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Hello! I have a guest post from Sam Marquit, an independent ‘green’ contractor and co-author of Fair Marquit Value. Sam has seen firsthand the implementation of new innovative sustainable practices in the corporate world and on a smaller scale, at the home front. He’s written a great essay on some sustainable projects as it applies to businesses and homes. Read and enjoy…thanks Sam!!

 

The Green Remodeling Trend isn’t Just for Homes

Many homeowners have found that they can make significant changes to how a home runs in order to save on energy and waste. They choose green materials like solar panels, eco-friendly light bulbs and reused products. Businesses have also been signing on for green changes. On a much larger scale, they can save tons of waste every year just by making a few tweaks, adding recycling programs and even utilizing advanced technology like solar power.

Going to Las Vegas is a trip that almost everyone has planned. You want to see the beautiful sights, watch a famous show and even gamble at a world-renowned casino. However, this city also has a lot of eco-friendly businesses to offer. For instance, the Las Vegas Palazzo Resort and Hotel has been called the “Most Eco-Friendly Hotel in America.” The hotel uses a combination of different materials and programs to save on energy, waste and hazardous materials. For example, they use drip irrigation systems to water their landscapes. They also replaced some of their outdoor areas with artificial turf grass.

Residential areas can take some of the same actions. Drip irrigation systems can be rather easy to install and work just as well for small landscapes and gardens. Homes can also create water reuse systems such as using gray water from washers and showers to water gardens and flower beds in your landscape. Even reusing old or warn out materials through a process of up cycling can be beneficial.

Businesses in the travel industry have made eco-friendly vacations into a real money saver that also benefits the planet. Outdoor rooms have become more popular as people see the benefits of natural light. It cuts down on energy waste and even provides a heated, insulated area for those cold nights. In addition, solar panels can be used to create solar heated swimming pools.

Homeowners can also use some of these ideas when remodeling their houses. They can try out products like Powerhouse Solar Shingles, which actually go on your roof and generate energy from the sun. You can install bigger windows, skylights or even build a sunroom or porch. When you combine all of these ideas, you have a home that is well heated and lit without any stress on the environment. The costs of solar energy have also come down in recent years. Solar shingles can definitely be a great remodeling project.

Remodeling a home takes a lot of planning, but don’t forget to increase your home’s potential for energy and water saving. By making green choices, you’re helping the planet and also making the world a better place for future generations. From businesses and homes in the desert to apartments and hotels in one of the most populated cities in the world. More and more places are embracing a sustainable lifestyle.

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IKEA is truly the epitome of a global company that focuses on the triple bottom line. It sure is profitable, with 2012 profits of over $4 billion. And it absolutely cares about the 139,000 people who work for the Swedish company. Most amazingly, IKEA cares deeply about the planet. IKEA has set a goal to get all of its energy from renewable power sources by 2020, and will invest $1.8 billion in solar and wind power to produce at least 70 percent of the group’s energy by 2015. Just a few of the bijillion things IKEA has done for a more sustainable planet include installing solar panels to its own stores, installing electric vehicle charging stations to some stores, and planning to sell ONLY LED bulbs and lamps by 2016.

Last week, I learned that IKEA will now be selling solar panels in all 17 of its stores in the UK in the next 10 months. According to IKEA, these solar panels will cost around $9,200 for a three-bedroom home. These systems are from the Chinese manufacturer Hanergy Solar Group. With the help of British government subsidies, panel purchasers should be able to see returns within seven years. And, unlike IKEA furniture that you have to install yourself, IKEA will have their people install these panels for you.

Umm…what??? That’s amazing! It’s so wonderful to see large companies who can make a difference actually do make a difference. This is a great opportunity for home owners to make their homes more eco-friendly. And yes, it’s a hefty up front cost, but if you plan on staying in your house for more than 7 years, it’s going to be worth it.

Too bad IKEA doesn’t have plans to sell solar in the United States. They’re going to do a test run in Europe, and if solar panels sell, then they might think about moving it over to the states. I’m hoping that happens sooner rather than later!

IKEA can very easily just be a company that sells affordable furniture. But it’s more than just that. It’s a company that is dedicated to making our planet a more sustainable place to live. And that is just so inspirational.

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For years, I’ve been bothering my roommates about the intricate rules of plastic recycling in NYC. The only plastics that are recyclable are bottles and jugs! Well, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, not anymore. Now we can finally recycle ALL hard plastics! Yes, that means those yogurt cups and food clamshells! And I can finally stop yelling at my boyfriend for trying to do good, but not knowing the rules. This is expected to save taxpayers $600,000 a year in costs associated with shipping the 50,000 tons of plastic waste out of town. Win-win for all of us! Hey Bloomberg, good job! Next, can you please ban plastic bags?

Here’s the new poster explaining what plastics can be recycled:

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World Water Day

Happy World Water Day!!!

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Every year since 1993, the world has observed World Water Day, calling for action to end the crisis of 2.5 billion people around the world not having access to clean water. According to the UN, 783 million people lack access to clean or safe water and 37 percent of the world’s population doesn’t have access to sanitation facilities.

This year’s World Water Day has been dedicated to the theme of “cooperation”. The UN Water website discusses how cooperation and water go hand-in-hand:

Rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change threaten the resource while demands for water are increasing in order to satisfy the needs of a growing world population, now at over seven billion people, for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses. Water is a shared resource and its management needs to take into account a wide variety of conflicting interests. This provides opportunities for cooperation among users.

Cooperation is essential to strike a balance between the different needs and priorities and share this precious resource equitably, using water as an instrument of peace.

But there’s actually so much more to the international water crisis than just the issue of increasing demand and stagnant supply. The water crisis affects women, children, hunger, education, and health:

WOMEN: In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water. Women and children usually bear this burden, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely to make them sick. Time spent walking and resulting diseases keep them from school, work and taking care of their families. Along their long walk, they’re subjected to a greater risk of harassment and sexual assault.

CHILDREN: Diarrhea is the second biggest killer of kids globally — an issue that is completely preventable. Lack of clean water is the primary reason why more than 3,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from diarrhea and other water-related illnesses.

HUNGER: Water scarcity could cause major food shortages in the foreseeable future. We’re using more than our sustainable supply of water, which will cause shortfalls in crop production. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events in the coming year.

HEALTH AND EDUCATION: One in three people don’t have a toilet, the UN reports. Lack of clean water for sanitation will keep people sick and away from school or work. 

Pretty crazy stuff, right? I’ve always took clean water for granted, but knowing these facts makes me feel lucky that I have access to clean water. But plenty of people in the world do not. So how do we help? Here are a few organizations for which you can volunteer and to which you can donate:

Founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, water.org is working to end the worldwide water and sanitation crisis. 

Charity:water brings clean drinking water to people in developing nations through several different technologies, including hand-dug wells, drilled wells, and rain catchments.

WASH Advocates aims to solve the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene crises by raising awareness and increasing the amount and effectiveness of resources.

UNICEF provides potable drinking water and sanitation to schools and communities, and places a special emphasis on hygiene.

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I’ve always believed that corporations should focus not only on profit, but also on their community and the environment around them. In the past this has always been considered focusing on “triple bottom line”, or the three P’s (people, planet, and profit). Well, it wasn’t until recently that I learned that there is actual legislation that establish certain types of corporations as “benefit corporations”.

Benefit Corporations are a new, legal class of corporation that:

1) creates a material positive impact on society and the environment;

2) expands fiduciary duty to require consideration of non-financial interests when making decisions; and

3) reports on its overall social and environmental performance using recognized third party standards

Nine states, including New York and California this year, now recognize such corporations, and numerous states such as Pennsylvania and Colorado have introduced the legislation to enable companies to enlist as benefit corporations.

An interesting fact is that benefit corporations do not need to be certified. If you are starting a new company, you can simply incorporate as a benefit corporation in any state where legislation has been passed. If you have an existing company, you can elect to become a benefit corporation by amending your governing documents. Amendment requires a 2/3 super-majority vote of shareholders in most states. Also, while benefit corporations are required to publish an annual report assessing their overall social and environmental performance against a third party standard, that report is not required to be verified, certified, or audited by a third party standard organization.

My immediate reaction to this was that some companies might try to position themselves as benefit corporations for a pure marketing ploy, but do not actually follow through all and all. Which is why there is a third party company called B Corporation that for a fee, certifies companies to become a “B Corp”. Each certified B Corporation must have a minimum score of 80 out of 200 in the B Impact Assessment.
Additionally, benefit corporation is only legally recognized in the select number of states it is recognized, versus a certified B Corp is available to businesses in all 50 states and around the world.

You can find a list of benefit corporations here: http://www.benefitcorp.net/find-a-benefit-corp

And a list of B-Corp certified companies here: http://www.bcorporation.net/b-corporations

I think this is definitely a game-changer in how companies run their businesses. I’m sure there will be some critics who say that business is business and profit is king, but in my opinion, those days are slowly coming to an end. In today’s day and age, people are looking towards companies to create a material positive on society and the environment, and to meet standards of accountability and transparency. And by being a benefit corp and/or a B-Corp certified company, you are redefining what business means in today’s day and age.

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Electronics recycling isn’t talked about much, but it’s definitely gaining traction. With electronics making up a huge part of daily lives (from our laptops to our iphones to our ipods), it’s important to know the implications of throwing electronics way in the trash.

20 to 50 million tons of electronics waste (often called e-waste) are discarded globally every year, according to Greenpeace. And e-waste is the fastest growing component of the municipal solid waste stream, currently making up five percent of all municipal solid waste. According to the E.P.A., electronic waste contributes 70% of the toxins found in landfills, while only contributing 1% of the volume of materials in landfills.  Electronic waste contains many toxic materials including lead, mercury, cadmium, phosphors and flame-retardants. Recycling your electronics waste decreases energy and water use, reduces pollution, and keeps hazardous chemicals out of our air and water.

As of January 1st, 2012, businesses, non-profits, government entities, and anyone other than an individual or household consumer in the state of New York are prohibited from sending certain electronics to the landfill. This is the second phase of New York State’s Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act, which first went into effect last April, requiring manufacturers to provide free and convenient recycling options for items they sell in New York.

So what does that mean for you and me? Well, right now, we technically can still throw our unwanted electronics away with our regular garbage. But there are so many resources around that we really shouldn’t. Plus, we have to get in the habit of recycling our electronics, because the third phase of the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act will take into effect on January 1st, 2015, when individual and household residents will no longer be permitted to discard electronics with household waste.

Below lists three ways that you can discard your electronics properly in New York City:

1. Lower East Side Ecology Center.  The LES Ecology Center offers free public compost collection and education, electronic waste recycling, stewardship of public open space, and environment education. It offers a number of programs that focus on teaching about environmental issues facing NYC and how to take responsibility for solving these problems. It holds electronics recycling events throughout the year, and in January there are a number of recycling events as part of its “After the Holidays E-waste Events”. Check out its website for more information.

2. Best Buy. All Best Buy stores in the US, including Puerto Rico, offer in-store solutions for customers to bring their old, unused, or unwanted consumer electronics — no matter where they were purchased — for recycling. And they’ll take just about anything electronic, including TVs, DVD players, computer monitors, audio and video cables, cell phones, and more. We all love Best Buy, and this is one more reason to love it even more!

3. The 4th Bin. Too lazy to go drop off your electronics? Then you can call up The 4th Bin and have them pick up your e-waste. The 4th Bin is actually the only electronic waste collection and recycling company in New York City that provides door-to-door pickup services for both business and residents. However, there is a slight fee associated with the pick-up. Check them out here for more info.

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New Years Resolutions

Wow, I can’t believe another year has passed. Time really does fly. 2011 was kind of a busy year for me – I had a bunch of things both personally and work-wise that took up a lot of time and energy. But I have high hopes for 2012. I’ve recently started doing Bikram yoga a few times a week, and that has really changed my perspective on a lot of things. This moving meditation has really grounded my thoughts, and I’ve decided that I’m going to take 2012 as a new year for me to refocus on the things that are important to me. And one of those things is to increase my efforts in being green. I have a few things that I want to focus on in 2012:

1. Continue blogging. I know I haven’t posted many blogs this past year, but I’m hoping that in 2012 I will dedicate more time to this blog. This blog has been an important part of my life for the past few years, and I want to continue educating others on the importance of living a greener lifestyle.    

2. Cut down on meat consumption. People close to me know that I was vegetarian for about 2 years and then was vegan for almost 1 year. Veganism works for some people, but it didn’t work for my body. I became pretty weak and it was hard for me to get the proper nutrients as I traveled so much for my job. In 2012, I am going to follow the Meatless Monday regimen, and eat no meat for one day a week. Although I already do eat mostly vegetarian, I think that following Meatless Mondays will be a good way to cut down my meat consumption.

3. Continue volunteering for GrowNYC. I’ve been volunteering for GrowNYC for the past few years, and I truly think that it is a wonderful program. I’ve volunteered at various events educating NYC residents on the importance and best practices of recycling, and it is a wonderful feeling knowing that I made a direct impact on someone’s recycling behavior. Recycling is free and is a city-wide program, yet so many people still do not do it. It’s important for me to continue on this journey to educate more people on the benefits of recycling.

Happy New Year!!

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