online footprint

Reducing Your Business Footprint Online: Does It Matter?

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You strive to be a green, tech-savvy leader. You’ve moved all paper office communications online, use social media to replace direct mailers and allow employees to work from home to eliminate their carbon-producing commute. The Internet is the answer to all of your polluting woes. Or is it?

As Sebastian Greger highlights, the environmental impact of the Internet is a very complex topic. Calculating the carbon footprint of an email, for example, compared to that of sending a letter via snail mail is a daunting task with a seemingly infinite list of factors to consider. Or when calculating the impact of a Google search does that include the energy used by the computer, modem, plus any infrastructure and so on? Plus, to further complicate the debate, using the internet not only creates carbon emissions, but it also reduces them. It’s important to not only be aware of how your business impacts the environment through the Internet, but also understand how you can use it to your carbon-reducing advantage. 

The Internet isn’t Carbon-Free: Usage Tips to Consider

The sad truth is that even something as intangible as the “Internet” has a carbon footprint. And there’s a surprising lack of knowledge about that impact of our virtual business activities on the environment. The Guardian estimates that the carbon footprint of the Internet is around 300 million tons a year, “equivalent to every person in the UK flying to America and back twice over.”  While, TreeHugger found that the Internet accounts for 3% of US electricity consumption and 2% of global CO2 emissions. Likewise, the animation on CarbonFeed is depressing to watch.

Going green is something that manifests itself in our choices and processes everyday. Author Nicholas Carr points out, “We may be obsessive about turning off the lights when we leave a room, but at the same time we may happily spend hours [messing] around online, oblivious of the electricity lighting up our screen, heating our chip, and powering and cooling the data centers we’re connected to.” With so much of businesses being run online, it’s important to be aware of the impact that has on our carbon footprint. Here are some lesser known ways to curve your footprint online and become a greener Internet user. 

Email isn’t 100% green

While email has done wonders to reduce our paper use and improve communications, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The Guardian estimates that a simple email has a carbon footprint of 4g of CO2, while an email with a large attachment could have a footprint of 50g. It may not seem like a lot, but it can add up, to specifically 44,000 tons of CO2 a day! I’m not about to give up my inbox, but being aware is important and there are some simple ways we can curb the excess. Dedicated cloud hosting provider SingleHop offers some simple suggestions. 

  • Limit reply to all: Does everyone in the “to” box really need to see your response? Limiting its use will reduce annoyance as well as your carbon footprint.
  • Use inbox search: If you can find the email on your own, no one has to hit “resend.”
  • Dont spam: this is not only a good environmental practice, but also a solid marketing one. By segmenting your email list, customers will always be sent only relevant content.
  • Unsubscribe: ask yourself, “when was the last time I actually read that newsletter?” Take the second to unsubscribe and save yourself time and CO2 production in the future.
  • Talk in person: Sometimes a simple 30 second conversation can solve a problem that would take 10 emails back and forth. Plus, relationships are good.

Less Social Media, More Social

In the grand scheme of things, Social Media isn’t a major carbon contributor. Using Facebook for one year emits about as much carbon as drinking a latte. But, every bit counts and awareness of social media’s impact on your business and the environment is still relevant.

How social is social media if you’re forgoing in-person interactions for sending a reply or clicking “like”? Turn off those annoying push notifications and reduce your stress while reducing your carbon footprint. You might also consider deleting any unused accounts. Cleaning up your unused brand assets can help protect your privacy as well as streamline your message, all while reducing CO2 emissions. SingleHop recommends Just Delete Me for deleting your account from almost any service out there.

The bigger picture issue is, where do social media giants like Twitter and Facebook get their power? Facebook has an electricity bill of over $1 million. But there is some hope. After significant pressure, in December 2011 Facebook announced its goal to run on renewable energy. According to Facebook, in 2013 their energy mix was 14% clean and renewable, 34% coal, 23% nuclear, 17% natural gas and 12% purchased by utilities in the market. Facebook claims to still be on track to hit 25% renewable energy sources by the end of 2015, but the percentage of clean and renewable energy in their mix has declined over the last two years.

Cloud Your Data

The exponential growth of “the cloud” is turning IT and cloud computing into one of the fastest growing sectors in terms of energy consumption. This provides a unique opportunity as providers have the ability to direct us all towards a cleaner grid. And some green cloud providers are doing just that. The cloud isn’t just for large corporations anymore, cloud-based services can help small businesses reduce costs and their carbon footprint. Maybe it’s time to take advantage of economies of scale and move to the cloud. You could be wasting energy, space and money by keeping your servers on site.  Small Business Trends mentions, “According to one survey in 2010, a small business with 100 users could cut its carbon footprint and energy costs by 90% by moving to the cloud.”

  • Are your servers underutilized? Few companies can actually justify the cost of efficient network hardware. Using a managed hosting service that optimizes its network hardware might make more sense for your energy bills and environmental goals.
  • Cooling advantages: many on-site servers use basic cooling systems like fans or AC systems while large cloud storage centers can develop advanced cooling technologies that are much more efficient.
  • Use only what you need: many cloud providers will offer pay-as-you-go plans that allow you to only pay for the data you need. In the long run this makes financial and environmental sense.
  • Virtual backup: Even if you have an onsite server, off-site backups are a necessary protection. A second server can hike up your energy costs as well as increasing your carbon footprint. Using a virtual backup service is not only secure but it can take advantages of the energy efficiency of a virtual provider.
  • Choose a green provider: Some cloud providers like GreenQloud are run completely on renewable energy sources.

Employ the Power of the Internet: Tools to Green Your Business

O.K., we can see that surprisingly the Internet has a massive footprint of it’s own. But to be fair, it has done a lot to decrease the environmental impact of business at the same time. Here are some innovative ways that your business can use the Internet to run a greener ship. 

Seek Out Paperless Business Services

Many services that have traditionally used mounds of paper are now available to businesses as paperless options.

  • Small business loans: Some small business loan providers are creating seamless application processes that are completely online. This doesn’t only save trees, but it also saves your business paperwork headaches and processing and approval times tend to be significantly faster. Check out our partner IOU Central’s super fast online application process.
  • Employee Payroll: again, normally associated with tons of paperwork. But no more! Paperless payroll providers offer integrated services like online reporting, paperless statements and direct deposit. Cutting out paper and shipping impacts of traditional paper methods can reduce your emissions and your HR bills.
  • Use An E-Fax Service: Even in today’s technologically advanced offices, thankfully nothing can replace an original signature. Fax documents still have a place in our business world, but that doesn’t mean that you need to use a stack of paper every time you receive a fax. Look into a paperless fax service that will deliver fax documents directly into your inbox as well as send faxes to other people without the hassle of printing out and faxing something in a big fax machine.

Encourage A Greener Commute

Not every company can afford to pay their employees to bike to work or provide solar-powered shuttles for transportation to the office. However, no matter your budget, your commuters can use Google Maps to look up green commute options like bike routes, street views that preview walking terrain, public transit routes (schedules and fares) and electric vehicle charging stations.

The Guardian makes a good point, “On the other hand, the internet is likely to be crucial to any move to a low-carbon world. Without its capacity to carry the huge flows of energy data, there could be no “smart grid”, for example, and without online video conferencing it would be much harder to reduce the number of business flights in coming years. Ultimately, then, it’s not just technological developments that will affect the growing carbon footprint of the Internet. Just as important is how we choose to use it.”

eco friendly office cleaning

Why Eco-Friendly Office Cleaning is a Hard Sell Despite these 7 Powerful Benefits

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IzzitGreen recently caught up with Michael Gottlieb, Managing Partner for Advanced Green Solutions (AGS), to learn about the world of commercial green cleaning: its worth and its challenges. Based in California, AGS is one of the top 20 fastest growing providers in the MilliCare network. MilliCare is an international commercially-focused carpet and textile care provider with a robust sustainability story centered on the use of its proprietary Dry Care technology. The network works throughout the world and maintains the US Green Building Council headquarters as one testament to depth of the organization’s sustainability. Through my conversation with Michael, I learned about the advantages of choosing a green cleaning provider and considered it was an easy sell. I was surprised to learn that eco-friendly office cleaning doesn’t always sell itself, even with these seven convincing reasons.

1. Provide Better Business Environment through Improved Air Quality

Ahhhhh. To breathe easily at work is priceless. Cleaner air at your business can create a safer, more enjoyable work environment for your employees and a superior experience for your customers. Fresh, clean air has been shown to boost workplace productivity by as much as 10% and green building owners can promote these and other environmental benefits to prospective tenants to add value to real estate. Cleaner air can come from MilliCare’scarpet cleaning system that has been shown to improve indoor air quality by as much as 99% by removing pollutants from your carpet. A proper cleaning helps keep volatile organic compounds, mold, bacteria and other potential allergens out of your air. So, take a deep breath and get back to doing what you do best.

2. Save Money and the Earth with Reduced Water, Energy and Carbon Emissions

Typically water usage is a substantial environmental cost of traditional carpet cleaning methods, but a dry-centered method uses 99.5% less water than water-based cleaning systems. To put it another way, MilliCare’s dry system saves an average of 50 gallons of water for every 10,000 feet of carpet cleaned over traditional water-based methods. The bottom line: less water usage means a lower water bill for your business.

Additionally, green cleaners can help you lower your energy bill and reduce your environmental impact. In fact, hot water extraction methods use up to 319% more energy to clean the same space as MilliCare, which translates into 77% higher emissions. Using a dry method can save you 85% on your electricity bill. To understand just what an impact this can have,  MilliCare’s international network cleaned more than 400 million square feet of carpet in 2014 and saved more than 17 million gallons of water, more than 2.5 million kilowatt hours of energy and more than 1,500 tons of carbon emissions! Michael offers an example, “We do a year-end report for many of our clients, and for one client last year we saved them about 3,300 gallons of water, 2,300 kilowatt hours of energy and about three-quarters of a ton of carbon emissions. And that’s for one client.” That’s a huge impact. Michael comments, “A lot of people only think of green as installing photovoltaics or changing the light bulbs or adding low flow water filters. All of that is terrific and a necessary part of sustainability, but we feel like we can plug into any facility and provide significant savings for them.” Who doesn’t want lower operating costs and to reduce their environmental footprint without having to invest in your facility?

3. Save Money with Less Waste and Lower Replacement Costs

A long lasting carpet starts with fibers that stay clean and strong. All traditional cleaning methods leave behind water and soap residue that weaken carpet fibers and attract additional soiling, causing them to become dirty again more quickly.  A dry-method applies an eco-friendly polymer that clings to soil in the carpet but not the carpet itself. When the polymer is vacuumed away, clean and smooth fibers are all that are left. Longer lasting carpets not only dump less waste into landfills, but they also lower operating costs, as you don’t have to replace your carpet nearly as often. In fact, with a proper, sensible maintenance program MilliCare can help extend the life of a carpet by as much as a third to help you maximize the value of your carpet investments.

4. Boost your Progress or Keep your Promise to LEED Certification

Using an eco-friendly carpet and textile cleaner can support 4 of the 6 LEED Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance categories: Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality. AGS can even assist with your LEED renewal. Whether you already have a LEED certified building or you’re working toward certification, a strong supporting cleaning partner is an increasingly importantstep as the USGBC raises the bar on LEED certification. AGS goes a step further with personalized data, “A lot of our clients on the commercial side have committed to sustainability, either they are Energy Star rated or LEED certified buildings so we provide them with reporting when we service their facility.”

While LEED certification is incredibly valuable as anenvironmental initiative, it can also provide several other benefits. Becoming serious about running a greener business can deliver social and financial rewards. Depending on your local government participation, you could be eligible for tax credits, tax breaks, reduced fees, grants and/or low-interest loans, not to mention, the long-term cost savings and admiration of your customers for your commitment to green.

5. Get Back to Work with Fewer Disturbances and Saved Time

Tired of waiting around for your just-cleaned carpets to dry? Sick of scheduling building cleaning at awkward times to avoid a disturbance? With a dry-centered method your carpet is ready to use as soon as your cleaners are done. Plus, who wants to worry about cleaning when you’ve got a business to run? Michael says, “Floor care is often not at the top of people’s priorities … until they have a problem. Problems can be expensive and disruptive, especially if you have to replace your carpet unnecessarily. We protect your carpet and take the issue of floor care off your plate and we do it in the least disruptive way possible. You just come into work in the morning and the only thing you notice is clean carpet.” Your journey from dirty to clean without needing time to dry is invaluable to your busy schedule. Plus, if you’re a smaller business, hiring a professional green cleaning service can save you time and energy, leaving you to dedicate yourself to running your great-green business.

6. Supports Healthier Employees and Lower Insurance Costs

By using a green cleaning service that has committed to dispensing with many toxic chemicals, you can harbor a safer business environment for your employees and customers. Some cleaning products have been shown to contribute to eye, skin and respiratory irritation as well as asthma, allergic reactions, and with longer exposure even reproductive problems and cancer. Reducing chemicals from your cleaning approach can greatly reduce the potential for harm by minimizing everyone’s exposure through ingestion, inhalation and skin exposure. For example, AGS just launched SHINE Hard Surface Care, Michael explains, “A lot of the processes that we use for different areas allow us to completely dispense with any chemicals and every case where we can, we use Green Seal certified products. . . For ones that can’t certify under Green Seal, for example, certain disinfectants won’t qualify under Green Seal, we seek to minimize their use in the facilities we maintain or eliminate them altogether. For example, we can strip a floor without using a single chemical. If you’ve ever been in a building where the floors are being stripped, you know how unpleasant that can be.”

Many insurance companies recognize that using an eco-friendly cleaner reduces toxic stress on our bodies. Green-certified cleaning products are made from less toxic compounds that cut down on indoor air pollution and contaminants in the water and solid waste streams of a business, which translates to an all around healthier and safer environment. Some insurance companies may even offer a discount on a company’s health insurance premiums with proof of a contract with a green cleaner.

7. Provides Better Service at Competitive Prices

As consumers are recognizing the many benefits of more eco-friendly products and services, prices are plummeting across the board. According to Jason Luke, Associate Director of Custodial Support Services at Harvard University Medical Center, “In the past, green cleaning products were more expensive, but that is not the case anymore. At minimum the decision to use green cleaning products will be cost neutral. A strong case can be made for cost savings, but this largely depends on what one is switching from.” Often part of a greener cleaning approach involves cost savings by replacing a pre-prepared traditional cleaning product with a highly concentrated more eco-friendly cleaner.

Similarly Michael explains, ”Cost is always a factor. . .generally everyone assumes that when they hear green, that generally we’re going to be more expensive. But we’re extremely competitive on price, we have to be because if you are not economically sustainable than you won’t be environmentally sustainable.” AGS understands that it has to be competitive on price and exception on service to continue growing its business because the reality is that green is not a top priority for most businesses, not above the bottom line at least. But, green service providers often provide superior service and experience as a by-product of focusing on their environmental impact. Michael elaborates, “A lot of times sustainability is just being a little bit smarter and more thoughtful. . . .There are just much better ways of doing things today, than how people have always done them. You just have to be open to change”

Eco-Friendly Office Cleaning is a No-Brainer Right?

From their beginnings in 2011, Michael at Advanced Green Solutions wanted, “to challenge some of the pre-conceived notions that persist with being green: that it is complicated and expensive and that you have to sacrifice service or quality in order to operate sustainably.” Nevertheless, he recognized his ambitious mission especially in the service world where the issue of sustainability is incredibly complicated. “There’s a lot of green washing out there and a lot of the folks that are established in the industry have co-opted sustainability in their marketing and their branding but they have only modestly incorporated it into their actual practice.” Thin green claims and a higher price leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. “Frankly we find that with most of it, even the more sustainable operators out there, if you start to peel back the layers on their story it gets pretty thin, and they usually charge a premium to be green. None of that really flies for us.”

There is a very real and persistent notion that something must be sacrificed if a company goes green, and AGS has to constantly fight through that misconception. Michael, elaborates, “Because we do things differently than what people are used to seeing, we do have to spend a lot of time educating people, showing them what we do, sharing with them who we’re working with already to reassure them that we do what we say. Delivering on what we promise is paramount for us. You would be surprised how few service providers believe in that – green or not.”

California’s drought has pushed water conservation to the forefront and providing a safe work environment for employees should be a priority considering that salaries are usually a business’ biggest operating expense but saving water or providing a cleaner healthier work environment is often one of the last things that AGS discusses with prospective clients. Sustainability often is not a priority for many people, even in eco-minded California. Michael relates, “Most people are so busy and the things that we’re addressing are almost things they don’t want to have to deal with or think about. The issue ultimately is where green fits into the hierarchy of priorities for our clients, and truth be told even with clients that are really committed to sustainability, green is not the first issue on their list.”

Despite these obstacles and perceptions Advanced Green Solutions adapts and powers forward. AGS has figured out how to be a resource for businesses at either end of the sustainability spectrum and to thrive. Michael explains, “For some clients we are that low hurdle, first step toward sustainability. We introduce them to sustainability in an easy way. And then for other clients who have really committed to sustainability we’re one more tool in their tool belt that compliments and enhances what their green commitments.” It’s not easy for businesses to dig through everything and figure out what works and what doesn’t, and who’s sustainable and who’s not. Luckily for them in the green commercial cleaning space at least, AGs has done that homework for them and can deliver on the pillars of sustainability, value and service.

Your space, your staff and your customers are what make your business great. If you want to run a greener business, you can replace your light bulbs and recycle your printer paper, or you can make a significant environmental difference and change the way you run your facility. That means finding truly sustainable service providers.

It might be scary, it might make you worry about quality, and you might doubt you can afford it. But it’s not, you shouldn’t, and you can. It’s for the benefit of everyone, including your business.

About Advanced Green Solutions

Based in Van Nuys, California, AGS provides top of the line green commercial cleaning services and strives to supply, “Simple, easy to use services that everyone can understand, that are deeply green, save people money, and give them better results and service.” Along with carpet and textile services, the company provides a zero-waste moving service – Rent A Moving Box – and in 2014 it launched an eco-friendly hard surface maintenance program –SHINE Hard Surface Care – which offers the latest floor care technology and products to offer a more sustainable, less disruptive and more cost effective alternative to traditional floor care. So far in 2014, AGS has saved on behalf of its clients more than 51,000 gallons of water, 7,100 kWh of energy, 2.4 tons of carbon emissions and kept more than 5 tons of waste out of landfills.

Find out more at www.AdvancedGreenSolutions.com. Or www.rentamovingbox.biz

electronics recycling

E-Waste’s Dirty Secret: Is Your Business Contributing?

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The E-Waste Crisis

As a responsible business owner, you know you should be recycling your old electronics. However, you might think your efforts only translate to less waste in our country’s landfills, but unfortunately our e-waste crisis is actually a global issue. In fact, over half of all U.S. electronic waste is shipped overseas to countries where environmental regulations are not as strict. What can’t be sold by workers – mostly young teenagers – is burned, releasing incredibly toxic pollutants like lead, arsenic and flame retardants into the air that damage the environment and local communities. Check out this startling video by Gizmogul.

And the problem isn’t going away. Electronic waste is actually the fastest growing waste stream in our society and is expected to continue growing 8% a year, indefinitely. How did we get into this crisis situation? Electronics waste has always been an issue, however, more recently the combination of explosive growth of technology, toxic design, little financial incentive to recycle, and lack of regulation have created the perfect storm.

Instead of contributing to this crisis, your business has other options. Donating your old electronics to a responsible e-waste collection company can help your used equipment find a new home with someone who needs it. Your functioning printers, phone systems and computers are just sitting in storage and taking up space, when they could be giving someone in your community a head start. Plus, recycling your broken electronics in a responsible way keeps them from ending up as a toxic embers across the globe.

Responsible E-Waste Collection

Not just that we recycle, but how we recycle matters, as Gizmodo explains. “It’s far more profitable for unscrupulous e-waste recycling companies to simply ship off their junk to distant African shores than to actually process the electronics themselves. And it’s not like first world consumers have any control over what happens to their electronics after they trade them in.”

Intrigued by the importance of responsible e-waste recycling, we recently caught up with Mitch Johnson from Living Green Technology (LGT) to get some insight into e-waste collection and how businesses can easily take part. The Seattle based company was formed a year ago when Mitch and his college friend Tyler Rivers brainstormed a better way to deal with e-waste.

Living Green Technology provides free e-waste shipping labels, on-site pickups and after hours drop-off, sustaining their free service by reselling functional electronics. Mitch elaborates, “Anything that can make us a buck so that we keep providing the service for the community. . . we see it more as a service to the community, than a business.”

Businesses in the Seattle region can sign up online or contact Living Green Tech directly to arrange the best collection method. By testing almost everything themselves, LGT is able to sell or donate nearly everything they receive. And if they can’t take something, they will work with customers and recommend another recycler or collection company that can. Non-salvageable electronics are taken to a local E-Cycle center, Washington’s free, responsible electronics recycling program to be processed in an environmentally friendly way. Just look at what E-Cycle has been able to accomplish in the last five years!

After the first point of contact, it’s a pretty quick process, but sometimes getting businesses to make that first step can be a challenge. Mitch encourages, “A lot of this hardware is just sitting in people’s storage units or basements, but it could be put to much better use. There’s plenty of people in the community that still don’t have a working computer, so just being able to put that hardware back out there to be used. . .We see it as a good way to give back to the community.”

Tips to Help your Business Recycle E-Waste Responsibly

Here are some great tips from Mitch and Electronics TakeBack to help your business responsibly recycle its e-waste. Obviously, the first step is to not throw your electronics in the trash!

    1.        Plan Before you Make the Switch

Moving to a new phone or computer system in the office can be a very exciting, hectic and frustrating time for your business. Mitch stresses having a recycling plan in place before you purchase your new system. “Once you get the new system there’s this huge surge to get that system working, but no one is figuring out what to do with the old system.” One year later that old system is still sitting in a closet and now that technology is one year older and less likely to help out another small business in your area.  Living Green Technology has worked with numerous small businesses who purchase used technologies from them at very reasonable prices. This allows more capital for building their business as opposed to a huge investment in phone systems and computers.

    2.        Find a Responsible E-Waste Service Provider

According to Mitch, lack of information is one of the largest hurdles facing electronics recycling today. “I feel that a lot of people just have no idea what they’re supposed to do with electronics.” Luckily this is becoming easier and easier. For cell phones, recycling services like E-Cycle, Capstone Wireless, and Call2Recycle are available across the country. Using directories like Greener Gadgets, e-Stewards and Earth911, you can enter your zip code to locate responsible providers in your area. If there are no responsible services in your area, check if the manufacturer of your electronic device has a Manufacturer Take Back Program. If you still can’t find anything, both Staples and Best Buy have electronic recycling programs at their store locations everywhere.

    4.        Check Services

If your electronics are still functional, donate your electronics for reuse whenever possible. Try the National Cristina Foundation or World Computer Exchange. Many recyclers, like LGT, will also refurbish and resell or donate your electronics. Not all providers have the ability to process all electronics, so make sure to verify that yours can accept what you have to dispose.

    5.        Erase your data

Before handing over your computer it’s important to completely erase your data. That doesn’t mean just deleting your files, it’s necessary to completely “wipe” your hard drive so that your files are not retrievable by anyone else. Some providers like LGT will do this for free, otherwise you can download free software to do it for you. Active@KillDisk and Softpedia DP Wiper are good options.

Part of being a good-green business is looking at every life-cycle stage for the products and services you provide as well as the ones you use. One of the most important areas where your business can make the most impact is disposal. This becomes even more relevant as new technologies like VoIP and cloud computing replace massive phone systems and computing equipment.

The crisis is about to get a lot worse.

Do your part and expend that extra minuscule amount of effort to recycle or dispose of your electronics responsibly.

The benefits could be as local as jump starting a small neighborhood business, or as global as improving air quality in Africa, India and China.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

zero waste events

Catering Company Achieves 85% Diversion Rate using Commercial Composting: Ranks with Whole Foods

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According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the meeting and event industry represents the second most wasteful industry in the country behind construction. Additionally, waste audits conducted by the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. (NERC) through a USDA-funded project, found that more than one pound per person of food waste is typically generated at meetings and special events. When people gather at special events, waste is inevitably generated. Right?

Wrong. Event companies across the country are increasing their diversion rate and moving towards “Zero Waste” events because it’s gotten to the point where it just makes good business sense.  Reducing and diverting food waste not only cuts greenhouse gas emissions of an event, but can also: lower management costs, contribute to a cleaner event, attract sponsors, enhance event profile, provide advertising. . .and the list goes on and on.

We recently caught up with Vice President and Co-Owner of A Spice of Life, Dan Bruckner, to learn about composting in the catering industry and how it’s helped his company achieve an impressive diversion rate, score some high profile event clients, be a runner-up to Whole Foods and boost his business throughout Colorado.

A Seed is Sown

Best friends in college, Dan and David Rubin followed separate paths in the restaurant and hospitality industries before both ending up in Boulder, CO working at a catering company called A Spice of Life. A few years later they teamed up once again and took over A Spice of Life in 1995. At the time,  the company was already recycling glass, plastic and cardboard at their events.  The special occasion that changed everything, however, didn’t happen until years later.

In 2005 a company called Eco-Cycle hosted an awards function at A Spice of Life’s event center. Eco-Cycle is one of the largest non-profit recyclers in the country and was the driving force behind the Boulder recycling program that started in 1976 when it became one of the first communities to offer curbside recycling in the country.

After the event, Dan was approached about composting and Eco-Cycle’s pitch was simple and hard to ignore. “The next thing that you can do is you can start to compost. With commercial composting, everything is composted at a higher temperature which means that we can even take meat and bones and dairy. We put another dumpster in your parking lot, come up with another truck, and all you have to do is separate that stuff. We come and take it away, that’s it.”

Commercial Composting- Why It Matters

From speaking with Dan, it’s immediately clear that he has become a wholehearted ambassador of Eco-Cycle and commercial composting within his business and his industry and here’s partly why. According to Compostable Organics Out of Landfills (COOL), biodegradable materials such as paper products, food scraps and yard trimmings amount to half of our discarded items. When buried in a landfill, they don’t just break down as they would in a compost pile. They decompose without oxygen, and in the process become the number one source of human-caused methane. Methane is now understood to be 72 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period, which means our landfills emit the greenhouse gas equivalent of 20 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants every year!

Commercial composting allows businesses to compost things that would normally not be possible in a back yard compost pile. Compost from events is picked up and taken to an industrial composting facility where huge piles can reach 150 degrees, allowing them to break down more items and destroy pathogens. This makes it safe to compost paper towels, tissues and raw meat. Four months later that event waste is returned to the Earth to feed plants or improve degraded land. Garbage becomes a nutrient-rich additive that restores farmland and encourages sustainable agriculture which replaces “polluting petroleum-based, energy-intensive, greenhouse gas-generating fertilizers used to produce crops on declining lands.”

Dan elaborates, “It’s just not that hard to do. The science behind it will show it’s important. And if we can make it as common as recycling. . . we can make a gigantic impact.” In the commercial composting set-up it’s easy to do because  all food is compostable, there’s no need to throw any of it in the trash.” Composting biodegradable items is also one of the cheapest and most effective ways a business can immediately reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. And with Eco-Cycle and other commercial composting providers, it has become as easy and cost-effective as traditional trash removal.  Wendell Simonson, Vice President of Marketing for Eco-Products adds, “What better time to reach people than when they’re relaxed, taking in a concert and having a beer?  They’re holding a cup and seeing that they can place it in something other than a trash bin.”

Cost- Benefit Analysis

For businesses looking to reduce costs and increase sustainability, Dan recommends looking to your local recycling center or trash company. Ask yourself “How much would it increase my monthly waste service costs?” Then, Dan recommends, “Crunch the numbers and see what your impact would be for the year. I think it’s offset by the press coverage, goodwill from clients, and new business from those who have made this a priority. In the end, you are doing the right thing.

Small steps go a long way, and sometimes just being able to measure something is very powerful. Dan comments, “Start measuring your diversion rate and how you can impact it. You’ll probably end up surprising yourself, I know we did. We were shocked. That became the catalyst and just kept getting better and better.”

First Dan investigated the additional costs that were associated with commercial composting. At the time, compostable, disposable products such as forks, plates, napkins and trash bags were just starting to become available, so everything was slightly more expensive. What Eco-Cycle helped Dan realize was that most of their waste was either compostable or recyclable. A Spice of Life did the math and decided that as a company it was important that they take on the additional expense. And so A Spice of Life shifted the way it operated in its pursuit of Zero Waste.

  • Price of Compostable Products: Dan claims the only thing still slightly more expensive than its non-compostable alternative is the compostable trash bags.
  • Disposal Fees: For A Spice of Life they are basically just offsetting trash weight for compost weight. As far as their waste removal expenses, they’re pretty much the same.

How They Do It

As in the early years of recycling, it’s really an education issue. By keeping things simple A Spice of Life was able to quickly and effectively integrate composting into its everyday operations. Take notes people.

  • Equipment: In their production kitchen, A Spice of Life has two trash cans next to each other. One for waste that can’t be composted and a larger one for most of their waste which is compostable.
  • Process: At the end of the day they bring it out to four dumpsters in their parking lot area. One for cardboard, one for co-mingled recyclables, one for trash and one for compost.  For off-site events, the company sends out two sets of trash cans. Recyclables go in one, compostables go in the other. Afterwards, they bring them back to their lot and put everything in their dumpsters.
  • Education: The company was able to simplify it into a slogan that everyone could understand. “If it once lived, it’s compostable,” (at least in Eco-Cycle’s commercial composting set up). They broke it down into very simple terms for their staff and since the bulk of their business is off-premise catering, it was very easy to teach their staff out there how to do it too.
  • Continuous Improvement: A Spice of Life made small changes to make their program even more successful. They changed to wooden stir sticks for coffee and paper plates when reusable china isn’t possible. So, all the disposables they use are compostable: plates, napkins, cups and utensils made of plant starch. The company hasn’t once ordered the plastic disposable products since the composting program started in 2005.

The Proof is in the Pudding: Getting Results

“It’s really cool, Eco-Cycle puts it in laymen’s terms for you. They weigh each dumpster and then they turn it into how many trees or how many gallons of water saved., . It’s something you can look at and say, ‘we’re really making an amazing impact here.’ . . . It’s an incredible  achievement and so we distribute this information company..” Last year A Spice of Life’s Diversion rate hovered between 72-85% and by the end of the year the company had saved over 155 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, 219 lbs of water pollution, and 519 lbs of toxic air pollutants.

Zero Waste and sustainability is very prevalent in A Spice of Life’s marketing and sales pitches because Dan explains,

“it’s important to us, it’s important to people out here and it definitely gives us an edge.”

And their hard work has paid off. The company has won numerous awards including: “Best of Wedding Caterers” by theknot.com in 2007-2011/2013 and the “Editor’s Choice Award” by Colorado Home & Lifestyles Magazine in 2008. Also in 2008 Eco-Cycle awarded A Spice of Life for their outstanding efforts to becoming a Zero Waste Catering Company. Since, they’ve received Runner-Up to grocer and caterer, Whole Foods of Boulder. Dan beams, “It’s nice to be mentioned in the same brass as other industry leaders that have entire departments dedicated to it [sustainability], like Whole Foods.”

Boulder recently hosted the Ironman Triathlon which A Spice of Life catered several events for. For the Ironman folks sustainability was a deciding factor. Dan comments, “It’s very relevant and it definitely helps us win business. It pushes us over the hump against someone else who’s not really doing it. . . we make it known that this is a priority that we pride ourselves on.”

Going Further and Looking Forward

A Spice of Life concentrates on Zero Waste events and their diversion rates, but they are also pursuing other sustainability initiatives, both for the near future and in the long run. Right now, their Farm to Table program offers a monthly special menu during the growing season that is 100% locally sourced, as well as several events at local farms. For a catering company, using local produce can be a challenge. “The challenge is that we have events in January and people in Colorado want pineapple from time to time..” Despite seasonal availability Dan has noticed a silver lining of cost savings. “It’s more cost effective to use ingredients that are available seasonally and locally, and you’re going to have better quality. . prices fluctuate a lot less on locally sourced products when  in season compared to conventionally grown products which are available year round, those tend to fluctuate much more.”

In the near future, A Spice of Life’s next big sustainability project revolves around equipment and the construction of a new commercial kitchen. Dan hopes to construct the new kitchen using newer technology that saves energy and resources, and will hopefully procure additional green certifications for the company.

Further down the road, Dan hopes to see the availability of biodegradable products expand with the help of new technologies. A Spice of Life is constantly watching out for new products.  Dan dreams, “our biggest volume of trash at off premise events is saran-wrap.. It’s not recyclable and is often dirty so it has to go into the trash. For years we have been waiting for a sugar, corn or plant-based saran-wrap to come out but I don’t think it can hold up to the heat. If someone could invent that I bet our diversion rate would go up by another 5%.”

There was a time when recycling was almost unheard of, but through education and exposure gradually people and then communities started to make an effort. And efforts became habits until recycling became custom. Dan’s strong belief in our ability to do the same with composting, especially in the food industry where we can make such an impact, is inspiring.

“It’s education, once most people see how easy it is to do.

It’s not more work.

It’s not a burden.

It just becomes commonplace and easy.”

 

 

Green_University_Cafeterias_Header

10 Ways to Increase University Food Service Sustainability

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While I was completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo in Honors Environment and Business, Co-op, I was involved in the University of Waterloo Sustainability Project  working on various environmental projects across campus. I was constantly impressed by the sustainability initiatives undertaken by the Food Services Department. For example, Food Services shows commitment to supporting the local economy by offering a farmer’s market to provide fresh, local produce, honey and baked goods to students, staff, and faculty. The Waterloo Campus also uses environmentally friendly, compostable cutlery and take-out containers at all of its dining locations and cafeteria trays that are made out of recycled material. The University of Waterloo’s Food Department is on the  front lines of developing and executing environmental initiatives that leave a smaller carbon footprint on our planet, promote the well-being of students, faculty, and staff and save the University money.

Meanwhile, “sustainability” is the new buzzword in University Food Service, as they’re increasingly incorporating environmental initiatives that promote healthier eating and reduce waste and energy usage. And it’s no wonder, when a sustainable focus makes educational, environmental and economic sense for any academic cafeteria. Making your university cafeteria more sustainable doesn’t need to be an expensive investment or an overwhelming project.  Start by reviewing these ten simple ideas. Small steps go a long way.

1. Have Local Produce Available

“What we eat is what we become.” My parents used to always say that to me. The local-and-seasonal food movement is gaining popularity because people are becoming aware of the associated health and environmental impacts of their food choices. By making locally grown fruits and vegetables accessible to your students, you can promote healthy eating , more sustainable choices and a superior learning environment.  Brown University in Providence, RI offers locally farmed apples and has recently begun to provide local tomatoes, peaches and milk. Similarly, the University of Montana offers locally produced meat, wheat, and dairy products, while at Evergreen State College, 35% of the food sold is local and organic.

With growing awareness and education, students are making better nutritional choices and they’re looking for healthier food options. Since they rarely have the time or means to cook, and don’t always have the funds to constantly eat out, they depend heavily on their university’s cafeteria to satisfy their daily nutritional needs. If healthy choices are available at universities, then students are more likely to avoid poor food choices that can lead to lower productivity and performance in school and in life. Now you just have to step-up and provide those better options for them.

2. Provide Reusable Utensils and Containers to Minimize Waste

Instead of using plastic cutlery that is non-biodegradable and poor for the environment, invest in stainless steel cutlery and utensils that can be washed and re-used daily. For example, the University of Vermont has developed an effective hybrid program. They have stainless steel utensils available, but for those students who prefer plastic, reusable utensils, the university sells reusable “sporks” for a buck each. When you absolutely have to use disposable utensils or dishware, look for biodegradable and compostable options like those made from corn and potatoes!

Everyone is on the go, but that doesn’t mean that your campus should be littered with toxic Styrofoam takeout containers. Review the multitude of biodegradable and reusable options available and increase your landfill diversion rate. For example, EcoTakeouts are financially-smart containers can be checked out by students and then returned to be sanitized. They’re also stack-able, recyclable, and dishwasher/microwave safe. At Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, “students get a free Tupperware-style container they can use, return dirty and trade in for a clean one. Students who lose them will be charged $5 for a replacement. The change will eliminate the use of 120,000 foam containers a year.”

3. Introduce an Effective Recycling and Compost Program

University cafeterias typically generate large amounts of trash and food waste, but with proper recycling this problem can be almost eliminated. An effective recycling program differentiates among types of waste, rather than piling everything in the garbage. However, education is critical to the success of any waste management program, and clearly marked bins don’t hurt either. Outreach efforts such as posters or flyers can help explain programs and increase campus awareness of sustainability initiatives. At Iowa State University, “brightly colored posters in the dining halls vividly displayed before‐and‐after results of an October 2008 Food Waste Campaign, helping students discern which waste items could be composted. Students within ISU Dining Services made T‐shirts featuring slogans such as ‘Compost Happens’ to inform other students that their food waste would become a ‘usable product’ at ISU’s composting facility.” Iowa State has also been able to avoid significant disposal charges as a result of their recycling efforts!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) The U.S. generates more than 34 million tons of food waste each year, which makes it the largest component filling landfills today. Implementing a compost program can drastically reduce these statistics. An inspiring story comes from Oberlin College where a project converted grounds tractors and lawn mowers to run on leftover vegetable oil from the dining halls. Even with the additional expenses for engine conversion and oil collection, Oberlin estimates a annual cost savings of $4,660.

4. Energy Star Equipment

Commercial kitchens use incredible amounts of energy and water. When purchasing any type of equipment, such as a dishwasher, look for Energy Star Rated items. Energy Star products are independently certified to save energy without sacrificing features or functionality. They use less energy, are good for the environment, and can save your university a lot of money. Harvard University has invested over $900,000 in equipment upgrades and estimates an average 28% return on investment. By reducing both water and energy needs, more efficient equipment can be incredibly cost-effective in the long run. Similarly, the University of Notre Dame reports a annual savings of $600 on Energy Star fryers and and a savings of over $1,000 in energy and water use for dishwashers.

5. Reduce Paper Use

One creative way to eliminate the use of paper in print menus or other promotional material is to use a chalk board instead to provide a rundown of the daily or weekly food menu. You can reinvent your food options easily to keep your menu enticing and exciting. Place the board right in front of the cafeteria so that it’s easy to see and always accessible. This will eliminate extra cost of purchasing paper and other resources.

Another more obvious suggestion is to replace paper towels with hand dryers next to your sinks for faculty and students to use after washing their hands. There are many types of hand dryers and purchasing one can save energy and HVAC expenses. Also, consider having towels available as opposed to napkins to clean up spills and messes, and use napkin dispensers to encourage students to grab fewer at once. Always reduce paper use where possible, but otherwise use 100% recycled paper.

6. Go Tray-less

As trays are used to carry plates, cups and utensils, they need to be washed daily to keep cleanliness a top priority. Plus, using a tray may encourage a student to grab more food than necessary, leading to even more food waste. From an environmental angle, the truth is in the numbers. At the University of Illinois, eliminating food trays saves them 516 gallons of water a day, or 110,940 gallons in an academic year.  By loosing the trays, your dining service can save money by using less energy to produce meals, create less food waste and eliminate the need for hot water and detergent for washing trays. By removing trays at Knox College, a dining official predicts a 30-50%  reduction in food waste, allowing the college to save $30,000 annually in food purchases.

7. Eliminate Plastic Water Bottles

At the University of California, San Diego they provide a reusable water bottle to each and every student at the beginning of the year to eliminate Styrofoam and plastic waste. Hence, students are encouraged to get into the habit of carrying their reusable water bottles around and refilling them at water stations. Using water filters and and reusable bottles around campus will ultimately save your university money due to the high cost of bottled water. After a few uses a reusable water pays for itself.  At Dartmouth students can purchase an affordable reusable water bottle at events held the main dining halls.  Going even further, the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, IN is putting those old plastic bottles to use and working towards the use of more recycled products, like picnic tables and benches, made from recycled plastic bottles.

8. Organize a Fun Contest

The University of Florida and Bates College organizes a Favorite-Vegan-Friendly Contest which helps universities offer vegan foods in their cafeterias. These types of contests motivate staff and students to make healthy eating choices, and encourage the  improvement in the overall quality of food that is being service each day. Contests are a great way to engage students and exchange ideas. Perhaps organize a different themed contest each month to keep things fresh.

Similarly, RecycleMania is a “friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Over an 8-week period each spring, colleges across the United States and Canada report the amount of recycling and trash collected each week and are in turn ranked.” In 2014 the event touched 461 campuses in all 50 states and recycled and composted 86 million pounds of waste! Antioch University in Seattle lead the pack and increased their recycling rate by 10% in one year.

9. Use Greener Cleaning Products

Chemicals in cleaning products used in dining areas can easily leach into the food and can be harmful to dining service employees and the throngs of students who come through your cafeteria everyday. By using chemical-free products, even the air quality in your cafeteria can improve. Look for cleaning products that are non-toxic and biodegradable. Baldwin Wallace University has adopted green cleaning products in all of it’s campus buildings and anticipates savings over $100,000.

10. Monitor Progress and Strive to Improve Each Year

Monitoring allows comparison among  universities encouraging other institutions to follow your ideas and do something similar and similarly, it will give your university a great opportunity to learn from the success other universities. Carleton College hopes to conduct energy audits specifically of their dining halls to be able to compare them in kind. This way similar energy and water saving measures could be implemented at all locations. Additionally, by developing this metric Carleton can revisit their data to assist future upgrade decisions based on cost effectiveness.

I hope you find these ten recommendations useful as you embark on a journey to make your university food service more sustainable. Remember that promoting sustainability starts at the grassroots level. Sustainability education can impact pro-environmental behavioral change and by providing incentives to your students for behavior change, and removing barriers from achieving simple goals, some of these ten recommendations can be easily incorporated in your university’s board mission.

When faculty, staff, and students all make an equal contributions to environmental improvements, your university can achieve an overall environmental and economical win-win solution.

The impact and cost savings can be astounding.

small business loans

Paperless Provides Edge in Small Business Loans Market

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It can seem counter intuitive, but often technology will pave the path toward increased sustainability. Such is the case for IzzitGreen service partner and small business loan provider, IOU Central. VP of Sales and Business Development, Jackie Nickell, explains that IOU Central has differentiated itself through its dedication to operating sans paper from the beginning, “We’re doing a loan product which most people would associate with a lot of paperwork. But, our application is completely online, the upload of documentation is done like you would upload a file on your email and then, when we go to close the loan. . .that’s all completely paperless as well.” While more environmentally friendly, IOU Central’s automated application and approval system eliminates both time and waste. Their approach has allowed them to make loans to qualified applicants in just a few business days instead of a few weeks and applications take as little as seven minutes.

IOU Central recently decided to take their green commitment a step further and connect with another IzzitGreen partner and top provider of green business certification, the Green Business Bureau. Jackie explains, “We felt like it aligned with IzzitGreen and our company. IOU is a paperless company and we lean on our technology to be efficient so that we have less people and therefore less waste. We’ve always been completely paperless, we’re technology based and we’re always pushing to be a better partner.”

As a better partner, IOU Central understands that their clients have a great business and want to grow it now. Bank loans have become increasingly difficult to get and no one wants to pay the outrageous fees that Merchant Cash Advance companies can get away with.  IOU Central offers an alternative – no hidden fees or arbitrary rate hikes, and automatic daily payments for easy cash flow management. Tip- IzzitGreen Business Rewards members also enjoy a discount on any loan they do with IOU Central which can lead up to a $1000 savings.

IOU Central’s sustainable approach to efficiency has allowed them to excel in a very specific space. The company focuses less on keeping a client forever and more on helping them grow to a point where they can go to the bank for their cash flow needs. Jackie elaborates, “We’re not in competition with a bank. We’re an alternative if a business can’t get approved at a bank. We strive to be a lower-cost lender in that space or one of the very lowest, which is where we are, which is a testament to the technology and being green, I think. Being green saves green. We’ve had a number of nice testimonials and good companies that have grown and moved on and have become bigger companies and that feels good.”

In the past, businesses have spent precious money, time and space managing paper records, applications and forms. Thanks to newer technologies and increased security surrounding electronic documents, businesses everywhere are reducing costs and increasing operational efficiency at the same time by going paperless. Think of how much time is saved for example if a client were to request a certain document, pulling up a digital copy and emailing it is much more efficient than searching for a hard copy and mailing it to them.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has some great tips for getting started:

  • Scan and save all paper documents in PDF format to your chosen virtual
  • Use an electronic program to maintain billable time records.
  • Use instant messaging programs to leave messages or communicate electronically with colleagues.
  • Maintain hard copies of only what is absolutely necessary – going paperless doesn’t mean that you’ll no longer need to have certain documents in paper form.
  • Send electronic faxes instead of paper faxes.
  • Give employees or clients CDs or electronic attachments instead of bound folders or cumbersome documents.

And if you’re already paperless SBA points out some downfalls to avoid:

  • Nothing less than 100%: going paperless with only some of your document is just confusing and creates more work for staff instead of the time savings associated with an electronic system
  • Invest First: your business may need to invest some time and money into making the new system work. Getting quality software and taking the time to scan your hard documents may seem like a lot of work at first, but the pay-offs are worth it.
  • Set up practices and stick too them: old habits die hard, but making clear procedures for each step of the process and staying true to those procedures will reduce mistakes and ensure a successful transition.

How has going paperless improved your business?

 

eco-friendly cookware

Keep Your Restaurant’s Organic Promise with Eco-Friendly Cookware

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You’re constantly adjusting your menu to meet the changing needs and desires of your customers. You’re tuning into the fact that your customers may have a variety of dietary restrictions or preferences, offering meals that are vegetarian, vegan, organic and gluten-free. Restaurant goers are becoming more health conscious and increasingly aware of the risks associated with unhealthy eating and choosing restaurants that are pricier, yet offer high-quality and tasty food. In a recent study, “Studying a diverse group of consumers, they found that quality and freshness of food tends to be more important than pricing and deals.”

As people get busier, they don’t always have time to make high-quality, home cooked meals. Instead, they go to their favorite restaurants expecting to be served a meal that is equally wholesome without the time and effort of making it themselves. Franchise Help notes that,”Food quality and preparation at traditional fast food restaurants has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years and been shown to have negative health consequences, coincident with a general change in consumer attitudes towards healthy diet and lifestyle.” Your restaurant can excel, if you can master this intersection between health and convenience.

But what does “healthy” mean to this increasingly wellness-focused consumer base? Research shows that more and more customers are using words like “sustainable” and “natural” to define healthy food options, and that interest in these new criteria have risen by 20-50% since 2010. Customers are becoming more educated on where their food comes from and how it’s prepared.

In order to appeal to your more educated customers and offer them your highest quality meals, it’s imperative to consider eco-friendly cookware. Many premium restaurants have already started adopting eco-friendly pots and pans to enforce their focus on serving high quality, sustainable and organic meals. But nowadays, feasibility is more widespread as eco-friendly cookware is less expensive and options and brands available are broader to meet your restaurant’s cooking style and budget.

We know customers want it, here are five more reasons to consider eco-friendly cookware and why you should want it in your kitchen too. “Sustainability is more than a fad, it’s the new way of doing business in the restaurant industry,” said Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association. Addressing environmental issues at your restaurant can be a step-by-step process that will more than pay-off in higher consumer and employee satisfaction, a reduced environmental footprint and saved money on operating costs.

1. Eco-Friendly Cookware is Safer

When reviewing cookware options for your restaurant, forefront should be the possibility of chemicals and toxins leaching into your food with traditional options, especially when high temperatures are involved. This phenomenon is far from safe for your cooks as well as your customers. Not only can these toxins leach into the food you serve, but they can also leach into the environment, which can cause poor air quality to circulate around your restaurant. Eco-friendly cookware is often non-reactive so that acids cannot be released into your food during the cooking process. It can also enhance the quality, taste, and flavor of your food, attracting more customers to visit your restaurant.

Recently, a major concern has been that Teflon non-stick cookware is dangerous and releases chemicals and fumes that can harm your staff, customers and the environment. According to Annette McDermott’s article, Teflon is believed to contain Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). While the final verdict is still out and research is conflicting on whether or not PFOA is dangerous, the Environmental Protection Agency admits that PFOA is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans”. Not something you want in your fresh, natural, or organic cooking process. Why take the risk with such great alternatives currently available to restaurants?

2. Good Public Relations

There’s an ever-growing group of restaurant goers that appreciate restaurants that are committed to environmental responsibility. By walking the walk and advertising your sustainable initiatives you can not only retain current customers, but also attract new ones. According to the National Restaurant Association, over 58%of customers report that
they’re likely to make a restaurant choice based on its environmental sustainability efforts.  Additionally, according to a survey prepared for the Green Restaurant Association, 79% of diners stated they would be more likely to dine at a restaurant that is green-certified. Those numbers are hard to ignore. You must make your invisible green practices more visible by communicating with your customers. Make your customers aware of environmental issues in the restaurant industry to showcase the steps your restaurant is taking toward being more environmentally friendly. Spread your story.

3. Eco-friendly Cookware is Easy to Use and Maintain

The highest quality materials are  used to design eco-friendly pots and pans, thus they will not tarnish or degrade easily.  Plus, most eco-friendly cookware does not require any special cleaning. Most options can simply be washed with water and soap, and/or placed in the dishwasher.  You might be concerned that alternatives to traditional non-stick technologies will leave you with a hopeless mess of food stuck to your pans, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are many alternatives to traditional non-stick cookware such PFOA-free Thermolon™, cast iron which requires little maintenance, and stainless steel and ceramic cookware that can be placed in the dishwasher.

4. Green Cookware is More Affordable than Ever

This remains, and always will be a very important factor in your cookware purchasing decisions. As green cookware is becoming a more common choice as the safest cookware option, prices are dropping dramatically. Remember to consider quality and durability. The longer a piece of kitchenware lasts, the less often you need to replace it, saving you money in the long-run. Look out  for hard-wearing material like cast iron or stainless steel. You can also work with an environmental consultant like those offered by the Green Restaurant Association to to help you access and secure rebates and incentive programs. Tip- When it’s finally time to say goodbye to older cookware, seek out organizations that offer take-back programs so that they can be properly disposed of.

5. There’s a Wide Selection of Eco-Friendly Cookware Products to Choose From

Depending on your budget and taste, you can choose from a wide variety of eco-friendly cookware options keeping in mind that durability and safety remain two key factors in your overall decision. Here is a quick run-down of the most popular options.

  • Stainless Steel:  often recommended as one of the safest choices in eco-friendly cookware. It’s also durable and easy to clean, but keep an eye out for dings and pits and cooking with acids like wine, lemon and tomato as this can compromise safety.  Tip- don’t use abrasive materials when cleaning stainless steel cookware as it can pull off small amounts of chromium and nickel. Also, make sure none of your chefs or sous-chefs have nickel allergies!
  • Cast Iron: can be made from recycled materials and is incredibly durable. When properly seasoned they take on non-stick properties and also require less soap and water to clean. Cast iron may even improve the health of your meals by releasing small amounts of iron into your food. (Considered a healthy food additive by the FDA). This thick cookware is unmatched for even heat distribution, but it can take some extra time (and energy) to heat up and it’s heavy!
  • Ceramic: is made from natural clay cooked in a kiln. While cadmium content used to be a concern, modern manufacturers have discontinued its use, eliminating this danger. It is also very flexible and can be used on the range, in the oven, for serving and saving, plus it’s non-stick and dishwasher safe. Ceramic cookware can be slightly more expensive, but it lasts forever. Many cooks like it because it offers the even heat distribution of cast iron, without the seasoning process.
  • Anodized Aluminum: has been treated to form a coating that seals the metal. Unlike Stainless Steal, it doesn’t react to acidic foods so it’s great for cooking with any ingredients. Many chefs consider this to be the idea non-stick, scratch-resistant cooking surface.
  • Non-Stick Alternatives: new technologies have paved the way for safer Teflon-like alternatives that retain amazing non-stick properties without the questionable toxins. One great example is GreenPan. Manufactured in a responsible way, GreenPan products are safe up to high temperatures with no risk of toxic fumes or blistering coatings.

Maybe you’re ready to recycle your old cookware now, or looking to upgrade in the next year. Either way, keep your values and customer promise in mind. By cooking with green equipment you can ensure the most organic, natural product is being delivered to your concerned clients.

From fire to table, you’ve got a great story to tell and first-rate meals to serve.

Image Credit: GreenPan

Eco Dental Office

How to Make Your Dental Office More Eco-Friendly: 5 Simple Ways to Reduce Waste

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The sterilization and infection control processes used in traditional dental offices can be significant sources of waste and pollution due to their dangerous nature. Poor air quality, dangerous working conditions and community water contamination are among some of the scarier adverse effects. A more eco-friendly dentistry model has only recently gained traction as the use of disposable dental supplies has been steadily rising. For purposes of clarification, this article uses the  following definition of eco-friendly dentistry, “an approach to dentistry that implements sustainable practices by keeping resource consumption in line with nature’s economy, by safeguarding the external environment by virtue of eliminating or reducing outgoing wastes and by promoting well-being of all those in the clinical environment by conscious reduction of the chemicals in the breathable air.” If running a healthier, safer, more eco-friendly dental office that saves money through reduction in waste and resource consumption sounds good to you, check out these five effective suggestions below. These recommendations can help form a foundation designed to help your dental office become more environmentally and economically efficient and are simple guidelines that can help your office achieve its waste reduction goals quickly and effectively.

1. Implement an Eco-Friendly Sterilization Program and Materials

An eco-friendly sterilization program utilizes non-toxic infection control and steam sterilization rather than chemical-based processes. Chemicals traditionally used in infection control and sterilization can be very harmful and hazardous to human health and the overall environment. By reducing the use of these dangerous chemicals in your dental office, you can not only reduce your toxic waste, but also improve working conditions for your staff and facility conditions for your clients. Additionally, single use disposable autoclave wraps, disposable patient bibs, and single use sterilization items account for a significant amount of the waste produced within a dental office. Your dental office can eliminate a lot of its waste by switching to re-usable pouches, wraps, and cloth-based patient bibs. In a recent article in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, Dr. Ali Farahani explains his plan to recycle autoclave bags in his green dental practice by separating the plastic and paper portions, thus allowing him to participate in his community’s existing recycling program. Even in a small office, 5,100 pieces of paper and plastic can be saved from the landfill annually by implementing a similar process. Furthermore, Dr. Farahani states that after developing a new eco-friendly cassette sterilization program, he also plans to eliminate the use of disposable autoclave wraps and the need for disposable patient bibs entirely. Slightly altering your sterilization processes and materials can have a dramatic effect on your waste stream further contributing to a less cluttered workspace that needs less maintenance and is better for the environment.

2. Use Cotton Towels

Another way to effectively reduce waste within your dental office is to choose reusable cotton towels over disposable plastic bibs. Cloth sterilization wraps and pouches and reusable cloth bibs are becoming a popular option in many dental practices. Maintenance is as simple as implementing a wash-dry-reuse cycle on a regular basis. Another recommendation is to use reusable cloth towels in your bathrooms rather than paper towels for hand drying. Based in Townsend, DE, Dover Family and Cosmetic Dentistry has adopted reusable cloth towels in their bathrooms creating a more eco-friendly and spa-like environment for their pampered patients. Although they come with numerous benefits, using cloth towels should be approached with care as they can harbor microbes if they are reused without washing.

3. Use Stainless Steel Prophy Cups and Prophy Paste in Tubes

“It’s about changing consumption patterns,” Dr. Farahani explains in another article, Eco-Friendly Dentistry: Not a Matter of Choice. Here Dr. Farahani is referring to the use of stainless steel prophy cups instead of disposable prophy-containing cups, a choice that can further reduce your dental office waste and costs. The article goes on to explain how using prophy paste in tubes or tubs offers the ability to use only the amount needed as opposed to a predetermined amount that is often excessive, wasteful and costly.  Along similar lines, Dr. Farahani also recommends using stainless steel endodontics suction tips as an alternative to disposable plastic tips which can even further reduce unnecessary waste from your dental office.

4. Implement a Simple Recycling and Waste Control Program

This is probably one of the simpler recommendations to implement. Your dental office can begin at the grassroots level by recycling print paper, recycling food waste in break rooms, eliminating the use of plastic bottles and cans with re-usable drinking vessels, and purchasing biodegradable cleaning products. On a higher level, your dental practice may want to consider recycling the plastic and paper separately from autoclave bags as mentioned above, or even recycling the fixer and developer solutions along with lead foil from x-rays. Professor emeritus of microbiology at the Indiana University School of Dentistry, Dr. Chris Miller recommends any form of recycling (plastics, paper, metals, glass, etc.) depending upon what your local recycling program will accept.

5. Go Paperless

Going paperless involves transitioning your office to be completely digital and eliminating the use of paper. Modern technology makes it easy for your office to communicate with patients electronically, implement electronic billing, use electronic charts rather than paper-based charts, spread information through electronic presentations and make sure that you can easily communicate with everyone in the office via the phone and/or computer. Ryan Brown warns against transitioning all at once and provides three simple steps for going paperless at your dental office: 1. Create treatment plans within your software, 2. go digital with your X-rays, and 3. use some type of digital document software. Brown points out that electronic information is easier to capture and is more accessible. By going paperless one step at a time you can avoid a stressed staff, needless mistakes and a backed up waiting room. As with any change, getting your staff on board is important. Hold an educational seminar to teach employees  what eco-friendly dentistry is at your location specifically. Educate staff and employees about the importance of going green as it relates to your clients, your green commitment and your bottom line as a business. Dr Miller mentions that going green at your dental office is a personal decision and should take several factors into consideration including your environmental philosophy, proof of product or procedure “greenness”, infection control efficacy, cost, ability to act, and availability of products. Image Credit: Inhabitat.com

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For Small Business GreenQloud Means Clean Cloud

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In the ever-changing world of technology, the scramble to expand “the cloud” is turning IT and cloud computing companies into one of the fastest growing sectors not only economically, but also in terms of energy consumption. According to a study by Verdantix “companies plan to accelerate their adoption of cloud computing from 10 percent to 69 percent of their information technology spend by 2020.” Along with this growth comes a unique opportunity and responsibility as these companies have the ability to direct us all towards a cleaner grid. Currently, many data centers are powered by fossil fuels and use energy 24/7. In 2007, a Gartner report found that, “the global information and communications technology (ICT) industry accounts for approximately 2 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a figure equivalent to aviation.”

But, the cloud isn’t just for large corporations anymore, as the need grows for access anytime, anywhere. Cloud-based services can help small businesses reduce costs and give them access to IT services which were previously only available to large corporations. But they still have a wide variety of choices when it comes to service providers. When choosing the best provider for your great-green small business, some key decision factors to consider are cost and environmental impact. We recently caught up with GreenQloud’s Chief Marketing Officer, Paula Gould to get some deeper insight into one of the few truly green cloud companies.

Cost

One great thing about GreenQloud is that they use utility billing, which means that you only pay for exactly what you use. Paula elaborates, “that’s one of the biggest benefits of the public cloud, you’re not over procuring for peak periods. So, instead of buying 800 servers for something you only need 800 servers for once a year, you deliver the extra load into the public cloud for those peak periods. It significantly reduces the infrastructure costs.” This payment structure is extremely cost efficient and GreenQloud prides itself on offering, “high quality, affordable, clean cloud solutions without a green premium.”

Often, smaller businesses don’t have the resources to hire a full time security specialist or have the budget to purchase and maintain special security systems which makes privacy an important factor to consider when choosing a cloud computing provider. Professionals seeking privacy have really flocked to GreenQloud as Paula explains, “privacy related developers, those that were in the outlier spaces of the Internet that really weren’t doing anything wrong, but didn’t want to be spied on. So, Iceland is considered a bastion for data privacy, so we captured that audience as well very early on.”

Even if you’re not ready to jump wholeheartedly into the cloud, GreenQloud at its heart is a software company. Paula elaborates, “the gold mine in the company is the software we built to run a public cloud. That software can be re-applied to a private cloud setting. So, there are some companies that are ready to use the public cloud, and there are others that aren’t, but are experimenting. . .but all of them are looking to green their supply chain. So, what we’re doing is we’re giving them the opportunity to put our software layer on their private infrastructure. . .then it’s a seamless transition, but with our private cloud you can burst into our green public cloud, so it gives companies the opportunity to dance in the right direction.”

Environment

The cloud has a unique ability to draw resources to where they are used most efficiently, but it’s important to remember that energy savings does not always translate to reduced emissions and to be truly environmentally sustainable, data centers must draw their power from renewable energy sources. The location of a cloud server determines whether that is even an option. GreenQloud is one of few such providers out there. Located in geothermal rich Iceland, GreenQloud is powered completely by renewable hydro (70%), and geothermal (30%) energy. For companies concerned about emissions, GreenQloud makes it easy to track your footprint, with their handy dashboard that puts your energy usage metrics and co2 information right in front of you along with a billing breakdown of where your costs are. Paula explains, “You can see carbon savings data which is very handy especially for those of us that are very keen on dispelling greenwashing myths. So you can see, ‘oh I’m even saving money in carbon credits because I’m using something that’s actually using renewable energy instead of offsetting dirty data.’” I asked Paula if due to their location latency was an issue for their US customers. She responded that they’ve had no issues or complaints thus far, and let me in on GreenQloud’s current project to open up an availability zone in the Pacific Northwest to better service the Western US.

I was encouraged to learn that GreenQloud has seen recent increased interest by companies concerning their carbon footprint. Paula mentioned, “we’re seeing a kind of uptick in interest and that’s coupled, of course, with the brand awareness that we’ve been advocating for the last three or four years. So, I would say that from the very beginning our lowest hanging fruit were those that were concerned about carbon, they read the Mckinsey report, they read the Gartner report on co2 emissions and they wanted to address that.”

A particularly effective approach for GreenQloud has been their Startup Program in which they work with companies when they are very young and show them how to compute in a greener way and help them understand why it’s so important. Then, by the time the companies reach enterprise level or go for that merger or acquisition they’re already using the green cloud and it’s just an easy choice for them. Paula elaborates,

“we hope that by that point four or five years down the line, it’s something that anything else wouldn’t make sense to them. Why wouldn’t you know how much energy you’re using? Why wouldn’t you know how much carbon you’re contributing to the environment?”

A common problem in the industry is muddled messaging surrounding carbon offsets that companies purchase to make green claims. Paula and I reminisced about carbon offset ATMs that started sprouting up everywhere at the turn of the millenium. Paula laughs, “I was the goody two shoes and every time I flew up to SFO I got off the plane and paid for my offsets. And then I realized that offsets were actually a commodity and in reality the reason that they were started was great, but it has changed so remarkably, that the amount of money that you’re paying in offsets actually never gets back into the actual initiatives that they’re meant to support. So, I was like, ‘Ah I’m such a sucker for marketing!’ I’ve redeemed myself, it’s nice to work for a company that really believes in solving the problem rather than marketing it into oblivion.”

More about GreenQloud

GreenQloud is a cloud solutions company offering Truly Green™ cloud computing virtual servers and data storage (IaaS) powered by renewable energy. GreenQloud services, such as ComputeQloud™ and StorageQloud™ feature an easy-to-use, self-service web console and advanced AWS-compatible API controls for full automation of IT services. With the addition of QStack, the company now offers cloud solutions for the full market, accelerating the market adoption of cleaner cloud technology, by addressing the needs and concerns of companies who have not yet adopted public cloud computing due to regulatory compliance and investment commitments.

GreenQloud was founded in 2010 and is privately funded. The company has been lauded by the industry and media for its sustainability efforts. GreenQloud has won several Icelandic government grants, such as the technology grant from Rannis (The Icelandic Centre for Research). Advania and Verne Global serve as primary data center locations for GreenQloud in Iceland. Digital Fortress™ is the primary data center location for GreenQloud in the US. For more information visit www.greenqloud.com

Image Credit: GreenQloud

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Tenscores Saves Small Businesses Time and Money on Adwords

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Why Adwords is a Great Value for Small Biz

If your business has a presence online, you’ve probably heard about Google Adwords, one of the most popular and powerful search engine marketing and pay-per-click tools out there. For small business specifically, Christian Nkurunziza, founder of Adwords tool Tenscores, explains, “The whole thing about Adwords is really knowing where to attract the right kind of traffic and understanding how to convert it into sales. Many small business owners don’t take the time to figure out where the low hanging fruit are and what to do to drive the quickest impact. ” Being successful on Google Adwords means getting your products or services in front of customers who are most likely to purchase. Christian warns,

“The only thing that could stop a small business from buying Adwords is if they don’t know what they are doing, then it becomes too expensive.”

There are lots of free internet marketing methods out there, but Google Adwords is not one of them. The payoffs can be huge, but if you want the biggest bang for your buck, you can’t just let it run itself. Christian comments that the biggest mistake businesses make is that, “most of them think that it’s easy and they underestimate the time that they have to invest in it to learn how it works. They just set it and forget it and they never realize that they are being penalized for the mistakes that they’re making. ” For many small businesses time and financial resources are limited, and yet every click counts. So, how do you make sure your Google Adwords budget is being used most efficiently?

What is Quality Score?

Google created the Quality Score metric to help them provide only the most relevant ads when someone searches on Google, to show them only the ads it believes are most likely to provide what the searcher is looking for. Quality Score is a way for Google to rate the user experience of an ad. The score is based on many factors including whether or not people found your ad relevant and clicked on it, the quality of your landing page.
Often, businesses are surprised to discover that they don’t receive a flood of traffic after publishing some Google Ads. One way this can be explained is with Quality Score. This metric is hidden by default in Google Adwords, and yet this number influences how much you pay for each click. Christian explains, “if you don’t know what Quality Score is and how it affects your costs there will always be some kind of a tax, some people call it the stupid tax. Most people aren’t even aware of what’s going on.” Healthy Quality Scores (7 or above) mean more traffic at a lower cost, higher ad positions, prominent site links and product extensions. At the same time, lower Quality Scores can mean higher costs, less exposure, and sometimes even get you kicked off of Adwords entirely.
So, now that you understand how important Quality Scores are, the first thing you have to do is track the performance of your keywords. The problem is, using the current Google Adwords interface you have no way of knowing how Quality Scores change in response to keyword performance. So how do you track how your keywords are doing over time? You don’t. How can you easily see which of your keywords have low Quality Scores? You can’t. And how to do you know how to raise your Quality Scores for your lower scoring keywords? Sorry, nope again.

Enter Tenscores

When you log into your Tenscores account, you instantly see your global score and how your Quality Scores are distributed across your account. You can see immediately if you’re doing well or not so well. If you’re not doing well, Tenscores will show you a list of tasks to complete in order to beef up your results with better Scores and cheaper traffic. Christian explains,

“This is one of the reasons why we actually built Tenscores, to structurally put it in people’s face that they’re being penalized for the mistakes that they make. Bringing Quality Scores out to them and making sure that they know what the quality of their advertising is and how much they’re losing by not improving it.”

You can also see how your Quality Scores have evolved over time since you joined, and how these higher scores have had an impact on your bottom line. Plus, Tenscores’ helpful educational material can teach you how to heal lower scoring keywords.
Christian reveals, “Before we built Tenscores, I was a Google Adwords consultant and the basic features that are in Tenscores, I used to compile them manually in an excel spreadsheet, it would take too much time and was a huge hassle. So my cofounder built an online tool that I could use, and I loved it. Then we put it online and people loved it too so we turned it into a business. To have the same information using Adwords could take you at least 2-3 hours every day like it used to for me.”
Many big companies have significant marketing budgets, but small businesses are often very limited in terms of funds for marketing so it’s good to know what you’re doing. This makes it even more important to use a tool like Tenscores to use every Adwords dollar most efficiently. Christian admits, “Our lowest plan is $25 a month, some people just tell us that it is too cheap. Those people are happy because they have very few keywords in Adwords, they don’t have to think about the cost when choosing Tenscores. Even so, they can reduce that cost by using Tenscores and figuring out the mistakes that they’re making and where they can improve results.”
Although some work is required, Tenscores lets you know what to do and how to do it that much easier. The company is always looking to improve the user experience as Christian explains, “We try to automate most of the tasks that people have to complete, but they still have to do something. The ideal situation would be for someone to just hit a button and have everything optimized like it was magic. We’re not there yet but we’ll get there… It’s our mission.”

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