Top Ten Reasons To Be a Green Business

One of my employees recently challenged me to create a “Top Ten” reasons to work for, own, or operate a ecologically friendly, green business.  Here is my take:

10. Because our planet is our “garden”. Only with a totally healthy and productive garden will we be able to live healthy and sustainable lives.

9. Because we’re running low on clean, drinkable, non-chemically-contaminated water.

8. Because we’re quickly losing clean, breathable, non-chemically-contaminated air.

7. Because we’re depleting the minerals and healthy state of our soil. Without healthy soil, we won’t have healthy food. Without healthy food, we can’t have healthy bodies.

6. Because a healthy, sustainable planet will provide great rewards in reduced healthcare costs, healthy employees who are productive and present, and will be much better employees.

5. Because as the owner/CEO of a green business, you’ll sleep better at night, knowing you’re doing your part.

4. Because, as a parent, you’ll sleep better at night, knowing you’re leaving a sustainable planet for your children and future generations.

3. Because you will be happier and healthier, living on a planet that you know has a rich diversity of fellow species, all doing their part in maintaining the balance of nature.

2. Because customers/consumers are looking for businesses with which they have a “values alignment”.  People buy from people and companies they know and trust are doing good.

and most important. ..

1. Because your children deserve at least as much of a natural world we have had.

Here’s hoping you make green waves at work,

Thomas Kemper, Owner and Founder

www.dolphinblue.com

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Greenstar and the State of Recycling

Tom Kemper is the president and founder of Dolphin Blue.

On April 6, 2010, almost seventeen years to the day, from the date Dolphin Blue began doing business, I had a personal tour of Greenstar North America’s Dallas MRF (materials recovery facility).

Wow, has the state of recycling changed!

Dolphin Blue was founded after I conducted the first-ever public recycling program in Dallas, in 1992.  I was busily collecting, sorting, bagging and preparing for processing, 350, 50-gallon bags of recyclable commodities for three-and-one-half weeks of the Dallas Summer Shakespeare Festival.  Unbeknownst to me WFAA TV’s environmental reporter was reporting on the evening news that the recycling collection trucks were picking up Dallas’ igloos of recyclable materials from public locations and delivering the materials right to the landfill.  That became for me an awakening that inspired me to begin a business that would provide only office supplies made from post-consumer recycled materials.  To this day Dolphin Blue is the only retailer that provides ONLY office supplies made from post-consumer recycled materials.

What I learned in that first-ever Dallas recycling effort, is that we can place all our discard materials into our blue bins to our heart’s content.  Unless we make purchases of products made from those items we place in the collection bins, all that effort to preserve or sustain our planet for our children is for naught.

Recycling, AND, purchasing products made from post-consumer recycled materials, produces many environmental and societal benefits such as:

  • Conserving the energy and raw materials used to manufacture a product.
  • Retaining healthy forests and ecologically-viable and species-diverse habitats.
  • Landfill-destined waste is eliminated, thereby reducing the need to utilize additional land for dumping our waste.
  • Preventing chlorine compounds and other carcinogens from entering vital water ecosystems reduces the risk of adverse human health effects and chemical influence on fellow species.
  • Almost half of the 83 million tons of paper generated annually still ends up in landfills.
  • When we recycle paper, CO2 emissions are significantly reduced.

As well as papers certified for 100% post-consumer recycled material, Dolphin Blue provides papers that are:

  • Made with Green-E certified renewable wind energy and made carbon neutral.
  • Processed chlorine free (whitened without chlorine or chlorine-containing compounds).
  • Manufactured using only 100% post-consumer recycled waste fibers using no virgin wood pulp.

I honestly expected to see something totally different than what I saw and heard from Trisha Davis, municipal marketing and account manager at Greenstar’s Dallas facility.  I expected to see a processing plant burdened with intake of recyclable commodities of which there is little or no opportunity for re-integration into the market.  I am pleased by what I’ve seen and heard of Greenstar’s success in recycling markets. Great job, Greenstar!

I am convinced that the vast majority of the 300 tons of material taken to Greenstar each year is reintroduced to the market.

So, that brings up a HUGE question…

If all this stuff is successfully being re-integrated into our economy, then why aren’t we seeing products that are more clearly marked, indicating the percentage of post-consumer recycled materials used to make the product?  I see many items and much packaging marked “made of recycled material” and nothing indicating the percentage of material used, or, whether it’s post-consumer or pre-consumer content.  I’ve even seen statements like “third-party certified” with no mention of who the third-party certifier might be, or, what the certification might be certifying!

That question leads me to believe that manufacturers and sellers of products are falling short in terms of stating their products’ actual content and are therefore misleading and misinforming the consumer.

It is the intent of Dolphin Blue to always educate and share knowledge with our customers and suppliers, as well as prospective customers, as to the environmental attributes and ecological value of what we provide, and who is certifying the ecological and social attributes that we so dearly value in sustaining our planet for future generations.

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Communicating the Right Message

Dolphin Blue was founded on the principle that we can all do something to assist in creating a sustainable planet for future generations.

We’ve always provided only office products that, at minimum, are certified for post consumer recycled material content, assuring the buyer that you are getting product that meets your requirements, and, that truly contributes to a sustainable planet for future generations.

It’s not often that, in my almost eighteen years of building the Dolphin Blue business, I receive such striking examples of what an entity is doing to not only contribute to sustainability, but also to articulate their actions in a very effective manner, such as the State of Pennsylvania’s online video. One of the key points discussed in this exemplary video is concerning the issue of greenwashing (a practice whereby a provider makes unsubstantiated claims regarding the environmental attributes of their product or service, such as “Third-party certified”, without naming the certifying organization, or, stating “recycled content”, without mentioning whether the recycled content is pre-consumer or post consumer, or, stating the percentage of recycled material). Without proper education, greenwashing is easily perpetrated on unknowing, unsuspecting consumers.

That is bad for the unknowing consumer and detrimental to the sustainability of our planet. It’s also ripping off our children’s future.

This exceptional presentation came to me through H2E (Hospitals for a Healthy Environment), of which Dolphin Blue is a long-time member. Please share this far and wide, so others may be able to benefit from this great presentation on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing.

Tom Kemper is the founder and president of Dolphin Blue Inc.

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Season’s Greenings: A very merry eco-minded celebration

During the holidays, tradition reigns supreme — most people like the familiarity and comfort that come from a routine rooted in warm-and-fuzzy memories. Fortunately, being green is compatible with keeping all those favorite traditions intact, although it may take some slight adjustments. For instance, put a present in a reusable shopping bag or buy 100 percent recycled wrapping paper that uses vegetable-based inks instead of that shiny, not-so-recyclable paper. Love lights on the Christmas tree? Just make sure they’re LEDs. Can’t imagine not sending out holiday cards? Buy recycled ones like those from Twisted Limb or even some with seeds planted inside. 
 
Here are a few other ways you can keep all things merry and bright — both at home during the holidays and out in nature.
 
Spread the green. Eco-friendly presents are everywhere these days, and they’re getting cooler all the time. We especially like the Recycled Bicycle Chain Bottle Opener from Bambeco.com. At just $10, it’s a steal, plus it looks great — cycling enthusiasts will especially flip for it. For more ideas, check out TreeHugger’s Holiday Gift Guide, with something for everyone from the foodie to the fashion buff to the philanthropist, and Dolphin Blue’s gift offerings, including books, music, coffee, calendars, and more.
 
Give a gift that matters. Making a donation to a charity on behalf of a friend or family member who already has plenty is a great way to encapsulate the giving nature of this time of year. For a gift that’s specifically green, try Oxfam America Unwrapped, which allows you to a select a gift that goes to someone who really needs it, while your recipient gets a card explaining the present. Just $18 will get honey bees to help a farmer sell fair-trade honey or a can of worms that will produce fertilizer and enrich land for farming. If your pockets are a little deeper, get a donkey ($100), save a lake ($250), or buy a house on stilts ($10,000).

Another great gift with some extra meaning behind it is a gift tree planting from Dolphin Blue, which includes the planting and care of a young tree in a U.S. national forest, along with a beautiful gift card (made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper).
 
Party in style. Stuffed back in the darkest depths of their closets, almost everyone has one — an ugly holiday sweater. While historically only the elderly set and teachers have worn these works of art with pride, in the past few years, a trend has popped up that makes good use of that sweater you thought you’d never wear: ugly Christmas sweater parties.
 
The inspiration for these parties came from the wastefulness that is ugly sweaters lingering in a heap behind the good clothes, gathering dust instead of shining brightly. In this day and age of reduce, reuse, recycle, digging up that old gift you had to work really hard to pretend to like just makes ecological sense.
 
For extra inspiration, and because it’s all kinds of fun (sure, it wastes some time, but consider it a stress buster, a necessity during this time of year!), check out weloveholidaysweaters.com, where you can virtually create your own ugly sweater with all the goodies of the season, or browse through thousands of images to see what others have come up with.
 
Trees that please. Torn between that yummy-smelling pine and a convenient pre-lit for your Christmas tree? There’s support for both sides, as nearly 29 million households go with the real deal, while about 70 percent choose artificial. But what’s best for the environment? Au naturel trees usually use pesticides and often are shipped from long distances, but they are biodegradable and can be used for things like mulch, compost, wood chips, and fences. Artificial trees are typically made in China from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a pollutant, but they require less maintenance, are less expensive, and can be reused from year to year.
 
One option is to go with a “bulb” tree, a real (small) tree that can be planted outside after the holidays are over, or you can start in the outdoors to begin with and decorate a tree outside. Check out this slide show for other alternatives and read more about the real vs. fake debate.

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Giving Thanks: Celebrate Thanksgiving by giving back to Mother Earth

thanksgivingThe Pilgrims may have traveled quite a distance to celebrate the first Thanksgiving, but their food didn’t. They learned to source their sustenance locally, a tough task in a new world, and they celebrated with a feast that eventually turned into modern-day Thanksgiving.

Getting food today doesn’t require nearly as much work for most of us as it did for those Pilgrims in the 1600s, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about where it’s coming from.
 
Dinner’s Ready
Concerned about the way animals are treated? Try celebrating this year vegetarian-style. There are so many yummy meat-free foods at Thanksgiving, you may not even miss it. But if the big feast just won’t be the same without a bird on the table, look for pasture-raised, free-range turkey. This tells you that the animal lived outside, without harmful chemicals and hormones pumped into its body. Here are some other labels, classified by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, to look for when buying food:
 
A GOOD Startcert humane
Cage free” (eggs)
Free range” (eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey)
Grass fed” (dairy, beef, lamb)
 
The “Good Start” labels indicate a meaningful animal welfare standard, but the standard covers only one aspect of animal care, and compliance with the standard is not verified by a third party.
 
Even BETTER
animal welfare“Free range” (beef, bison, pork, lamb)
Pasture raised” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)
USDA Organic” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)  
 
The “Even Better” labels generally indicate a higher level of animal welfare because the standards are more meaningful than those for the “Good Start” labels, but the standards are either not verified by a third party or cover only a limited aspect of animal care.
 
The BEST Optionsamerican humane
Certified Humane” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork) 
American Humane Certified” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork) 
Animal Welfare Approved” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, duck, goose, beef, lamb, pork, rabbit) 
 
The “Best Options” labels cover multiple aspects of animal care, and compliance with the standards is verified by an independent third party.
 
To get your local store to carry products with these labels, just ask. Have your friends do the same, and the store will likely listen. You can download a request card to put in a store’s comment box or mail to its headquarters.
 cornucopia2
The Ambience
Decorate your table not with cheesy Thanksgiving-print napkins and paper plates but with pumpkins, gourds, apples, and all the other wonderful edible treats the fall season has to offer. If the thought of doing all those dishes makes you want to scrap the holiday altogether, try Preserve Tableware, an environmentally friendly alternative to the disposable stuff. The dishes and cutlery are made from 100 percent recycled plastic and are strong enough to be reused dozens of times (or just recycled when you’re done).
 
Top off the look with soy candles and a few sprigs of pine, and you’ll have authentic décor that would make even those who came over on the Mayflower proud.
 
When It’s Over
After the meal’s done and the leftovers picked through, compost the rest. Of the waste Americans send to landfills, 24 percent of it is organic waste (i.e., kitchen scraps). Keeping that waste out of landfills saves space and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, making it a win-win however you look at it. Making your own compost is easy!

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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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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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