Ring in the new green 
It’s interesting to think back to the dawn of this decade when talk of a “green office” had more to do with the paint color than a business’ eco-conscious. Now, it’s commonplace for companies to have recycling programs and encourage energy efficiency. Many even have physical buildings that are LEED certified or built in a sustainable manner.

As we look ahead to the coming year – and coming decade – it’s clear the environment will continue to play a large role in business decisions. Businesses are finding green pays. While certainly a responsible choice, environmentally friendly decisions often save businesses thousands – and sometimes millions – of dollars. Adding those kinds of numbers to the bottom line is tough for an owner or executive to ignore.

Even small changes like printing less or using both sides of the paper can help a company cut down on office supply costs. Giving employees the opportunity to telecommute can increase productivity and may even be a boost toward retaining employees – another cost savings by not having to hire and train new employees.

Beyond those kinds of internal savings, companies also find going green meets consumer demand. Customers expect companies to at least make some effort toward protecting the environment and often a company’s level of green can determine where consumers are shopping.

Green technology will continue to thrive in 2010. Just this year on this blog, I wrote about Sprint and Samsung’s eco-friendly cell phone as well as green computing and server options.

Just take a look at the Consumer Electronics Show coming up next month in Las Vegas. The major tech event of the year, it features a Sustainable Planet and Greener Gadget space for exhibitors to showcase sustainable products.

Finally, expect to see employees getting more involved in creating green workplaces. A majority of the green office initiatives start from the bottom up. Employees can have tremendous influence in creating a green office environment. Again, those small steps can add up, giving senior management proof that going green works for the environment – and the bottom line.

Let us know what you anticipate in 2010 – whether it’s green efforts in your own office or tech trends that you expect to make a surge this year.


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Washing your car with a glass of water 
High on the list of water-wasting activities is washing your vehicle. More than 800 million gallons of water are used to wash vehicles in the United States each day. Not to mention the runoff from the soap and cleaners that flows down the driveway and into the water stream. In areas like California where water is already in short supply, it’s tough to justify using gallons of water to wash your car.

But one businessman has found a way for consumers and businesses to keep their cars clean without the waste. In September, Pierrick Bouquet (pictured) opened Ecolo Green Car Wash using environmentally friendly products and only enough water to fill a single glass to wash vehicles.

Here’s how it works: Ecolo-Car is a water-based product that blends coconut soap and an organic polymer. Ecolo-Car is sprayed on a vehicle and the organic polymers dissolve, lifting the dirt from the surface. The residue is wiped off with a microfiber cloth, the surface is buffed and the car is clean. (Check out the company’s YouTube channel for video demonstrations.)

Based in Newport Beach, Calif., Bouquet primarily works with large businesses, going on site to those companies to wash employee or business vehicles. Bouquet says he plans to expand franchising opportunities next spring and also is trying to take his Ecolo products nationwide (currently you can purchase the products from the Web site). He’s also is looking into commercial car wash locations near supermarkets and shopping centers so people can leave their cars to be cleaned while shopping or running errands.

Originally from France, Bouquet got the idea for Ecolo Green Car Wash while vacationing there and hearing about the popularity of green car washes in Europe. He researched the market in California – which is in a drought condition – and decided the state was ready for his water-saving business.

The term “ecolo” is shorthand for "écologiste,” which in French means someone who lives a sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle that has a minimum environmental impact.

A typical Ecolo car wash costs $17 to $20 for the two most popular services, but it’s done on site so it saves customers time. Plus, consumers know they aren’t wasting water. And some of those profits benefit the larger mission of water conservation. Ecolo Green Car Wash has partnered with Water Education Foundation, a nonprofit with the mission of helping resolve California’s water crisis by raising awareness.

We give a big Green Thumbs Up to Bouquet and Ecolo Green Car Wash for saving millions of gallons of water. We hope to see green car washes like this springing up around the country.

For the latest updates, follow Ecolo Green Car Wash on Twitter.



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Wrapped in green 
This week we kick off the holiday season with food, family and friends – and shopping. Well, from a retail standpoint, shopping started just before Halloween, but you get the point.

You may find yourself drawing a name for the office gift exchange or spearheading a toy drive or canned food collection to benefit local charities. All those are terrific endeavors, but there are also some ways to green your office celebrations and add a spirit of environmentalism.

• Thanks in part to this year’s recession we’ve been reminded that less is more. Forego the gift exchange and give employees an opportunity to volunteer at the local homeless shelter or food bank – preferably somewhere within walking distance or encourage carpooling. You can’t possibly need one more bobblehead for your desk or word-a-day calendar, so skip the gifts. You save on gas from shopping trips and generate less trash (gift wrap, packaging, etc.).

• Employees will inevitably do some shopping, but there's no reason it can't be green. Give employees a list of local vendors and those who support fair trade. Buying local not only supports your neighbors but reduces the amount of energy, gas and resources used to ship products.

• Instead of giving gifts, ask each employee to contribute $5 or $10. Donate the money to a local environmental organization or use the funds to green the office – replace light bulbs, purchase recycled paper or buy reusable coffee mugs so you can eliminate the use of paper or Styrofoam ones.

• With company budgets already spread thin, it may be tough for employers to give holiday bonuses or gifts. Instead consider giving employees a set number of free telecommuting days so they can work from home, which helps the environment and gives the employee a chance to work in their PJs.

• If your company is having a holiday party, give it a green theme. Send invitations via e-mail or with an evite. Work with eco-friendly vendors, such as caterers and rental space. Ask employees to carpool to the party.

Let’s hear your suggestions for greening your office during the holiday season. Post a comment and share!


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Green buildings = Worker productivity  
We all know a green office building can save energy costs, uses fewer resources and gives employees a reason to feel good about going to work each day. But a new study finds there may be yet another reason for companies to locate their business in a green building.

In May, a team from large commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis and the University of San Diego’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate embarked on a study as to whether green buildings would actually increase worker productivity. The results were published earlier this month and show environment can actually play a role in worker productivity.

While management is still the largest factor in employee productivity, more than half the tenants surveyed agreed employees were more productive after they moved to a green building. About 45 percent agreed workers took fewer sick days (on average, 2.88 days less sick time).

These results have financial implications for businesses. For tenants who reported greater productivity, the impact would be $20.82 per square foot, per year (based on salary and average productivity increase). For tenants who claimed fewer sick days, the net impact per worker is $4.91 per square foot, per year. Overall, that means the average impact per worker when it comes to increased productivity is $5,204 and $1,228 in terms of fewer sick days. (Read the full study online.)

Those numbers can add up and is just one more reason for companies to embrace environmentally conscious business practices – from recycling to the kind of materials used in the building’s physical structure, the paint on the walls and the furniture in the cubicles.

This also provides another argument for business owners and managers who argue going green is too costly and not financially feasible. Yes, going for LEED certification or leasing a green or energy-efficient building may add to the expenses column in the budget – but with savings from higher productivity and fewer sick days, plus savings on energy costs, businesses may find themselves saving money in the long run.

Let’s hear your thoughts. Do you work in a green office building and find it ups your overall health and productivity? Is your business considering a move to a green building?


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Reduce, Reuse and eCycle! 
In our last post, we looked at some ways to green your computer, particularly on the software and server sides. But there are other ways to make your electronic and computing life a little greener.

First and foremost is proper recycling of your computer and other electronic devices. Computers, batteries, cell phones, televisions and other electronics can – and certainly should – be recycled. As more companies and communities work to eliminate e-waste, it’s becoming increasingly easier to recycle electronics. That means you have no excuse.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a partnership with leading electronics manufacturers – called Plug-In To eCycling – that fosters opportunities for consumers to donate or recycle their electronics. In 2008, this program recycled more than 66.5 million pounds of used electronics – a 30 percent jump from the previous year. According to the EPA, those recycled items prevented the release of greenhouse gases equal to the annual emissions from about 15,500 cars.

Information from the EPA indicates consumer electronics – including televisions and video equipment, computers and phones – make up about 2 percent of the municipal solid waste stream. Now, that might not sounds like much in the grand scheme of things, but that number increases with our dependency on electronics and our need for the latest iPhone, laptop and gaming machine.

This eCycling Resources page from the EPA Web site has plenty of information on how and where to recycle your items. Businesses, especially those that upgrade computers every year or two, may be able to donate their items to a local nonprofit or school. They may also be able to receive a tax deduction for a contribution.

Another way take your computing green, as it relates to energy use, is through energy monitoring. Just this week, President Obama announced that projects in most U.S. states, D.C. and Guam would receive federal money for smart-grid projects. According to the New York Times, “The money will go toward deploying more smart meters, which use digital technology to deliver detailed usage data to the customer and the utility, as well as adding displays in homes that tell customers about their electricity use and improving technology in substations, transformers and other parts of the grid.”

If you want to get a taste of the concept of monitoring, check out Google’s PowerMeter in your small business or home office. It’s a free electricity usage monitoring tool so you can see just how much energy you’re consuming. You’ll be able to see whether turning off and unplugging your computer at night is really making a difference (I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.)

Finally, if you need more convincing on the importance of green computing, take a look at these 48 clean-tech facts compiled by PC Magazine. (Wow! The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle can power a computer for 25 minutes!)


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