A Green Halloween: The scariest holiday doesn’t have to be scary for the earth

halloween_pumpkinHolidays can wreak havoc on the planet with their travel, treats, and trimmings, and Halloween is no exception. Fortunately, there are plenty of small steps you can take to reduce the impact of this spooky day on the environment. Read on to find out how to keep Halloween a treat for Mother Earth.
 
The Costumes
Instead of buying a new costume, make one from items you already have in your home, trade last year’s costume with someone else for the night, or rent an outfit. Homemade costumes are creative and often more memorable than store-bought ones. If you aren’t handy with a needle and thread, don’t worry — there are plenty of do-it-yourself projects out there for the domestically challenged. Get some ideas from iVillage and about.com, or try a thrift store for vintage finds. If you do decide to go the store-bought route, look for something that may be useful later on, like for a theme party, your kids’ dress-up chest, or even for everyday wear.
 
The Trick-or-Treating
When trick-or-treating, walk instead of driving from house to house. If it’s too cold or houses in your area are spreadtrick-or-treat-766190 apart, drive to one central location, like a mall that offers trick-or-treating. This is also a great alternative when rain or frigid temperatures make going outside difficult. If you do go outdoors, outfit your flashlight with rechargeable batteries.
 
And, of course, give the kiddos a recyclable bag to use. The old standard of a pillowcase still works well for this function, or they can take a reusable shopping bag or a paper bag they’ve decorated.
 
For something more outside the box, have your kids participate in Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Cocoa Campaign, a kind of reverse trick-or-treating. Instead of just taking candy when knocking on doors, kids hand adults a sample of vegan-friendly, fair-trade dark chocolate with a card that details the poverty and child labor problems in the cocoa industry that affect mainstream candy enjoyed at Halloween and year-round.
 
The Candy
When trick-or-treaters come to your door, show off your eco pride with candy that’s at least kind of good for them. (For an alternate idea, hand out non-edible trinkets, like stickers, pencils, and temporary tattoos.) Here are a few candy ideas:
 
The Organic Trick or Treat Candy Mix from NaturalCandyStore.com has 100-plus pieces of USDA-certified organic goodies, including mixed fruit lollipops, root beer float candy, and cinnamon rocks.
 
Green & Black’s Organic Miniature Bar Collection has everything from cocoa-rich milk chocolate with crunchy butterscotch or roasted almonds to bittersweet dark chocolate with sour cherries or crystallized ginger.
 
Chimp Mints Chocolate are bars of vegan chocolate sure to satisfy sweet tooths. All profits support the Jane Goodall Foundation.831-L
 
Candy Tree Lollipops are made from all-natural, organic ingredients in cherry, lemon, orange, raspberry, and strawberry flavors.
 
Sjaak’s Fair-Trade Organic Chocolate Mini-Bites are vegan chocolate bites packed with a punch in the middle — either caramel, mint, açaí berry, orange, or ginger.
 
The Decorations
Don’t forget that nature offers up plenty in the way of fall decorations — think pumpkins, bales of hay, and gourds, which all can be composted when you’re done. When buying pumpkins, look for organic and pesticide-free choices. The pumpkin seeds inside can be a good treat for humans and birds alike. If you buy a few decorations, try to get things that can be reused from year to year or are easily recycled. Set the ambience with soy-based candles and scary music.

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CEO answers green cost questions

greenguideAfter a consumer downloaded our Green Office Guide, she mentioned that she had looked at the pricing on recycled paper and found it to be more expensive than Office Depot or Staples.

Our CEO provided the following response:

Office Depot and Staples are both $12-15 billion companies, doing more business in a single hour than Dolphin Blue does in a whole year. Both contribute greatly to the degradation of our planet by offering virgin-material products and products manufactured with no social nor environmental attributes in more than 90% of what they provide.
 
That being said, like in green-building, conventional (non-environmentally  responsible) materials and products are heavily subsidized, not only on the resource harvesting/extraction side of the equation, but also oneco_friendly the energy consumption, pollution/emissions side of the equation as well. No subsidies exist for recycled or environmentally responsible products.
 
We’re all paying the societal costs in loss of air quality, loss of fertile, productive soil and land, degradation of water quality, and, ultimately, higher costs for healthcare and healthcare premiums.
 
If our prices are higher than what you’re looking at currently, then you might consider off-setting the higher cost with savings you’ll realize from the purchase of remanufactured toner cartridges from Dolphin Blue.
 
Do you have a question for Thomas? Send questions to thomas@dolphinblue.com.

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Everything old is new again

Plastics recycling can have a big impact on our resources.
26Shopping bags, liters of soda, cereal box lining, and lots and lots of water bottles — it’s easy to amass plastic in today’s world, given its omnipresence in the products we use. Most of that, though, goes straight into plastic trash bags and heads to a landfill. (The rate of recycling plastic bottles has held steady since the 1990s at about 24 percent.)
 
Why Recycle Plastic?
When contemplating whether recycling plastic is really worth it, consider the following:
 
– It costs more money to drink bottled water than to put gas in your car — up to five times more — due mainly to its packaging and transportation, says the Earth Policy Institute.
 
– Recycling 1 ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.
 
– The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes.
 
– More than $1 billion worth of plastic is wasted each year.
 
– Recycled plastic can turn into a whole host of new and useful products, including durable building and construction products, fiber for carpets, tote bags, beverage bottles, recycling bins, shipping envelopes, and tableware (cups, plates, and utensils). Dolphin Blue carries a complete line of post-consumer recycled plastic tableware, which you can find here.
 
How to Recycle Plastic
Fortunately, 80 percent of Americans have access to a plastics recycling program, and more than 1,600 businesses are involved in recycling post-consumer plastics. There are seven types of plastic, and not every community’s curbside program recycles all of them, so first, learn what’s what with the handy chart from the American Chemistry Council, found here. Most likely you have #1 (water bottles, peanut butter jars), #2 (plastic bags, shampoo bottles), and #6 (packing peanuts, yogurt containers).
 
Many stores will recycle plastic bags for you, so check with your favorite grocer, or visit PlasticBagRecycling.org for a list of locations in your state that offer drop-off bins for recycling plastic bags.
 
When it comes to water bottles and other containers with lids, take the tops off before throwing them in a recycling bin. Lids are usually made of a different type of plastic than bottles, and the recycling facilities aren’t going to take the time to take off billions of lids — and likely will reject the bottles for recycling.
 
For more information, watch a short video here about the process of recycling plastic.
 
The DIY Guide to Reusing Plastic
There are ways to make good use of plastic once you’re done with it other than sending it to a recycling facility. Keeping plastic bags on hand and reusing them as long as they’re functional is a great way to reduce your impact. To make it convenient, try storing bags in empty tissue or garbage-bag boxes. This keeps the clutter at bay, and it makes the bags accessible when you need them. Just pull a bag out of the parachute hole and go.
 
For those with an artistic side, look at plastic products in a new way and see what you can come up with. You might just end up with something as fun and elegant as these cascade chandeliers. And although crocheting is usually done with yarn, when plastic bags are the material, it’s environmentally friendly and pretty darn cool. Check out one woman’s creations here.
 
Last but not least, it’s simple and easy to stock your office kitchen or home pantry with Preserve Tableware, made of post-consumer recycled yogurt cups, available on Dolphin Blue’s site here.

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Round UP, Impact DOWN

RoundUpLogo_260x113pixI’m excited to announce that we signed a memorandum of understanding today with Renewable Choice Energy to participate in their “Round UP, Impact DOWN” carbon offset project.
 
What this means is that anytime a customer of Dolphin Blue purchases an item, they have an opportunity to offset the carbon emissions associated with their purchase by “rounding up” their purchase price to the nearest dollar amount.
 
Through Dolphin Blue’s participation in the Round Up program our customers have an opportunity to offset a portion of the carbon emissions associated with shipping their order.
 
The extra charge collected by Dolphin Blue when a customer chooses to “round up” is invested in a carbon reduction project administered by Renewable Choice Energy.
 
And here’s what we promise to do for you – all Round Up contributions received will be matched 1-for-1 by Dolphin Blue.
 
Together, we can and will make our world sustainable for future generations.

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FedEx Kinkos: Definitely NOT Green

maple-trees-12_3I heard a story today that made me ask, “Why not just cut down trees and throw them directly into the dumpster?!”
 
My darling wife-to-be called me this afternoon very frustrated and honestly, quite livid.

As she was walking into a FedEx Kinko’s, which as we all know promotes itself as being green, two employees were walking out to the dumpster, holding three large paper-filled trash bags.
 
Curious, she asked them, “Are you recycling that paper?” They responded, “We always just throw it away.” Margaret immediately called me expressing her great displeasure at FedEx Kinko’s.
 
This prompted me to remember a time when Kinko’s (prior to being acquired by FedEx) was committed to, and used almost exclusively, recycled paper. By doing so, Kinko’s created a market and stimulated economic viability for the recovery and successful recycling of paper that was placed in collection bins. What happened to that environmental stewardship
once so prominent an aspect of the Kinko’s name?
 
It may be that there is no viable market for collected, recyclable paper. I think it is imperative that we all remember, unless we consciously purchase and use paper made of post consumer recycled material, all that recycling is for naught. Successful recycling will only happen when there is economic demand for the “landfill-destined” materials.
 
So, if we’re not willing to purchase and use paper made of post consumer recycled fibers (old paper), we might as well be just cutting down trees and throwing them right into the trash.

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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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Q & A: What drives Dolphin Blue?

Recently, one of our customers from Manning Architectearth-lighture asked why we do what we do at Dolphin Blue. Our CEO, Thomas Kemper, answered that we do it to make sure our carbon footprint is small and our mission is to create a sustainable planet for future generations.

“I founded Dolphin Blue to provide only environmentally responsible office supplies and printed stationery.

Dolphin Blue has never provided any item to a customer which was not comprised of at least 30% post consumer recycled material. All the business cards, labels, letterhead and envelopes we’ve printed for Manning Architects have been produced on 100% post consumer recycled, certified processed chlorine free, FSC-certified paper, made carbon neutral with Green-E certified renewable wind energy.

If you’re interested in knowing more about why we provide these products, please visit our site.

 We only print on uncoated stock made of 100% post consumer recycled, certified-processed chlorine free, FSC-certified paper, made carbon neutral with Green-E certified renewable wind energy.

The reason we do not offer a glossy coated stationary is the following: Most coated papers for brochure stock and other coated, glossy collateral are being produced in China. I honestly don’t know if a coated stock, made in the USA, is any longer available. When measuring ecological footprint, any gain in recovered or recycled fiber is lost many times over in fuel being used to transport, adding to that the resulting emissions, in paper being shipped here from China and other far-off shores. Offering products requiring an increase in carbon footprint is counterproductive to our mission of creating a sustainable planet for future generations.

I trust this will give you some comfort about what drives us at Dolphin Blue.

Thank you for caring enough about our planet’s sustainability to ask the question.”

We’re very passionate about our products and about helping the Earth. If you have any questions for us, about anything, please do not hesitate to ask!

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Tom Kemper: The CEO Speaks

TomKemperTom Kemper has spent the last 16 years running Dolphin Blue, Inc. and DolphinBlue.com, a business built on principles of environmental and social sustainability.

In the 1970′s, the valley in which Kemper was raised was discovered to have been covered with dioxin-contaminated waste-oil. The roads were being sprayed by county contractors to reduce dust in the summer months. A beautiful, spring-fed, trout stream — where Kemper fished as a young boy –became suddenly void of life. Rare illnesses and disease began showing up among his former classmates, creating concern among the neighbors in the formerly ecologically vibrant valley. The town is Fenton, Missouri, near infamous Times Beach. This played an important role in development of Kemper’s environmental awareness and activism.

Conducting the first public recycling event at the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas in 1992, he collected, sorted, and bagged three hundred fifty, 50-gallon bags of recyclable commodities in the three weeks of the festival. Kemper had little success in finding anyone to accept the materials for reprocessing. It was through this exercise he began to realize the true economics of recycling: the only way it works, is when we choose products made from materials we attempt to recycle.

Assembling a business and marketing plan for Dolphin Blue in 1993, the Company began providing post-consumer recycled products to its first customers in ’94. Fiscal 2003 produced the company’s highest-ever revenues, totaling almost $1 million in only recycled-content office supplies.

Not only does Kemper work to protect peoples’ health and the environment, he also has worked to create a fair and sustainable model in global trade.

Kemper says, “Under globalization, we see our natural world deteriorating and societies losing their culture. Human dignity, natural resources, peoples’ health, education, diversity and individuals’ economic needs take a back seat to profitability. Consumers expect low-cost, throw-away goods, while global corporations and CEOs and corporate managers increase their wealth exponentially. We often observe formerly good-paying jobs being exported to Bangladesh, China, India, Mexico, Malaysia, and now, Africa. For how long can we continue on this path? To be socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable, we must meet the needs of ALL constituents.”

Kemper believes we must begin in our own communities, valuing those amenities, “human and natural capital” — like clean air, clean water, healthy and nutritious foods, our children’s health, the health and strength of our community’s economy, safety of our neighborhoods – things we seem to no longer value, and those things we seem to have forgotten the past twenty years that our parents and grandparents seemed to inherently know. We’ve all been so indoctrinated to consumerism, we’ve lost touch with what really matters in life.

Small, locally owned business is one way to return accountability and sustainability to local communities. Small business is a realistic way to once again create strong, vibrant economies in our communities. Kemper asks, “Can we create the world we want that works for all of us? What does that sustainable world look like? Only we, the inhabitants in control of consumption, can create a sustainable world.”

To address these questions, Kemper and his co-chairs — Margie Haley and Gary Olp — embarked on a mission in 1998 to answer these questions each year through their leadership of Sustainable Dallas’ annual Conference on Sustainability.

As the President and founder of Dolphin Blue, Kemper strives to create the sustainable world and local community he envisions.

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