Eco-Coach

Green your life at home, work & play

New online tool helps businesses track impacts through their supply chain May 2, 2012

You want your company to improve its community and eco-image and along with that, you want to know what your suppliers are doing to spiff up theirs as well.  It can be a large investment of time to read through every company report – annual, sustainability, CSR – wading through the rhetoric, not to mention dozens of corporate rating and ranking lists of best and worst performers to find out.  But now there is a much faster way to get an understanding from multiple angles of just how responsible those companies are by using CSRHUB*.  This new service offers free and subscriber options for accessing social and environmental ratings based on a wide array of sources to achieve a more unbiased view of a company’s performance.

While still in development stages, CSRHUB has ratings for about 5000 companies worldwide so far.  The ratings are based on four scales – community, employees, environment, and governance.  Ranked search results by industry are based on your settings for the four adjustable scales depending on how you value each.  There are also special issues of concern (accessible with a paid subscription) to use in further filtering results, such as nuclear power connections, board diversity, and involvement with pesticides/pollutants.  Also with a subscription, users can save search results and export them in spreadsheet format.

The CSRHUB site is set up so that you can go directly to a particular company’s rating page or you can search for groups of companies by industry, region or data source.  They currently have over 130 sources that they access for data to consider when rating a company.  These range from the Calvert Social Index to EPA Climate Leaders list to Working Mother magazine’s list of mother-friendly companies.  The entry for each company (when accessing the database as a subscriber) lists basic contact information, their overall and individual scale ratings (based on your preference settings), sources of data that were used in determining their rating, ratings history (graphically by month), and optional reports to purchase.  There are also typically links to recent articles pertaining to CSR topics where the company was mentioned and even current job openings listed.

Access to the basic search and CSR ratings features are available without even registering for the service.  But by registering you get the added benefits of creating unlimited profiles and lists of companies.  These can be shared with other users as well.  Registering also allows you to post to their discussion forums.  For those who want more access to the large amount of data and ratings (segregated into 12 subcategories) on CRSHUB, subscriptions on a personal or professional level are available.  Personal level access can be purchased on a monthly or annual basis for as little as $8/month.  A chart of the features by subscription status is available.

And have no doubt that they embrace their mission fully—CSRHUB recently elected to become a B Corporation.  B Corp status is a relatively new legal designation for companies that do not want to be confined to the traditional corporate dictate of profit above all else.  Currently a handful of states have passed legislation to allow B Corp status with another handful considering such legislation.  From CSRHUB’s website:

B Corps use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.  Unlike traditional corporations, B Corps agree to meet social and environmental performance standards, disclose their performance so that it is transparent, and include consideration of all stakeholder interests in their legal structure…. We are part of a community that intends to change the world and we need to show that we have whole-hearted dedication to our cause.

Since CSRHUB is still growing and expanding their database, they appreciate all feedback from users and potential users.  They want to hear from businesses and individuals about what CSR issues concern them most, which special issues are of greatest interest, how the data is being used, and how the site/service can be improved.  Here’s your chance to guide this data tool in a direction that helps save you time and gives you valuable information regarding your current and potential business partners.’

*We are not in any way affiliated with this tool

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Opportunities to solve eco-challenges April 18, 2012

In the spirit of  Earth Month, EMC Corporation, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and InnoCentive Inc, are looking for eco-innovators to help solve the challenge of electronic waste (e-waste). The challenge ends on June 3rd, 2012 and is open to the public for submission. Figuring out how to keep large amounts of obsolete electronics from being disposed of improperly is just one of the hundreds of issues our society is facing.

Organizations like InnoCentive help everyday people put their intellectual and creative expertise to work in order to solve real life challenges. InnoCentive allows you to create an account and browse through numerous challenging opportunities to help create solutions through innovation. All of the challenges provide monetary awards for winning ideas- not to mention that adding your experience in eco-innovation to a resume can open doors for other green opportunities.Challenges call for experts in business, chemistry, engineering, design and more. The demand for eco-innovation is on the rise, and it is encouraging entrepreneurs and thinkers to help out.

 

Lego Going Green March 23, 2012

Denmark based Lego Group is investing over $500 million in green energy over the next four years. The worlds’ third largest toy manufacturer owned by family investment firm Kirkbi A/S is famous for their iconic multi-colored, plastic building blocks. Lego Group was started in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen, who was a carpenter in western Denmark. Upon losing his job, Christiansen started making wooden toys instead of furniture. After a fire broke out in his factory, he was forced to rebuild and decided to start out making miniature versions of houses and furniture he has worked on as a carpenter. He switched to plastic in 1947 and by 1949 had built over 200 plastic toys. Christiansen came up with “Lego” for a company name; lego is derived from the Danish words “leg godt” meaning “play well”.

The company will be purchasing a 32% stake in DONG Energy’s newest wind farm, Borkum Riffgrund 1. This wind farm is located 55 km off the north-west coast of Germany in the North Sea and will have a capacity of close to 300 MW. This is enough power to supply nearly 330,000 households annual power consumption, and best of all, it is carbon dioxide free energy.  Construction on the project will begin in 2013 and will be ready to start producing by 2015. Lego and its parent company plan to have their investment in Borkum Riffgrund producing more energy than they will use up to and including 2020. Chief Executive of Kirkbi A/S, Soren Thorup Sorenson, stated that this is the first time that the firm has invested directly in alternative energy and it will undoubtedly provide a long term investment with reasonable return. This power will not be provided directly to the Lego manufacturing plants but instead be directed to the German power grid. Lego has manufacturing plants in Denmark, Mexico, The Czech Republic and Hungary.

Lego Company CEO Jorgen stated in a release on Lego’s website in mid-February, “One of our fundamental values is to enable future generations of children to grow up in a better world. We do that first and foremost through our play materials — but also by improving the safety of our employees, improving the energy efficiency of our production, and reducing the volume of waste. In the field of renewable energy our objective is an ambitious one — and I am very pleased at this time to be able to announce this investment. We’re on a journey, a never-ending journey — but the investment in renewable energy is a huge step in the right direction.”

Lego is just one of many companies that have a huge impact on our children and it is extremely exciting to see that they are putting forth a great effort to make this world a better place for our posterity.

 

10 ways to make your next event an eco-conscious occasion March 3, 2012

Business meetings, events and office parties can create a large amount of waste and drive up your utility bill in a small amount of time. Holding an eco-friendly event can be both a creative process as well as a learning experience for everybody attending. Set a green example for not only your own upcoming events but for other attendees that may become inspired by the eco-consciousness of your business.

  1. Choose e-invites: Choose electronic methods such as social media outlets (Facebook,Twitter, etc.) to spread the word about your event. E-vitePunchbowl, or Smilebox are all great sources for free electronic invitations. If it is important for your business to mail invitations, consider sending seed paper cards. Through services such as Botanical Paperworks and Green Field Paper, you can send cards that people can plant in their gardens to grow beautiful flowers instead of creating waste. It is important to really consider the amount of people attending your event for the sake of cutting back consumption. All successful eco-friendly events are carefully planned ahead of time, and asking people to reply to invitations is key to knowing how much food, tableware and other such items to supply.
  2. Hold a Zero Waste Event: A Zero Waste event only uses items that are biodegradable, reusable or recyclable. Services such as Eco-Cycle can provide your event with a Zero Waste party kit. This kit includes things like compostable tableware and compost containers (which you can also pull off on your own, right?) It’s good to let your guests know ahead of time by including in their invitations an outline of the goals of your Zero Waste Event, and suggestions about what to bring or not bring.
  3. Assign the event planning to a “green committee”: Having either a leader or committee organize your event will help sustain your green goals and hopefully give way to the creation of a “green force” in your company. Awareness is contagious!
  4. Choose biodegradable tableware and decorations: Thankfully, there are plenty of sources to choose from when it comes to selecting planet friendly products. Normal partyware is full of toxic dyes and plastic, and a goal of any eco-friendly event should be to decrease our dependency on petroleum. Online stores like Green Party Goods and Eco Party Time are places that you can find everything from beautiful bamboo plates to recyclable paper tablecloths.
  5. Set up clearly marked recycle and compost stations: Plenty of times people get lazy, or simply miss these containers and end up throwing away a lot of sustainable materials. Setting up these stations can save you the hassle of having to sort through garbage later. Here are other ways to cut down on your waste stream at work.
  6. Be creative when it comes to food: Besides choosing local and organic, think outside the box! A fun idea is setting out planters filled with basil leaves and dill that guests can pick themselves to garnish their dishes. To cut down tableware waste, consider serving more finger foods than entrees. Having local and seasonal foods supports the agricultural ecology of your community.
  7. Consider eco-gifts Here are 12 great alternatives to the usual office holiday gifts.
  8. Encourage smart transportation to and from the event: Organizing carpools and even shuttles can rid your guests of the hassle of parking and traffic, and of course, further cut down the carbon footprint of your event.
  9. Use porta-potties if it’s outdoors: Porta potties are already considered a more environmentally friendly option because they don’t use the large amount of water that a permanent septic tank requires. If there is a vendor in your area,  you can order eco-friendly porta-potties that don’t use that toxic blue deodorizing liquid but instead use biodegradable chemicals and recycled toilet paper. You can search through Mesa Waste Service or Johnny on the Spot to find eco-friendly portable toilets for your event.
  10. Be mindful of the energy and water consumption of your occasion: If your event requires sound and staging, consider other energy alternatives to power the required electronics. Bike powered generators and solar panels are great solutions. One example – one company, Sustainable Waves, specializes in providing sound and staging completely powered by solar energy. It takes a lot of energy to power any kind of large space, and making simple choices such as using LED or CFL light bulbs can be an easy way to cut down the energy consumption of your event.

If your event requires booking a conference center, choose an eco-friendly center. Remember, there is a bounty of eco-friendly alternatives and solutions for all the details of your event. It all just depends on your creativity and commitment to being environmentally conscious. Holding a green event is not only a fun way to educate and enlighten your business community but it’s also a wonderful way to attract others to your eco-friendly business practice!

 

16 easy ways to cut down on your waste stream at work February 10, 2012

Using as many of these tips as possible will cut down on costs your workplace has related to trash disposal, help your employees get in touch with their waste stream and even provide some resources for the community:

  1. Keep one–and only one–trash can in shared office space, but give everyone a recycling bin at their desks for paper, aluminum, plastic.
  2. Shred paper that has been used on both sides and use it as packing material for shipments – or offer the shreddings to the gardeners in the office to use as compostable material.
  3. Organize office staff on a rotating schedule to take the trash to the main collection area or dumpster instead of having it magically disappear each night thanks to the cleaning crew.
  4. Keep a container (with a lid) in the office kitchen/coffee area to collect used coffee grounds. Find the gardener in the office group who would love to take those spent grounds to use on their roses or tomato plants.
  5. Eliminate Styrofoam cups for hot beverages.  Give employees quality reusable mugs (with your company logo, of course) and have the same available for guests to use.  Also, provide a scrub brush and dish soap at the sink for cleaning mugs.
  6. Buy cartons of cream and bags of sugar/sweetener for beverages instead of offering individual-sized packets.
  7. Ditch the bottled water in the vending machines and provide employees with a cooler with filtered water.  Another reason to use those wonderful corporate mugs you gave out!
  8. If unnecessary printing of documents or emails is a concern, program your print command to trigger an additional popup that asks the person printing to consider the cost in trees and to the company before going ahead with the print.  Vary these messages, make them humorous and add some little graphics for greater effectiveness.
  9. Switch to refillable, recyclable, non-toxic whiteboard markers—such as AusPen—and pay less than you would for traditional ones.  AusPens are available through EcoSmartWorld and other vendors.
  10. Provide each employee with an individual dry erase board for notes and reminders, to help reduce the overuse of sticky notes in their office space.
  11. Have printers and copiers set to black ink only, draft quality and duplex mode by default since these options should be sufficient for most internally used documents.
  12. For paper that is only printed on one side, designate an area for it to be collected and reused for scrap paper (before being shredded or recycled).  Ask your local commercial printer if they will take your one-sided printed paper, cut it and make it into notepads for office use.
  13. Cancel or unsubscribe from mailed publications that your staff are not taking the time to read.
  14. Designate a cupboard or other organized area to swap used office supplies such as binder and paper clips, file folders (provide blank adhesive labels so they can be repurposed), manila envelopes (can be relabeled too), and rubber bands.
  15. Wooden pallets should never be land-filled.  Recycling contractors will often agree to collect them and then will resell them to shipping companies.  If that is not possible, tree-trimming companies may take them to shred for mulch.  There are even some entrepreneurial types who have realized the value of decorating and making furniture with them.
  16. Don’t ditch used office equipment or furniture.  Find a resale store in the area (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, or Habitat for Humanity ReUse store) that will accept the items—they may even come and pick them up for free.
 

US EPA Green Power Partnership December 29, 2011

As awareness about volatile energy prices, our energy supply’s impact on national security, and energy consumption’s impact on climate change grows, renewable energy is presenting itself as a strong alternative to nonrenewable fossil fuels.  Many members of the US business community have recognized the economic benefits of turning to renewables, as evidenced by the growth of the US EPA’s Green Power Partnership program.

The Green Power Partnership program works with organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to government entities and universities.  Partner organizations represent national leaders in green power purchasing and purchase green power through (1) Renewable Energy Certificates, (2) on-site generation, and (3) utility green power products.
wind power
The US EPA has released its list of top 50 green power purchasers through the Green Power Partnership program.    Visit the EPA website to see the full list of organizations.

The Green Power Partnership proves that it is possible for US companies to derive their energy from clean and renewable resources.  Washington, DC is the leading community in the US for green power purchasing.  In DC, government, institutions, businesses, and individuals purchase 8% of the community’s power from green sources.

Businesses that are interested in purchasing greener power that do not have local access to green power sources can purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).  RECs are credits that represent a certain amount of energy that has been produced from renewable sources.  Businesses that purchase RECs receive credit for the green power purchase.  The US Department of Energy website explains how RECs work and how they can be acquired.

If you think RECs are too expensive for your organization, think again. In deregulated states, you can lock in a price and add RECs on top, and still save money compared to what you would have been paying otherwise.

 

12 Great Alternatives to the Usual Office Holiday Gifts December 16, 2011

In addition to the annual Christmas party, many organizations have a tradition of gift giving.  You may feel pressured to buy something for everyone in your department  – and that is one more thing that you may not want to add to your holiday ‘to do’ list.

One company decided to change that tradition, and figured out an alternative to buying for the 30 plus people in the organization. Some of the employees met and decided to start making gift baskets of consumables, cookies, breads etc., that would not clutter the office all year.  The baskets werea hit, and started a trend.

Still, people felt they had to give a basket to everyone. The next year, the Secret Santa concept was floated – this is where everyone picks a name out of a hat, and buys only that person a gift. The company voted, and everyone agreed to the Secret Santa idea. Even though there was now less stuff, people still tried to outdo each other with the gift they would give. Finally, the company put a $20 cap on the gift value. That is one alternative for your office – and below are 12 more:

  1. As an office, adopt a school, hospital or collect money for the homeless or needy families.  Resource for adopting a school: http://www.wrksolutions.com/AdoptASchool.pdf,
  2. Donate to a charity in the name of a colleague who cares about that issue. For example, Rescue Gifts: http://gifts.rescue.org/
  3. Give reusable items that can be used all year long, like water bottles, mugs , reusable shopping bags or solar rechargers: http://www.pitchengine.com/reuseitcom/reuseitcoms-top-ten-holiday-gifts-that-make-a-big-impact/172024/
  4. Give gifts of recycled, reused and natural materials like www.eco-artware.com
  5. Give fair trade and organic items such as tea, coffee, or chocolate.
  6. Give homemade baked goods, potpourri, or a dried herb wreath: http://www.craftster.org/ and http://www.diynetwork.com/topics/christmas/index.html
  7. Create a special memory by giving activities, a ball game, museum tickets, or another fun activity: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=was or http://www.skydivinginwashingtondc.com/
  8. Send a card to a soldier overseas or an injured veteran spending the holidays in a military hospital: http://www.amillionthanks.org/   or http://anysoldier.com/
  9. Make a special emergency kit gift basket with a blanket, flashlight, gas can, jumper cables, and flares – do it yourself or go to: http://www.thefirstaidkits.com/safety-gift-ideas/
  10. Give away that great book you enjoyed to someone who shares your taste. Or give the gift of reading to a child in need: http://www.firstbook.org/
  11. If you must shop, buy at a local small business:  http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/1289899487001/why-it-pays-to-buy-local
  12. Look at your suppliers and see what can be changed: http://blog.lohas.com/blog/lohas-trends/american-ingenuity

Not to employers: Don’t forget to still give cash bonuses or other incentives for all the good work over the year!

Also, check out: http://www.buynothingchristmas.org/alternatives/
Happy Holidays!

 

 
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