All Posts Tagged With: "recycling"

Treat Yourself to a Green Business on Earth Day

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, 4/22/10, GOforChange presents a greening business action list with a twist! We thought we’d do it a little differently, because our job is to help people understand not only what to do, but why. So often, the top-10 lists read like a shopping list. (This year, I’ve even seen 40-things lists!) The items may be categorized, but nothing is said about what it all means and why we would choose to do certain things.

Get ready, because our list starts with the Top Four Principles for a Green Business. To make it simple and concrete for you, each principle is paired with a specific business concern and four explicit green actions you can take. Think of it as a “tasting menu” to celebrate Earth Day. It’s like four carefully crafted courses, each paired with a beautiful wine. Each of the four courses has four delicious items on the plate for you to choose from – or you can really indulge and eat them all!

The four courses to taste today are the Four Principles for a Green Business:

  • Appetizer: Aspire to be 100% good, not just “less bad”
  • First Course: Act in cycles, rather than linear (waste = food)
  • Second Course: Tap into an unlimited source of energy (the sun)
  • Dessert: Attract and keep the best employees and customers (celebrate diversity)

The only way to make these real in your business is to taste them, to put them into practice. And, we’re going to show you how.

We paired four business concerns with each of the Four Principles. For each, the combination of flavors is subtle and unique: There are tastes that you avoid and tastes that you cultivate.

Appetizer: Policy & Practices that aspire to be 100% good, not just “less bad”

  • Avoid: confusion, distraction, wheel-spinning, burn-out
  • Cultivate: shared definitions and frameworks, creative teamwork

First Course: Handle materials in cycles, rather than lines (waste = food)

  • Avoid: waste, toxics
  • Cultivate: reuse, conservation, thoughtful purchasing

Second Course: Energy that taps into an unlimited source, the sun

  • Avoid: waste, fossil fuel use
  • Cultivate: savings, clean energy

Dessert: Workplace & Community that celebrates diversity, attracts and keeps the best employees and customers

  • Avoid: isolation, competitiveness
  • Cultivate: connection, flexibility, inclusiveness, creativity

So far, we’ve covered the why and the what – principles and specific business concerns. Now, for the how. I’m going to give you the four delicious tastes for each course on our menu. These are concrete action steps that will allow you to experience greening success in each area of your business.

Are you curious about the goodies in the appetizer course? Wait no longer! Here are four specific green actions can you take in your Policy & Practices:

  • Write your green mission statement and set annual goals to move toward it.
  • Establish green policies and practices. These will come in time, as you take more measures to go green. Be conscious to write them down, so you get systems in place that will outlast your current leadership.
  • Measure, benchmark, and track progress regularly. This includes conducting audits of your energy and water use, and a waste audit.
  • Regularly communicate your mission and progress on your website.

Hungry for more? It’s time for the First Course, Materials:

  • Green your supply chain.
  • Establish, revive, or enhance your recycling program.
  • Avoid paper plates, foam or plastic cups, and plastic utensils in your kitchenette or break room. Instead, provide reusable cups, plates, and silverware.
  • Have a no-bottled-water policy. Get a nice reusable dispenser to filter tap water and serve with reusable cups or glasses at your meetings. Some examples: Eco-Chic version from Aqua-Ovo. For us regular folk on the other end of the spectrum is the nice-looking polycarbonate model from Target.

By now, you are getting warmed up and ready for the Second Course, right? Good thing that’s all about Energy:

  • Have a Smart Strip Blitz: Go around your office and plug everything into power strips and then turn off the strips with items that aren’t in use. Don’t forget that cell-phone charger! Then, sit back and count the money you’re saving.
  • Find and use the Energy Star power management settings on your computer and monitor.
  • Unless you’ve been time- or space-traveling lately, you’ve probably heard the suggestion to change all your incandescent lightbulbs to compact fluorescent. Here’s a twist on that: even if you’ve already changed over to CFL’s in the office, you can hold an employee CFL giveaway. Or, consider trying the new LED bulbs that save even more energy and last even longer. See what’s available at Home Depot:
  • Energy efficiency isn’t just for offices. Your personal energy is a vital part of the picture. It is often closely associated with the metaphor of life as breath – the words ‘chi’, ‘prana’, and ‘spirit’, for instance, are all related in their respective languages to the verb ‘to breathe’. The advice here is: establish a daily energy recharge with conscious breathing. This can be very effective in the morning, combined with gentle stretching. Try using the Mindful Clock which chimes at defined intervals throughout the day, reminding you to stop and take a few deep breaths. You’ll be amazed at how energizing this simple practice is.

Did you skip to Dessert right away? Why not, eh? Life’s too short! To wrap up our delicious meal, we have four goodies for your Workplace & Community:

  • Support local environmental / community groups, both financially and with volunteer time. Some great non-local ones: Earthshare and Kiva.
  • Consider a telecommuting policy, ideally coupled with a program to encourage and/or reward use of public transit or bicycling.
  • Hold regular Green Team meetings with broad participation and a focus on action and measurable results. (This is where your mission statement and goals from the Appetizer come in handy.)
  • Provide or direct people to ongoing training in sustainable business topics. The Natural Step Network’s programs are a great resource.

We hope you enjoyed our Earth Day Tasting Menu! I know it was rich, and that you are likely feeling full and satisfied. (No food coma, though, right?) As always, we love your feedback. What’s working for you? Where are you encountering challenges?

Green Events Finale: Location, Location, Location

photo by: Balance Weddings

The final in our four-part series from our colleague and friend Lori Hill, owner of lori hill event productions. Read the first article here.

Today’s topic is: The venue (fancy word for “location”).

LEED Certified Buildings

If you choose a venue that has a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation from the U.S. Green Building Council, you can be assured that the building is eco friendly in many, many ways, so that is half the battle! But a building can still be earth friendly without having a LEED certification. Many hotel properties are instituting green initiatives. Kimpton Hotels have been green long before green was chic!

When doing your research, check to see if your venue lists their green initiatives on their web site. An important question to ask is how they dispose of their waste. Most venues recycle these days and even better ones compost waste. If they don’t engage in these actions, ask them if they can provide the service. Some off-premise caterers will offer this service if a venue does not.

(Julie chiming in here: I just want to add a bit to the discussion of waste. It’s so important not to overlook this detail. Recycling and composting bins need to be conveniently (and obviously) located. Because it’s a special event, they need to look nice, not like big bulky trash cans marring the otherwise serene landscape of your event. It can be very helpful to have someone friendly standing near these bins, to help guests properly direct their waste items. Of course, if you’ve done your homework and absolutely everything is compostable, then it should be smooth sailing! But, just be aware that guests sometimes have their own trash, and they are likely to be confused about where to put it.)

Getting Your Guests To the Venue

If possible, pick a venue that is centrally located to your attendees and if possible, within close proximity to public transport. If you are holding multiple events – like a wedding ceremony and reception – try to hold them in one place to minimize driving for guests. If you have out of town guests, you could look into offering a complimentary guest shuttle to eliminate the need for all of them to get into their cars yet again.

Thanks again to Lori Hill, for these great tips. You can read the previous installments, starting with the first one, here.

Flowers and Candles and Chairs — Oh, My!

photo by: Balance Weddings

Third in a four-part series from our colleague and friend Lori Hill, owner of lori hill event productions. Read the first article here.

Today’s topic is: The decor.

Floral and Plants

Make selections based on what is in season and work with a florist who utilizes local growers (support that local economy!). If you can, choose organic options – it’s better for the workers and the environment.


Traditional candles are petroleum based (there’s that evil word again). Choose beeswax or soy-based candles instead. These days, you can get them in tea light and votives sizes.

Linens, tables, chairs

Renting linens, tables and chairs is eco-friendly because items get used over and over again and these days, companies are offering eco options for the equipment they rent. Most rental companies I know have limited options when it comes to eco friendly table linens. Why? Because these companies re-use linens on such a large scale that they need a fabric that will hold up through multiple uses and washings. Don’t despair. Ask your rental company if they have chairs or tables made of eco friendly materials like bamboo or reclaimed wood. Also, check if they rent recycle bins and see if they provide fabric bags in which to place your soiled linens (vs. using a plastic trash bag).

(Julie here: I’ve been working with the Greening Committee at my son’s school to green their events. We have a big holiday fair in December, and serve lunch to about 500 people. In the past, they used plastic tablecloths to cover the tables, which was so incongruent with the values and image of the school. We started asking around and were able to find a catering company that graciously donated some of their old, but still very serviceable, cloths to us.)


Lighting can make such a big impact on an event and doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but if you use it, talk to your lighting vendor about using LED (light emitting diode) lights. They use less energy (which makes them very eco!) and are safer to use because they are light to the touch and not hot. Also, they can change colors throughout your event which really adds to the ambiance of any event!

Read the final installment: the venue.

5 Tips for Sexy Recycling

photo by: Julie
Many businesses embark on greening programs by taking a good, hard look at the stream of materials both into and out of their business. Often, this first shows up as recycling. We all know about recycling, and how we “should” be doing better. So, why aren’t we?

Being trained in the design arts, I firmly believe that if it’s not convenient or beautiful enough, people won’t bother. Yes, beauty has a powerful, usually subliminal effect on us. If something is repugnant and hard to do – why waste your time on it?

Luckily, there are some excellent examples of doing recycling right. For instance, check out the plastic recycling bin in a Swiss McDonald’s pictured on the wonderful website, “Eco Pic of the Day.”

Wish we had that kind of recycling beauty on this side of the pond? Good news! Last August, my family and I went to San Francisco, which in the resource (not “waste”) management world feels like a trip to the future.

The image at the top was taken in the California Academy of Sciences, itself an over-the-toply green building. Definitely worth a visit and do NOT miss the green roof. They had triple-bins all through the building, but since this was in the main pathway, the designers took pains to make it something that fits and is easy to use. It has beautifully weighted lids that pivot, always returning to the list of what materials to put in. This picture also has one key bit of information: “90% of your waste can be composted!”
photo by: Julie

Since San Francisco has municipal composting (how cool is that??), I embarrassed my family by taking photographs of trash bins. Ahhh, but not just ANY trash bins – these are happily color-coded with photos, so you know immediately what to put in each. Since color is deeply symbolic, it is no accident that the green is for compost, the blue is for recycling, and the black is for “landfill.” I’ve even seen places where the black can is much smaller than the others, to discourage use.

photo by: Julie

Finally, since pictures are far more eloquent than words, stations like this go a long way to assuring success. Again, pay attention to both the size and the colors of each poster. Size, color and number of choices work on both an explicit and a subliminal level. Advertisers have known and exploited this for years! We’ve starting doing something very similar at my son’s school events, and it works like a charm.

photo by: Julie

If you’re having challenges implementing a recycling program or getting participation, here are some tips:

1. Take a look at the containers you are using. Is it abundantly clear what materials go into each container?

2. Are the containers placed for convenience? Be honest – people are just not going to walk the entire length of your building just to recycle a single Coke can. If you can err on the side of more containers, do it.

3. Ask for suggestions from your co-workers. You’d be surprised how many people actually DO care about this, even if their at-work behavior is less than exemplary. By asking for their input, you can more effectively deputize them to be part of the solution.

4. Aim high! Why not consider a composting program? Maybe your apartment-dwelling, tree-hugging young employees will be thrilled to bring their kitchen scraps from home. And then blog about what a cool employer you are. There are a lot of composting services cropping up all over. It may not be as crazy as it sounds.

5. Please do not underestimate the value of good design! Color, size, material, and graphics play a deeply significant role in effective communication. Lavishing attention on your recycling bins communicates that it’s a high priority in your workplace. You really can make recycling fun and sexy – if you embrace the beauty, ease and grace of good design.

Harness the power of good design to make your recycling program sexy! Did you these tips useful? Let us know and share this with your friends!

What Is Your Business Green-Q?

Graphic by: Julie

You are not alone in wondering, what the heck really IS a green business? Is it necessary to be part of the “green economy” — as in, perform home energy audits or make hemp clothing? Take this quick quiz to find out if your business is eligible to become “green”. . . .

1. Do you purchase supplies for your business?

2. Do you make recommendations to your clients of supplies or materials they should purchase?

3. Do you travel for your work? Commute? Visit clients on-site? Get on airplanes?

4. Do you make year-end contributions to causes, or volunteer your time?

5. Do you use electricity in your business?

6. Do you eat food while at work? Serve it to your clients?

Congratulations! If you answered “yes” to any or all of these, then your business qualifies! Yes, it’s true: ALL businesses have an effect on the planet, on communities, on individuals. Business is fundamentally about relationships — both positive and uplifting, as well as exploitative and wasteful. (Let’s be honest here!)

The good news is, with a simple mindset shift, you are well on your way to becoming a green-blooded business owner. At GOforChange, we are all about mentoring small business owners to strategically to go green, with vision, passion, clarity and purpose. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach! No “10-Things-You-Can-Do-To-Save-The-Earth” lists here! Your green plan is unique to your business — your pressing needs, your priorities.

We encourage you to browse around here on GOforChange. You’ll find articles on a wide range of topics. They will teach you something you didn’t know, pique your curiosity, challenge and inspire you. You will see that going green extends well beyond recycling or using compact fluorescent light bulbs and can truly create an amazing “inner-world, transformational shift” in the way you think about life and business.

If you want to go deeper, try our recorded teleconference, “How to Overcome Green Overload in Your Small Business: 5 Steps for Cutting Through the Clutter.” It will take you through our ground-breaking 5-step model for creating a green business.

If you just want to explore if this greening thing is right for your business, schedule a GreenVersation with Julie Gabrielli. Simply send an email to chris(at), subject line “Green me!” and we will get you signed up.

I Buy Different Baltimore

drawing by: Thomas Valcke
I Buy Different is in partnership with The Center For A New American Dream and is geared toward kids and young adults in saving our resources. It is a website that presents valuable information about how what we buy effects the planet. Youth and adults alike don’t like to be told they’re doing something wrong every time a purchase is made. Find out some hard facts on the connections between your computer and a gorilla in The Democratic Republic of Congo. Why should we care? This website makes being aware of our choices fun and engaging, for any age. Instead of presenting information you might not know what to do with I Buy Different includes how to get involved and tell your friends.

Cleaner Greener Baltimore

photo courtesy of:   CGB
Cleaner Greener Baltimore is part of a new initiative by Mayor Sheila Dixon that seeks to educate the citizens of Baltimore on how to keep the city cleaner and greener. The website informs the public on what steps the city has taken and plans to take regarding keeping Baltimore clean, including; recycling measures, trash removal, tree plantings, etc. It also speaks to residents, businesses, students, and commuters and visitors on what steps they can take as well.