Academic Green Planners!

Nothing keeps kids (and adults!) more organized than a good planner. In honor of back-to-school season, check out those from Dolphin Blue — all of which are made from at least 30 percent recovered waste papers, using minimal virgin forest resources. Whether you need a planner in a wall, desk, or book format, you can find plenty of styles to suit your needs.

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Let There be Light: A guide to eco-friendly lighting options

Compact%20Fluorescent%20LampAs summer draws to an end and the days get shorter, that means less daylight — which, in turn, means more electricity used to illuminate your house. Given that lighting makes up a huge percentage of a home’s electricity bill (somewhere in the vicinity of a quarter of usage), looking at ways to save energy and money through your light bulbs makes good sense.

It’s been a long time since 1879, when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, forever changing life for Americans. And like any invention, the ensuing 130 years have brought modifications and improvements — many that save you resources and money. With lighting constituting up to 25 percent of the average home energy budget, it’s a great place to look for reductions in energy usage.
 
Here’s a look at some of the newest lighting options:
 
CFLs
According to Energy Star, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy program, CFLs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer, plus they save approximately $30 in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime. CFLs should be left on at least 15 minutes at a time in order to keep their lifespan at its peak potential.
 
Although CFLs used to give off harsh lighting, the color is improved and warmer now, making them a good option for everything from track lighting to porch lights to table lamps. Because they can sometimes take time to warm up to full power, they may not be the best choice for timed lighting. However, CFLs are definitely faster to light fully than in the recent past. And, you can now get “dimmable” CFLs at DolphinBlue.com.  
 
One of the turnoffs to buying these bulbs is a higher initial cost than incandescents. In the long run, though, you can save money — as an example, an 18-watt CFL used in place of a 75-watt incandescent will save about 570 kilowatt-hours over its lifetime, equating to a $45 savings (assuming 8 cents per kilowatt-hour).
 
Likely the biggest concern about CFLs is that they contain small amounts of mercury, which can be harmful if the bulb breaks. In case of a spill, the EPA provides guidelines for cleanup here.
 
More than 50 American Lighting Association showrooms across the country currently offer CFL recycling, as do many retail stories such as Home Depot and IKEA. Visit Earth911.org to find other locations near you that will take the bulbs and properly recycle them.
 
LEDs
When the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, replaced all downtown street lights with LEDs, they reaped an estimated savings of $100,000 annually in energy costs — or the equivalent of taking 400 cars off the road per year.
 
While these energy-efficient bulbs have been restricted to small usages in the past, like Christmas lights, pen lights, and in TV remote controls, more household applications are being developed every day. One barrier to their widespread adoption is that they are currently much more expensive than both incandescents and CFLs, but researchers have been working to develop less-expensive methods of producing the lights, which will bring down the price for consumers.
 
LEDs last about 10 times longer than CFLs, making them the most energy-efficient option out there right now. They don’t get hot like incandescents, and they don’t break as easily as other light bulbs. Many cities and electric companies offer rebates for LED lighting, so check with your provider to see what options you have.
 
According to Cree LED Lighting, the average price in the U.S. of running a 65-watt light for 50,000 hours would cost $325 in electricity. By using a 12-watt LED bulb, running the light for 50,000 hours would cost only $60, plus the lights are replaced much less frequently.
 
Energy Star Lighting
Energy Star has long been known for its appliances, but the program has also certified lighting fixtures for more than a decade, and now has around 20,000 offerings. While screw-based CFLs (those that you substitute for an incandescent bulb) are great at conserving energy, Energy Star fixtures outfitted with CFLs are even better.
 
If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, save more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars, according to a segment on CBS.
 
Looking forward, Energy Star is working on labeling solid-state light fixtures — those that employ LEDs as the light source — and you can expect to see more Energy Star qualified lighting products hitting the market. They also feature a buyer’s guide that can help you figure out what kind of bulb you need in different fixtures, based on what kind of light you want.
 
For a side-by-side comparison of incandescents, CFLs, and LEDs on issues of lighting quality and cost, read this article from financial blog The Simple Dollar.

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Three Components that Create a Sustainable Future

sustainability_metaphor_320I receive numerous calls from suppliers promoting their business and products as being “green” or sustainable, inquiring us to do business with them. I recently received a call this afternoon from a salesman who began telling me his company is looking for resellers of their “green, sustainable products.” When I asked the salesperson to describe what he meant by green, he began telling me his company’s products are bio-degradable or compostable and made of a recycled material.

I asked him where his company manufactured their “green, sustainable” products, and he said mostly the products are made in China and Mexico.  

“How do you consider a product green, or sustainable, when you are shipping it half-way around the globe, spewing forth the heaviest, nastiest, unrefined crude oil (the fuel that powers ocean-going vessels), creating a very heavy carbon footprint, in the transport of your products from China to here?” I asked.

At that point he attempted to justify his company’s practices and behavior by informing me that because there is so much product being shipped here from China, the transportation is actually much more energy-efficient.

So I asked, “Then, what happens if I order the product and I’m inland from either U.S. coast?”

“Oh, we have warehouses in California,” he said.

“And is fuel used to move your product from California to Texas?” I asked. “Wouldn’t that same fuel used to move your product from California to Texas have been used if the product were manufactured here in the U.S.? Plus, you’re now adding the fuel (increasing carbon footprint) used in transporting from China to here?”

He had no answer for me. You see, there is a big problem with the way we have been convinced it is acceptable to do business. Our U.S. business schools are teaching it, our U.S. companies are teaching it, and everyone seems to have bought in, including consumers.

It is not ok to continue shipping products here from China, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, etc., expending millions or billions of tons of fuel, emitting millions of tons of carbon and greenhouse gases, just to have ever cheaper products. IT IS NOT OK!

Look at our economy, destroyed by greed, corruption and deceptive and unethical business practices, while businesses continue believing they are doing us all a justice by bringing more and more products here from abroad, particularly China.

At a time when we need to create more meaningful jobs here, we need to begin bringing back home all our lost manufacturing and production. To me, the objective of creating a sustainable planet for future generations is only accomplished by addressing three components:

  1. Environmental sustainability – buy as close to the place of usage as possible or, preferably, buy local. I’m always certain to put back more than I take, making damn sure I am leaving enough resources for future generations to meet their needs.
  2. Social sustainability/responsibility – buy products made in a way that allow us to support our families, friends, local community, and national community with a living wage. To support indigenous communities in other countries, let’s teach them sustainable practices, not continue degrading their resources and human capital to satisfy our greed and unbridled consumption, as we are now.
  3. Economic sustainability – retain manufacturing and commerce as locally as possible. Like Henry Ford once said, “We have to produce cars our workers can buy, or, pay our workers so they can buy our automobiles.”

If we are to create a truly sustainable planet, we must address all three components of sustainability — environmental, social and economic. If we don’t, we’re going to pass on to our children an unsustainable future.

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Cash for Clunkers: Let’s keep the wheels rolling

100431-CashForClunkersCash for Clunkers. The program was launched on July 27 and offers owners of old, gas-guzzling cars, the opportunity to trade in their car for up to $4,500 to spend on a new, more efficient vehicle. We’ve all heard about the newest bill brought on by the legislature and feelings are mixed in all directions, but this bill is too important and industrious to the US to let dissipate.

The Cash for Clunkers program is a great example of what the government can do to inspire growth and stimulate economic activity in areas resulting in multiple impacts, all those impacts being good and producing positive economic results. According to Business Week, the program has been a huge success, so much so that the initial $1 billion allocated for the program (scheduled to run into November) has nearly run out and economists are saying there is a significant boost in the economy.

With the usage of less fuel, due to auto owners upgrading to more fuel-efficient vehicles, we lessen our dependence on foreign oil, which ultimately gets us out of places like Iraq, and the countries bordering the proposed fuel transmission pipelines through the volatile region near Pakistan and Afghanistan. Most importantly, this will ultimately reduce our military expenditure as we’ll no longer need to occupy oil-producing countries to feed our fuel-inefficient dependency on an obsolete technology, the internal combustion engine.

Not only does this bill increase spending in our otherwise down economy and help us to bring troops home, but it also inadvertently helps the environment. With the creation of incentives for owners of old, fuel-inefficient vehicles to trade up to a more fuel-efficient vehicle, the federal government is, by default, creating a cleaner, or, shall we say, less toxic, atmosphere that provides us the essential air we need to breathe healthfully. In turn, by cleaning the air we breathe, we’re also likely to experience a decrease in lung disease and respiratory-related ailment, eventually decreasing the cost of healthcare.

This bill needs to continue past November. The good it can do for our country is of too car-iconmuch worth to let ebb out. Your congressperson needs to hear from you. Urge them to authorize increased funds for continuation of this highly-productive Cash for Clunkers program.

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