Just Plant a Piece of Paper, and Watch it Grow.

         

The whole concept sounds like our grade school experiments with avocado seeds and toothpicks and a glass of water . . . or a bit of slow-sleight of hand.  What is seed paper?  It’s just what it says – paper embedded with seeds.    Put it in the ground and with luck and good weather you’ll have a small garden of annuals or wildflowers.

 

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Just-Plant-a-Piece-of-Paper-and-Watch-it-Grow.html

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Governmental Buying Practices and Sustainability

Recently, the staff at Dolphin Blue began questioning the buying practices of our government, and evaluating their overall impact on sustainability.  As more corporations continue to manufacture their goods in foreign countries, many tax-supported agencies have jumped on the “low-cost” bandwagon, creating a governmental bidding system with little regard to sustainability.  To answer some of our questions, we consulted with our in-house expert, Dolphin Blue  Founder & President, Thomas Kemper.

  

How does corporate outsourcing hinder the environmental health and welfare of our economy?

When we support the manufacturing of low-cost goods originating from distant places (i.e. China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India), the costs we ultimately incur are numerous, and detrimental to our natural world, local economies, and to the long-term health of our economy.  Every time a tax-supported entity procures an item provided by giant conglomerates, we continue to chip away at the sustainability of our planet (incurring a heavy carbon footprint), our communities (by eroding the local, regional and federal tax base), and our economies (local, state, and national).  Have you ever wondered why our roads, bridges, highways, school systems, county and state hospitals and park systems are in such disrepair, while the tax-supported jurisdictions responsible for their upkeep and maintenance are screaming that they are broke? How much longer can we continue to provide Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and favorable treatment to our largest corporations, so they can continue providing inexpensive foreign goods to the very tax-supported agencies that are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and systems that are paid for, by us, the tax payers? As we, the payer of the taxes, continue to see unemployment rise, factories close due to unfavorable treatment, and the degradation of our natural resources’ health (clean air, fresh water, soil quality, forest and food stocks), while our very own taxpayer dollars continue buying cheap, resource-depleting foreign goods, creating a huge burden on the sustainability of our planet.

 

Corporate outsourcing clearly damages our nation’s infrastructure, but how do low-cost supplies produced in foreign countries harm our environment?

Products being procured with no understanding of our environment, affect our human health and global ecosystem in ways we are only beginning to understand.  The use of chemicals, such as chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds, affect the human endocrine system, and compromises the immune system’s ability to do what it was biologically designed to do.  The havoc being wreaked upon the health of our children is a cost seemingly hidden in our out-of-control healthcare system, which continues to grow as the fastest sector of our economy.  I saw this issue arising back in 1994, and made a personal and business decision to provide papers that are processed chlorine free, as well as being derived from 100% post-consumer recycled fiber and made in the USA with Green-e certified renewable wind energy.  Thus, it is incumbent upon all of us, as citizens of our local communities first and foremost, to get involved in the decisions being made by our tax-supported government representatives, and demand that they purchase only socially and environmentally responsible products.

 

Many governmental agencies purchase their supplies at a low-cost from large corporate conglomerates.  How does this practice create an unfair advantage for small businesses of all types?

Many of the corporate giants (whose supplies produce an annual revenue of $15 BILLION and upward ), have the financial ability to provide a catalog with as many as 45,000-50,000 items, of which only 5-10% of those products are actually certified as “green”.   Although Dolphin Blue  has the capability to provide a catalog containing approximately 4,000 items, ALL made in the USA, and ALL made with post-consumer recycled materials, other small businesses are unable to offer such a catalog when a tax-supported entity (municipality, county, state, or federal government) requests pricing from the vendor community.  Consequently, if a small business responds without providing a full catalog, that small supplier is deemed non-responsive to the government agencies’ Request for Quote (RFQ), giving the large giants a tremendous advantage in the marketplace. 

When governmental agencies purchase products and services from corporate giants moving goods globally, with little regard to anything but profitability, the tax-supported entity is doomed and destined for failure.  In my experience, very few government agencies leave the door fully open for those who qualify through the GSA contracting system, where buyers can select goods and services through a “best value” contracting criteria.  While it is regrettable that some agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have granted monopolistic exclusive contracts to some suppliers, a true environmentally conscious buyer will go shopping elsewhere, seeking the products and services truly aligned with the EPA’s stated, charted mission. 

 Is there a “Watch Dog” system in place to monitor and measure the environmental degradation, loss to society, or economic erosion of such “full service” catalog purchasing relationships? 

Unfortunately, there is no program in place to monitor these relationships, and if governmental agencies continue to support the taxpayers who fund its existence, the tax-supported agencies will continue to thrive in the marketplace, while we continue seeing our planet’s health degrade.

 Yes, but don’t some of the larger corporations offer “green” products?

Many “green” items being offered by the giants are not certified for the environmental attributes being claimed, and many of the so-called “green” products are not green at all.  They are usually being shipped many thousands of miles to gain business at a very low invoice expense, which further degrades our planet’s sustainability by imparting a very heavy carbon footprint on the health of our planet.  What might that cost be, to our society, our planet, and, to future generations? We’ve already keenly aware of those costs. We see them around us every day. The longer we bury our heads in the sand, the more devastating the costs.

Additionally, many of the purchasing contracts do not require the products to be made in the USA, thus sacrificing American jobs for a few nickels.  While these large “full service” catalog transactions are rampant among many levels of our government, there are many buyers within these agencies that truly understand the meaning of sustainability (meeting the needs of our generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs), and practice responsible procurement methods.  For these buyers, I applaud and acknowledge your pioneering spirit.  Thank you.  You understand that we are all in this together, and without us working together to achieve a sustainable planet, we will only be continuing to paint ourselves into a very precarious corner.  As citizens of our neighborhoods, local communities, country, and planet, we must be good stewards, and be responsible with all items, goods, and services we purchase.  We owe it to our children.

Tom is founder and CEO of Dolphin Blue, an online retailer of environmentally sustainable green office supplies and green printing products.

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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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Proposed Effort to Slow Melting of Glacier in Antarctica

by Thomas Manaugh, PhD

kelloggI have written before about an “Energy Island” — a floating structure and integrated method of extracting large amounts of energy from the sun, from the wind, and from water waves and currents — and I believe it could be our solution to slow the melting of glaciers in the Antarctic.  

Here, it is proposed that an Energy Island could be used to provide massive amounts of energy for cooling seawater.  Cooling seawater in a key area off the western coast of Antarctica could slow the melting of glacial ice.

One effect of global warming is rapid melting of glaciers around the world. Melting of the glacial ice cap at the South Pole is of greatest concern because the ice that covers the Antarctic continent constitutes most of the glacial ice in the world.  Melting of ice on the continent of Antarctica would raise sea levels by a calculated 234 feet, flooding coastal areas and huge areas of low-lying lands around the world. (Calculation is based on numbers from NASA, referenced and quoted below).

Ground zero for concerns about Antarctica is now focused on an area in Antarctica’s western part.  That area contains Pine Island Glacier, a massive continental glacier that is slowly flowing into the Pine Island Bay on Antarctica’s western coast.  Undercut by warming seawaters, the glacier has been recently found to be melting four times faster than earlier estimated.  (See below reference and quote from research leader Professor Duncan Wingham, University College London.)

Could water off the western coast of Antarctica be cooled in a way that would slow melting of glacial ice in Antarctica?  If so, could such cooling give us a longer time to cope with and reduce global warming before catastrophic rises in sea levels would be otherwise predicted to occur?

It is proposed here that wind, wave, water currents, and solar energy could be used to power an effort to cool seawaters off the coast of a carefully targeted area of western Antarctica.  Cooling of waters in parts of Pine Island Bay could serve to slow the melting of glacial ice that is flowing into the bay.  In essence, the rapid melting of glacial ice would be slowed, the movement of the glacier into Pine Island Bay would be slowed, and more years (perhaps decades) would be granted to reduce global warming before catastrophic sea levels would otherwise inundate coastal areas around the world.

How hard would it be for an Energy Island to cool seawater that bathes the underside of glaciers that flow into Pine Island Bay?  Actually, the process is very simple — even less complicated than the task performed by your refrigerator if it automatically makes ice: the refrigerator controls a flow of water into the ice-making mechanism, cools the water by refrigeration, and discharges the resulting ice.

Similarly, Energy Island only needs to let fresh seawater flow for cooling into a refrigeration space — a space located within in the island’s structure.  The seawater is cooled to a temperature below 0 degrees Celsius (but not to a point of freezing).  It is then discharged from the bottom of the cooling space, and fresh water is allowed into the top of the cooling space to continue the process. 

If inlet and discharge processes were properly configured, it would be possible for the cooling process to operate continuously.

The discharged cooled seawater, now denser and heavier than the water around it, sinks toward the ocean floor.  The space between the glacier and the ocean floor is where the greatest glacier melting occurs.  The cooled seawater infiltrates that critical area and acts to slow the melting process.

Heat extracted from the seawater is dissipated from refrigeration condenser coils into the air.  That cooling process could be enhanced by also using water to cool the coils.  The result — warmed air that contains water vapor — would quickly cool in the frigid atmosphere of Antarctica, adding to snowfall.  Fresh snow adds to glaciers and helps protect glaciers from melting because snow is efficient at reflecting sunlight.

Dr. Thomas Manaugh is a frequent contributor to numerous blogs, including, Dolphin Blue, Inc. He is a leading expert in the ecosystem and climate and large advocate for anything helping lessen our carbon footprint. He can be contacted at manaugh@dolphinblue.com.

Reference and quote from NASA:

http://icesat.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ICESat_Brochure.pdf

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are an average of 2.4 km (7900 ft) thick, cover 10 percent of the Earth’s land area, and contain 77 percent of the Earth’s fresh water (33 million km3 or 8 million mi3). The Antarctic ice sheet has 10 times more ice than Greenland because of its greater area and average ice thickness. If their collective stored water volume were released into the ocean, global sea level would rise by about 80 m (260 ft).

Reference and quote from Professor Duncan Wingham:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6797162.ece

Satellite records show that if the melting of the Pine Island Glacier in west Antarctica goes on accelerating at current rates, the main section will have disappeared in 100 years, 500 years sooner than previously thought.

The research showed that the ice surface is dropping at a rate of 16m a year.The faster melting affects 5,400sq km of the glacier, containing enough water to raise world sea levels by 3cm, said Professor Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds, a member of the research team. The glacier’s melting could also expose stationary ice behind it to warm seawater, and if that ice were to melt, it could raise sea levels by another 25cm. The research, led by Professor Duncan Wingham at University College London and published in Geophysical Research Letters, is based on satellite observations of the glacier over 15 years. Professor Shepherd said: “Being able to assemble a continuous record of measurements over the past 15 years has provided us with the remarkable ability to identify both subtle and dramatic changes in ice that were previously hidden. “Because the Pine Island Glacier contains enough ice to almost double the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s best estimate of 21st-century sea level rise, the manner in which the glacier will respond to the accelerated thinning is a matter of great concern.”  Professor Shepherd said: “This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We’ve known that it’s been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this.”

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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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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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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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