I'm dreaming of a green Christmas 

photo by Elastic Design

Word is spreading that many companies drowning in this recession (which seems like all companies) are canceling the obligatory office holiday party. We have the perfect spin: say you decided to go green this holiday season, so you’re skipping the holiday party and saving loads of resources.

Truly, not having a party at all is the best way to color your office a lovely shade of pine green. But if you really want to gather everyone together for a toast of good cheer, think about ways to green your holiday party. If you really are trying to be an example of a green office, you’ll want to extend that sentiment to office parties.

A few tips:

• Send e-mail invitations to save paper.

• Skip the gift exchange, which saves everything from gas to go shopping to wrapping paper.

• If you must give gifts, reuse gift bags, ribbons and tissue paper. Even if tissue paper is crumpled, it’s still great for stuffing bags and boxes. It’s just going to get crumpled again anyway. Put your gift in a reusable shopping bag, a flower pot, serving dish or some other item that doubles as “wrapping” and a gift.

• Encourage carpooling and use of public transportation.

• Don’t use throw-away cups, plates, utensils.

• By local food if possible.

• Ask everyone to bring a donation for a local environmental group and then provide a company match.

• Skip the cocktail party and volunteer with a local environmental nonprofit or other green cause. Plant trees around the office or pick up trash along the road.

Check out this article from BusinessGreen.com for some more good tips. And here’s a green gift guide from TreeHugger.com to help with your green-themed shopping.

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Tuesday’s post “Would you pay extra green for green?” highlighted a survey indicating commercial real estate executives believe green office space is important. Check out this article from GlobeSt.com, a commercial real estate news Web site. It gives a good explanation of a new California law that soon will allow potential tenants to access energy consumption data on all nonresidential buildings. A good idea? Weigh in here.



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Would you pay extra green for green? 
Corporate real estate executives believe green office space is important, yet they aren’t willing to pay a premium for it. Seems we have a conflict here.

CoreNet Global , a professional association for corporate real estate execs, and Jones Lang LaSalle , a financial and professional services firm specializing in real estate, released the results of their survey last month.



Corporate real estate executives do see energy and sustainability as a business priority, but they aren’t willing to cough up as much dough for green office space as they were a year ago.

More than 400 corporate real estate executives participated in the survey. This year 69% said sustainability is a key business issue, up from 47% last year.

According to the news release about the survey, “40% this year rated energy and sustainability as a ‘major factor’ in their companies' location decisions, with an additional 36% calling it a ‘tie-breaker’ between locations that are otherwise competitive.”

It's great that real estate execs believe green is good. But only 42% are willing to pay a premium to lease green space; 53% would pay a premium to redo their own property for sustainable gains. Interestingly, in last year’s survey, 77% were willing to pay extra for green space.

So why the change over the last year?

"A year ago, most CRE directors believed that improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions would cost money, at least in the short run," said Dan Probst, chariman of Energy and Sustainability Services at Jones Lang LaSalle, in a news release about the survey. "Today, they realize they can meet sustainability goals and save money at the same time."

The good news is real estate companies are taking green steps. Most are recycling and most are taking a look at energy management.

Let’s bring the results of this survey a little closer to home. Would you be willing to pay extra to lease green office space? Would you be willing to invest upfront costs to retrofit or upgrade your current space to make it green or sustainable? How much is too much? Is there a point where even the greenest of company draws the line?

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Friday News of the Green 
On this the day that is known as the busiest shopping day of the year – the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, only 27 shopping days until Christmas – we thought it might be appropriate to take a step back for a moment and do nothing.

___________


Ok.

Jonathan Mead over at ZenHabits.com penned a missive yesterday on how we can save the planet. His suggestion doesn’t entail going green, doesn’t involve building a LEED-certified office highrise, or purchasing sustainable office furniture, but by doing “less.”



Photo courtesy of h.koppdelaney

“We don’t need to do more. We don’t need to make more of an effort. We need to do less ."

He writes about how physics tells us that energy can’t be created or destroyed, it can just be transferred. So instead of building green and making green and driving green, to really help the planet, we should do less.

We should consume less. Drive less. Build less. Walk more. Listen more. Buy the best whatever it is we need – dishes, cars, homes, clothing, furniture – and use them until they disintegrate


“That’s why I don’t understand a lot of these ‘green enthusiasts.’ They say we need greener products, with less of an environmental impact. They want to make our consumables more eco-friendly. I agree this is part of the answer, but the issue is really only a sliver of the type of things we consume. It’s how much we consume.”


On this day of over-the-top consumerism (they say there’s a recession going on, but we saw many full parking lots at the shopping malls today as we drove by today – and please note we drove by...) we think he makes a very valid point.

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Business travel without the travel 


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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Hand out some green slips 


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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