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Portland Takes Aim at Paper Towels, the Sunscreen Guide, and Water Wise Stuff

May 27, 2015
Portland, Oregon is serious about helping businesses to adopt sustainable practices.  The city matches business and non-profits with a sustainability advisor who will evaluate the business and offer a variety of free services to conserve resources, improve efficiency and save money.  It’s all for the greater good of providing a healthy and quality work space for employees.  Even if you don’t work in the Portland area, there is still a lot of helpful material you can use in your green office program.  Check out the Resource Guide tab on their website where you can download free posters and stickers, learn how you can help employees to use less paper towels, and how to buy green, among other things.
Have you wondered which hand drying system is best for the environment—electric hand dryers or paper towels?  The short answer is the electric dryer.  Paper towels come close, but only if one towel is used.  How can that be possible?  Easy!  Check out the Ted Talk where Joe Smith, and Oregonian, shows how to do it.  It’s all in the shakin’.  This 4 ½ minute video is perfect for kicking off your next green meeting or general staff meeting.  Learn more here about the sustainable services program offered in Portland and discover resources that can help any team anywhere. 
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its annual lists of the best and the worst sunscreen lotions and sprays.  This is always a popular and consumer-minded reference you can share with employees.    Click here for the rundown on “the hall of shame” brands and click here for the Best Sunscreens.  The EWG reminds us not to fall for the “more SPF is better” scam.  The sun protection tops out between 30 and 50. 

If you live in a drought-stricken state like California, you might wonder if the excess water from your lawn sprinkler and the water that goes down the drain is “saved” by draining back down into the groundwater aquifers.  The answer is NO, NO, a thousand times NO, at least not in your lifetime.  So cut back on the water timers, turn off the faucet, and use any spillover from your kitchen sink to water the indoor plants and wipe off the outdoor furniture.  Read Mr. Green’s explanation here

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Buildings, Administrative Stuff

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Water, Water Everywhere. Mmm....don't think so

April 1, 2015
This week GWG focuses on what offices can do to conserve water and use it wisely.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “approximately nine percent of the total water use in commercial and institutional facilities in the U.S. takes place in office buildings. The three largest uses of water in office buildings are restrooms, heating and cooling, and landscaping.”
Water is a BIG topic of conversation and concern in California.  Mandatory conservation strategies have been ordered by the Governor to achieve a 25% reduction in water use.  I can tell you, being a resident of the state, that many municipalities, water districts, and counties have implemented guidelines and rules over the past several years that have produced significant savings.  But now, we must do more.  The snowpack is 5% of historical averages for this time of year.  Rainfall, while more than last year, fell well below seasonal norms. The impact of the severe drought is driving the state to adopt stringent rules for the foreseeable future. 
This crisis in California is a time for action by green teams, but serves as a call for action to green teams everywhere.  California’s drought could happen anywhere, and water as a resource to meet increasing needs of the population, agriculture and industry is neither unlimited nor free.
There are three resources to find information, ideas, toolkits, and more.  My “go to” site to start is the EPA’s WaterSense website, where you can find a factsheet for commercial buildings and guidelines for ways to conserve water, from spotting and fixing simple leaks to the hidden use of water in energy systems such as heating and air conditioning. 
Another resource that is terrific is the WaterUseItWisely, a campaign that started in Arizona to address existing and anticipated water issues facing the growing population and includes many organizations and municipalities in its partnership.  The website includes hundreds of tips for offices.  
The last resource is your hometown or Sacramento in my case.  Green teams can inquire of their municipal governments and water districts for help and information.  For the city of Sacramento, there is a section dedicated to water conservation information and services.  There is a FAQ sheet for office water conservation and a calendar of events and free training seminars on a wide array of water saving methods for the office and home.  At our invitation, our green committee held a “lunch and learn” event and the executive director of a local water district gave a compelling presentation on the critical state of water reserves, impacts, options for building resiliency, and ways our office could help save water and cut expenses.

These are just a few resources to get started.  The reasons for doing so are aplenty. 

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Pollution PreventionAdministrative Stuff

Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Pollution Prevention, Administrative Stuff

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Business Faces New Environmental Challenges and Opportunities in 2015

March 25, 2015
For twenty five years, GreenBiz has been a catalyst for thought leadership at the intersection of business, technology, and sustainability through its website, events and peer network.  This past month, their eighth annual report was released on The State of Green Business—2015.  This link takes you to a page where you will be asked to fill out a short form and you will be sent a link to the free report.  It was completed in partnership with Trucost, a company that works with companies, investors, governments, and academics and thought leaders to understand the economic consequences of natural capital dependency.
What follows is a brief overview to this comprehensive and eye-opening report.  Why should sustainability officers be interested?  For several reasons, including the value of staying informed and current on the big picture of trends and innovations in business and industry, being aware that governments at all levels are working with corporations on projects and problems of mutual interest and concern such as energy and water, and recognizing that we are doing business every day with companies whose sustainable business goals and practices are impacted by our volume of business with them and the expectations we bring to our dealings with them over how their products are sourced, processed, manufactured, and delivered to our doors. 
This year’s report indicates that companies remain committed to sustainability and in particular, the focus on natural capital dependency risks and opportunities has grown 85% in the past year to include 350 companies.  Natural capital refers to the stock of resources and ecosystem services on which all companies depend for their success.  As Trucost explains, it isn’t “all about carbon” and traditional fossil fuel concepts such as oil, coal, and natural gas; it’s about water, land use, waste and pollutants. It’s about which raw materials are used and where they are sourced, from energy and water to metals, minerals and agricultural products.  Business is looking at the price tag of their methods of production and seeking ways to minimize the real business risks of relying on unsustainable practices in the face of tougher regulation and catastrophic environmental conditions, such as severe water shortages.
The good news is that many of the largest companies in the US and globally are making big changes.  Interface, Shaw, Puma, Nike, General Mills, Philips, Adobe, BMW, Coca-Cola, and Nestle, to name just a few. 
Here are some of the ten green business trends discussed in the report, which also includes helpful graphs and video clips of business leaders discussing their views and actions.  Unlike the past, companies are now sharing their knowledge and lessons learned so that innovation in sustainability is being accelerated.  The Rocky Mountain Institute is a great resource to learn more about how they are driving advances working with groups in industry sectors.  Big business is leading the way for renewable power—think IKEA and the solar roofs on 90% of its US stores.  Attention to water risks has grown into action.  Example—Nestle is now using water extracted from milk it uses to convert it to use for cleaning, a savings of 1.6 million liters of water a year.  Companies are valuable catalysts for change in cities, developing partnerships to bring intelligent design into use for traffic lights and smart parking, among other things.  How about that?  An app for finding the nearest parking space.  Saves on gas, wear and tear on the vehicle, and time. From the city’s perspective, pollution is decreased and parking meter revenues upped with less down time from vacant vehicles.

This report is not a quick read, but it breaks down in easily digestible and highly readable chapters.  Take the time to read it and GWG thinks you’ll be well-informed and inspired to tackle your green goals knowing that you’re in good company. 

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Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Pollution Prevention, Administrative Stuff

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The Hour is Near

January 28, 2015
Earth Hour is coming up on March 28, 2015.  This is the 8th year of the largest mass participation “street party” in world history.  What began as an inspirational event to switch off the lights for one hour to signal support for a sustainable planet has grown to an interconnected global community sharing the goal and taking actions in cities and countries “going beyond the Hour”.  Just a few examples—Earth Hour supporters raised funds to provide fiberglass boats to fishermen impacted by the typhoon in the Philippines, to drive policy actions to save the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, to publicize energy-efficient lighting in the UAE, and to provide fuel-saving stoves that reduce deforestation and protect natural habitats in Nepal and Madagascar.  The WWF and other sponsors organize Earth Hour programs and events.  In 2014, 162 countries and hundreds of millions of people joined forces for Earth Hour and beyond. Read about the many projects and environmental outcomes that were accomplished in the annual report.
Earth Hour has a free tool kit on its website with downloadable posters and logos that green teams can use to publicize Earth Hour.  Consider ways to support this event by raising donations from bake sales, silent auctions, or used book sales.  Just released this week is the new Earth Hour video for 2015.  It’s a two-minute collage of music and clips from events around the world.  To promote and garner interest in your Earth Hour events and other green office activities, this video this would be ideal to run continuously in your office lobby, cafeteria, and in other common spaces of the office.
Turn out the lights on March 28 for an hour starting at 8:30 p.m. local time and check out all the ideas for turning inspiration into actions and outcomes at Earth Hour.

Learn more about Earth Hour here

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Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Pollution Prevention, Administrative Stuff

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Bookmark This Resource--The Greening Advisor

January 21, 2015
For as long as GreenWorksGov has been in existence and during my stint as our agency’s first sustainability officer, I have relied on the abundance of information and resource material of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  The NRDC takes an active role in the most significant, and often controversial, environmental issues.  For this week’s blog, however, GWG is looking to the valuable service the NRDC offers in the form of its Greening Advisor for Smarter Business. 
The Greening Advisor is an online resource to help businesses and other organizations to reduce their environmental impact.  It is easy to follow, goes step by step, and is a comprehensive compendium of “how to do it” recommendations to tackle everything from the business reasons to go green,  how to reduce waste, consume less paper and energy, and use resources more efficiently.  The Advisor devotes specific sections to topical areas such as purchasing and transportation.  It’s practical, non-dogmatic, and helpful.  Don’t miss the Principles and Practices sections, which set out the key components of structuring a successful green program.  For example, the Advisor underscores the importance of an enterprise-wide environmental policy statement and includes a sample policy.  Sample language is included for purchasing policies and contracts, too.  And not to be forgotten—the annual sustainability report which documents the commitment to the effort and lets the public, customers, employees, and business partners know that accountability matters.  A number of corporate business reports are included for easy reference as examples. The Greening Advisor is an excellent resource for those just getting a green effort underway and for those more mature programs looking to refine and expand their initiatives.
The NRDC Greening Advisor evolved as a result of many business contacts to the NRDC requesting assistance and advice on how to reduce their environmental impacts. Famously, the owners of the Philadelphia Eagles football team contacted the NRDC in 2004 for help in improving the team facilities, services, and stadium’s environmental profile.  Shortly after, the Academy Awards sought advice for its annual awards ceremonies and telecast, and Warner Music Group sought the NRDC’s help in finding more eco-friendly paper inserts for its CD and DVD packaging and instituting changes to its paper usage and consumption practices.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is one of the most powerful and effective environmental action groups in the U.S. The NRDC views its mission as safeguarding the earth—its people, plants, animals, and the natural systems upon which life depends.  The NRDC advocates for strong environmental protection with a focus on global warming clean energy, the oceans, wildlife, health, pollution, water supply and quality, and sustainable communities.  With a membership of 1.5 million and a staff of 450 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals, the NRDC is a major force for ensuring compliance with environment protection laws and creating solutions to problems that threaten our environment and well-being. 

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