Archive for March, 2009

Abolish the Blues with a Little Green

March 24, 2009

Sad EmployeesWith layoffs abound and dismal economic news emanating from every media outlet, even gainfully employed people are feeling a little blue. Savvy leaders are forming employee “Green Teams” to engage employees in fun and meaningful ways – not to mention cut costs and reduce environmental impacts.

With funding for salary increases scarce, employers can reward key employees with development opportunities or special assignments aligned with that employee’s particular interests. A Green Team presents a unique opportunity to build a cross-functional, cross-generational team of employees with a passion or interest in learning more about sustainability. Combine the business knowledge and pragmatism of your tenured employees with the blue-sky thinking of Gen Y and voila! – out come creative, yet practical, green initiatives that will bring true value to your business.

Happy EmployeesBy participating in a Green Team, team members gain exposure to functional areas and business units outside of their normal realm of interaction. As Green Team facilitators and advisors, we so often hear from our clients phrases like “I had no idea that business unit was doing all of those cool things!” or “I’m so excited to have the opportunity to make an impact at a company-wide level!” And we’re excited to work with those people!

But Green Teams can also be ineffective if they are emotion-driven rather than fact-driven, and momentum can fizzle without a solid framework.

Here are some tips for Green Team success:
• Provide training and educational opportunities for team members to keep abreast of ever-evolving sustainability concepts.
• Without an Executive-Level Champion, a team structure and defined operating processes, Green Teams may generate disjointed or low-impact initiatives that don’t necessarily align with your business objectives. Leverage a framework that has worked at your company for past programs or enlist the help of experienced consultants with a proven Green Team methodology.
• Provide communication mechanisms that afford everyone in your workforce a voice in your sustainability efforts – good ideas can also come from people outside of the Green Team.
• Metrics, metrics, metrics. If you don’t benchmark past or current environmental performance, you can’t measure the success of your efforts.

Turn Surly into Sunny – form a Green Team!


Confessions of a Green Recessionista: Sustainable Shopping in a Down Economy

March 19, 2009

In an era of “staycations,” downsizing and dining in – what’s a fashion-forward but socially-conscious shopper to do?

Clothing RackThis is a topic I’ve been mulling over a lot recently, particularly after learning about “Second Runway,” a fashion show featuring Twin Cities’ designers using repurposed clothing items from Goodwill. It reminded me of my love for consignment shopping – digging through racks of abandoned clothing and finding that unexpected jewel of the perfect vintage t-shirt, cashmere cardigan or houndstooth coat.

The economic downturn has had the unintended-but-fortuitous consequence of forcing wardrobe creativity among the hipster set; as secondhand clothing has recently become “en vogue” with many thrifty fashionistas. The environmental benefits of consignment clothing are also finally being celebrated in a more public way.

Like Rebecca Bloomwood (Confessions of a Shopaholic), most people who know me are aware of my love of clothes, as well as the sheer delight I take in the act of shopping – vintage or otherwise. However, (and this is a BIG however), working in the sustainability consulting world, and knowing what I know, it’s hard to justify the need for more shoes, dresses, handbags, etc., when I already have a full closet at home.

So aside from being more conscious about buying pieces that will last and that I truly “need,” I’m attempting to follow some basic sustainable fashion guidelines:

  1. Making better use of my tailor and cobbler. (Okay, it’s a shoe repair guy, but doesn’t “cobbler” sound better? It also reminds me of dessert.) Instead of throwing away my shoes with broken heels or suits with ripped lining, I’m actually expending the time and money to repair and renew.
  2. Expanding my wardrobe to include sustainable fabrics, like bamboo or organic cotton. A special shout-out goes to Holy Cow organic clothing, another Minnesota-based company and coffee acquaintance, and Jeff Yokoyama, a California fashion designer whose clothing line is made from recycled towels and other materials. Other mainstream retailers like Patagonia also feature product lines with recycled content.
  3. Paying attention to the sustainability policies of chain stores and big-box retailers. Walmart is leading the way, but other brands like Target and JCPenney have also taken significant steps to decrease their environmental footprint. Could Neimans and Saks be far behind? A girl can a dream…
  4. Taking the extra effort to e-mail a comment when stores don’t live up to my environmental expectations. A little bit of noise can go a long way – even in a tough economy.

So, to all of the other green recessionistas out there – don’t fret! Have fun with it. Throw a Clothing Exchange party where your friends bring their retired clothes, as well as a bottle of wine, and do some trading! What’s old is new again…

A Little Maintenance Goes a Long Way!

March 15, 2009

The price of a gallon of gasoline may have dropped for now, but it will certainly rise again in the future. Even if prices are low, you can still save money by modifying your driving habits and making sure your car is properly maintained. Much was said in past months about proper tire pressure, but that has very little effect on gas mileage – other factors are far more important. Obeying posted speed limits can have a large effect: fuel efficiency drops quickly at speeds above 60 MPH, and sticking to 55 mph can save you as much as 23% according to the EPA. Cleaning out your trunk and removing unused bike or cargo racks can save another 2% for every 100 lbs. of weight you remove. Give your car a tune-up, making sure the air filter, radiator coolant, and spark plugs don’t need to be replaced. If one or more of these components is performing poorly, your gas mileage can easily drop 10-15%. Finally, experiment with different grades of gasoline: while Regular may save you $0.20 per gallon versus Premium, your car may run differently, in reality consuming more of the lower-grade fuel per mile. There are many sources on the web for information on fuel economy and auto maintenance. Check out the EPA‘s automotive site ( or advice from CarTalk‘s Tom & Ray Magliozzi ( for more tips.