Author Archive

Rethinking Business Travel

February 15, 2011

Did you know that the average New York-to-Los Angeles flight emits 185 metric tons of carbon dioxide? That is the equivalent amount of CO2 emitted by 82 average automobile commuters traveling to and from work for an entire year! Business air travel can have a big impact on a company’s environmental footprint and bottom line.

 

 Many businesses are now adopting “virtual meeting” strategies like videoconferencing or Skype to limit their impact, while still maintaining the face-to-face interaction that is critical for so many business relationships.  Videoconferencing can drastically reduce a company’s greenhouse gas emissions and travel costs, which can include airline tickets, car rentals, hotel stays and meals! As an added benefit, employee productivity and morale improves when less time is spent waiting in long airline security lines.

 

If you must travel for work, consider these other green travel strategies:

·         Where possible, skip the rental car and opt to travel by train, bus or subway once you reach your destination

·         If you must rent a car, select a hybrid or model with good gas mileage

·         Schedule meetings at a central location

·         Select a hotel located near your primary destination

·         Carpool with co-workers

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Paydirt Receives Certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise

January 19, 2011

Paydirt is excited to announce that we have received national certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Development Center-Chicago, a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

WBENC’s national standard of certification is a thorough process including an in-depth review of the business and site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.

By including women-owned businesses among their vendors, corporations, and government agencies demonstrate their commitment to fostering diversity and the continued development of their supplier/vendor diversity programs.

Kicking Off the Year with Green Resolve

January 12, 2011

In the United States, the most popular New Year’s resolutions fit into a few predictable categories: getting fit, saving money, reducing stress, and getting organized. Unfortunately, environmental sustainability doesn’t even grace the list of the top ten most common resolutions.

Imagine what a huge impact we could have if everyone added just one “green” resolution to their list (and then kept their promise!) This year, identify one pragmatic step you can take to reduce your personal environmental footprint. Your resolution doesn’t need to be life-changing, but it should be meaningful and make a measurable impact. The New Year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start.

Here is a short list of ideas to get your creativity flowing!

  • Pledge to take alternative transportation to work at least once a week
  • Skip the daily disposable coffee cup by making java at home
  • Finally get around to planting that garden in the spring
  • Call your local utility to arrange for a home energy audit
  • Reduce your shower time or invest in low-flow faucets and shower fixtures
  • Purchase a basket for your bike so you can run errands without burning fossil fuels

From Junky to Jolly – Choosing Low-Impact Holiday Gifts that Leave a Lasting Impression

November 29, 2010

The holiday season is the perfect time to give thanks for the clients and colleagues that make your company a success. The rich tradition of sending end-of-the-year cards and gifts is a wonderful way to reinforce the value of those relationships.

Unfortunately, however, the waste created by the holiday giving season can also leave a lasting negative impact on the environment. This year, consider an eco-friendly option that showcases your appreciation of the planet, in addition to celebrating the important people in your life.

As an initial step, make a conscious decision to avoid purchasing anything that will quickly end up in a landfill. There are a wide variety of recyclable and recycled-content cards and products available from traditional retailers and local boutiques alike. Or opt for consumable gifts, in the form of organic or fair-trade food or beverages, which are always a crowd-pleaser. You can also forego a gift in favor of donating to a charitable or environmental cause – like a reforestation effort or community garden. Just be sure to communicate that decision to your contact list in an effective way, like sending an e-card with a link to a video explaining the program.

Exercise your creativity to make this year’s holiday greeting memorable, fun and green!

Back to School in Sustainable Style

August 23, 2010

It’s hard to believe, but the long days of summer are already getting shorter, and before you know it, kids will be zipping up their backpacks and lining up outside to wait for the school bus. Back-to-school shopping is a celebrated tradition for students and parents alike. But with more families trying to reduce their environmental footprint, many eco-savvy shoppers are starting to seek out lower-impact options. Here are few easy tips to “green up” your back-to-school experience this year:

  1. Paper products. The bad news is that 1 billion trees worth of paper is thrown away every year. The good news is that there are a variety of high-quality recycled-content paper and notebook options to choose from. Mainstream brands like Mead offer stylish options, or check out an emerging paper company like “Ecojot,” which makes notebooks from 100% postconsumer waste and vegetable-based dyes. Or go the extra mile by opting for paperless with an energy-efficient, EPEAT-certified laptop.
  2. Writing utensils. Did you know that six billion pens are thrown away in the U.S. every year? Break the cycle by opting for recycled-content options, like Paper Mate’s EarthWrite pencils, which are made from newspaper and cardboard, or biodegradable pens made from cornstarch or recycled paper.
  3. Books.  Seek out used books whenever possible, especially for college students, where books can be a significant expense.
  4. Other supplies. First, before you head to the store, don’t forget to check your junk drawer – it’s easy to collect multiple pairs of scissors and staplers over the years! When you do need new supplies, look for options with recycled content. Or get creative and start a materials reuse program to hand down supplies when kids leave elementary school.
  5. Clothing.  Show your kids that vintage t-shirts are more fun when they’re actually vintage. Secondhand clothing retailers like Plato’s Closet have been growing in popularity in recent years, and it’s easy to see why (you can buy more with less!)

The Power of Team: Strength and Solidarity in Sustainability

July 26, 2010

Looking for a fun and unexpected way to spice up the next summer gathering with your employees, customers or volunteers? Sick of the same old idle icebreakers and tacky teambuilding techniques?

This time, try adding an eco-themed challenge as a means to strengthen team relationships and enhance the overall event experience! Put environmental policies and promises to work by pitching in for a river, park or wildlife restoration program. Or leverage the power of competition by hosting a geocache or scavenger hunt highlighting natural resources and conservation strategies.

Gaining the Eco Edge

July 21, 2010

The following is an excerpt from my recent article for B2B Marketing Online.

Even in the midst of significant global momentum, most businesses aren’t capable of being transparent because they simply don’t have the necessary data. Many companies don’t have the internal systems and controls in place to establish a reliable performance benchmark, while others are challenged by decentralised operations.

Due to its role as both the creative nucleus and public face of the company, marketing departments can play an integral role in building internal and external momentum for sustainability programmes.

The first step to implementing an effective environmental programme is to educate and engage internal audiences. Marketing professionals can help to build a case for sustainability and empower other employees to actively participate in decreasing the company’s overall environmental footprint.

In addition to playing a key role in educating internal audiences about the value and requirements of a sustainable workplace, marketers can also help to capitalise on those programmes with external stakeholders.

A distinctive corporate sustainability programme can be a powerful market differentiator and hook for strengthening and expanding relationships with existing customers. Sustainability is also a potent tool for reaching out to environmentally savvy prospects, so marketers should work in close collaboration with research and development divisions in their companies to ensure that sustainability is factored into the design of new product and services.

To read the entire article, please visit:

http://www.b2bm.biz/Features/?groupId=13634&articleId=38041

Green Grilling Guide: Easy Tips for a Low-Stress, Low-Impact Barbecue

June 28, 2010

More than 60 million households will fire up the grill every holiday weekend this summer. A little advance planning can turn those typically wasteful events into a stress-free and sustainable fete. Here are some easy steps for “greening up” your grilling this year!

  1. The Green Grill
    The particulate matter from burning charcoal briquettes contains carbon monoxide and other harmful VOCs, so use a propane, gas or electric grill where possible.  If you do use coal, choose all-natural lump varieties, which eliminate the additives contained in briquettes. 
  2. Ditch those Disposables
    Opt instead for reusable plates, cups, and traditional cutlery. If you must use disposables, look for options made from bamboo, sugar cane or other renewable materials. Then, when your event is over, reuse, recycle or compost as much waste as possible.
  3. Seasonal=Sustainable
    BBQ season is the best time of year to find locally grown fruits and vegetables. Feature fresh produce on the menu – drawing  from your backyard garden, CSA share or local farmers market!
  4. Opt for Organic
    Where possible, choose bulk sizes of organic drinks, or whip up your own fresh iced tea or lemonade. Organic beers and wines are also readily available in most traditional liquor stores. (Seek party planning inspiration from Organic Shaken and Stirred: Hip Highballs, Modern Martinis, And Other Totally Green Cocktails, by Paul Abercrombie.)
  5. It’s all about the Meat
    For many, vegetarian barbecues are simply not a realistic option, so visit sustainable meat retailers in your area to purchase delicious organic and grass-fed options. Because it tends to be leaner than traditional meat, marinate the meat before and during the grilling process to keep it juicy and tender.
  6. Dish up some Dessert
    Try reheating baked goods in a closed grill after the heat is turned off. By the time you are ready for dessert, that rhubarb pie will be at the perfect temperature for a dollop of whipped cream!

Offsetting and Offsets: the basics of carbon neutrality

May 19, 2010

“Carbon neutrality” is a phrase that many people have heard, but few really understand. Essentially, going “carbon neutral” means achieving net zero carbon emissions, or balancing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset.

To further complicate matters, carbon offsetting can mean a couple different things: (1) using renewable energy instead of burning fossil fuels for power; or (2) purchasing carbon offset credits. Offset credits can fund a variety of activities, like large-scale tree planting efforts or innovative carbon reduction projects, such as installing anaerobic digesters on farms to capture methane (a global warming gas estimated to be 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide).

The best practice for individuals or organizations seeking to achieve carbon neutrality is to reduce the amount of carbon emissions released in the first place. However, purchasing carbon offset credits is also an easy way to invest in a healthier planet. To learn more about how to calculate and offset your personal or professional carbon footprint, visit www.terrapass.com or www.greenmountainenergy.com/carbon_offsets.shtml.

Earth Day 2010: Celebrating 40 Years of Baby Steps

April 22, 2010

Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day – a  time to reflect on the progress that has been made in the environmental movement thus far, and an opportunity to assess the long and likely bumpy road ahead.  

Earth Day is important. It shines a light on the grave environmental issues confronting the planet and rouses people to reconsider their daily routines. Awareness is the first step toward action, so devoting a special “day” to the environment ensures that most people are exposed to some form of sustainability message and are encouraged to take a small step toward reducing their own ecological footprint.

The increased level of interest and excitement is heartening, but it’s also deceptive and fleeting, as it usually fails to catalyze significant, long-term change.

It’s safe to say that if we traveled back in time to 1970, the founders of Earth Day would not be pleased by the progress we’ve made in 40 years.  While Earth Day itself has continued to grow in popularity, those short spurts of participation have not spurred the large-scale, global collaboration necessary for building real solutions to complex environmental problems.

The inherent problem with Earth Day is that it leaves people with a sense of achievement – the ability to check sustainability off their internal “to-do” list and move on with their regular life.

Across the nation (and globe)  today, individuals and organizations are participating in Earth Day celebrations – some that yield meaningful or measurable environmental benefits, and some that are decidedly token or transactional.

A small concrete action, like planting a tree or carting a coffee mug to Starbucks, allows people to feel like they’re doing their part. However, that temporary elation can wear off and leave a residual feeling of futility – like taking a vitamin when you fear you may have cancer.

Many of us fear that our environmental crises are too daunting and pervasive to confront. And it’s true – while incremental changes can add up over time, it’s simply not enough. Yes, let’s all change our light bulbs to compact fluorescents. Then let’s eliminate plastic bags… But then what?

Can we muster the collective will to graduate past “low-hanging fruit” to actions that require a more significant investment or behavioral change? Can we stomach some temporary discomfort in order to really change our habits?

As a sustainability consultant, I see the same struggle happening in the marketplace.  Earth Month is the busiest time of year for a green consultant or eco-entrepreneur. Companies plan lunch-time seminars or volunteer opportunities to demonstrate that they, too, care about the Earth and are willing to devote time and resources to “doing their part.”

Most celebrate the improvements they’ve made in the preceding year. Many distribute branded water bottles or reusable shopping bags. Everyone feels a little better about where they work. But the novelty quickly wears off and then it’s back to business as usual.

There are exceptions to this rule. A handful of businesses have cultivated a progressive or innovative approach to sustainability. Walmart is just one high-profile example of a company that has made a significant investment in reducing the environmental footprint of its own internal operations and supply chain.

However, most businesses have tended to taken a more conservative approach. Many small- to mid-sized companies know they should probably do something, but don’t know where to start, or are waiting until the market improves. Most large companies have made some incremental changes but struggle to make the business case for actions that do not have an immediate or measurable payback.

Making the business case for action can be incredibly difficult, especially in the current climate of economic and legislative uncertainty. The anticlimactic end to Copenhagen and absence of bipartisan political support for meaningful environmental legislation has made regulatory compliance an unlikely business driver in the short-term.  

Similarly, the long-term risk of supply chain instability and resource scarcity can be difficult to quantify in annual business planning and, as a result, usually fails to factor into corporate decision making.  Shoestring budgets and impending layoffs can make all but the most rudimentary conservation efforts seem unpalatable.

The good news is that the few companies that have made more significant investments in sustainability have started to see those efforts pay off. As an example, many building improvements or operational changes result in immediate cost savings, improved efficiency and happier employees.

Some market leaders have also begun to use sustainability as a tool to inspire innovation, and have succeeded in marketing environmentally preferable products or services. There is increasing evidence that a green brand can be a powerful tool for strengthening relationships with current and prospective customers, employees, and investors.

Those small victories can help shift the corporate environmental mindset from sacrifice to opportunity, and demonstrate that environmentally responsible actions can actually add value to a company’s bottom line – in both the short-term and long-term.

Ultimately, green innovation means doing things better, using fewer resources, and considering the upstream and downstream impacts of your decisions.

That is not to say that all sustainability measures are immediately profitable, comfortable or easy. In addition to considering the long-term effects of our actions as individuals and organizations, we must acknowledge that some sacrifice and discomfort will be involved with changing the way we function at work and at home.

A few leading companies, nonprofits and activists cannot shoulder the entire burden of our environmental crisis. We all need to take action and invest in our future. This Earth Day, let’s shift our mindset from incremental to monumental.