Traveling just isn’t what it used to be. If your business trip involves an airplane, you have to navigate security lines, take off your shoes, pack your hand sanitizer in a Ziploc bag and pay $5 for a pack of peanuts.
And if you’re a green-minded business traveler, you can’t help but think about the fuel burning through the sky as your plane goes airborne. Then, when you arrive at your destination, you take a cab or shuttle to your hotel, where the staff washes your towels every day even though you hang them on the towel rack to indicate you want to save water.
All this for a client meeting.
Greener business travel was just one of the topics on the agenda for SC08, an international conference earlier this month in Austin, Texas, that focused on all things technology. The San Diego Supercomputer Center, the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology and the university’s Sustainability Program were involved in the event.
The focus of SC08 was to showcase new endeavors and cyberinfrastructure tech that can save energy, reduce travel and protect the environment.
According to this article from UC San Diego’s News Center, one of the topics was “new optical networks and end-points for virtual scientific meetings that reduce the need for business travel and hence lower energy consumption.”
We’ll be watching to see what technology comes out of this conference and into the workplace, allowing us to attend virtual meetings without leaving the comfort of our sustainable cubicle and our green office chair.
In a related story, Texas-based company GetThere has been awarded a 2008 Green Supply Chain Award from Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine. GetThere, an online corporate travel procurement company, offers a program called GetThere Green, which allows companies to integrate sustainable travel policies into corporate travel programs. Use the carbon calculator to figure out the carbon footprint you’re leaving by jetting off on that next business trip.
As your office goes green, have you changed your approach to business travel? Do you travel less or look for more sustainable travel approaches?
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photo by Carl Weaver
In this economy, the proverbial “pink slip” is being handed out left and right. (Does anyone get an actual pink slip?) But what if businesses put an environmental – and positive – spin on the pink slip, turning it into a green slip?
Hear me out.
What if employees were rewarded for making true progress toward a greener office, and thereby, a greener life? What if employees were handed a green slip? It’s similar to the workplace wellness initiatives thousands of companies have implemented over the last few years. They are great for morale and retention, but the true financial gain, is in making employees healthier and keeping company insurance costs down.
Under these wellness programs, employees are rewarded for losing weight, kicking smoking, exercising, eating healthy and striving to achieve a less stressful lifestyle. Some studies indicate for every $1 spent on wellness initiatives, employers see a return of $3.
It’s a terrific initiative – promote a healthy lifestyle at the one place where people spend a large part of their time. So, let’s extend that line of thinking to the environment. Hand out green slips and reward employees who take an extra step toward working green.
1. Establish a green team. Tap some of your more environmentally conscious employees to lead the charge for a greener workplace. Let the green team generate ideas and buzz to get other employees to turn your office green.
2. Offer incentives. Everybody likes a prize, so give a perk to employees who participate in green efforts. But, make sure your prizes themselves are green: reusable shopping bags, CFL light bulbs or a “telecommute day” so employees can save gas by working from home.
3. Save money. I knew that would get your attention. Encourage your employees and the green team to look for ways the company can save money and the environment – a real business two-for-one deal. Some examples would be doing away with water bottles and putting in a water cooler. Provide reusable cups and glasses instead of plastic or paper cups that get tossed after one use. Reuse paper – print memos on blank sides of already used paper and when you can, print on both sides of the paper. E-mail employees company memos, newsletters or announcements rather than printing a copy for everyone’s mailbox.
What are you waiting for? Start handing out green slips and watch your employees spring to action.
Could this work at your office? Would you be willing to try? Share your ideas for how to encourage a green team.
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The supersized retailer has announced it has purchased wind energy which will “supply up to 15 percent of the retailer’s total energy load in approximately 360 Texas stores and other facilities.”
Wal-Mart will be purchasing the wind power from a Duke Energy wind farm and it hopes to be able to use the wind power beginning in April 2009.
According to the retailer’s news release:
“The project will provide roughly 226 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable power each year or the energy equivalent of washing 108 million loads of laundry -- enough for every household in Austin, Texas to do laundry for a year. By purchasing this amount of clean, renewable energy, Wal-Mart will avoid producing more than 139,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year. This is equal to taking approximately 25,000 cars off the road or eliminating the CO2 produced by 18,000 homes annually.”
That should put a big ol’ grin on the yellow smiley face
We may have hoorayed too soon last week when we touted how cost-effective recycling can be. Turns out the market for commodities such as paper and glass has dried up with the rocky economy and what was once a cash cow for recyclers now sits stockpiled until the market returns.
“Recycling centers that have enjoyed unusually high prices for their “products” the last two years are now, in some instances, having to pay to have the material carted away.
“As a result, recycling centers that have the room are stockpiling items that are usually in demand, such as newsprint, corrugated cardboard and tin, until the market rebounds.”
Corrugated cardboard once brought $150 a ton. Now a recycler is lucky to receive $10-$45.
And newsprint? Now $40 a ton, also down from the $150 per ton it also commanded $150 not too long ago.
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Greenbiz.com reported on November 17 that a floor covering manufacturer in Atlanta called Interface decided to take another look at reducing its emissions.
The article interviews and quotes Jim Hartzfeld, an Interface Raise (Interface’s “sustainable consulting unit”) managing director. According to the story:
“So, Hartzfeld picked a day to pull all of the dumpsters into the parking lot and empty them out. He then had employees wade through the trash to see what they were throwing away and categorize it into piles. They found plastic containers, broken wooden pallets and dozens of other materials that had the potential for reuse.
"’It got us talking about how we could keep these materials from becoming waste by using them in some productive way,’ he said.”
The article doesn’t mention what the Interface employees came up with, which is a shame.
However, the article mentions another company, Melavar, "a sustainable real estate company based in Savannah, GA," which discovered yet another often-overlooked way to save money and conserve a precious resource – water – by replacing the company’s bathroom faucets.
Quoting, Tommy Linstroth, director of sustainability, the article says:
“‘The flow rate on most bathroom faucets is 2.2 gallons per minute,’ Linstroth says. "That's the same amount of water you use to take a shower. It's a ridiculous and unnecessary overuse.
“Melavar replaced all of its bathroom faucet aerators -- which control water flow -- with 0.5 gallon per minute versions, although Linstroth notes that aerators come in a range of flow rates. Aerator cost $2 to $3 and are screwed right on to the faucet, making them as easy to change as a light bulb.
"’For $3 per faucet, we curtailed our water use by 50 to 75 percent. If every employee washes their hands three times a day, that's a substantial amount of water savings over a year,’ he says. ‘This is a no-brainer.’"
We suggest you take a look at the article. It will help you take a second and third look at how your company can have less impact on the environment.
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Photo courtesy document-management-software.com
If this article doesn’t convince you to use less paper and recycle more of it at your place of work, well...
The Guardian writer Tony Juniper states that “...paper is everywhere. We use more and more of it and its impact is huge.”
“Paper manufacture consumes vast quantities of water. Chemicals are used to boost fast-growing monoculture plantations, and pulp mills discharge huge quantities of chemicals. In terms of energy consumption in its production, paper equals steel.
Combine this with deforestation and emissions from landfill and we find that the pulp and paper industry contributes around 10% of global carbon emissions – that's about three times global aviation emissions.”
Juniper goes on to site a Xerox study that found that office workers trash a massive 45 percent of the paper printed each day. Each. Day.
He references another study by ForestEthics that states
“Greenhouse gases created each year by junk mail are the annual equivalent of more than nine million cars. The average car travels 12,000 miles per year -- as opposed to junk mail, which gets us nowhere.”
“While we are increasingly aware of the emissions from our cars, how many people are cutting down on paper? How many companies correctly account for their paper footprint in their CRS reports?”
What can you and I do? Well, Juniper says, we can “[s]tart by not printing this post, or indeed anything else, unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
We second that idea.
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