Heroes of Sustainability: George Washington Carver

                                                                      
In an era long before green, eco-friendly, and environmentalism were buzzwords, George Washington Carver advocated for organic farming and plant-based products.

An early trailblazer in the concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling, Carver was born into slavery, likely in the early to mid-1860s.

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Heroes-of-Sustainability-George-Washington-Carver.html

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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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CEO’s Green Wedding

In anticipation to the upcoming wedding season, Thomas Kemper (CEO of Dolphin Blue, Inc.) answered an email from a writer about his wedding and how he made it green and environmentally friendly. Throughout the courtship of Thomas and Margaret, the couple made eco-friendly items a priority, with Margaret changing her outlook on the environment and sustainability, and utilizing it in her medical practice. It seemed only fitting to bring their ideals to their wedding once Tom proposed.

The wedding was a three-day celebration held on a ranch here in Texas. Guests enjoyed the outside weather, the basic but elegant wedding setting, and the sustainable and earth-friendly attributes combined with the traditional wedding aspects.

To green their wedding they used the following:

  • Wedding invitations were printed on paper that is 100% post consumer recycled, FSC-certified, processed chlorine free and made carbon-neutral with Green-E certified renewable wind energy.
  • Envelopes were made of paper with the same environmental attributes (All thank you cards sent after the wedding were also made of the same paper and envelopes).
  • The food was locally-grown, organic, and came from small farmers.
  • Wine and beer served were from a Llano, Texas (hill-country) winery and a Ft. Worth microbrewery.
  • On the wedding day, the catered lunch was prepared and served by Kozy Kitchen, a local Dallas-based family restaurant that offers a gluten-free, locally-grown fare.
  • All plastic plates, cups and utensils we used were made of 100% post consumer recycled plastic yogurt cups, collected by the manufacturer through a successful take-back recycling program, as well as all napkins and paper towels.

Overall, the weekend was a success and a great start to Thomas’ marriage to Margaret and, inevitably, their commitment to sustainability will continue to grow throughout their relationship and within both their businesses.

Have you been a guest at a green wedding or had your own? What is some advice we can give to others to help make their wedding a sustainable one?

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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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