Carbon Footprints Part I - Not The Kind You Make Hiking In The Woods 
Unless you’ve been stuck in your 5 mpg SUV on the freeway for the last five years, you’ve no doubt heard green proponents talk about “shrinking your carbon footprint.”

But what is a carbon footprint?

In a nutshell, your carbon footprint (and this definition is courtesy of is

...the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service,...,from the computer used to find this article to the next meal you the shoe that will leave a physical footprint on the ground the next time you walk outside.

Of course, here at Green Office Projects, we would add including the furniture and cubicle components you use to outfit your workplace.

Some people leave larger footprints than others. Do you commute 90 minutes twice a day in stop-and-go traffic (and if you live in Southern California, you know who you are...) in a gas guzzler? Do you have a new 3500-square-foot home for the three of you? Do you fly for business often?

Or do you grow a goodly amount of your own vegetables, bike to work, wear only all-cotton clothing you found at Goodwill and live in a multi-generational home that’s 60 years old and just 1500 square feet in size?

You get the idea. The more we consume, the larger the carbon footprint we leave.

So, since you probably live too far away from the job that sustains your family to bike to it, and since you may have to travel on business a lot to keep said job, and since you bought an SUV two years ago when gas was still affordable and everyone and their pet’s therapist wasn’t trying to sell a similar behemoth and now the market is saturated with used large cars, there’s supposed to be an alternative – purchasing what are known as carbon offsets.

Wikipedia defines a carbon offset as a “financial instrument representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

But is this really a good way to offset the damage you do to the environment? Is it really just throwing money at a problem and then walking (or more appropriately in this context, driving) away with nary a thought to whether or not your carbon offset purchase has really helped?

The pros and cons of purchasing carbon offsets are many – too many to go into in this post, so we’ll blog about them tomorrow...

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(Bad) Adventures in Green 
One must admit, when you think about it you gotta think: “What were they thinking!” A humongous replica of the Statue of Liberty? In Styrofoam! One of the least biodegradable products made by man?

We can’t take credit for finding this folly ourselves – the good and funny folks at get the gold star for that.

But it does go to show that we humans really can be dumber than we look. Exceptionally so. And some of it would be funny if it weren’t so...stupid.

Or tragic.

Case in point: The story about the cyclist killed while wheeling to his place of employment during – the irony screams – Bike to Work Week, when a motorist opened his car door in the bike lane as the cyclist was coming by. And while the cyclist lost his life, the driver – of an SUV, no less – apparently received major punishment: a moving violation citation (opening a car door in traffic).

But, sometimes, Mother Nature does have her revenge. Or, to put it another way, be careful what you abandon, for nature may decide to take it back.

Finally, though, here’s a bad idea that we must admit hits a bit close to home. It has to do with being indoors. And what’s indoors? Furniture! Which is what we sell.

Of course, we’re all for indoor comfort (especially in one’s workplace). And we offer sustainable and “green” office furniture because we want to keep this planet’s environment beautiful, verdant and fun. In a way, we run a business which sells furnishings for indoors so that the outdoors will remain great – the great outdoors, what a concept!

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How to Help Your Office Go Green 
Let’s say you’re an office manager or business owner – or even “just” a regular employee – and you want your place of business to set up shop with green office furniture and components.

This is a new idea to your business, and you’re wondering how you can convince the folks who wield the power to say yes to such a decision to agree that this is the best thing your business can do.

What to do? What to do? What to do?

Here are some ideas:

Put together a green “mission statement.” Present it to your boss and see if you can’t have a meeting with his or her boss and then ask to present it to the powers that be at your company. In this statement, do your research. Check out the Worldwatch Institute, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and other green sites for statistics about how much waste businesses in this country create.

Be sure to wow them with these nifty facts provided by the USGBC:

In the United States alone, buildings account for:
• 70% of electricity consumption,
• 39% of energy use,
• 39% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,
• 40% of raw materials use,
• 30% of waste output (136 million tons annually)
• 12% of potable water consumption.

Remind them that by going green your company also will:
Reduce operating costs
Enhance asset value and profits
Improve employee productivity and satisfaction
Optimize life-cycle economic performance

Hit ‘em over the head (gently) with the following fact, one that goes straight to your boss’ favorite line on her company’s balance sheet – the bottom one:

Back in 2005 the Commonwealth Fund reported that the year 2003 saw “407 million days of lost time at work” by sick employees.

If you can, find out how many sick days your company’s employees took last year. If all employees took just one fewer sick day per year off – and the USGBC reports that green (that is, healthy) buildings mean fewer sick days for employees – how much money would your company save a year? Not only in sick leave paid out, but in productivity gained?

Show that number to your boss, your company president, your HR director. Watch their eyes pop right up out of their heads and quickly ask for permission to get some folks together to research the benefits further.

And don’t be surprised how fast they’ll agree to your proposal.

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Living the Life of LEED 
LEED is popping up all over. We see it more and more as more and more people and see the benefits of working in and/or constructing a LEED-certified building.

But just what is LEED certification? What is the LEED lowdown?

A very short LEED primer: The acronym stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) – a non-profit corporation which itself was created in 1993 – a LEED-certified building is one that conserves energy and is mindful within its design and construction of saving water, uses recycled materials whenever possible, provides a healthy indoor environment for the people who work within its walls and reduces the impact its construction has on the local environment, among a few other things, including innovation in sustainable design. A building must be in compliance with the requirements of the LEED Green Building Rating System to be LEED-certified.

Development and construction companies themselves cannot be LEED-certified, but a developer (or a provider of green office products such as – yes, shameless plug there) can help you build and furnish a building so that the structure will pass the LEED-certification process

For a builder to get her construction LEED-certified, she applies to the USGBC providing documentation that the building complies with LEED requirements.

LEED offers buildings four different levels of certification – Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum (in other words, a building need not pass all of the LEED prerequisites to receive certification). Structures that score 40-50 percent on the LEED checklist may receive a Certified designation. Those buildings that score 80 percent or more receive a Platinum certification.

Constructing a LEED-certified building adds to a structure’s initial cost. Just as purchasing a compact florescent light (CFL) bulb costs more at first but saves money in the long run, so will the challenge and expense of constructing a LEED-certified building pay off over time.

Your company’s bottom line and our environment both win.

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Saved Energy Means More Profit 
As “going green” gains momentum, companies are assessing new ways to make changes.

According to the US EPA, a typical office building’s energy usage represents 30% of its operating costs (CoStar Press Release). A large amount of that comes from wasted energy that could be dramatically reduced. Some of the offenders include office equipment left running day and night, outdated lighting and even large amounts of paper needlessly tossed out.

So where do you start?

First and foremost – educate employees to turn equipment off before leaving! Almost half of all office computers are left on all the time. Nights and weekends make up almost 75% of their usage. Unless you like paying higher utility bills, this simple change could save you big time!

For more energy savings, plug computers, FAX’s, copiers and other related office equipment into a power strip. Turn that off at night, then on again in the morning. There’s a new power strip that makes it even easier. Plug a computer and other peripherals into the new Ecostrip. When you turn your computer off at day’s end, it then powers down everything else. Simple, easy and inexpensive.

Office equipment uses lots of energy. To help reduce those costs, invest in ENERGY STAR equipment. These products use up to 60% less electricity than standard equipment. Now that’s some savings!

Consider installing motion detectors – in hallways, restrooms, anywhere there’s low traffic flow. Lights will turn on and off automatically when needed, and you’ll see a drop in your electric bill.

Another word about lighting. Standard lighting is a BIG energy waster. Make the switch to energy saving fluorescents (compact or tubes). This could cut your electric use 30-45

While you’re making changes, cut down on paper usage. Instead of sending office memos, why not distribute documents electronically? If you must do hard copies, reset your printers to use both sides of the paper. You not only save electricity, you cut paper consumption. And if you use paper with recycled content, you help the environment at the same time.

Most of these “fixes” are easy changes to make. And the difference to your bottom line could be startlingly positive. It pays to make changes.

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