

Asbestos abatement also becomes a necessity for developers who want to reclaim properties with a significant number of old or condemned asbestos-containing buildings.

However, there mere disposal of asbestos waste can be a costly and hazardous affair in itself. It can pose a danger to the environment, and there are only a few authorized dump sites that follow EPA guidelines. These sites are quickly filling up.

Because of these concerns, green-minded individuals and companies may look into safer methods of abatement including more effective fiber control of asbestos waste and recycling methods.

Recycling Asbestos

The disposal of asbestos waste is heavily regulated and often involves bagging the asbestos-containing material (ACMs) and burying it in a landfill. This creates potentially environmentally hazardous situations which companies may be liable for. Instead of dumping material in a landfill, companies may choose to recycle the material.

Asbestos fibers are destroyed in a process called vitrification. High output Joule heated melters provided by the commercial glass industry can melt large volumes of waste and turn it into a durable glass. The resulting glass can be used in other applications such as glassphalt (glass mixed into asphalt for roads), roofing shingles and mixed into concrete. It can even be used in smoke detectors.

Vitrification also produces a significantly lower waste volume than other methods of disposal by up to 97%. The process is also efficient and cost effective.

The process was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and was implemented in the Savannah River Site (SRS) and West Valley Nuclear Services (WVNS).

Other DOE sites that perform vitrification are:

  • Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) in Tennessee;
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico;
  • Rocky Flats (RF) in Colorado;
  • Fernald Environmental Management Project (FEMP) in Ohio; and
  • Hanford Waste Vitrification Project (HWVP) in Washington state.

Making Safer Chemical Choices

In addition to recycling, asbestos abatement can be green by using more environmentally friendly chemicals and cleaners in the abatement process. A common abatement activity is the removal of asbestos containing floor tiles.

There are several products that are now made non-flammable, non-carcinogenic, without chlorine and without ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons. Some of these products are available in vegetable-based formulas. Biodegradable abatement hair and body shampoos are also available.

By making a few smarter choices, even asbestos waste disposal can be made greener.

Bio: Michelle Y. Llamas is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She is committed to generating awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and providing information regarding breakthroughs in going green.

Sources:

Jantzen, C. M. et al. (2000). Savannah river site waste vitrification projects initiated throughout the United States: Disposal and recycle options. Retrieved from http://sti.srs.gov/fulltext/ms2000105/ms2000105.pdf

Jantzen, C. M. (2000). How to recycle asbestos containing materials (ACM). Retrieved from http://www.osti.gov/bridge/purl.cover.jsp?purl=/753909-hXpCJf/native/

Sustainability Trends for 2012: energy, water and employee engagement

Friday, April 27, 2012 by

Energy EfficiencyA quick review of sustainability trends reported on the internet shows (not surprisingly) that energy will stay a high priority. The focus is on alternative energy, energy efficiency  and solar energy. Within the green building movement, retrofitting buildings for sustainability is gaining momentum.

This poses a huge market opportunity for businesses. However, it helps if (local) governments create the environment that is beneficial for investing in clean energy. For rapid introduction of new technologies a so called ‘innovation system’- the needs to be in place. Innovation systems are networks of organizations that work together on diffusing new technologies. They are facilitated through entrepreneurial activity, knowledge development through collaboration with educational institutions, and knowledge diffusion through networks such as accelerators and business platforms. Governments can play pivotal roles in facilitating innovation systems.

A more recent trend is concern over water issues. Many places in the world don’t have access to enough water to meet agricultural, urban and industrial water needs. Large areas deal with droughts, and disruptive weather patterns caused by climate change  aggravate these issues.

Though this is important for business, especially in the food industry, it is even more important to governments. Water supplies are directly related to energy and food needs. The repercussions of water shortages in combination with an exploding world population cannot be underestimated – and may lead to water wars. Meriting this issue to be dealt with from a diplomatic point of view. For example: it is for a good reason that China does not want to leave Tibet: the country is the source of all the rivers in the region.

Thirdly, employee engagement is finally on the corporate agenda. Which is great, because the social side of the triple bottom line often gets little attention.  I often wonder why we have so few very successful cases for sustainability. In my opinion, engagement is the missing link – you can’t just roll out policies, or change light bulbs. Sustainability becomes a part of the organization when employees are engaged in the subject. Luckily for us, there is a strong business case for engagement, and links to sustainability within a company

Focus On Consumer Self-Interest to Win Today's Green Customer

Sunday, April 22, 2012 by

Eco-labels are an excellent way to enhance credibility for green marketing claims, but they are not without risk. While 28% of consumers look to green certification seals or labels to confirm that a product adheres to claims, these labels can also confuse. Happily there’s enough method within the madness for marketers to pave a way forward.
 
Eco-labeling challenges
More than 400 different eco-labels or green certification systems are now on the market. Questions such as which label is better, which product is safer for the environment and what does a label even mean are common questions that well-intended green shoppers may find themselves asking when trying to make an environmentally responsible purchase.
 
Confusion can arise from labels that certify too much or too little information. Some eco-labels focus on a single product attribute (e.g., recycled content), which keeps things simple but can inadvertently mislead consumers into thinking the product is green overall. Other labels look at several characteristics of a product or even a product’s entire life cycle; such multi-attribute certifications may raise questions about the credibility of a single-attribute certified product while also preventing easy comparisons.
 
Some products, such as electrical appliances, have a number of labels and certifications, while others, such as mattresses or flatware, have none. Another common reason for confusion is the discrepancy in the levels of rigor applied to some eco-labeling—some require independent, third-party verifications while others allow self-certification.
 
Here are some important criteria to consider when seeking the labeling most relevant to your brand:
 
Single-attribute labels
 Single-attribute seals focus on one environmental issue, e.g., energy efficiency or sustainable-wood harvesting. Before certification, an independent third-party auditor is typically required to verify that the product meets a publicly available standard.
 
Many single-attribute labels are sponsored by industry associations looking to defend or capture new markets. Others are sponsored by environmental groups or NGOs that want to protect a natural resource or further a cause. Two single-attribute labels with a global presence are the Forest Stewardship Council (or FSC) label, ensuring the sustainable harvesting of wood and paper, and Fair Trade Certified, ensuring that strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of such agricultural products as coffee.
 
Voluntary U.S. government labels
Unlike in some countries, such as Canada, Japan and South Korea, the U.S. government has opted for voluntary single- rather than multi-attribute labels. (The private sector and not-for-profit groups hold sway in the area of multiattribute eco-labeling.) Outside of those associated with independent testing, the government-backed labels don’t involve fees. One of the most visible and influential labels is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR (for which we at J. Ottman Consulting were proud to advise over many years).
 
ENERGY STAR promotes energy efficiency in more than 60 product categories, and almost 3,000 manufactured products now feature the ENERGY STAR label. In fact, according to the Natural Marketing Institute, in 2009, 93% of the American public recognized the ENERGY STAR label and 73% said they would be more likely to purchase products that carried that label.
 
Other EPA labels include WaterSense, SmartWay (transportation) and Design for Environment (safer chemicals). The USDA stewards the USDA Organic and USDA Certified Biobased labels (another J. Ottman Consulting client).
 
Multi-attribute labels
As the name suggests, multi-attribute labels examine two or more environmental impacts. Founded in 1989, Green Seal is the granddaddy of them all. It provides a seal of approval for a variety of products that meet specific criteria on a category-by-category basis. Products are reviewed annually for a fee. A few of the organizations whose products now bear the Green Seal certification include Wausau Paper, Clorox, Kimberly-Clark and Hilton.

If your green ads showcase the now tiresome images of babies, daisies, and planets, your messages will likely be irrelevant to mainstream consumers. Eco-imagery may have tugged at the purse-strings of “deep green” consumers, but their lighter green counterparts, who make up the bulk of the market, want to know how even the greenest of products benefit them personally. While the environment may be the underlying reason a product was created or upgraded, it will likely not be the primary motivation for consumers to choose your brand over those of competitors.
 
Avoid green marketing myopia
In other words, don’t commit the fatal sin of “green marketing myopia”. As my colleagues, Ed Stafford and Cathy Hartman of the Huntsman Business School of Utah State, and I point out in our much-quoted article, “Avoiding Green Marketing Myopia,” remember that consumers buy products to meet basic needs - not altruism.
When consumers enter a store, they don their consumer, not citizen caps. They are looking to find the products that will get their clothes clean, that will taste great, that will save them money or that will make themselves appear attractive to others. Environmental and social benefits are best positioned as an important plus that can help sway purchase decisions, particularly between two otherwise comparable products.
 
Quiet Green Marketing
Underscoring the primary reasons why consumers purchase your brand - sometimes referred to as “quiet green” - can broaden the appeal of your greener products and services way beyond the niche of deepest green consumers. Quiet green might also help overcome a premium price hurdle. So, focus communication for greener products on how consumers can protect their health, save money, or keep their home and community safe and clean. Show busy consumers how some environmentally inclined behaviors can save time and effort.
 
To be clear, this does not mean focusing exclusively on such benefits - to do so would be to go back to conventional marketing altogether. But focusing too heavily on environmental benefits at the expense of primary benefits will put your product in the green graveyard, buried under good intentions. Happily, thanks to advances in technology, many greener products these days do provide added value in the form of enhanced benefits.

Does your green product improve health?
Keep in mind that the number one reason why consumers buy greener products is not to “save the planet” but to protect their own health. Categories most closely aligned with health are growing the fastest and tend to command the highest premiums. Health messages can apply to a wide variety of product categories. Consider, for instance, a print ad for AFM Safecoat (that ran here in the U.S.) featuring 16 buckets of paint; 15 of the buckets are painted red and bear labels such as “Gorgeous Paints,” “100% Pure,” “Low Odor,” and “Sustainable.” However, the last bucket stands out in green and announces “The Only Paint that is Doctor Recommended.”
 
Does your product appeal to the style-conscious?
American Apparel was created as a brand that provides excellent working conditions for its employees and uses organic cotton. But, in 2004, when its “sweatshop free” label did not bring in the numbers that CEO Dov Charney was hoping for, he switched to promoting a sexy, youthful image for his company - complete with racy, controversial ads with young women. Three years later, the company has 180 stores and revenue estimated at $380 million. Sounds heretical? Keep in mind that the same sustainably responsible clothing is still being sold to consumers, together with all the same benefits to society and the environment.
 
Does your product save consumers money?
Many brands find that their green benefits neatly translate into something direct and meaningful to the customer, such as energy savings translating into cost savings. Ads for Sears’ Kenmore’s HE5t steamwasher state that it uses 77% less water and 81% less energy than older models. The headline grabs readers with the compelling promise, “You pay for the washer. It pays for the dryer.” In New Jersey, Marcal’s Small Steps campaign positioned the use of 100% recycled household paper products as an easy measure to take for the environment and save money.
 
Today’s consumers want to know the back-story about products and packages, so focus on primary benefits in the context of a full story that incorporates the environment as a desirable extra benefit. Better yet, integrate relevant environmental and social benefits within your brand’s already established market positioning, and you’ve got the stuff for a meaningful sale.


******
Jacquelyn Ottman is the founder and principal of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., an expert advisers on green marketing to consumer product marketers and U.S. government labeling programs. She is the author of four books on green marketing, including the recently released The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, 2011).
Download a free chapter and get more information here.

Excerpted from The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler 2011) by Jacquelyn A. Ottman.
 

Originally published in The Guardian, September 23, 2011.



Sustainable collaboration: how LOHAS companies are reducing carbon emissions together

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 by

Project Supporters and participants dedicate the Wewoka Biogas ProjectMany leading companies have realized that sustainability is good for the environment, their customers, and even the bottom line. Better still, by teaming up with other businesses for green initiatives, companies can achieve a greater impact. Through one recent collaboration, NativeEnergy’s Project Supporter Program, 25 brands are working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help build renewable energy and carbon-reducing projects across the U.S.

These businesses—which include LOHAS companies like eBay, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, EILEEN FISHER, Aveda, and Clif Bar—purchased Help Build™ carbon offsets to fund three projects.

The Iowa Farms Wind Project features the construction of two 1.6 MW wind turbines on family farms in northern Iowa. It’s expected to reduce about 9,000 tons of carbon emissions per year. Plus, it will provide power to about 5,200 nearby homes and an important source of income for the farm owners.

Project Supporters: Aveda, EILEEN FISHER, Clif Bar, Designtex, Touring Green, Reverb, Ben & Jerry’s

The Wewoka Biogas Project in Oklahoma powers a family-owned brick plant by using methane from a landfill. It captures and destroys the methane—a potent greenhouse gas—that would have been emitted otherwise. The discounted biogas also helps keeps the brick plant in business.

Project Supporters: eBay, Esurance, Designtex, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Eco-Products, Clif Bar, Brighter Planet, Reverb, Vital Choice, Touring Green, Presidio, College of the Atlantic

The Northeast Farm Separation Project in Pennsylvania cuts methane emissions on a family-owned dairy farm by separating volatile solids from manure. It also benefits farmers and helps reduce agricultural runoff.

Project Supporters: Ben & Jerry’s, The Brick Companies, Carlisle & Company, Comedy Central, RLP Capital, Credit Union Cherry Blossom Run, Pax World, and ABR, Inc.

Not only will these projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions—by a total sum of 400,000 metric tons—but they also help on a smaller scale by supporting local economies and family farms. So by participating, these corporate leaders have made a difference in the daily life of countless people.

The modern world is increasingly obsessed with consumption. We buy things we don’t need, which leads to waste. Fortunately, these companies prove that the corporate world is conscious of environmental issues and motivated to take action—on their own and collaboratively. In this case, success can even drive sustainability.

To learn more about the Project Supporter Program, visit http://www.nativeenergy.com/psp.html.

How to Choose the Right Eco-label for Your Brand

Thursday, March 8, 2012 by
eco labels

Eco-labels are an excellent way to enhance credibility for green marketing claims, but they are not without risk. While 28% of consumers look to green certification seals or labels to confirm that a product adheres to claims, these labels can also confuse. Happily there’s enough method within the madness for marketers to pave a way forward.
 
Eco-labeling challenges
 More than 400 different eco-labels or green certification systems are now on the market. Questions such as which label is better, which product is safer for the environment and what does a label even mean are common questions that well-intended green shoppers may find themselves asking when trying to make an environmentally responsible purchase.
 
Confusion can arise from labels that certify too much or too little information. Some eco-labels focus on a single product attribute (e.g., recycled content), which keeps things simple but can inadvertently mislead consumers into thinking the product is green overall. Other labels look at several characteristics of a product or even a product’s entire life cycle; such multi-attribute certifications may raise questions about the credibility of a single-attribute certified product while also preventing easy comparisons.
 
Some products, such as electrical appliances, have a number of labels and certifications, while others, such as mattresses or flatware, have none. Another common reason for confusion is the discrepancy in the levels of rigor applied to some eco-labeling—some require independent, third-party verifications while others allow self-certification.
 
Here are some important criteria to consider when seeking the labeling most relevant to your brand:
 
Single-attribute labels
 
Single-attribute seals focus on one environmental issue, e.g., energy efficiency or sustainable-wood harvesting. Before certification, an independent third-party auditor is typically required to verify that the product meets a publicly available standard.
 
Many single-attribute labels are sponsored by industry associations looking to defend or capture new markets. Others are sponsored by environmental groups or NGOs that want to protect a natural resource or further a cause. Two single-attribute labels with a global presence are the Forest Stewardship Council (or FSC) label, ensuring the sustainable harvesting of wood and paper, and Fair Trade Certified, ensuring that strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of such agricultural products as coffee.

Voluntary U.S. government labels
 Unlike in some countries, such as Canada, Japan and South Korea, the U.S. government has opted for voluntary single- rather than multi-attribute labels. (The private sector and not-for-profit groups hold sway in the area of multiattribute eco-labeling.) Outside of those associated with independent testing, the government-backed labels don’t involve fees. One of the most visible and influential labels is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR (for which we at J. Ottman Consulting were proud to advise over many years).
 
ENERGY STAR promotes energy efficiency in more than 60 product categories, and almost 3,000 manufactured products now feature the ENERGY STAR label. In fact, according to the Natural Marketing Institute, in 2009, 93% of the American public recognized the ENERGY STAR label and 73% said they would be more likely to purchase products that carried that label.
 
Other EPA labels include WaterSense, SmartWay (transportation) and Design for Environment (safer chemicals). The USDA stewards the USDA Organic and USDA Certified Biobased labels (another J. Ottman Consulting client).
 
Multi-attribute labels
 As the name suggests, multi-attribute labels examine two or more environmental impacts. Founded in 1989, Green Seal is the granddaddy of them all. It provides a seal of approval for a variety of products that meet specific criteria on a category-by-category basis. Products are reviewed annually for a fee. A few of the organizations whose products now bear the Green Seal certification include Wausau Paper, Clorox, Kimberly-Clark and Hilton.
 
Other multi-attribute labels exist primarily for specific categories, such as EPEAT in electronics and Global Organic Textile Standards. Still others address specific areas of concern: for instance, the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Reduction label ensuring that the carbon footprint of a product has been measured and is being offset, and the C2C (Cradle to Cradle) label with its emphasis on material chemistry and toxicity. Walmart’s Sustainability Consortium promises to eventually deliver multi-attribute guidance in the form of a Sustainable Product Index.
 
Self-certification programs
 Issued by manufacturers to denote their own environmental and social achievements, self-certification programs do not carry endorsements or the credibility of an impartial third party. However, they do provide distinct advantages in controlling costs and providing flexibility in the type and amount of information provided to consumers. Some self-certification systems showcase labels obtained from government or third-party labeling. Companies that have their own self-certification include NEC Corp. (Eco Products), Sony Ericsson(GreenHeart), General Electric Co. (Ecomagination) and Timberland Co. (Green Index).
 
Independent claim verification
 Independent for-profit organizations, including Scientific Certification Systems, Oakland, Calif., and UL Environment, Northbrook, Ill., will verify specific claims for a fee. They will also develop standards in industries where none exist as well as certify products against standards developed by other organizations.
 
Environmental product declaration
 ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, describes three types of eco-labels: Type I: Environmental Labels; Type II: Environmental Claims and Self-declarations; and Type III: Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). More often used in Europe and Asia than the U.S., EPDs provide detailed explanations of the full life-cycle impact of a product.
 
An excellent example is the EPD issued per ISO 14025 by Steelcase for its Think Chair, designed to fit the needs of consumers around the world. Displayed at the company’s website, Steelcase.com, the EPD shares the results of three life-cycle assessments (needed to accurately assess impacts in North America, Europe, and Asia), and describes the various certifications it has received from different countries around the globe.
 
A way forward
Considering an eco-seal endorsement or independent claim certification for your brand or products? Use these suggestions to avoid confusion and maximize the potential value of an eco-label for your brand/product.
 
1. Choose wisely
 Ensure that the organization behind the seal and its methodologies are credible. In particular, look to see that its standards have been developed in accordance with standards-writing organizations such as ISO and local bodies such as the American National Standards Institute or the British Standards Institute.
 
2. Be relevant
 With so many labels available out there, it is quite likely that your brand may qualify for more than one eco-label and product attribute. Thus, aim to promote the attributes that are most relevant to your brand. Also, remember to integrate your eco-labeling into existing brand platforms. GE’s well-known Ecomagination designation extends from the company’s longstanding “Imagination at Work” brand platform.
 
3. Educate
 Avoid consumer confusion by educating your consumers about the specific criteria upon which your eco-seal is based. When it comes to single-attribute labels, take care to communicate that only a specific product attribute is being certified and that the entire product is not greener as a result. For credibility’s sake, if appropriate, communicate attempts to extend the greening process to other product attributes.
 
4. Be transparent
 If you opt to self-certify, be clear that the label is your own. For example, SC Johnson’s GreenList label was recently taken to task for appearing to be the work of a third party.
 
5. Promote your eco-label
 Considering that many eco-labels are not widely recognized by the average consumer, help to create demand for your eco-label through marketing communication consistent with your seal’s own guidelines. The ENERGY STAR label enjoys strong awareness thanks largely to the promotional efforts of the many manufacturers whose products bear the label coupled with advertising. Be sure to look for opportunities to distinguish your commitment to your selected eco-label from competitors using the same label.
 
******
 Jacquelyn Ottman is the founder and principal of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., an expert advisers on green marketing to consumer product marketers and U.S. government labeling programs. She is the author of four books on green marketing, including the recently released The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, 2011).
Download a free chapter and get more information here.

Excerpted from The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler 2011) by Jacquelyn A. Ottman. 

American Ingenuity

Friday, November 4, 2011 by

Contributed by Scott James

EPA designThis month I spoke with Matt Bogoshian in DC. He is the Senior Policy Counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency. One of the ways I reconcile being apolitical and staying as far away from DC as possible is because I know I have kindred spirits like Matt fighting the good fight there. He works quite a bit with businesses, so I asked him about CSR this month.

Scott: Tell me about a company that is doing something in CSR that would be a model for the future.

Matt: Staples and Wegmans are two recent examples who, in a partnership with us, worked collaboratively with the thermal paper manufacturers to explain that a key to their business model is supplying products that people want to buy because they are safe and healthy. The retailers convinced these suppliers that thermal paper with bisphenol A (BPA) does not meet their needs as it is associated with adverse effects in the environment and may be problematic for people. Thanks to these business leaders, the EPA is now examining 19 alternatives to BPA with the active engagement of the full supply chain.

Scott: So Staples and Wegmans have made a real commitment to that project.

Matt: Yes. I’d like to see a corporate model for the future that incorporates sustainability much more broadly and deeply than what some might consider CSR being capable of doing.  Model companies in the future will be ones that make more money than their competitors by producing products and services that directly or additionally address social and environmental needs.

Scott: Tell me about a specific CSR effort in another country you find inspiring, that could serve as a model for the US.

Matt: Our sustainability efforts with American manufacturers routinely afford us an opportunity to see the positive effects of corporate sustainability efforts both domestically and abroad. Take Steelcase Furniture in Grand Rapids, Michigan as an example. Under our Green Suppliers Network program – which is designed to improve manufacturing supply chains’ process efficiencies and environmental performance – we’ve seen their sustainability efforts result in $1MM+ annual savings for seven of their powder coating lines. Steelcase has now taken these lessons learned and is applying them to their operations in Germany, France, Mexico and China.

We also watch with interest the water conservation efforts of Coca Cola and other large corporations as they demonstrate sound corporate social responsibility for water conservation in India and other countries.

Scott: And how about the other way around? Is anyone internationally watching the US for CSR inspiration?

Matt: Yes, sometimes we learn from our friends abroad about efforts underway here in the US which inspire them, and give us extra energy to expand what we have already begun to do. Brazil, Chile and Singapore were excited to find out from us about one of our newer efforts called E3, which stands for Economy, Energy and the Environment. E3 draws together the resources of five U.S. federal agencies, the utility industry and local communities who then work together to help tune-up factories to reduce wasted time/motion/material/energy to help them become more profitable and sustainable at the same time.

Scott: Wow. That’s a lot of coordination! Tell me another example of what we are doing right here in the US.

Matt: Well, the EPA has a mark, a label called Design for the Environment (DfE). We evaluate products that have been designed or reformulated to contain safer chemicals and allows these products to display the label.

More than 500 companies with serious CSR leadership have reformulated more than 2,700 products to meet EPA’s stringent, science-based criteria so that their products can display the DfE label. They do this because they see a substantial return on their investment and the DfE label opens doors to new markets.

Scott: What new markets?

Matt: States and municipalities adopting green purchasing requirements, retailers who demand greener and safer products to enhance their sustainability profiles, and citizens who want products that are safer for their families and the environment. Companies large and small – from Colgate-Palmolive, Clorox, S.C. Johnson to Jelmar (CLR products), Phurity and Earth Friendly Products – are willing to invest heavily to earn the DfE label. DfE also fuels innovation among chemical manufacturers, such as BASF, Dow, and Akzo-Nobel, who have developed chemical ingredients to meet the stringent DfE criteria for use in DfE-labeled products. So in addition to gaining new market share, the DfE label helps companies meet independent sustainability measures like the Dow Jones Sustainability index.

Scott: OK, let’s talk about where we could improve. Could you illustrate one of our failures and what we can learn from it…where we are not succeeding as much as we could?

Matt: We have collectively failed to build genuine American consensus between citizens, businesses, governments, NGOs and others that ensures America will continue to be the leading economy and example for decades to come. The world is evolving from the agricultural, industrial and information ages toward the age of sustainability and we want to continue to lead in this new age. The good news is that useful lessons can be drawn from the many innovative sustainability efforts already underway by people and organizations throughout the nation.

Scott: In that vein, what question are we not asking ourselves that we should? And what would you imagine the results to be if we did ask ourselves that question?

Matt: We should be asking ourselves, “Is there a smarter, more sustainable way, to make and grow the things we need?” Sticking with the manufacturing sector as an example – with the possible exception of the electronics industry – many manufacturing processes have changed little over time. This may be due to unchanging manufacturing specifications, economic uncertainties or just plain human reluctance to change. Whatever the reason, these barriers are man-made and must be overcome.

If we answer that question with American ingenuity and innovation, we will see our manufacturing sector grow and lead our economy toward the kind of long term strength and prosperity we have come to enjoy for so many decades.

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com

Green Marketing Q&A with Seri McClendon, CLEAN Agency CEO

Thursday, July 28, 2011 by

The 2011 Green Brands Survey recently found that consumer interest in green products continues to increase and has expanded across categories – from personal care, food and household products to automotive, energy and technology goods. Companies across all sectors are rolling out new and or improved products touting eco-friendly attributes. With such a varied selection of products making green claims, how does one make an educated decision on the best products for their family and lifestyle? Seri McClendon, chief executive officer of CLEAN Agency, shares insight on this issue.

Seri McClendon

What are businesses doing to meet consumer demand for eco-friendly products and services?

Sustainability has become a key business issue for consumer product companies. They recognize that in order to remain competitive they must shift to meet the changing demands of consumers and of the environment. To do this, businesses are taking a critical look at their supply chains and determining how they can produce better products that have a reduced impact on the environment and can still deliver on their brand promise. Some of the ways this is being done include responsible raw material sourcing, more efficient manufacturing processes and reduced, reusable or recyclable packaging materials to cut waste to landfills. Companies are also beginning to highlight such innovations on their product packaging to promote their commitment to environmental stewardship and gain loyalty from like-minded consumers.

When shopping for green products, what should consumers know about “greenwashing” and how can they evaluate eco-friendly product claims?

Greenwashing has received a lot of attention lately as more and more businesses try to capitalize on the growing consumer interest in green products. Greenwashing refers to deceptive marketing used to promote a misleading statement or perception about a product, policy or service.  The first step in making smart purchase decisions is to educate yourself before heading to the store. GreenerChoices.org is an excellent resource for consumers that want to learn more about specific product claims and their meaning. The site provides independently researched, unbiased information on product safety, health and nutrition, updated label claims and other related topics.

Certification labels from reputable environmental organizations can also help consumers choose sustainable products. The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, provides Energy Star certification for energy efficient home appliances and the Design for the Environment label for high performance, cost effective and environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Responsible consumer product companies like Seventh Generation, Patagonia and Aveda also document and substantiate product claims on their web site.

How can consumers further drive sustainability efforts of their favorite brands?

Be vocal! Let the brands you patronize know how you feel about their products and their efforts towards becoming more sustainable. Share feedback on a company’s web site, comment on news stories written about sustainable innovations of your favorite brands and leverage the power of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to let companies know what you want from their products and services.

ABOUT SERI MCCLENDON

Seri McClendon is the CEO of CLEAN Agency. She is an industry veteran with more than 22 years of marketing experience. Seri formed CLEAN, an integrated agency serving the sustainable business sector, from her passion for environmental studies, policy and science. She holds a Masters degree in Geography with an emphasis in Industrial Ecology and a BA in marketing. Seri is a member of The USC Center for Sustainable Cities Advisory Board and was recently recognized as an Outstanding Woman in Environment and Energy Efficiency by the 2011 Women in Business Awards. 

What's New In Sustainable Materials?

Saturday, June 25, 2011 by

LOHAS: What’s New in Sustainable Materials?

elephant journal is proud to be the official new media partner with LOHAS Forum Click here for our ongoing LOHAS coverage , and be sure to follow our live coverage on Twitter .

Does it trouble you that styrofoam cups are still being used in the majority of PTA meetings around the country or church group gatherings?  How about these insidious cups ubiquitously showing up in the ritual coffee breaks of all the meetings you attend? Think of the thousands of construction site coffee breaks, when the whistle blows.  If you discover the only option you have at the office water cooler is a styrofoam cup, maybe you’ll decide to “blow the whistle” and green your company.

Challenge to Change

The stealth poisons lurking in those styrofoam cups cause havoc once inside the body. According to a 1992 U.S.D.H.H.S. study conducted by Jakoby, Claassen, & Sullivan, there is no internal biological mechanisms for metabolizing or eliminating the carcinogenic styrene from the human body.

Steve Davies of Natureworks, a company devoted to bringing a new family of performance “plastics” into the marketplace, gave a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities we have to replace petroleum based packaging. Healthy alternatives to the use of conventional plastic are created from plant sugars, not byproducts from fossil fuels or oil. The value and importance of these new materials is simple to understand, they are compostable and need not end up in landfills where toxins fester for decades.

It’s not easy to transform conventional practices and change our standard way of doing things. If you think it’s easy, try changing your own habits.

Davies, Director of Marketing and Public Affairs for Nature Works LLC walked the audience through the trials and tribulations of Frito Lays efforts to change their packaging. At the launch of Frito Lay’s 100% compostable Sun Chips bag, their initial promotion garnered 115,000,000 million impressions in the main stream media in the first 2 days. That’s practically a Guinness Book of World Records in advertising parlance. The worlds first compostable chip bag was met with tremendous expectations and plenty of media hoopla. Then they came up against a fickle marketplace reaction. Consumers and critics decided the bags were too noisy. Frito Lay had to go through several attempts to “get it right” and deliver an eco friendly bag that consumers would embrace.

Many companies would have given up and been intimidated by so much push back. To Frito Lay’s credit, they persevered and working with Davies’ company they redesigned their bag without compromising it’s eco-friendly qualities. The solution was a sound deadening layer of rubber glue that mitigated the noise factor from 95 decibels to 70. ( I know, some of you want to know about the glue ) I just didn’t have the opportunity to ask that question.  My speculation is that it’s not toxic, based upon the rigorous scrutiny this product launch has received.

From Diapers to iTunes cards or high fashion fabrics to dietary supplement bottles, sustainable materials are showing up everywhere.  Stoneyfield, Walmart, Target, Coca-Cola, Frito Lay, Electolux and Danone are among several other major brand name companies beginning to use these substitute materials in their packaging . Even credit cards are moving away from conventional plastic.  Ingeo (Natureworks’ name for it’s biopolymer – plant based materials) is the substitute of choice. Here’s another example of an environmentally conscious conversion: all REI gift and loyalty cards, previously made with PVC, are now Ingeo based. Compared to PVC, Ingeo manufacturing emits 32 percent less CO2 and consumes 29 percent less energy.

In October of 2010 Stonyfield Farm, the global organic yogurt leader, replaced all of its petroleum-based multipack yogurt cups with plant based Ingeo cups. The new cups are a first in the dairy industry and reduced Stonyfield’s greenhouse gas emissions by 48 percent.

FACTOID: even cold cups made of paper are plastic lined with polyethylene – not something you want to ingest. At the urging of college students and other consumers, who happen to consume a fair amount of Coca Cola, the company is moving to an Ingeo lining as a replacement for all their food service cups supplied to facilities with the capability for composting. The truth is, with enough consumer demand and courageous corporate leadership, we have enormous opportunities to reduce our use of non-renewable resources by using plant based renewable materials.

The proliferation of Paper Cups

In addition to concerns about the trash factor… disposal of conventional plastics… there are growingconcerns about Phthalates leaching into our water, food and ultimately being absorbed by our bodies, disrupting our endocrine system. Phthalates are the chemicals used to make plastic soft and flexible. Here is what the American Chemical Council says about Phthalates on their official web site:

With more than 50 years of research, phthalates are among the most thoroughly studied family of compounds in the world and have been reviewed by multiple regulatory bodies in the United States. The American Chemistry Council is proud that the products of chemistry are among the most thoroughly evaluated and regulated in commerce and continues to support ongoing research into the health and safety of phthalates.

Sherry Rogers, M.D. begs to differ. In her provocative book Detoxify or Die, published in 2002 she states: “Phthalates off gassing from plastic…damage hormone receptors, leading to loss of sex drive and energy. They damage brain chemistry leading to learning disability and hyperactivity, or they accumulate in organs and trigger cancers of the prostate, breast, lung and thyroid.” (page 2). In EPA studies Phthalates have been found in the human body in concentrations 1000 times higher than any other harmful substances including heavy metals and pesticides.

The Chemical Council goes on to say that “Science Protects Our Health”. Does this remind you of the Du Pont ads from a decade ago “Better Living Through Chemistry?”

They go on to say:

“A responsible and rational regulatory framework in government is based on science and evidence, not on public or political opinion.”

Right, do you suppose that is why the European Union banned the use of Phthalates six years ago? Makes one wonder who’s science reveals the truth about toxins in our environment.

At a recent public meeting at the Aspen Institute, Maggie Fox (the wife of Senator Mark Udall and former senior attorney for the Sierra Club) stated that virtually all of the regulatory agencies in the U.S. have been thoroughly manipulated by corporate interests to maximize profits for the past 3 decades at a minimum. She suggested that citizens need to be the watch dogs.

Keep an eye out for this logo and maybe you’ll be able to be a catalyst for change. The next time you encounter plastic products that you’d rather eliminate from our world, be proactive and write a letter or call the culprit company and recommend they convert their use of harmful chemicals. Invite them to join the movement for a healthier world.

The plant based "plastic" alternative to oil

The Ingeo “Plastic Pellets” created  by Natureworks LLC are plant based polymers. Without having to go back to school or chemistry class, these long chain molecules all come from plant sugars. They happen to perform like plastic without the negative impact on the environment that petroleum based plastic products embody.

Annually, one Billion lbs. of corn starch is used by the paper industry.  By comparison, less than .1% of the entire U.S. industrial corn crop is used by Ingeo to create 140,000 tons, or 300,000,000 lbs., of Ingeo on an annual basis.

So here is a hint, the path to a healthy future in a consumer based economy is this: All products have to work well and carry impeccable environmental credentials. Private corporations are learning to live by public permission.  No green washing, no kidding.

Onward with courage

Bud Wilson Bud Wilson was a student-athlete-activist during the tumultuous era at Harvard University and emerged with an interdisciplinary degree combining, child development, innovative education and urban social policy.  He the Global Director of Bio-Regional Leadership and an awareness instructor and wilderness guide for Sacred Passage and The Way of Nature. Bud has devoted his passion and energy to raising awareness (including his own) and shifting human consciousness to appreciate that we are all living in an interdependent, interconnected world where there is more than enough for all of humanity to live in peace and harmony. A proud dad of 2 wonderful grown children! 

50 Great Ways to Go Green In Your Dorm Room

Friday, April 1, 2011 by

dorm chairMoving into a dorm room can be a tumultuous experience for many college students, especially those unused to such close-quartered communal living. While many things about life will change when they finally move into a dorm, one thing can stay the same — a commitment to living green. There are tons of ways students can make their cramped life greener and get even more out of their college experience. Here are just a few ideas to get you started on your green dorm living.

Shopping

These tips will help you to outfit your dorm room with everything you need while still staying green.

1.     Buy furnishings locally. If you’re going to college far from home, buy your furnishings locally instead of hauling them with you. It’ll save on gas and still give you access to everything you need. Some stores, like Bed, Bath and Beyond, may give you the option of purchasing remotely and picking up at your destination so you don’t have to move a thing.

2.     Shop at resale stores. Not everything for your room has to be brand new. You can be green and save money by shopping used.

3.     Browse Freecycle. Why pay for what you can get for free? Use sites like Freecycle to pick up great stuff for your dorms at little to no cost.

4.     Buy organic cotton sheets. Organic cotton and other natural fibers like bamboo are incredibly soft, durable and don’t require any pesticides to produce.

5.     Look for natural fibers. When shopping for blankets, rugs and towels look for natural fibers. They’re more environmentally-friendly, even though they may cost more to purchase up front.

6.     Get a plant. A plant will not only help your room feel more homey, it will help to clean the air as well.

7.     Look for recycled paper products. When buying paper towels, toilet paper or printer paper, opt for recycled materials.

8.     Avoid disposable furniture. While it might seem like a bargain, cheap, particle-board furniture won’t last and will only end up in a landfill. Higher quality furniture will be a better investment for you and environment in the long run.

9.     Buy things that will last you beyond the dorms. When purchasing things for your room, look for those that will work if you decide to move into an apartment later. That way you won’t have to spend money and resources when you get out.

10. Look for environmentally friendly storage solutions. This can mean getting canvas or metal baskets or looking for plastic bins that are made of recyclable materials.

11. Find or make reusable shopping bags. Don’t bring home loads of plastic bags. Instead, invest in some nice reusable ones. Or make your own.

12. Skip heavily packaged items. Unless it’s something you really, really need, avoid purchasing items that come with way too much packaging. It’s wasteful and will be a pain to deal with once the item is unpacked.

Appliances

From fridges to air conditioning, use these tips to save on energy when it comes to appliances.

13. Look for Energy Star appliances. When buying a mini-fridge or microwave for your room, always do your research to find the most energy efficient models.

14. Use compact fluorescent bulbs. Replace those incandescent and halogen lights with compact fluorescents instead.

15. Turn off your computer when you’re not using it. It saves energy and will help your computer to get a much-needed break. If you don’t want to turn it all the way off, at least make sure it’s sleeping or in power-down mode.

16. Watch out for energy vampires. Chargers for phones, computers and the like suck up energy even when not in use. Use a power strip you can easily turn off to help reduce their impact.

17. Pay attention to the chill factor in your fridge. Keeping your fridge out of the sun and regularly checking its thermostat can help it use less energy over time.

18. Get rid of the AC. Most older dorms don’t have built in AC, but some do allow window units which can be big energy hogs. Forgo the AC if you can handle it, or only switch on to help you sleep or study rather than leaving it on all the time.

Cooking and Eating

Waste less and conserve more when it comes to cooking and eating with these ideas.

19. Avoid plastic water bottles. Instead of stocking up on plastic bottles of water, get a reusable, filtered pitcher. You’ll save tons of plastic from being wasted.

20. Kick the packaged snack habit. Instead, purchase snacks that aren’t individually packaged. Fresher snacks are greener and healthier to boot.

21. Find low-energy methods of cooking. Cooking in a rice cooker, toaster oven or crock pot can mean making delicious meals with much less energy.

22. Buy reusable silverware and plates. Instead of going with the disposable kind, invest in some nice cups and plates you can store and reuse in your room. If you’re worried about breaking glass, go for a recyclable plastic instead.

23. Reuse plastic grocery bags. Don’t throw out perfectly good plastic bags. Use them as liners for your garbage cans or find a number of other great uses for them.

24. Eat smart in the cafeteria. Only take what you know you can eat and avoid using a tray if you don’t have to in order to keep your diet and dorm greener.

Community

Dorm rooms are the perfect place to get close to others and spread your green ideas.

25. Start a club. Want to get the word out about greening the dorms? Start a club on campus to promote activism.

26. Go communal. Instead of having your own fridge or microwave, share with others in your dorm when possible.

27. Green your move out. Don’t simply throw out items when you move out of the dorm. Donate them to a resale store or give them to new students.

28. Share with your roomie. There are numerous items that can be shared between you and your roomie, saving space and materials.

29. Get others interested in your cause. Talk to others on your floor about being green. Post flyers and posters to help them understand just what you’d like to accomplish.

30. Talk to administrators about green ideas for the dorms. There are loads of ways to make dorms greener, and many ways that your college can start being environmentally friendly. Talk to them about your own ideas, you might just see change.

31. Embrace the small space. Living in the small space isn’t the worst thing in the world. It will help you use and waste less, appreciate what you have more.

Green Clean

Give some of these ideas a try to keep your dorm room and yourself clean while still remaining green.

32. Forego plug in air fresheners. They might make your room smell better, but they’re not good for the environment. Clean up your room instead or use natural air fresheners.

33. Do laundry in cold water. It will save on the energy used to heat water and will get your clothes just as clean.

34. Purchase earth-friendly toiletries. Toiletries can be full of harmful chemicals, so reduce your exposure by purchasing those that are better for your body and the earth.

35. Clean your room naturally. Ditch the harsh bleaches and chemicals for cleaning. Instead, choose products that are green or natural to tidy up with.

36. Take shorter showers. It might be nice to luxuriate in long showers, but you’ll be wasting loads of water. Instead, keep it short and sweet.

37. Get all natural flip flops for showering. Kick the plastic flip flop habit and go for natural materials instead.

38. Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or washing your face. Be kind to the earth by turning off the tap when brushing your teeth or washing your face.

39. Buy chemical-free detergent and fabric softeners. There are several brands out there that make great chemical-free detergents. These options are better for the environment and will leave your clothes wonderfully clean.

Saving and Recycling

Try out some of these tips to ensure your time in the dorms leaves as little impact on the health of the earth as possible.

40. Recycle class materials. Don’t just toss out old notes and papers from class. Put them in the recycle bin instead or use them as scrap instead.

41. Make your own. Rather than going out to buy decorations for your room, make your own using items you already have. There are numerous ideas out there you can use.

42. Never leave the lights on. Keeping the lights on when you’re not in the room is just plain wasteful. Always turn them off when you and your roomie are out.

43. Upcycle old items. Something might not be useful on its own anymore but can be nice when upcycled. Use these ideas to make your dorm room nicer.

44. Take old soda cans and bottles to a recycling center. If you’re like many students and have an addiction to caffeine, you probably have a few soda cans and bottles hanging around. Instead of tossing them out, recycle them.

45. Recycle boxes or invest in reusable containers for moving. Dorms can be pretty wasteful places when students are moving in and out. Do your part to reduce this by recycling and reusing anything you can.

46. Store instead of shipping. Instead of shipping your items back and forth between home and school when you go home for summer, store them locally.

47. Insulate windows. This can help use less energy when both heating and cooling your room.

48. Read online instead of printing. When possible, read your assignments online instead of printing them all out.

49. Buy rechargeable batteries. Devices like remotes and game controllers run through batteries pretty quickly. Instead of simply throwing them out, get some rechargeable ones instead.

50. Print on both sides of paper. When allowed (some professors don’t like it) print on both sides of the paper to use half as much.

For more tips visit Onlineclasses.org

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com

LOHAS Trends for 2011 - Health and Wellness Trends

Tuesday, December 28, 2010 by

wellnessHere are some LOHAS trends to consider that we feel will be impactful for the next year in the area of health and wellness. Ive done some research and here are my list of top wellness trends to consider significant in the LOHAS market.


From Wellbeing Escapes Top Wellness Trends of 2011

From Anti-Ageing to Healthy-Ageing there will be a resurgence by destination resorts and fitness outlets to develop comprehensive programs to help us age healthily.  The focus isn’t about reducing wrinkles but about disease prevention and health enhancement.   Personal medical evaluations, usually taken through blood tests, are followed by personalized health plans that include treatments, education and actions that will help achieve optimum health and boost energy.  Furthermore, there will be more of an emphasis on wellness facilties to provide services to relieve aches and pains that are inherent with physical activity rather than relax and de-stress. This again underlines a change in attitude towards a healthy and active aging process rather than anti-ageing.

connect natureWellness Through Nature - This can take the form of fitness, holistic actions, meditation, and treatments.  Rather than putting people indoors to carry out their wellness program, many hotels spas and wellness resorts will be further focusing on being paid guests to engage with the natural resources and exclusivity of their locations.  Currently there are groups that provide hiking in mountains, yoga in the gardens, fitness programs that encompass kayaking, sea-swimming, Jungle gyms, outdoor rock climbing walls, challenging mountain biking.  This is predicted to become more creative and expand with meditation walks along beautiful beaches and landscapes, tree-top spas, treatment locations where you can hear the sound of the ocean and birdsong – no more air-conditioned window-less treatment rooms playing CDs with nature music on repeat cycle.

spiritualBringing out the Monk in You - The global recession has not helped the work life balance debate.  It is now about survival of the fittest with people subdue worried about losing jobs in this cost cutting environment.  Physical fitness is now firmly established and accepted as stress busting and increasing energy, but mental fitness is increasingly being recognized as equally vital. Meditation is no longer viewed as a spiritual pastime for monks or lentil-eating, sandal- wearing hippies but being used as a daily tool to help with stress and efficiency.  Major hotels, spas and wellness resorts are counting meditation instruction as part of stress reduction programs and activity schedules to help people learn this valuable tool. Again, it is all about quality, quality, quality – it takes years of instruction to be able to teach this technique effectively, so make sure you learn from an authentic and experienced teacher.

Value and Return on Investment - Although the deals are still out there they are gradually decreasing as the economy slowly turns around and hotels and airlines start to focus on increasing yields again. The keywords are "Value" and "Return on Investment". As the spa going population becomes more sophisticated and experienced they will focus more on value rather than the cheapest price, demanding more from their experience. The cheapest spa will not necessarily bring them their return on investment in terms of measurable health benefits and long lasting results on their return.

 

From The American Council on Exercise (ACE) Top Fitness Trends of 2011

Stress Reduction Through Fitness - With the increased knowledge of how stress negatively affects the body, gyms and clubs will start offering wellness programs so their members develop effective strategies for managing their stress levels. Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, and basic stretching classes are expected to draw more people looking for ways to de-stress. But working up any type of sweat will work. The same fitness instructors who want you to feel the burn now want to help your body—and mind—heal. Look for therapeutic workouts, like New York based Equinox’s “IntenSati,” which uses personal affirmations, and “Thread,” where core work and body-awareness techniques “unlock muscular inhibition.” Also on the horizon: a fascination with supportive aerial yoga and fitness-meets-life-coaching workshops.

kinectTechnology Becomes a Support Resource - The release of interactive fitness video games will see more people get off their couches and try new ways to be active in the home. The Sony Wii and Microsoft Kinect are scratching the surface of ways to engage a person’s whole body into a video game with jumps and swings or running in place. The sophistication of these games makes the experience both entertaining and physically challenging.

Corporate Wellness -  Whether it is through the hiring of in-house personal trainers or discounts and incentives offered to employees that join a health club, corporate wellness programs will emerge country-wide to help encourage healthy lifestyles among workers, especially time-crunched consumers.

Youth-Based Fitness -  Expect to see more youth-focused classes and clients popping up in gyms thanks to the national attention and focus on childhood obesity.  Schools and fitness centers will also incorporate more exercise curriculum for the youth population and, as such, take advantage of ACE’s Operation FitKids curriculum, which has recently been revamped and expanded with a new program targeting students in grades 6-8.


From SpaFinder Top Spa trends of 2011

scienceThe Science of Wellness - Is there scientific proof that massage reduces stress? Are mud-packs and mineral-baths medically proven to alleviate pain? Is ear candling proven to remove ear wax? The answers: yes, yes and no.  Get ready for a new era where more questions about the effectiveness of wellness therapies and products will be asked, and where these questions will get answered more transparently, as the emphasis on evidence-based medicine and the “science behind spa” heats up. For example the recent New York Times article, “A Good Massage Brings Biological Changes Too,” reporting on a Cedars-Sinai study that revealed a 45-minute massage resulted in a significant decrease in stress hormones, while boosting immunity. As so many more hospitals not only co-opt the “look of spa,” but also directly incorporate spa/wellness therapies on site, consumers will have powerful visual evidence of “medicine” validating “spa.”

As these initiatives and forces accelerate, the benefits of wellness will be increasingly not only heard, but also believed by more LOHAS consumers (often desperately) seeking health alternatives — by doctors who prescribe, by public officials who legislate and by insurers who reimburse. These nascent evidence-based initiatives should ultimately prove the bedrock for future, perhaps unimagined, industry growth.

 

Green Beer, But it's Not St. Patrick's Day

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 by

ESCONDIDO, CA -- Ever been to Chicago on St. Patty's Day? The river is dyed green, and the hundreds of Irish Pubs scattered throughout the city offer green beer. Thanks but no thanks.

As a big fan of microbrews -- the slightly larger producers brew what is properly called "craft beer"-- I am always on the lookout for environmentally friendly labels. In Escondido, about 20 miles north of San Diego, is what is surely among the greenest breweries in the world - Stone Brewing Co. The idea of an environmentally friendly brew house seems out of synch with one of their best-selling labels, "Arrogant Bastard?" But we will forgive them, after all, it is fabulous marketing tool that has encouraged beer enthusiasts from around the world to come witness this green suds establishment.

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The story of Stone Brewing Co. begins with the two founders, Greg Koch and Steve Wagner. Koch owned recording studios in L.A. and Wagner was a studio musician who rented space. Serendipitously, they ran into each other at a "How to Make Microbrews" seminar and, as they say, the rest is history. Since its founding in 1996, Stone Brewing has become one of the largest craft beer producers in America, with annual output of well over 100,000 barrels.

What makes Stone green? Only the largest, operating room clean, state-of-the-art facility you've ever seen, a huge 100,000 foot building tucked in an anonymous area of Escondido. On a guided tour with Stone's knowledgeable Director of Communications, Ken Wright, we learn that the hundreds of thousands of pounds of by-product created during the brewing process (it looks like wet sawdust) is fully biodegradable and trucked to local farms for use as cattle feed. The plant has a full gray water recycling capability to help cut water consumption (this is critical because the brewing process is very water-intensive), and the roof is adorned with solar panels to help reduce the enormous energy consumption brewing requires by almost one-half.

All Stone bottles and cardboard carriers are fully recyclable, and the plant was built using a variety of reclaimed woods and other metals. One of the most impressive features of the tour was seeing the process from brewing the hops, to bottling, to hauling off for distribution. Unfortunately a rarity in modern day American culture - a vertically integrated manufacturing process. There were costs involved in making Stone a green operation, but the founders determined that this was worthwhile investment for business and environmental reasons. Stone has not really advertised a green marketing strategy, instead preferring to let the sustainable design speak for itself and hope the word spreads virally and by reputation.

A beautifully designed one-acre beer garden lies adjacent to the brewery; visitors can meander along the heavily landscaped pathways and walkways while sipping the wide variety of ales, hefeweizen and seasonal brews. Although I am a Belgian-only beer drinker at heart, the spectacular facility produces increasingly good seasonal beers such as Levitation Ale and Ruination, as well as their mainstays Stone Pale Ale and IPA, and of course Arrogant Bastard.

Stone Brewing Tour from stonebrew on Vimeo.

Our only criticism of the entire operation, and this is echoed in many internet reviews by consumers, is the food. The restaurant is very appealing visually, the design, green building techniques and materials used are breathtaking. Unfortunately, the grub leaves a lot to be desired. I do, however, admire the Bistro's "Meatless Monday" promotion. As a greenie, even if the food is horrendous, you gotta love their enthusiasm for vegetarianism! They are the largest consumer of locally grown, organic ingredients in San Diego. The Meatless Monday credo is as follows:

"If you have dined with us before, you already know that we use locally grown, organic ingredients as part of our dedication to sustainability, community, and better health. Now we are kicking it up a notch by offering a meatless menu on Mondays. Meat dishes are available on request but we encourage you to make a commitment to your health and the environment by trying our Chef's fantastic vegetarian creations. You won't miss the meat!"

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Tours are available twice daily. Take one you'll be pleased to see how even an inherently non-green activity such as craft brewing can be made much more energy efficient and sustainable with some forethought, commitment and investment as demonstrated by Stone Brewing Co. As always, I invite your comments and recommendations of other green brew-ha!

 

Follow Jennifer Schwab on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SCGreen_Home


Fortune Brainstorm Green 2010: A Conference for the Environment

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 by

Billions of dollars are at stake. Not to mention reputations of leaders in business, academia and government. Even the public image of our country on the world stage is hanging in the balance. 



Despite differing viewpoints on nuclear energy, coal-fired power plants, wind energy and a variety of important subjects in the world of green, one consistent theme emerged at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference, held earlier this month at the sumptuous Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Resort in Southern California. And that is: we need an official, approved and legislated policy on carbon reduction and we need it now. Not only careers, but also many thousands of jobs and potentially the future of our planet (not to mention Sierra Club Green Home.com) are all seemingly on "hold" until Washington can cobble together a bill on carbon reduction that will pass in the Senate.

Over 300 luminaries from the environmental world, as well as corporate America, Wall Street and Silicon Valley populated 
the conference. Listening to the panel discussions, I realized just how committed the big time venture capital groups are to the clean energy movement succeeding. It almost felt like we are all loaded into the same boat together, furiously rowing out to sea but without a compass. Environmentalists, corporate sustainability officers and the investment community look back in nostalgia to the 2009 conference when it seemed certain the U.S. would have an energy policy in place by now.

Some companies and investors cannot proceed without knowing exactly what the U.S. government will ultimately call law on carbon reduction. Be it cap and trade, cap and dividend, a straight carbon tax, or some hybrid thereof, it seemed most participants would be happy with any reasonable approach at this point. In my mind, it would be the start of an evolving framework that will take years to perfect. 



Aside from this glaring issue, a wide variety of provocative topics were batted about, including Lee Scott from Wal-Mart on how the company is going green (Wal-Mart's proposed Sustainability Index is truly groundbreaking as it requires their supplier companies to use sustainable practices or lose their accounts with the retaining giant); Fred Krupp of Environmental Defense Fund, Mark Turcek of Nature Conservancy and our own Michael Brune of Sierra Club trying to explain what environmentalists really want; "Electric Cars: Mass Market or Mirage?" featuring BMW Engineering VP Tom Baloga and David Sokol, who is Warren Buffet's point man on energy investing; legendary green guy Stewart Brand along with several power company CEOs on whether nuclear power is part of the answer (I am still very questionable on this); Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Mike Kaplan on whether sustainable business can operate without the usual hypocrisy and morality issues; "Chasing the Dream of Sustainable Consumption" with top execs from Dell, Starbucks and Wal-Mart, among many, many more.

A representative from Dell explained their commitment to going carbon neutral: they are changing their packaging from polyethylene to bamboo; powering down all corporate machines every evening; offering free recycling for all Dell computers among other initiatives. IBM's expertise in nanotechnology is being leveraged to improve the water desalinization process. Starbucks is feverishly working on making all their cups recyclable, as due to the high temperatures of the beverages, standard recyclable paper cups will not work. Bill Ford of Ford Motor Co. reminded us that no true economic recovery has ever occurred in this country without a strong industrial base. Manufacturing, he said, is critical to keeping America employed and productive.
 


Also way cool was a performance by rock keyboardist Chuck Leavell, best known for his work with the Allman Brothers and Rolling Stones. Leavell was on hand not only to entertain, as he is co-founder and primary investor in Mother Nature Network, the green news and information site.

Equally impressive was the true green practices utilized for the entire conference. The Ritz-Carlton offers extensive recycling; efficient watering systems for all landscaping; greywater recycling of washing machine water; and reuse of sheets and towels unless otherwise specified by guests. FORTUNE served organic and sustainable produce from local providers; organic wines, beers and teas; reusable water bottles provided by Dell; onsite shuttle service by electric and hybrid vehicles; and all leftover food was given to local shelters. These are things that ALL conferences and meetings should do, but kudos to FORTUNE for keeping it real -- I've attended too many green events that didn't even have recycling, much less green practices or sustainability management!


I'm already looking forward to next year's conference. At least by then, there should be resolution one way or the other about what legislation governing carbon reduction we will be working with. 



As always, we love to hear your comments, let us know what you think will happen in Congress and how it will affect green business and jobs.

 

Follow Jennifer Schwab on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SCGreen_Home


The Greening of Spas

Sunday, March 7, 2010 by
Green SpaThe term “green” and all of its variations—”going green,” “green building,” and “greening your home”—was so ubiquitous in the late 2000's that it received the most nominations for the “Words Banished From the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness” list. At first this accolade might appear to be bad news, but such recognition indicates that the concept has reached significant market penetration.

Much like the word “green,” the term “spa” has also become completely woven into the fabric of our current society. One in four Americans visited a spa in 2008 reports the International Spa Association. Both green and spa represent a reconnection with the treasure of our natural resources.

Spas and Sustainability
Fifteen years ago the spa movement and industry ignited in unprecedented growth in the U.S. on the wave of increasing awareness of the mind-body connection and alternative approaches to health. The double digit annual growth of the industry brought in new players, elaborate spa facilities and the perception that spa is luxury with no limit on the consumption of resources. Now new wave in spa is providing consumers with a choice to enhance well-being naturally in an environment that values and cares for our planet’s health.

The Green Spa Network and member spas embrace the responsibility of living these values personally and professionally to attain measurable improvements towards full integration on the sustainability spectrum. Cici Coffee of Natural Body International, Inc. provides an example of spa leadership in practice: “In 2004, we implemented a charitable campaign with Georgia Organics in which we sold co-branded T-shirts and donated 100% of profits to the nonprofit, GO. In 2005, we implemented an employee contribution campaign with Earth Share in which Natural Body partially matched such contributions. We are now in our fourth year with workplace campaigns for Earth Share and have pledged in excess of $40,000 to this environmental nonprofit. We reward our eco-ambassador in every location to excite the team to achieve their philanthropic goals, so the store that improves the most is awarded a team party.”

The ultimate goal is to become a zero waste spa by sending nothing to landfills—an audacious goal on the sustainability path. Sheila Armen at the Strong House Spa in Vermont has taken this goal of achieving zero waste to heart. Strong House started the Cosmetic Recycling Program that allows clients to bring in old products that contain chemicals and get a $5 credit toward organic products. “We then recycle not only the containers but the products inside,” says Armen. “All cleansing products go to our recycling company to wash their trucks.”

Such simple changes are proving successful for spa morale and cost savings across the country. Michael Stusser, founder of Osmosis and president of the Green Spa Network, explained that “our spa has had much stronger cohesiveness since we have become a committed sustainable spa. Many favorable stories in the press and awards from local governmental and business organizations have contributed to a good feeling among staff and guests as we all work together to reduce our load on mother Earth. We estimate that the hard cost savings in training and operational effectiveness to be $12,500 per year, and the improvement in staff moral and customer service substantial.”

Highlights of current greening initiatives in GSN member spa operations include:
• Use LED and CFL lighting, lighting sensors, and educate employees about the conscious use of energy.
• Design spa treatment protocols with conservation fixtures and client messaging that prevents water waste. Subtracting only 1 minute per hot shower can save $75 on utility bills and 2,700 gallons of water per year for a family of three. Eliminating water waste in 14,000 US spas is part of the GSN mission.
• Collecting recyclable microfiber linens that can be used in building materials, and other damaged and worn textiles are donated to animal shelters.
• Reduce paper waste through technological options such as online client software and management tools and eliminate need for printed materials.
• Replace single use supplies with items such as durable beverage cups, cloth hand towels, and microfiber body wraps.
• Utilize biologically safe laundry detergents, non-chlorine bleach and energy efficient equipment.

Stusser states, “The GSN is dedicated to creating a culture of merit by celebrating and sharing best practices. We have begun by having our members take realistic steps that can be easily accomplished with the intention of gradually raising the bar for sustainable business practices throughout the entire spa community. The network acknowledges that we are in this together and sharing our individual successes and innovations will bring everyone closer to the possibility of a transformed world.”

360˚ SUSTAINABILITY
The concept of “green” is often thought of only in terms of environment. The GSN has adopted a 360- degree view of sustainability that benchmarks and measures progress. The benchmarks range from startup initiatives to fully integrated sustainability practices within the following categories:

leadership
employee experience
guest experience; treatment protocols
retail products
linens and textiles
food and beverage
community connection
waste
water use
lighting
environment
equipment
sanitation/laundry
linens
energy use
pool operations

SELECTING A PRODUCT
When it comes to a spa’s retail product line, the GSN encourages members to select product lines that correspond with philosophies of well-being, quality, sustainability, and responsibility. The sustainability continuum progresses with these benchmarks:

Incubator level: Whenever possible select retail skincare and other product lines that fit your sustainability goals; communicate your sustainability and ingredient goals to product suppliers; plan to eliminate products that contain synthetics, fragrances and dyes, phthalates, parabens, and triclosan.

Initiative level: Audit retail products from a sustainability perspective; request that supplier(s) employ sustainable practices such as packaging, local sourcing of raw materials; and ensure that at least 20% of products offered are fair trade, organic, sustainable, made with pure ingredients, and packaged sustainably.

Integrated level: 100% of retail skincare products are certified at the highest level [USDA NOP, EcoCert, Natural Products Association, NaTrue, Soil Association, NSF, or BDIH certification] for product quality, purity, and sustainability.

Most GSN member spas are beyond the initiative level in the retail product category and aspiring to the fully integrated level as certifications and verifications are made available.

OSMOSIS SPA IN CALIFORNIA SEES GREENING AS A STEP IN SHIFTING THE IMAGE OF A SPA VISIT AWAY FROM ONE OF PAMPERING INDULGENCE TO A MORE GROUNDED AND HOLISTIC EXPERIENCE THAT MAKES THE OBVIOUS CONNECTION BETWEEN PERSONAL AND PLANETARY WELLNESS.

THE NATURAL BODY SPA IN ATLANTA HAS 100 YEAR OLD RECLAIMED BARN WOOD FLOORING AND SHELVING AND HAS BEEN AN OFFICIAL DROP OFF SITE FOR USED CELL PHONES THAT ARE THEN PICKED UP BY EARTH SHARE FOR RECYCLING

Rhana Pytell is co- founder and director of GAIA Spa in La Jolla CA. Ms. Pytell also founded Amethyst Systems, a company that provides templates and spa management tools in a web-based format. Rhana serves on the board of the Green Spa Network.