All Posts Tagged With: "climate change"

How low can you go?

Businesses that set ambitious goals to reduce their carbon footprint also increase their profitability. How is that possible?

It’s simple. Reduced carbon emissions result from using less energy, the production of which in the U.S. puts tons of CO2 and other so-called greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year. Greenhouse gases have been shown to accumulate in the atmosphere, causing climate change, also called global warming. By paying attention to more efficient use of energy, a business squeezes out waste while reducing its contribution to the release of CO2 gas. Whenever a company reduces waste, it saves money and enhances profits.

Here are two compelling examples provided by Hunter Lovins, of Natural Capitalism Solutions.

Dupont set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions 65% below its 1990 levels by 2010. They made this announcement in the name of increasing shareholder value. The company met their goal early, and are now over 80% below their 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Between 2000 and 2005, the waste-cutting saved them $3 billion. Andrew Winston, the author of “Green to Gold,” points out that between 2005 and 2007, Dupont’s annual savings from squeezing out waste was $2.2 billion a year. That was the same, those years, as their profitability. Here’s a company that’s profitable because it’s cutting emissions.

In another example, Swiss microchip maker ST Micro-electronics, set a goal of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 while increasing production 40-fold. At the time they made this announcement, they had no idea how to meet this goal. During the 1990s, its energy efficiency projects averaged a two-year payback (a nearly 71% after-tax rate of return). Making and delivering on this promise drove innovation and increased their market share. In 2004, the company moved from the number 12 micro-chip maker to number six. By the time ST meets its commitment of net-zero emissions, it estimates that it will have saved almost a billion dollars.

Sure, these examples from large corporations are impressive, but what about small business? A June 2006 article in Business Week by Byron Kennard, “Global Warming on Main Street,” is rather dire, noting that small businesses are especially vulnerable to climate disasters, including flooding and droughts. And yet, “There’s been virtually no research on what global warming means to small business, even though 23 million U.S. small businesses constitute one-half of the economy.”

It’s in the best interest of a small business owner, then, to lower its carbon emissions. Simple energy efficiency measures, such as installing programmable thermostats, upgrading lighting, turning off computers when not in use, and using water-saving faucets, can easily allow small businesses to save at least 30% on their energy bills.

Taking it up a notch, setting a really audacious goal of being carbon neutral by, say, 2015 is a great challenge that could inspire great innovation and engagement. A goal like that invites everyone in the company to contribute creative ideas. People who know they are helping a greater cause are naturally more involved and committed to success. Who knows? Maybe some businesses would even tie profit-sharing to reduced carbon emissions, to acknowledge the profitability of eliminating waste.

Even if you are skeptical about the causes or consequences of climate change, what’s not to like? Saving money from reduced waste and an engaged workforce innovating to solve problems goes directly to the bottom line.

If you need help mapping out a plan to save energy in your business, call on us! We have tips and training on how to reduce energy use around the office. Two articles to get you started:

Shift Your Mindset from Hell to Heaven Three steps to lowering carbon emissions.

Blueprint for a Green Business Start by benchmarking your carbon footprint and/or ecological footprint.

[Note: Information in paragraphs 5 and 6 of this article are from the paper, “The Business Case for Climate Protection,” by Hunter Lovins, available on the Natural Capitalism Solutions website. Paragraph 4 is from an interview of Hunter Lovins by David Riordan on Integral Life.]

21 days without complaint or criticism: is it possible?

Photo by: Julie

Note: when this ran in my recent newsletter, I received more comments from readers than any other article! Today, I was inspired to post it here and invite you to post your experiences — if you take up the 21-day challenge. Can’t wait to hear from you! (Not subscribed yet to the newsletter? Don’t miss an issue! Put your name and email in the spaces under the red box that says, “Gabrielli’s Green Business.”)

I have embarked on something I must admit – I did NOT want to do this. Of course, I am absolutely convinced it’s just what I need right now. But when I really thought about it, I had no idea how I could possibly last the 21 days. I imagined myself having to start over, not just every day, but several TIMES a day. And, well, to be honest with you – so far, I have started over three times.

What is this quest, you may be wondering?

Inspired by Edwene Gaines‘ brilliant book, “Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity,” one of the laws is clear goal-setting. We’ve all studied and practiced this, right? Well, she has a twist. It’s a preparatory practice. Ready for it? Go 21 days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. 21 days. If you slip, simply forgive yourself and start over. For another 21 days. As she says, you have to be really careful what you say on Day 20!!

As I contemplated doing this, I literally could not imagine how I could last 21 whole days. What would I say? I played back a recent interaction w/ my son, where I both complained AND criticized him for losing not one but both pairs of scissors from the kitchen drawer. (Mind you – I’m not complaining NOW, just telling a story!! Really. . . Doesn’t count, right?)

Who says worthwhile things are easy? Not only did I resolve to do it, I also told my son about my quest and enrolled him as my “minder.” His job is to tell me if I slip up, so I can start over the 21 days. He seems to appreciate the challenge. (He also reminded me that it’s only me doing this – he doesn’t have to!)

So, what does this have to do with green business?

People in the environmental community, myself included, can sometimes dwell too much on the negative. There is, we perceive, much going wrong with the planet’s health. Climate change (aka “Global Weirding”), destruction of the rainforest, massive oil spills, species extinctions. Whew! Just writing that list was exhausting!

While it can be motivating to keep in mind these and other consequences of a mindless, wasteful way of doing business, a more common response is simply to shut down. It all becomes overwhelming and seems hopeless.

Since we tend to get more of what we focus on, let’s try a new approach: one that emphasizes creativity and innovation. Seeing opportunities, rather than limitations. Shifting perspective from fixing what’s broken to asking, what do we really want here?

So far, a couple of weeks into my 21-day challenge, the benefits are already clear. Since complaining and criticism are off the table, I can meet each experience with appreciation and acceptance as the default. This feels very expansive and liberating, as if a whole part of my brain finally gets to have its say (having been drowned out before).

Imagine how the green / sustainability movement would be if we all decided not to complain or criticize. If we focused only on appreciation and clarity about what we want, rather than what we don’t want.

I think it was Mother Teresa who said, “I won’t go to an anti-war march. But, if you hold a peace march, please invite me.”

I am enjoying this so much that I may just extend it indefinitely. With such a light heart, why would I go back to the old ways of anxiety and worry? Try it! I’d love to hear your stories.

Warning: Argue About Climate Change At Your Own Risk

photo by: Julie
Recently, I had a conversation with a green business colleague, who is absolutely convinced that the recent brouhaha about a so-called global climate-change conspiracy has set back the green movement ten years. His concern is at least one branch of the movement – notably green building – has hitched its wagon to the climate-change star of late, rather than sticking to their more successful message that green buildings save money, attract higher-paying tenants and get media attention.

What to make of this? I’m fascinated by the passion on both sides of this argument – and, in fact, that there IS an argument at all. I happen to accept the science that climate change is real and caused by human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels from the earth’s crust (where they were deposited over eons, because they are toxic to life in the biosphere). But I’m not going to argue with someone who disagrees with me. I choose not to lead with climate change, because it is too controversial and turns people off.

I’ve been studying belief change lately. The best way to get someone to harden their position on something is to try and talk them out of it. Think about it. When we believe something, we tend to see evidence of its truth all around us. We also ignore any and all evidence to the contrary – and you can bet there is such evidence. We just don’t see it, because we are too busy noticing the proof. Instead of arguing, the more effective course is to subtly play with people, asking questions to shift their perceptions and awareness. (More on belief change in future articles.)

There’s another reason I abstain from the climate change debate. There’s a universal law that what we focus on, expands. I have long turned away from the “doom-n-gloom” environmental messages. Why put out that anxious, fearful energy? Instead, look at how advantageous it is to adopt a green mindset: it’s smart business to reduce or eliminate waste (which equals money down the drain or up the smokestack); connect to new markets of people who DO care; and get free PR. (More on benefits of green business in future articles.)

Can’t resist passing this along. Since my belief is that climate change is real, I see all around me evidence to support that! For instance, NOAA has a new website covering climate change, which I investigated this morning. It’s full of the latest information, with sections on education, data, and understanding climate.

Also, Jim Hansen, the NASA scientist that has been warning about this for decades, has a new book that I haven’t read yet: “Storms of My Grandchildren” which looks to be a gloves-are-off call to action. (Not for the faint-hearted: the words “last chance” are splashed all over the website.)

Did you find this article helpful? Let me know!

My Blog is Carbon Neutral!

photo by: Julie

The other day, I received an email invitation to participate in a campaign called, “My blog is carbon neutral.” I’m aware of the arguments pro and con for carbon offsets, and chose not to get too riled up about it. I just think it’s a fun idea, so — I’m in! Here is some information from the sponsor’s website. . . .

How much carbon dioxide does a blog create?

According to a study by Alexander Wissner-Gross, PhD, physicist at Harvard University and environmental activist, an average website causes about 0.02g (0,0008oz.) of carbon dioxide for each visit. Assuming an average blog gets 15,000 visits a month, it has yearly carbon dioxide emissions of 3,6kg (8lb.). This can mainly be tracked back to the immense energy usage from (mainframe) computers, servers, and their cooling systems.

How much carbon dioxide does a tree absorb?

Unfortunately, no precise answer is possible. The carbon dioxide absorption of a tree can differ a lot. The amount of carbon dioxide that a tree can absorb depends on the type of tree, light exposure, length of the vegetation period, latitude, water balance, and the soil conditions.

There are many different calculations for the saving potential of a tree. The assumed values vary between 10 and 30kg (20 and 70lb.) for a tree each year. It is certain however, that in its first two to three years a tree absorbs relatively little carbon dioxide. In the growth phase following this, the absorption rate increases rapidly. During this time, the tree safes a considerable amount of carbon dioxide. The absorption rate decrease again from the age of 18.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) assumes a yearly absorption of one tree of approximately 10kg (20lb.) carbon dioxide emissions. “Make it green”, the environmental programme of kaufDA, is using a yearly absorption value of 5kg (11lb.) for its “My blog is carbon neutral” initiative. This is a very conservative calculation, ensuring that the neutralisation of each blog is achieved.

How and where are the trees planted?

The trees are planted in Plumas National Forest in Northern California by “Arbor Day Foundation” the US partner for the “My blog is carbon neutral” initiative. “Arbor Day Foundation” is a non-profit conservation and education organization with the goal helping reforest 5,500 acres of Plumas National Forest with 792,000 trees.

Want to get your blog signed up?

Head on over to their website and check out the instructions. It’s really easy!

What Is Your Winter Wish?

Photo by: Julie

In response to this week’s Wishcasting question. . .My first wish for winter is always for a lot of snow. I love how snow covers everything, smudging away the angular edges that divide everything up into neat, separate objects all the rest of the year. Snow requires us to see our world through different eyes; its magical visual effects are so invigorating and uplifting.

The other reason I wish for snow now is to somehow stave off the effects of global climate change. The last several years, Maryland has had mild weather, both summer (a blessing!) and winter (boring!!). Back in 2003, it snowed a lot in February AND in December. That’s my son after the December 2003 storm. In “Long Distance,” Bill McKibben bemoans this trend and its effect on the cross-country skiing industry. It’s been 6 years since I’ve been able to ski around my neighborhood!

I love how Chinese medicine describes both the seasons and the elements related to them. Fittingly, water is the element in winter. Water is so willful and strong; ice formed inside a wall can literally tear it down without even trying. Water always, always finds a way around something. My final wish this winter is to be as willful and resourceful as water in its many forms. What’s your wish?

Is Your Diet Making You and the Planet Sick?

A question I hear a lot from my clients is, what else can I be doing to go green? In addition to helping them to organize what they are already doing in a more systematic way, I always have suggestions of how to take it further. (For a first-hand experience of organizing your thoughts in a systematic way, tune into my special FR*EE call this Thursday, 11/12 at 4:00 p.m. EST, “How to Overcome Green Overload in Your Small Business: 5 Steps for Cutting Through the Clutter.” Follow this link for more info, and to register.)

So. . . .on the topic of taking green a little further. . . .You’re probably aware of studies that have been done on the links between eating animal protein and human health. But have you heard that commercial meat production is a major contributor to climate change? The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the global meat industry generates 18% of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . . far more than transportation.

Why not try going meatless one day a week? Since everything is interconnected, you’ll find that the benefits ripple through several other areas, including your health and your wallet. Read more at Meatless Monday, a great resource from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Living Climate Change

This new website is certainly one to watch. The introductory video explains what they are up to using wonderful graphics and an upbeat, empowering message. The design firm IDEO is behind this — a true testament to the power of clear, well-illustrated information.

Our Invitation To You from IDEO on Vimeo .

And, this video is a must-see! Think Tony Robbins crossed with your accountant. We need more people like Drew Jones, fanning out across the globe to deliver this message. Be sure to watch to the end. That newspaper cover in the year 2069 is priceless – never underestimate the power of the imagination.


Now, you’re probably jazzed about climate action and wondering what you can do to truly get on this train. Good news! I have an answer for you. Come to the upcoming FR*EE call, “How to Overcome Green Overload in Your Small Business: 5 Steps for Cutting Through the Clutter.” On this call, I will show you how to take your business from zero to green with clarity and confidence. Find out more and register here.