Who Will Win the 2010 Heart of Green Awards?

via the Daily Green

The Daily Green’s Heart of Green Awards honor those people and organizations that take green to the mainstream — to the “heart” of the American people.

On April 20, 2010 The Daily Green will host its second annual Heart of Green Awards ceremony in the LEED Gold-certified Hearst Tower in New York City.

In addition to honoring celebrities and stalwarts of the environmental movement, The Daily Green honors one Lifetime Achievement winner and one Local Hero, nominated by The Daily Green audience.

This year’s list of nominees include 22 year old Katie Sportz, the youngest person ever to cross the Atlantic in a rowboat solo in an effort to raise funds for clean water initiatives in developing nations.  The list also includes Spencer Brown, founder of Rent-a-Green-Box, a company dedicated to tackling the problem of overfilled landfills around the country.  For a full list of nominees, click here.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Spotlight on Creativity: Saturday Etsy Series

If you are going to be doing any holiday entertaining in the upcoming months, my etsy pick of the week, hopejohnson, would be a perfect shop to browse for some unique colorful ceramic dishes for your table.
Hope Johnson’s shop has bright one of kind pieces that range from dipping dishes to bowls. Everything is handmade in her home and ready to ship to yours.
This California designer has a background in graphic design and photography and is inspired by plant forms and organic shapes. Hope’s etsy profile says “functional pottery is a passion of mine, and I want my pieces to be used and enjoyed in the daily lives of my customers and friends”.
My favorite piece in her shop is this one – a plate perfectly sized for desserts or appetizers.  It measures 3/4″ tall, 6″ in diameter and is decorated with chartresuse and white matte glazes and a chocolate gloss glaze. The big bright leaves against the white plate will make any dish you are serving look great…maybe even mine.
Posted by: Becca / follow my Etsy shop on Twitter

UPS’s Green Smart Pickup Option

UPS announced last week their new Smart Pickup option, a new “green” option within their Decision Green program. Smart Pickup is for small to mid-sized businesses and gives them the option of scheduling a pickup for a package only when a package is actually being shipped. UPS will use their technology to make sure a driver only stops at the customer’s location if and when a package is ready to be shipped. Before this option many UPS drivers would stop daily at customer locations and there would be no packages, only there wasting time and fuel.

UPS says this new service is expected to eliminate 8 million miles from the total driven by UPS each year in the United States and will save an estimated 793,000 gallons of fuel and 7,800 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions. This new option saves time, miles, and lessens the UPS carbon footprint overall.

UPS customers will also be happy to know that if they enroll in this new “green” option they will be saving money as well. The weekly flat fee for the Smart Pickup is $10. The process is also convenient and easy, all you have to do is use one of UPS’s three online shipping systems (UPS WorldShip 2010, UPS CampusShip, or UPS Internet Shipping) to process a package and notify a driver that you have a package.  

Other options in the Decision Green program include UPS Carbon Neutral Shipping. This is a way for your business to reduce its environmental impact, just pay five cents more per package and UPS carbon neutral will offset the carbon dioxide emission generated by the transportation of your packages.

The Brown-Deeply Rooted in Green plan is another part of Decision Green that uses advanced route planning, reducing left turns for thousands of vehicles, and using one versus multiple trucks for international, air, and ground deliveries; another way for UPS to use less miles, fuel, and lower emissions.

Posted by Megan/ Follow me on Twitter

Toshiba Ends Incandescent Bulb Manufacturing

After 120 years of manufacturing incandescent light bulbs, Toshiba announced last week its planned to switch solely to CFLs and LED light bulbs.

via CNET:

The Japanese electronics manufacturer said the phaseout is part of a strategy to ultimately concentrate on LED (light-emitting diode) lighting products, though it will continue to produce certain specialty incandescent bulbs.

Incandescent lighting has been dwindling in use over the last five years in large part to citizen and government phase-out campaigns that include laws for an eventual ban on the sale of the electricity-guzzling light source. Many countries have already passed laws with deadlines looming.

Australia was the first country to ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs, which took effect in 2010. In December 2007, the U.S. passed a law phasing out the sale of the 100-watt incandescent bulb beginning in 2012 with a ban to take effect by 2014, as well as several regulations regarding bulb efficiency rates.

Many companies have responded to the changes by reducing production in favor of new lighting technology like LEDs and CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs). Even newer technologies like electron stimulated luminescence (ESL) lights and incandescent bulbs with ultra-fast short-pulse lasers are also on the horizon.

“Toshiba estimates that switching 60 percent of the world’s incandescent lights with LED lights would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 125.5 million tons in 2025, compared to 2000,” the company said in a statement.

It marks the end of a technology era. Since 1890, Toshiba–that is the company that eventually became part of Toshiba–has been manufacturing incandescent lighting.

Hakunetsu-sha & Company was Japan’s first electric incandescent lighting factory and produced its first bulbs in 1890 at a rate of 10 bulbs per day. The company was renamed the Tokyo Electric Company in 1899, and in 1939 merged with Shibaura Engineering Works to become what is today known as Toshiba.

Greener Product – a green building resource

One of the most challenging things about working on a LEED or other green building project can be sourcing materials and specifying products that will not only gain points in a certification program but also represent the level of sustainability desired.  If there are limited LEED experts in a given area, that challenge only grows for builders, architects, homeowners and contractors.  That’s why when I first stumbled across Greener Product, I thought it was a perfect solution for these resource problems.   Greener Product’s online provides architects, builders and the public a quick and easy online platform for searching and evaluating “green” products according to the Internationally recognized United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

The database can search by location and determine if the product meets the 500 miles radius requirement that LEED often provides for products used in a project. It will also give the user a checklist of the products in each search, letting them know if the product has recycled content, low VOCs, certified wood and if it’s rapidly renewable.  Maybe one of the most useful features, Greener Product shows the number of points that can be achieved by using a product.

From the Greener Product website:

Greener Product, LLC identified this problem and over the past year has developed a “game changing” web based platform designed specifically for LEED AP’s, architects and builders to identify green building products. This free service platform allows for the building specifiers to quickly search for green building products and then once identified evaluate those product against the LEED standards.

The online service is a platform for manufacturers to “tell their green story” directly to the largest group of American building specifiers. The products are registered on the Greener Product, LLC web site and presented to the LEED community for final consideration. Then the products are evaluated (against the LEED standards) and  the information is prepared in a report supported by copies of independent 3rd party certificates (FSC, CARB, Greenguard, Blue Angel, etc), laboratory testing reports, product environmental attributes, LEED credit and inserted into a comprehensive report ready for submission into the architects project file.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Greening up your Spring Cleaning

A couple of years ago after being fed up buying bottles of “green” window cleaner that never offered a larger sized re-fill version–I started making a few of my own cleaning products for everyday use around the house. Since then I have enjoyed a home free of that stinky cleaning product smell-which absolutely nauseates me just thinking about it, and keeps my lean budget a little meatier. I also get a great sense of satisfaction making something that works just as well and sometimes even better than some chemically engineered toxic compound.

I’m not saying to dump all your cleaning products down the sink—that would be insane and it could actually come back to haunt you by ending up in your water supply in diluted form! Use up what you have and then if you can try to reuse the spray bottle container. If you can’t reuse what you have a simple trip to your local hardware store or janitorial supply store will do the trick.

Here are some of my favorite solutions that are easy to make—and more importantly…they smell great and are effective!

Here is what you’ll need to pick up to start making your own cleaners:

Baking Soda

Lemon Juice (bottled works-fresh is best!)

White Vinegar (I buy it by the gallon)

Kosher Salt

Pure Castile Soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap)

Tea Tree Oil (Try your natural food store)

1. Great abrasive cleaner *works fantastic in the bathroom and kitchen

In the tubsprinkle surfaces with baking soda, then scrub with a stiff bristled brush or scrubber sponge. To tackle soap scum, sprinkle on some kosher salt w, and work up some elbow grease.

You can also make a paste out of baking soda and water for tough stains or really grimy areas like the oven—even letting it sit overnight …spray on little white vinegar let the chemical reaction happen and watch that stainless steel sink, stove top, or refrigerator shelves and bins sparkle!!

Mold or mildew in the shower or on the curtain? Try spraying white vinegar or even lemon juice—let it sit for a few minutes then hit it with a stiff bristled brush or a hard toothbrush in between grout lines.

2. Disinfectant that smells fabulous *great bleach alternative.

Mix 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 25 drops of tea tree oil. This works great in the bathroom in the sink and around/in the toilet! You can adjust the fragrance by selecting a scented castile soap…I like eucalyptus and peppermint!

3. Windows with a streak free finish

Combine 4 tablespoons of white vinegar per gallon of warm water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray solution on windows or any glass surface (coffee tables, bathroom mirrors etc.) and use one of Dad’s old undershirts or even newspapers to produce the cleanest windows you’ve ever seen.

*If you don’t like the smell of white vinegar you can use a mixture of lemon juice and club soda.

4. Floor cleaner *can be used on hardwood, tile or linoleum

You can keep your floors clean by combining 3 ¾ cups of warm water and ¼ cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle or a bucket, mop floor as you usually would. If you need some grit for hard to clean areas try using kosher salt for a scratch free abrasive floor cleaner that is safe.

Use caution when washing walls—this solution did discolor a piece of painted wall when I became a little over zealous in my cleaning efforts…try a test area first in a very unnoticeable spot!

5. Drain Cleaner *works for slow moving drains—untested on a blocked one

Drain cleaner is probably the most dangerous chemical I have ever brought into my house…recently I had a slowly draining bathroom sink and tried a non lethal remedy…guess what—it actually worked!

Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain (unscrew the stopper if you can for better access) pour an entire tea kettle or if you are using a nuker about 4 cups of boiling water into the drain.

If that still doesn’t do the trick—replace the sink stopper and add more baking soda then pour ½ cup of white vinegar into the drain. Cover tightly by closing the stopper, allowing the fizzies created by the chemical reaction to break down the greasy grimy clog. Flush with another tea kettle of boiling water.

Happy cleaning!!

Posted by Amanda | Follow me on twitter

Walmart Announces Emission Reduction Plan; Can They Achieve Sustainability?

On February 25, Walmart announced their emissions reduction initiative and promised to to eliminate 20 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions from life cycle of products they sell around world by 2015.  This announcement is a big one, considering Walmart’s supply chain contributes to 90% of the company’s carbon footprint and has more than 3,000 stores in the U.S. and almost 1,300 International operations.

Walmart CEO Mike Duke said, “We will be a leader in retail, because we will be first to take a look at the supply chain on a global scale.”  Walmart’s CEO also called for a comprehensive legislative policy that addresses energy, energy security, the country’s competitiveness as well as reducing pollution.  He continued,  “Our GHG goal will be measurable and will be done in partnership with our suppliers.”

Walmart has been making significant strides in over sustainability for the company including initiatives such as solar energy sources on stores, obtaining power from wind-based electricity, refilling laundry detergent bottles instead of new packaging, eliminating plastic bags and offering sustainable food and goods.  However, there is some debate as to whether Walmart will ever be able to call themselves leaders in corporate sustainability.  Widely known for their questionable labor practices, Walmart faces harsh criticism from labor groups (for good reason) and constantly faces threats of unionization from many store workers.

From the People’s Voice.org:

With over $400 billion in sales and about 2.1 million employees, Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer and private employer, and number three globally in the 2009 Fortune 500 rankings behind Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon.

On December 16, 2009, NLC reported that “Wal-Mart’s Punitive Policies Drive Employees to Work Sick – Everyone comes to work sick.”

A deli section worker in a Pennsylvania company supercenter said:

“Everyone comes to work sick,” including employees handling food. In the deli section, “plenty of girls come coughing their brains out, but can’t go home because of points (unless they’re) coughing too loudly (in which case they) switch you to another department. Since you can’t take days off,” she kept working. Her cough worsened, and she ended up hospitalized with pneumonia.

“You can’t stay home, and God forbid if you have to leave early.” For being hospitalized, she got a demerit, lost eight hours pay, and was required to take a leave of absence. Being sick, deli section work was hard because it’s a “hot area,” requiring in and out visits to a freezer to get meat.

Walmart has a long list of unfair labor practices, including

  • half of their employees get no health insurance, and those with it pay a large percentage of the cost and receive too little; and
  • The company has a long, disturbing record of worker abuse, including forced overtime, some off-the-clock, illegal child and undocumented worker labor, and relentless union-busting; as a result, Wal-Mart faces numerous suits over unpaid overtime, denial of meal and rest breaks, manipulating time and wage records to cut costs, employing minors during school hours, and the largest ever class action discrimination lawsuit, involving over 1.5 million present and former female employees, paid less and promoted less often than their male counterparts.

In December 2008, Wal-Mart agreed to pay at least $352 million and up to $640 million to settle 63 federal and state class-action lawsuits from present and former employees over pay and other issues. According to Professor Paul Secunda of Marquette’s School of Law, the company settled to avoid an even worse defeat, including what unionization might cost.

Overall, Wal-Mart treats employees punitively. They’re overworked, underpaid, (many below the federal poverty line), denied benefits, discriminated against, punished for the slightest infraction, and treated like wage slaves.

We have to remember that in order to be sustainable, a company must take into account people, the planet and profits – Walmart is arguably neglecting the first pretty severely.  Building a happy, healthy community and paying a living wage are the very bare minimum of what should be required for a company whose profits are recorded at over $400 billion and climbing.

Carbon emission reduction is noteworthy as are sustainable global supply chain initiatives – but Walmart has a long way to go before they can consider themselves sustainable.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter