The weekend’s sudden heavy storm in the northeastern U.S. had many of us scurrying to bring patio plants inside and rummaging for snow gear, all the while thinking about how high that energy bill is going to be this winter, and what we can do to manage it.
Here are 6 ways to beat the weather this Winter:
1) Check the status of your storm windows. Upgrade if needed.
4) Insulate! You wear a coat when it gets cold; insulation is the equivalent for your building. You can insulate portions of your structure — doors, roof, walls, ductwork, pipes, basement. And, cold-weather insultation works beautifully to keep your space comfortable in hot weather. Renting? Ask your landlord about the insulation program for your building. (Show him Practically Green if he’d like to know more!)
5) You can insulate certain items, like the hot-water heater. A good test: touch the water heater. If it’s warm/hot to the touch, like a conventional lightbulb is after being on for a while, it should be insulated.
6) Turn your thermostat down just 4 degrees for an estimated 15% savings in energy costs! Put on a sweater!
With some of the money you’ll save, you might splurge on the amazing new Nest programmable thermostat we blogged about — it makes regulating your environment’s temperature almost as much fun as… having a picnic outside on a warm spring afternoon? Swimming in the Caribbean?
P.S. This post is adapted from a weekly letter that all Practically Green registered users receive as part of our service. You can opt out of getting the letter any time, but we’ve noticed most people don’t… we work hard to be sure it’s relevant good reading. If you haven’t registered at Practically Green yet, it’s easy! Take the quiz and sign up!
If you’re diving into a Hallowe’en frenzy this weekend (and who isn’t), our Green Halloween badge should be your first stop. Take any 6 of these actions (which you are probably doing anyway!!) and win this fabulous pumpkin badge for your PG dashboard.
The badge rewards you for making some seriously healthy green holiday choices — including trick-or-treating bags, candy, candy alternatives, eek-o-friendly cocktails for adults, costume selection, and face paint.
Example: Consider Switching to natural face paint. Who wants to clog their pores with anything that might be contaminated with lead (for instance)? You’ll find suggestions on Practically Green including DIY tips; our partner GreenHalloween.org has 6 Very Simple Steps to Make Your Own Face Paints here.
Corey Colwell-Lipson and her mother Lynn Colwell launched Green Halloween in 2006 with the idea that a few other concerned parents might be interested in making Halloween more about safe, fun trick-or-treating — and less about junk food and “flammable plastic death trap costumes” (as Stephen Colbert calls them).
Five years later they’ve reached a tipping point: tens of thousands of people are persuaded that there’s a better way to celebrate this holiday, with millions more on the way.
We called Green Halloween headquarters today – suffice to say it’s bloody insane there — and got their last-minute ideas for making sure this is a fantastic and safe holiday for you and your friends and family:
1. Check out the first-ever Guide to a non-GMO Halloween: Created in partnership with Non-GMO Project.
2. National Costume Swap Day took place a few weeks ago: 170+ swap events happened in the US and Canada. Why not throw together your own neighborhood swap right now, this weekend?
3. Find Green Halloween® events across the country this weekend and on Halloween, including the Howl-O-Weens at the Phoenix Zoo and Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, and Boo at the Zoo at the Bronx Zoo.
We’d love your ideas for a Greener Halloween, so please let us know what you’re doing!
Five reasons to love the new Nest thermostat.
Our head of engineering is a smooth unflappable type, not given to gushing.
So when he gets excited, we pay attention:
And another 50 points each for these two actions on Practically Green:
Nest: it’s a brainy new thermostat designed by Tony Fadell, the guy who sold Steve Jobs on the iPod. In the past 48 hours, this stylish tool has been a complete thumbs-up for testers ranging from TechCrunch to Grist to Fast Company to Wired to the Wall Street Journal: “like Apple, Nest Labs has taken something you use every day and made it simple and delightful to use.”
Why is it so cool?
Let us count the ways:
1) It’s simple: a wheel. Rajiv says it reminds him of the rotary thermostat of his youth… and it clicks as you turn it, like the first iPods.
2) It’s gorgeous, something you’d love to have on your wall. (We’re thinking it would make a great belt buckle.)
3) It effortlessly matches your décor: the trim is a mirror. Did someone say elegant?
4) It adjusts to your behavior and routines: light and activity sensors learn your habits. You might not remember to adjust your thermostat every single time you need to – e.g., when you get up, when you go away, when you return, when you go to bed. Not to worry: this device does it for you.
5) It’s ubiquitous, i.e., you can access it from anywhere. You can set it up to connect to your Wi-Fi, then change the settings remotely from your smart phone. Say you’re heading home early, and it’s suddenly freezing outside. No problem: in a few clicks your house is getting comfortable for your return.
Watch this demo:
You can order it on Practically Green here, for $249 — scroll to the Recommended Products. We have a feeling it’ll sell out, because Rajiv is usually ahead of the pack.
Commuting to work and school: what gets people to change their routines? Is it money, time, convenience, attitude? Something else? How do you launch a new habit?
I suspect it’s different for all of us.
Personally, there’s an internal conversation between the lame, stuck-in-her-rut Sarah and the creative, can-do Sarah.
Last night before bed:
Sarah: I really should go have that flu shot I’ve been meaning to get. Tomorrow morning first thing is a good time.
Lame Sarah: But how will you do that and continue on your new bike-to-work routine? You don’t even know if there are bike racks at the clinic! You don’t have a lock! You’ve never done this before!
Can-do Sarah: Bring the bike inside with you, L.S. You KNOW there’s access for wheelchairs and strollers at the clinic. Why not?
Why not indeed! Voila: me exiting the clinic with my bike:
I asked Megan Ramey, biker extraordinaire of A Better City, to share her professional perspective on changing commuter habits. After all, she spends her days coming up with ways to encourage an entire metro-region to change:
There are two important considerations regarding commuter mode shifting: 1) it’s a solo venture and 2) we are creatures of habit. So unfortunately, it’s not the incentives like health, efficiency, time, community and money that cause a mode shift, it’s the large barriers like traffic, train delays, gas prices, congestion tolls, totaling your car (my case as an undergraduate student); or large lifestyle changes like moving to a new city or changing jobs. The incentives work well to reinforce the good habit and influence future lifestyle change decisions, but ultimately the barriers are what disrupt the bad behavior and routine and force the person to try alternatives.
Note: In Boston, we are enjoying an amazing new bike-sharing program called Hubway. Powered by Alta bikes, Hubway has racks of tough bikes at convenient locations all around town. You can check the map displayed at every rack, take a bike for part of your trip. Train/bus/subway commuters can pick up a bike at South Station, for example, and ride over to a rack near the office or school, then walk the rest of the way.
This map shows my route from home (Start: walk to pick-up bike rack H); ride to flu shot clinic; ride to deposit bike rack H; walk across the bridge to the office (Finish). It’s not a straight line, one-mode solution, but it was fun, interesting, efficient — I got my errand done — AND I earned a bunch of Practically Green points! Click here for the Low Car Diet: http://practicallygreen.com/actions/low-car-diet.
So think about it: Could you bike for some of your errands, or for part of your commute?
If you live in Georgia, and especially if you work in the metro-Atlanta area, you probably know about The Clean Air Campaign. The Clean Air Campaign works with commuters and employers such as Coca-Cola, UPS, Aflac, and hundreds more to reward employees for kicking the ‘drive-alone’ habit.
In the past 10 years, more than 32,000 Georgians have participated in the Cash for Commuters program, one of just a few rewards programs the non-profit offers. Click here for details and
While we don’t offer cash at Practically Green, we do award mega-points and badges for changes like these ones:
Walk to work regularly (200 points)
Take public transportation to work regularly (150 points)
Carpool to work regularly (100 points)
Bike to work regularly (200 points)
Carpool to school one day a week (50 points)
We even have a Low Car Diet! http://practicallygreen.com/actions/low-car-diet
October 24-28 is Clean Commute Week, which encourages students throughout the state to get to class by bus, bike, on foot, or via carpool. To date, The Clean Air Campaign’s Clean Air Schools program has worked with more than 300 schools in 30 counties throughout Georgia … impressive. You can follow the progress of Clean Commute Week on Facebook.
We were curious about how the Clean Air Campaign got started, so we called its (aptly named) Director of Communications, Brian Carr. It turns out that the Atlanta Olympics were the catalyst, in 1996:
“We were focused on the twin problems of extreme traffic congestion and poor air quality in Atlanta,” Carr explains. “We were worried about millions of people visiting: the athletes, dignitaries, VIPs, and about our citizens, who were already having a tough time commuting to work. A diverse group of private-sector and public entities emerged to solve the problem – the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the Department of Transportation, the Sierra Club, Georgia Power, Georgia Pacific, a number of businesses downtown – all trying to address it. It was remarkable — and it was ironic, frankly — because some of these groups were suing each other, but they wanted to collaborate, to do something about the link between transportation and air quality challenges.”
The Clean Air Campaign was born, a non-profit supported by all of them.
“We came up with ways for people not to have to come downtown to work while the Olympics were going on. It was a huge success: during those three weeks commuter traffic declined and the air quality improved substantially. The number of emergency room visits related to lung, breathing issues dropped 37 percent. From there we established the financial incentives program and we showed that habits could be made to stick, that the white-knuckled single-person commute didn’t have to be the norm. We consult with our partners, really listen to them, and we develop benefits to commuters that employers can call their own.”
Telework is another impactful strategy. Luiz Montoro, project manager for Coca-Cola, is a fan:
According to the 2010 Metro Atlanta Regional Commuter Survey, teleworking has overtaken carpooling as the number-one commute alternative … more than 600,000 metro Atlantans telework at least occasionally, a 20 percent increase since the last survey in 2007.
Some employers may be motivated by the fact that Atlanta loses $2.7 billion annually in productivity due to traffic congestion, and that the average Atlanta household spends more on transportation costs than on food. Numbers like that tend to grab your attention.
They sure do! Check out The Clean Air Campaign’s website for calculators, resources, checklists, and other tools for employers, commuters, and schools. All of these are free of charge.
Follow them on Twitter @CleanAirGA
If you or your favorite teenager are wondering what to do this weekend, check out Project Green Challenge, now in its final week. Launched on October 1, #PGC has come up with an energizing idea every single day this month. Thousands of young participants from hundreds of schools and colleges in the US and abroad are busy competing for prizes (1st prize is a $5,000 college scholarship from Natracare). Go to the Winners Circle to see the highlighted Green, Greener and Greenest submissions on everything from eco-fashion to green recipes to energy-saving epiphanies and stories of entire families changing their habits. Have a look around! Learning and doing all this healthy green stuff is genuinely rewarding and fun.
Teens Turning Green is the absolute beehive of activity behind Project Green Challenge. A student-led movement based in Sausalito, California, they’ve attracted an amazing cast of participants, sponsors, and supporters. Practically Green is proud to be a media partner (we’re tagged as a resource on Friday’s Energy challenge!) – and we welcome all PGC participants (and their parents, teachers, coaches, aunts and uncles) to Practically Green.com! Here’s one of the recent winners:
I took the survey on the Practically Green website and found out that I’m an impressively green human (8/10). I tend not to use extensive amounts of electricity powered things in my life, and the things I do use are smaller, like phones, music players, computers, calculators and things like that. However, there are still a lot of things that can be implemented into my life to be more energy conscious. – Sophia
Judi Shils and daughter Erin Schrode co-founded Teens Turning Green. Erin’s studying in Madrid this semester, and we couldn’t resist asking Judi (the Executive Director) how the whole initiative is going. No surprise, on Day 21 she sounds a little bit busy (they’re not getting much sleep!) — and thrilled:
“It is the most inspirational work imaginable.. so many lives changing before our eyes….”
If you’re a twenty-something or teen — or if you know someone who is — we suggest diving into the TeensTurning Green and Project Green Challenge Facebook pages, where you’ll find lots of activity. If you’re on Twitter, follow them there @TeensTurningGreen and #PGC. And, read their blog!
Check out this Extra Credit submission for the Whole Body challenge, from a student at Terra Linda High School:
A sample of comments from engaged participants:
I should definitely do my part to help the environment
and lessen the strain on both natural resources and on
the demand for meat.” - Holly
Got kids? Nephews? Little sibs? Then you know how fast they grow out of their clothes. thredUp is a simple, elegant concept: why not trade stuff with other families? And get PG points for doing it!
- Attend a swap event or use a swap site
- Host or join a costume swap goes toward the Green Halloween badge
Kids grow fast. By age 17 your child has outgrown 1,360 pieces of clothing. Worse yet, you’ve spent upwards of $20,000 replacing clothes that are practically new.
What if you could easily trade all that outgrown clothing for sizes you actually need?
And without leaving your house!
thredUP is the equivalent of a mammoth clothes swap for kids size preemie through size 20, plus toys books, maternity clothes and HALLOWEEN COSTUMES! They’re signing up hundreds of new members every day, which means 1) vast selection and 2) quick turnover.
How does it work?
Find thredUP at http://www.thredup.com/
And enjoy their Facebook community, where parents list IHA items (as in, I Have A train set) and ISO items, as in, In Search Of wild animal costumes sizes 3-months and 6x. Here’s what I found when I searched for Halloween costumes for size 3-months:
Got questions? thredUp’s FAQ section is best of breed: http://www.thredup.com/faq “If you can’t find the answer to your question here, please ask the community at (and the support knitwits) on our Facebook support page.” Check out their blog the Daily thred.
So give it a try, let us know what you think – and don’t forget to add points to your Practically Green score!
The PG Dozen: Newest Products on Practically Green
What do organic milk, a cashmere cardigan, a toilet, and chocolate have in common? They’re all recent additions to Practically Green’s Recommended Product listings. It’s human nature: when you discover something that works, that you love, you want to tell your friends so they can get it and use it too. That’s why we have this button on every action at Practically Green:
Your submission goes straight to our product specialist, Rebecca Sama. She performs an evaluation and, assuming it meets our product guidelines, it goes live. Then everyone can rate the product …
… and order it directly via PracticallyGreen.com.
Here are the 10 items we’ve added this month – so far.
Reduce Takeout Meals to Once a Week or Less: The Simple Art of Eating Well cookbook
Switch to natural hand sanitizer: Burt’s Bees Aloe & Witch Hazel Hand Sanitizer
Switch to natural hand sanitizer: Clean George Hand Purifier
Upgrade toilets….: Niagara Stealth Ultra High-Efficiency Toilet
Buy Organic Milk Regularly: Stonyfield Organic Milk
Switch to Organic Chocolate: Green & Black organic chocolate
Recycle Used Electronics: Best Buy’s E-cycle service
Purchase clothing made from organic cotton…: Stewart+Brown
Recycle Plastic Bags: Formbu Over-Cabinet Grocery Bag Holder
Host or Join a Costume Swap: ThredUp
Go ahead, send Rebecca your eco-friendly favorites!
Here’s a win-win: an easy 10-point action you can do today.
Why is “Replace bottled water with filtered water (tap or jug)” green?
By switching to filtered water or just plain tap water, you can save significant amounts of money, natural resources, and avoid a huge source of waste. Americans drink 21 gallons of bottled water per capita per year and it’s not a cheap habit. Water costs 240 to 10,000 times more than tap water.
In terms of resources, supplying Americans with plastic water bottles for one year consumes more than 47 million gallons of oil. That’s enough to take 100,000 cars off the road and 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, according to the Container Recycling Institute. And only ~30% of water bottles are recycled.
Bottled water is not necessarily safer than your tap water. Municipal tap water is tested much more rigorously than bottled water. An investigation of 10 brands by the Environmental Working Group found that several ranked the same as municipal tap water, and several were worse. Unless you have a special health concern, tap water is likely to be just as safe.
How to: Replace bottled water with filtered water (tap or jug)
If you like the taste of your town water, then get a few jugs and cool it in the refrigerator.
If you want to filter it for taste or to get out an impurities, decide whether you want to go with a filtered pitcher or add a filter to the faucet or system.
Recommended Products and Services that are already on Practically Green:
Got another product to recommend on this action? Please do!
Replacing a toilet sounds like a supreme hassle, but before you put it at the, um, bottom of your to-do list, consider this:
You will likely flush the toilet nearly 140,000 times over the course of a lifetime. A standard toilet uses 1.6 gallons per flush, while older toilets can use more than 3.5 gallons per flush. If you replace older, existing toilets with WaterSense labeled models, you can save 4,000 gallons per year.
Using less water allows more water to stay in the ground or in a surface reservoir which helps to maintain a natural water balance and saves water for future use. There are many parts of the country that do not have enough water to support the current population and levels of water usage. Over 36 states expect water shortages in the next 5 years.
Besides being green, reducing your water usage can reduce the amount of money you owe on your water bill. A family of four will save and average of $90 a year on their water bill by switching to a high efficiency or dual flush toilet.
Install or upgrade to a dual-flush toilet (50 points)
According to Michele Hudec, Product Development leader at American Standard, even the 1.6-gallon variety will be vintage in a couple of years, due to state mandates and customer demand:
“We’re focused on getting the industry and plumbers to transition to totally conserving toilets, 1.28-gallon per flush [gpf] maximum. Meanwhile, with record droughts in some areas and wildfires in others, people are becoming aware of water as a precious resource. Hotels, commercial builders, and municipalities such as NYC and Miami are all making huge changes for conservation.”
Save the date: Practically Green is hosting a Water Webinar on November 1st, 1 to 2 pm EST. Hope you’ll join us!
With 34 recycling actions on Practically Green to choose from, we’re pretty much in tune with the whole concept. But these trash/recycling bins gave us pause. We pass by them outside our Kendall Square office every day, and we’ve always thought they looked a little bit … remarkable. Probably an MIT post-doc project.… Why the curved top?
We took a closer look and saw the name: BigBelly Solar. (Nice!)
Discovered they’re headquartered near Boston – probably some MIT kids, we thought.
BigBelly is the brainchild of Jim Poss, a local inventor: “While walking down a Boston street one day and observing a trash vehicle in action – idling at a pick up point, blocking traffic, with smoke pouring out of its exhaust, while litter was still prevalent on the street – Poss was struck by the thought (the necessity, really) that there had to be a better way.”
Today BigBelly Solar has 14,000 stations in every state except North Dakota and in thirty countries, including numerous cities (including Philadelphia, El Paso, and Salzburg, Austria), universities, and hotspot destinations: Vail Resorts, Colorado, was the first customer, in 2003. It began with a solar-powered trash compactor that works even on cloudy days to minimize trash volume and collect single-stream recycling. SmartBelly waste and recycling bins –also solar– are connected wirelessly along with the BigBelly compactors to a management console that uses Google mapping to indicate receptacle capacity. The SmartBelly reports fullness and collection data like the BigBelly, so it is “smart” – but it does not compact. It holds less than BigBelly for areas with lower volume of trash or recycling. That allows for right-sizing the collection stations in the system.
More recently, the company has developed a system that combines the BigBelly compactors, the SmartBelly units, and a management console into “the Smart Grid for waste & recycling.”
From any web browser, the new CLEAN ™ Management Console provides unprecedented visibility and transparency into public space waste & recycling collection operations. New visualization tools and reporting capabilities provide powerful insights for more efficient management of operations, better activity tracking and enhanced auditing of results.
Behind the scenes, the network Command Center crunches the data that delivers the reporting and insights and controls the waste & recycling stations, while providing remote diagnostics, over-the-air software upgrades and proactive maintenance options.
The central element of the BigBelly Solar value proposition is dramatic reductions in operating costs without any reduction in service levels.
“Ordinary trash cans don’t know anything! They’re just trash cans,” BigBelly’s Richard Kennelly explains. “Our compactor holds 5 times more trash than a regular bin.” Click here for more info.
Some of BigBelly Solar’s customers are going further: Halifax, Nova Scotia has BigBelly Solar 4-component waste & recycling stations, including compost!
Got a Greenovation to share? Post it here and we’ll follow up!
Unless you grew up on a farm, you might wonder what all the fuss is about composting.
This PG action explains:
Food scraps make up 7 percent of household waste, on average. Some (but not all) can be composted. It’s nothing short of miraculous to literally watch your garbage bag deflate–as if on a diet–simply because you compost scraps rather than send them to a landfill.
Click here for the full story: Compost Kitchen Food Waste
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My husband did grow up on a farm, and I can tell you that he couldn’t possibly compost without worms. Worms are the secret weapon for any world-class composter. Let’s face it, if you are going to all the trouble of collecting your food scraps and then cultivating them in a compost bin, you will appreciate a secret weapon. And Fall is an ideal time to begin.
Here’s a step-by-step personally illustrated guide.
1) Order your worms. Google “compost worms” for sources. Jack chose the Worm Ladies of Charlestown, RI. One pound of worms (hundreds) cost $25.00. The site is crawling (sorry) with great advice.
2) Unpack your worms near your compost bin.
3) In they go! They disappear almost instantly, chomp chomping on your banana peels, egg shells, and salade nicoise.
4) Jack’s Secret Sauce. Mixed in with the food scraps: dirt, peat moss, seaweed (from nearby beach), grass clippings (if your lawn fertilizer is organic), leaves, hay.
5) Lid goes back on: worms are all tucked in! Warming up and chowing down!
So if you are interested in producing the Black Gold that is every gardener’s dream, worms are definitely part of the composting equation.
PG’s editorial director, Alexandra Zissu, lives in the thick of New York City, where she is a passionate composter. She offers this inspiration on Practically Green:
Urbanites can compost! You don’t need a yard. Worm bins tuck into most corners with no smell or mess. There are also automatic composters ideal for apartment dwellers.
A fantastic no-fuss option is compost drop-off. Increasingly–especially in urban areas–there are community drop off points and even municipal pick up. Check with your farmers’ market or community garden for local details.
Composting is like golf: you can always get better, and enthusiasts will yammer about it all day and night. If you have any questions whatsoever about composting, we know experienced pros like Jack and Lexy who are eager to advise. Post your questions and we promise to get quick answers for you! And if we can’t handle your inquiry, we know who to call: the Worm Ladies!
Have a look at the Group on PracticallyGreen.com:
Not in Austin at the SXSW conference? No worries, you can get this badge too. Simply check off any 12 of the actions: http://practicallygreen.com/badges/sxsweco.
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We asked our friend Bethany Stephens to pick one of the Eco Challenge actions to write about.
For more on Beth, the Ozark National Science Center (she’s the executive director), and the sweet spot that is Bentonville, Arkansas, read on!
It’s pretty simple to feel good about how green we are in the controlled environment of our homes. We congratulate ourselves on our use of CFLs, our recycling prowess and our minimal water and energy usage. So, what happens when we step out into the world? Suddenly, it’s harder to control waste, transportation, and the habits of others.
Before you throw up your hands in despair, remind yourself that there is one tiny step you can take today with mighty impact: simply eat locally when you eat out.
In theory, local food is safer food (fewer pesticides and contaminants) that traveled a shorter distance (lessened transportation and therefore less environmental impact). However, these may be assumed benefits since there is no guarantee. I prefer to eat locally on several less scientific theories: relationships, knowing my food, a little less processing and fewer preservatives, better variety and a positive effect on the local economy.
1. Better relationships: Here in my own backyard, I know Kno over at Taste of Siam, David and Shane at The Rail: A Pizza Company and Sara over at The Green Bean personally. They know me and my family and share a passion for food that makes me feel good just being in their establishments. However, the same advantage exists when I travel – from my old favorite Cuc Tran Cafe in Wenatchee, Washington to Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile, Alabama – eating locally feels and tastes good. These are the places that share the vibe of a community, its food and its passions.
2. Know your food: While we may not interact with the proprietors of local restaurants any more than we would at a chain, we’re guaranteed to have a little better feel for what we’re served. No matter how high the customer count, your food is usually prepared in the back by hand. Yes, plenty of local establishments may use food service companies, but most are not mass producing hamburger after hamburger to the point that their heart and soul and original recipes have vanished.
3. Better variety: Variety is certainly the spice of life, and ethnic food makes my world go round. In San Antonio, there is no shortage of puffy taco locales and taquerias. Taco Taco did something different – it’s hard to put your finger on it, but you’ll leave the city craving and attempting to replicate its loveliness. Admittedly, Taco Taco is now expanding – the real test will be whether the feel and taste that made it special will keep it alive. The point is that local options are the best options for exploring both ethnic and homestyle food. Expand your boundaries and walk in the doors of a place where you don’t necessarily speak the language: you’ll likely be rewarded with great food and memories. Challenge yourself when you travel to try the local places off the typical tourist or business traveler path.
4. Positive effect on the local economy: Perhaps most rewarding of all, a far greater percentage of dollars you spend locally stay in the community. Chains send large portions of revenue back to headquarters, but dollars spent locally are more likely to go straight to staff wages, utilities or rent/mortgage. I like knowing that paying my check means I have directly invested in helping my friend or neighbor’s business thrive, and when I travel, it feels like a small expression of gratitude that I pay that community for my experience.
From farmer’s markets to u-pick establishments to local restaurants, local food means a local investment. However, a quick disclaimer: let’s not be so quick to demonize every chain restaurant, food service company, big box retailer or discount club. Often, we forget that their volume savings also help the small, local establishments we love stay in business. They may not be doing everything right, but every effort is a commendable step in the right direction.
As for me, I try to concentrate on what I can do better (and greener) every day rather than worry about others – just like Mom taught me. And now, I’m hoping to dash over to my favorite local establishment for a little lunch.
Bio: Beth Stephens is the executive director of the Ozark Natural Science Center, a nonprofit field science and environmental education facility on 500 acres of Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission land in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas. ONSC delivers life-altering overnight school excursions, summer camps and group programs, weaving conservation messages and its mission of enhancing the understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Ozark natural environment throughout its programs. ONSC has served more than 45,000 children since it was founded twenty years ago, often providing them their first significant outdoor experience and a lasting connection to the natural world. Connect with Beth via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or her personal or food blogs, and learn more about ONSC at www.onsc.us or via Twitter or Facebook.
Background: The Ozark Natural Science Center serves the rather unique northwest Arkansas community, a five city (Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale, Fayetteville, Siloam Springs) area which is home to the global headquarters of the world’s largest retailer: Walmart. Northwest Arkansas is also home to Fortune 500 ranked Tyson Foods as well as J.B. Hunt Transportation. The business climate in this small corner of Arkansas is unprecedented, but often escapes national recognition. In an effort to better serve their largest customers, Walmart and warehouse powerhouse Sam’s Club, literally hundreds of the world’s top brands maintain offices in northwest Arkansas. ONSC has benefitted greatly from this “sweet spot” by developing corporate partnerships with companies such as Cargill, GE Lighting (check out their intriguing Ecomagination site), Shell, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Heineken and SC Johnson (especially their Off! Botanicals brand). Northwest Arkansas is also home to the University of Arkansas’s Applied Sustainability Program, which resulted in the jointly-administered Sustainability Consortium with the University of Arizona’s Global Institute of Sustainability. The Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas works closely with Walmart (which has staggering sustainability goals) and other industry leaders on sustainability issues specific to the consumer packaged goods industry.
We have news at Practically Green (see press release), and we want to fill you in.
Many of you remember when we were working from our kitchen tables.
You were there when we launched in beta, on Mother’s Day 2010. We aimed squarely at a target of moms, the decision-makers responsible for “$2.3 trillion a year in spending in the U.S.” We wanted to help parents make smart, healthy, energy-efficient decisions; we envisioned Practically Green as a fun, easy, social process that would demystify the often dreary & complex hunt for real-life solutions for individuals and families.
Top sponsors like Weleda and Applegate saw the potential early on and joined us. We created badges: Healthy Green Lunch, Natural Baby, and even Date Night and Green Halloween. People began winning those badges and sharing their accomplishments — with their Facebook friends and on Twitter.
- We added to our team.
- We added dozens of new actions, masterminded by Alexandra Zissu.
- We assembled an amazing group of influential leaders in the mom eco-sphere, many of whom have become dear friends.
- We had some wonderful publicity.
- We hit our one-millionth visit.
- We won a couple of prizes, and we attracted some serious investors.
- We moved into start-up office space.
And we began to see that Practically Green is bigger than we originally thought: it’s a solution not only for parents with little kids but also for people with older children; and for older kids starting to live independently as young adults; for people, period — and for the companies and organizations that count all of us as employees, members, fans, customers, and constituents.
We finally updated our About Us page.
And then something incredible happened.
Companies and organizations contacted us to ask if they could use Practically Green to motivate and inspire their people.
It wasn’t long before we launched our first custom solution, for NBC’s Green is Universal. Then came EnerNOC, A Better City, Jamba Juice, the Seattle Mariners – and now we’re hoping for the entire Green Sports Alliance. We won’t rest until we’ve helped every individual in American create a personal sustainability plan.
From the outset we’ve craved Practically Green on a smart phone. The inaugural SXSWEco conference gave us the opportunity: this week we launched our first-ever mobile app for the SXSWEco Challenge. Go ahead and try it out even if you’re not at the conference. It’s free at the Apple store and in the Android Marketplace.
Our product team is eager to create more of these solutions, in synch with your specific green goals, so if you know of a business, organization (or athletic team) that wants to boost their Green I.Q., say the word.
Meantime, kudos to all of you. Your participation, encouragement, suggestions, tweets and Facebook posts have ALL contributed. We can’t thank you enough.
Practically Green Launches Suite of Digital Tools to Help Sustainability
Professionals Engage Employees and Customers in Healthy Green Actions
With SXSW Eco Challenge debut, Practically Green for Business adds mobile solution
Cambridge, MA (October 4, 2011) – Practically Green®, the award‐winning company that uses gamification and the social web to motivate people to make healthy green changes at home, at work and in their community, today announced the launch of Practically Green for Business, a configurable version of its sustainability engagement platform that can power an organization’s employee and customer sustainability initiatives.
“Organizations have been struggling with how to inspire people to participate in their sustainability programs in a way that’s engaging, measurable and scalable,” said Susan Hunt Stevens, founder and CEO of Practically Green. “Most are still relying on old world tactics — seminars, recycling days, or workbooks — to educate and motivate people to take action. Our platform enables an organization to leverage what’s really working — the transparency of social networks and game mechanics — so that people not only love participating in the program, but the organization can deploy it broadly and see collective impact in real time.”
Practically Green for Business
Practically Green for Business leverages the deep consumer digital expertise from its free website,practicallygreen.com, and adds in a suite of choices to tailor the platform for use in an organization. Licensors can take advantage of several options, including:
- Create customizable groups and sub-groups with employees, customers or fans
- Add targeted actions for participants to take, aligned with corporate sustainability goals
- Launch customized badges that inspire users to take specific actions and earn recognition
- Integrate existing benefits or rewards and recognition programs
“At EnerNOC, we’re all about using real-time data to impact real-world change. Practically Green’s web-based dashboards help our employees keep track of their sustainability efforts, and we love being able to measure our impact online.” said Sarah McAuley, Director of Communications at EnerNOC (Nasdaq: ENOC), a demand-management company.
Practically Green’s tools have been lauded by industry thought leaders in both the technology and sustainability space. Gabe Zichermann, founder of gamification.co, noted that “Practically Green’s work is fascinating, and ground-breaking. They are a first-class example of how companies are using gamification to drive real-life behavior change.” Jeffrey Hollender, founder of Seventh Generation and the American Sustainable Business Council, is an advisor to the company and said, “By bringing best-in-class interactive technology to the challenge of personal sustainability, Practically Green is moving the entire sustainability movement forward. It’s been truly exciting to be involved.”
Technology – Practically Green Sustainability Engagement Platform Powers SXSW Eco Challenge
Practically Green’s new mobile solution was unveiled today at the inaugural SXSW Eco Conference, October 4-6 in Austin, TX, as the event’s official SXSW mobile app. Participants in the SXSW Eco Challenge are encouraged to take actions to lighten their travel footprint and the app helps attendees discover eco-friendly places and choices in Austin. Attendees can see what actions other attendees are taking and even earn small prizes based on what they do. “SXSW is known for innovation, discovery and convergence, and partnering with Practically Green has helped us carry over these principles to our newest event, SXSW Eco. We’re excited that our mobile app will now extend beyond the function of a planning tool into something that can instill a real social change,” said Val Link, head of sales and marketing for SXSW.
With the launch this week of the SXSW Eco Challenge, Practically Green now supports mobile, as well as web and Facebook platforms. The SXSW Eco mobile app is available on iPhone and Android smartphone devices.
Practically Green motivates people to adopt a healthier, greener lifestyle by making it easier and more fun to discover, try and share sustainable actions, products and services. Leading corporations, brands, and associations license and configure the company’s tools to power their own sustainability engagement initiatives. Individuals can use the tools for free at practicallygreen.com. Practically Green is based in Cambridge, MA and has been cited for both technology and social innovation, including being named a 2011 finalist for MITX’s “Best Use of Gamification” and winning the 2011 William James Foundation Socially Responsible Global Business Plan Competition. For more information on licensing Practically Green’s digital tools, please visit http://practicallygreen.com/business.
John Gates/Mary Zanor
If you’ve been involved in a building project recently, or if you’re concerned about building efficiencies, you’ve heard about the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. Practically Green’s founder discovered the LEED system when she renovated her family’s house, and the vision was born: why not have a manageable, clear framework for all of life, and not just for building? Solution: PracticallyGreen.com
The USGBC’s annual GreenBuild conference takes place this week in Toronto and — catching the GreenBuild fever — we’re throwing a Twitter party with Mythic Paint and a host of other eco-friendly building and design professionals. Check out this line-up, and we hope to see you there!
Please join us for a Twitter Party!!
During the @USGBC #GreenBuild Conference:
Wednesday, October 5 at Noon EST
Topic: Green Décor (use Hashtag #GreenDecor)
Q & A, experts, info, giveaways, and fun!
Hosted by @PracticallyGrn & @SafePaint
Alexandra Zissu @AlexandraZissu | Susanna Schultz @GreenDepotLLC
Marie Jessup BuildingGreen @bglive | Olga Adler @olgaadlerint
Avital Binshtock, SierraMag, @avitalb
Mae Hacking @HereInThisHouse | Spencer Kent @OrganicAuthorit
Corey Colwell-Lipson @CelebrateGreen | Paul Anater @Paul_Anater
Ronnie Citron-Fink @EcoNester | Carin Handsun @HeartPine
Cathy Hobbs @cathyhobbs (HGTV Design Star Finalist!)
Moderator: Elise Jones of Babybites & HereinThisHouse @emjnj