Starting an Eco-Friendly Business can take many forms

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True environmentalism begins at home, but now many people are saying that it could also start in the workplace.

The concept of an eco-friendly workplace used to be a rare phenomenon, but is now becoming more commonplace as increasing numbers of workforces are embracing environmental causes.

In some cases, entrepreneurs are setting up their businesses to be eco-friendly before they’ve even conducted their first transaction.

Defining Your Eco-Friendly Business

Eco-friendly businesses can take many forms, and don’t necessarily have to be focused on providing overtly environmental goods or services. For example, on the one hand you might have a company which offers cleaning services using only sustainable and ‘green’ products, and on the other you might have a digital start-up which relies on renewable energy to power their electronics. Environmentalism can be achieved through either your services, your processes or both.

The Nuts and Bolts

Much of the process of setting up an environmentally friendly business is the same as with less sustainable ventures. There’s insurance to buy, employees to hire and inventory to stock, as well as a hundred other tasks which will need to be accomplished before you open your doors. For those of you who aren’t sure about how to begin this process it’s worth talking to an experienced Catlin UK insurance underwriter, as well as an experienced business advisor.

Eco-Friendly Business
Eco-Friendly Business

Understanding Your Customers

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to ensure that your business is meeting green standards is by getting in touch with an organisation such as the Green Deal Initiative, who can help to rate your environmental standards and advise you on how to proceed.

But another great measure of your green commitment is to look at your potential customer base, find out what they’re already interested in and what inspires them, and give them something to talk about. Many environmentally friendly businesses have used this tactic, not only to inspire there eco-friendly efforts, but to raise awareness of their new company and drum up some positive publicity.

Get Connected

In order to go green and stay green, it’s always advisable to have a little help. And for an environmentally aware business, no help could be more useful than that provided by existing eco-friendly initiatives. Get in touch with your local green network, make contact with your energy and water providers, and get a conversation started about how you can contribute to the ongoing environmental discussion.

5 Ways to Make Your Business More Eco-Friendly

Across the nation, people are becoming more aware of how their day-to-day choices affect the environment and, in the long run, their quality of life. In addition to finding ways to make their lifestyles and homes ecologically friendly, many of them are looking carefully at the businesses they patronize to determine whether those businesses share their values and support the things they believe are important.

Even if, as a business owner, one is not especially committed to creating a green business on a personal or values-driven level, from a purely financial perspective, it can be very beneficial.

Shoppers who are aware of ecological impacts of the decisions they make in their personal lives are less likely to spend their money with a business that is in conflict with their views on a green lifestyle in the same way that shoppers are now looking carefully to see whether the dollars they spend at the local craft store or gym are going to support political positions they find objectionable.

With a tight economy, more and more individuals look at the dollars they spend at a given business as a form of donation to the causes supported by that business. So, in addition to the environmental benefit to creating an eco-friendly business model, there can also be a decided financial benefit as well.

Going green does not have to be time-consuming or costly because even some of the smallest changes can have a large impact that can be obvious to customers who are tuned in to the things that benefit the ecological balance. “Reduce, reuse and recycle” have been the keywords for folks interested in becoming more eco-friendly at home, and the same guidelines apply easily to a business.

Reduce:

First of all, reduce waste, toxins and chemicals that are harmful to the environment and to the people who are exposed to them. Any business can actively seek out products that are environmentally friendly for both their customers and their employees. Cleaning products and packaging materials are two of the most obvious.

Under the heading of “reduce” one can also look at a reduction of energy expenditures. Energy efficient light bulbs, programmable thermostats, energy efficient doors and windows, all have a big impact and customers can see and appreciate these things in use. Get people in the habit of turning off equipment when it is not in use, and encouraging communication by email instead of with hard-copy notes.

Reuse:

Anyone can switch to using a portion of their consumable items like stationary, copy paper, napkins and paper towels that are made from recycled materials. Recycled items can be a little more costly initially than those made from new materials but, in the long run, the value of the ecologically sound option will be realized both in knowing that one is supporting the environment and generating good will among customers who are very aware of these things.

It is also a good idea to support suppliers who collect and reuse their packaging as well as buying from local suppliers. The further something has to be shipped to get to you, the more energy will be used getting it there.

Recycle:

Recycling is the one eco-friendly habit that is most familiar and most widespread. Cities everywhere are making recycling easy and convenient for common things like aluminum, plastic, paper and most other household items, but in an office setting there are many more things that can be recycled as well, like ink jet cartridges and the cartridges from laser printers.

Keeping an empty box near the printer to toss used copy paper and other documents make it really simple to recycle those papers, as well as the constantly appearing phone books, take-out menus and junk mail.

Make it a group project:

A business is a prime location to create a drop-off point for one or two specific items of your choice as a service to your customers. Eyeglasses to be donated, those never-ending phone books, old cell phones, and items that might be specific to your business like plastic bags, can all make a difference.

Look for the little things:

One of the nicest things about being eco-friendly is that being consistent is a lot more important than hunting for huge changes to adopt. Small contributions, consistently done, can make a really large impact. Consistently reducing the amount of energy, water and paper a business used can make a big difference, not only to the environment but to the cash in your pocket.

How to Go Green in Your Office

Every day offices expend huge amounts of energy and waste a number of resources simply because no one has put forth a sustainability initiative. In your office you might see quantities of paper, disposable cups, water bottles, envelopes, ink and numerous other supplies wasted and thrown away. Going  green in the office is now easier than ever.  Reduce the overall carbon footprint with these simple suggestions for making your workplace’s sustainability program a reality.

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1)      Go Paperless: Although this is not as easy as other efforts, even an attempt at going paperless can make a huge difference. The US pulp and paper industry is the 2nd largest consumer of energy, but by using less paper businesses can help change this data. Legislation has passed to legalize electronic signatures, and when implemented, these eliminate the need to store paper after paper in filing cabinets.

2)      Adjust your printer settings: This is one of the easiest ways to green your office. First, before you copy something, check the settings of the printer-is it the right size paper? Is it the number of copies you need? Also, set your photocopier and printer to print double sided and make sure to recycle your toner cartridges.

3)      Buy Energy Star approved products: Energy Star is a government approved program that helps businesses find products that maintain superior energy efficiency.  They even make it easy by listing their approve products by type on their website.

4)      Make the dress code casual: Although this is not suitable for all businesses, it is still something to consider. Not wearing suits means much less dry cleaning- better for the environment, and your wallet. 90% of dry cleaning businesses in the U.S. use perchloroethylene, or PCE, which is a highly effective cleaning agent, but it’s also toxic and terrible for the environment.

5)      Purchase carbon offsets. Find out your company’s carbon dioxide emissions by speaking to your local utility or energy management company. Many services are offered to plant trees to balance out your calculated carbon emissions.

6)      Use recycled paper: Understandably, going paperless is not totally feasible in all situations. In the instances where things need to be printed, use recycled paper. This requires less energy, water, and chemical use to manufacture.

7)      Install a bottleless water cooler: Bottleless water coolers use point-of-use, or POU, water filtration systems to purify your tap water for better taste, lower cost, and without filling up landfills and exhausting energy consumption. All you need is a water source within 200 feet.

8)      Recycle: You have probably heard this before, but a large number of offices still do not recycle everything that they can.  Paper, file folders, card board (from the back of notepads), and even computers and computer accessories can be properly recycled, but often are forgotten. For an added benefit- you might even be able to catch a tax deduction when you donate your computers.

9)      Use reusable coffee mugs and water bottles: Just think, if each of your employees drink two cups of coffee a day, that’s hundreds, if not thousands, of wasted cups each year.  Instead, offer coffee mugs or reusable bottles as a promotional piece.  For a minimal cost you can simultaneously advertise your business, while also keeping your employees happy and helping the environment.

10)   Eliminate Paper Towels: Another simple change to a greener office can be by using cloth towels or napkins in the kitchen. Install a hand dryer in the bathroom, which come flu season, will be better for your businesses’ overall health as well as green initiatives.

Any effort made to implement these suggestions will  truly help your office achieve your goals- save money, have good health, and save the planet. Many sustainability initiatives, including using bottleless water coolers,  allows your business to lower your carbon footprint from the very first day and is a visible reminder to your staff and visitors that value the future of the environment.

Thinking Green When Buying School Supplies

Parents who are serious about going green know that there’s more to it than simply recycling their waste or carpooling. Living in an eco-friendly manner is a lifestyle, not just a fad and that means everything should be considered, including school supplies.

Hidden Dangers of School Supplies

At first glance, that shiny new backpack full of markers and paints doesn’t look terribly dangerous. Unfortunately, what your child is carrying may not be as innocent as it looks. Many school supplies contain harmful chemicals, some of which have even been banned in other products. For example, phthalates can be found in raincoats, lunch boxes and even backpacks made with vinyl.

These nasty chemicals have actually been banned from being used in toys, since they have been linked to diseases like asthma and ADHD. This is not exactly something you want your child in contact with on a daily basis. Depending on where the supplies come from, they may also contain other chemicals and even lead. While companies are certainly wising up, you can’t assume that the cute new backpack your child wants is going to be safe.

Choosing Green School Supplies

Fortunately for parents of school age children, there are plenty of green choices on the market for school supplies these days. Some companies have reworked their existing products, while new companies have sprung up with completely eco-friendly offerings.

Food and Drink

When it comes to packing your child’s lunch, avoid vinyl and PVC lunch boxes and water bottles. Instead, opt for stainless steel lunch containers. You can also find BPA free boxes if you really want to use plastic. Metal water bottles keep drinks cool and safe. They are reusable and one bottle can last your child for years.

There’s no need to cave on the pressure to have cool themed items, either, since you can get stainless steel with a wide variety of designs. Fabric and reusable lunch bags are another option. You can also buy fabric sandwich bags and napkins. These can be washed and reused after each day.

Art Supplies

Pens, pencils and crayons are standard school supplies that your child will be required to bring in. You can choose to purchase recycled wax crayons or soybean crayons to keep your child’s art eco-friendly. Recycled newspaper pencils look pretty neat and are great for the environment, as well. Your child will find these easy to use and a little softer to hold, as well.

Paper and Notebooks

Every kid will go through several notebooks during the school year, not to mention a lot of loose paper. Opt for recycled, but stick to bleached paper until you find out if the school permits unbleached. Notebooks can also be made entirely of recycled paper without any noticeable difference from the brand new ones.

Backpacks and School Bags

Since your child will need a way to carry his or her other school supplies, a backpack can easily be the most important item for school. It should be comfy and the right size for your student. However, the materials used are also important.

Bags made from recycled PET (the plastic used in many drink containers) are sturdy and good for the environment. You can also use recycled cloth to make your own book bags, if you are handy at sewing.

Reuse Last Year’s Supplies

Some things do not need to be purchased. Notebooks with blank pages can be reused, as can backpacks that still hold books. You can also reuse things like folders and binders, if need be. Before purchasing, look at what you already have lying around. Green school shopping doesn’t have to be complicated, particularly with so many companies providing great alternatives.

Not only should parents be contributing to this idea, teachers and educational professionals should also be working toward teaching our children environmentally friendly behaviors.
Individuals all over the world are now working to minimize the leakage of their waste products into the environment, but companies can do their part, too. This article will look at a variety of marketing solutions that are being adopted by businesses to help save the environment. Many of the services you can get from Can’t Miss Marketing, which specializes in creating ads for businesses.

Using recycled materials

Recycling has always been viewed as a valuable way of saving energy, provided, of course, that it does not require any additional work — paper, for instance, has to have the ink removed from it before it can be prepared for use again. Metal and plastic cans should be delivered to the nearest recycling center, while pop and beer cans and bottles should be taken to a store — not necessarily the one where they were first sold — for refund.

Using sand and snow stamps

“These types of advertising are quite useful if the event that you are hosting happens to be near sand or in an area that is presently covered in snow”, says marketing expert Dawn Magee of Guest Blogs Galore. With Can’t Miss Marketing you can actually register your sand and snow stamps so that they can be used over and over again. And this form of advertising is not only environmentally clean, it is effective — I mean, if you own a restaurant located along a sandy beach, what better way of drawing habitual beach goers there than by putting its stamp all around where everyone will see it? Snow stamps can be put down in the same area during the snowbound season.

Using concrete stamps

Concrete stamps are, of course, much more permanent than sand or snow stamps. They can be put down in various places along the pavement leading to your place of business. You should include your contact information in every stamp of whatever kind that you make.

“Clean graffiti” ads

When people hear the word graffiti, what most often comes to mind is the unsightly messages illegally painted all over streets and buildings by hoodlums and gang members. But there is such thing as “clean” graffiti, and you can use as yet another way of making your business voice heard. Also known as “aqua ads,” clean graffiti ads consist of messages written on concrete surfaces of all kinds — sidewalks, curbs, sides of buildings and so on — in a liquid that is environmentally friendly, which paint is not; and besides, paint is less permanent. If something in the business changes, so that you need to change your message, that is no problem either — you can remove the old message and put in the new one.

The use of electronic media

By employing electronic media in your advertising, you can cut down the use of paper. Online, television and radio advertising are all available out there for you, and they can really draw people’s attention to your business (online advertisements, incidentally, often precede YouTube videos when the latter are clicked on). Best of all, this is a form of advertising that you can manage without even having to leave your home!

Giving your customers an incentive to go green

It is a great thing to make your own business an eco-friendly one, but it is even greater if you can spread the message around to your customers and thus encourage them to do the same. One way in which you can do so is by letting them know that a portion of every purchase that they make from you will be given to a charitable organization of some sort that is devoted to greenness. You can also let customers know that you are a green company, so that they will know that just by using your products and services, you are helping to make the community a cleaner, safer and healthier place in which to live.

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Great Green Marketing Solutions

E-marketing: Good for Business and More Eco-friendly

We all know that each and single marketing campaign done the traditional offline way creates enormous amount of waste. Think about all that printed material produced each and single day for marketing and how it is often physically delivered to its target group.

Millions of people. In fact, billions of people gets tens of kilos of printed advertising material sent to them each year. Often poorly targeted with the strategy to reach as many people as possible with a hope that at least a few of them get converted into paying customers.

In all honesty, how many do actually look at all the advertising they get, that’s right most people throw it in the bin straight away without even looking at it. Does it sound like effective marketing? It would be a much smarter strategy moving your marketing efforts online or at least create a better balance between offline and online efforts. Better targeting.

More cost-effective. Better conversion. Less time-consuming. Better for the environment!

iContact for example who is in the forefront of e-marketing and provides creative solutions for email and social media marketing has been working very hard creating an extremely user-friendly concept. The truth is that anyone can do this. You do not need to be an IT expert in any way. Just know your business and your target audience and you can create a stunning campaign in notime.

Recent years it has become very easy to target your audience and track results. Such powerful capabilities cannot be found for marketing offline. New features and functions keep popping up all the time and are added as they are invented. If you want to know more about e-marketing and this ever growing field why not sign up for iContact’s Email Newsletter to stay up to date on specials, new features, updated features, tips, and advice.

Do yourself, your business and the environment a favour and consider stronger emphasis on marketing activities online.

The wonderful thing about all these environmentally friendly forms of advertisement is that they enable you to make yourself seen without having to feel guilty about harming the natural environment!

The Effects of Green Marketing: Consumer Trends Drive Profit (Video)

There is a $230 billion marketplace that exists for products and services that meet the needs of consumers who buy based on their personal, social and environmental values. This marketplace is predicted to grow to $845 billion by 2015! Would you like to know if and how your business could get a share of the green marketplace?

This great online green marketing movie reveals the categories and types of businesses that could profitably and sustainably expand into the $230 billion green marketplace. You will also learn who these green consumers are, what motivates them and what they like to buy.

Visit Keyboard Culture Green Marketing for more from Green Marketing Expert Colette Chandler. Keyboard Culture is a community of like-minded people and visionary leaders providing valuable free training and answers creating a New Earth and New Consciousness.

3 ways to make leaflet printing part of a more eco-friendly marketing campaign

Too many leaflets are thrown away, wasting natural (and financial) resources. However, leaflet printing doesn’t have to be environmentally unfriendly, and a well-planned campaign can bring a good return on investment.

Leaflet printing is now very cheap and easy, thanks to recent technological changes. It’s possible to print huge volumes of colour flyers an a fairly low budget, to distribute around a local area or by other means. However, businesses with an interest in protecting the environment will be concerned that leaflet campaigns can be wasteful. With proper planning, though, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Consider digital printing

If you are using conventional print processes for your flyer printing, you may be able to reduce your ecological footprint by moving to digital. Traditional printers frequently use lots of harmful chemicals in the plates and set-up process, including aluminium, alcohol and high VOC (volatile organic compounds) materials. They can also use a lot of water.

Digital printing avoids these. Another advantage of digital printing is that you can perform smaller print runs economically. The set-up time and costs of conventional printing makes it expensive to print a few flyers at a time. That means businesses are tempted to buy in bulk, and may end up wasting leaflets they never need.

Research your leaflet’s audience

One of the advantages of leaflets is that they are cheap and can be printed in large quantities. However, that doesn’t do you any good if they are not distributed properly. Many leaflets are ignored or thrown away not because they are badly designed but because the reader would never have any interest in the product or service they are advertising.

Look at it this way: if you’ve opened a family restaurant with good facilities for young children, there is little point distributing your leaflets to an area of town that is full of young professionals – they just won’t be interested.

So, make sure that your leaflet it distributed to the right audience. The best flyers for distribution to a specific postcode (which the mail service can do for you) are ones for local businesses with a broad appeal to a cross-section of the population.

If your leaflet is advertising something a bit more specialist, like a store for buying and selling rare stamps, then you will do better distributing them through niche magazines or other publications. That should limit waste by making sure they fall into the right kinds of hands.

Your leaflet design is key

Don’t underestimate the impact of good leaflet design – or bad leaflet design, either. Your business might be outstanding, your leaflet copy excellent, but if your potential customers are put off because it looks unprofessional or badly laid-out, they won’t get past this.

If you need some help then you can find a designer or copywriter to do it for you. If you are doing it on your own, make sure you get a good idea of what works well and what doesn’t before you start – you can do this by looking at other leaflets.

When you’ve finished your leaflet, check and recheck the spelling, punctuation and grammar. People can be extremely picky about these, and the leaflet is your calling card – you want to present the most organised, professional face you can.

If your readers gain a bad impression because of avoidable mistakes, they may end up binning your leaflet even if they would otherwise be interested in learning more. You don’t want to give them any more reasons for ignoring your leaflet.

A leaflet campaign is an excellent way to advertise your business, provided it is done right. Its environmental impact, and often its financial impact on your marketing budget, can be limited by selecting the best form production (digital printing for smaller print runs), researching the demographic you want to target, and by making sure your leaflet is well-designed and error-free.

This article was supplied by printed.com suppliers of high quality leaflet printing and members of the Direct Marketing Association.

Improving Your Environmental Impact by Using Expert Management and Advice

Becoming more sustainable and reducing your environmental impact is very important for companies not only to comply with any laws, but also to improve their company and the perception of their company overall. Here you will find out some of the benefits of environmental management services and advice for your company, as well as how to find the right environmental management company to work with.

Improve Your Environmental Performance

Although some managers may act only once their company has hit a crisis, it is important to realize that it is always a good time to improve your environmental performance. This is where expert management and advice become very helpful. Being proactive by implementing expert management to look over your company’s environmental impact is ideal, so you can make sure you are taking the necessary environmental improvement opportunities, as well as any extra opportunities to become more sustainable.

Save More Money

Implementing environmental management advice can not only help you to improve your impact on the environment, but it can also help your company become efficient overall. It can help you prevent pollution, conserve resources, cut waste, and save plenty of money, through using newer technology, lowering your operating costs, and improving your operating practices.

Become More Competitive

Using expert management and advice to improve your environmental impact not only helps your company save money, work more efficiently, and be more sustainable, but it also makes your company more competitive in its field. Many industries have environmental conduct codes they need to meet. So, meeting these codes and going beyond them can certainly give you a boost over competing companies.

Maintain Your Legal Obligations

Companies often have legal environmental obligations they need to meet to avoid violations and any possible repercussions. Environmental management services can help you to discover what you need to do to meet and maintain all legal requirements for your company. In addition, you can receive expert environmental management advice that can help you figure out the timing and necessary investments you need in order to comply with any future regulations that may be arising.

Improve Your Public Image

Taking expert advice for improving your environmental impact can have plenty of long-term rewards, including greatly boosting the public image of your company. The environmental impact of companies they support is very important to many consumers today. So, the more your company is doing to take control of its effect on the environment, the more likely consumers will be drawn your way.

Looking for Environmental Management

When looking for environmental management, you want to be sure that the company you choose has all of the services your company needs to improve its environmental impact for right now and for the future. Many environmental management companies provide services and advice to help your company on the path to becoming more sustainable. For example, you can check out Ausenco reviews to see how one environmental management company provides services for making and maintaining the sustainability of your company.

Green Data Center Upgrades Reduce Environmental Impact

The Information Age has led to the rise of multiple data centers across the globe. These mission critical facilities face several contentious issues such as speed, uptime, cost and environmental effects.

Since they require nonstop operations, energy draw can add up to a staggering level and this continues to rise every year. Current estimates say that these facilities collectively consume nearly 2% of the world’s power supply and produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases in the process.

Effective energy management is required to reduce environmental impact as well as operating costs. This can be achieved in several ways.

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Green Data Center

High Efficiency Servers

The biggest opportunity lies in the server electronics. Many of these units are operating at sub-optimal capacity. Numerous racks are turned on but the processors are utilizing less than 5% of their resources most of the time. Through hardware consolidation and better software optimization, utilization rates can increase to 30%.

Virtualization could push this up even further to 80%. Experts also advise the continuous upgrade to faster computers and flash-based storage instead of hard disks.

These investments pay for themselves quickly from power savings. After all, electricity costs are where the bulk of the operating expenses come from, including the all important backup generators.

Lighting Systems

Replacing the current lighting system with more economical lamps can go a long way towards the reduction of power draw. Remember than lights also generate heat which increases the load for cooling systems. Using power-efficient fixtures that produce minimal heat is also a step in the right direction.

Additional measures include the installation of centralized controls which can be programmed to switch things on or off depending on the projected maintenance schedule. Another way to go about it is to use equip the lights with sensor electronics that detect whether there are people within the vicinity. These can turn off the lights automatically if there are no occupants to minimize wasted power.

Building Automation Systems

Large server farms will benefit from the implementation of a comprehensive building automation system. These have been traditionally used for monitoring but technological innovations now allow them to do more than ever before. The interface can show detailed real-time parameters which make it easier for operators to control resource allocation and make necessary interventions at any given instant.

The system can show the temperatures and pressures around the data center from which the power usage effectiveness can be computed. These metrics can be logged and archived for internal efficiency studies and future optimization initiatives. Implementation and analysis of these systems are highly technical processes and should be dealt with by professionals.

Airflow and Cooling

The server electronics can generate a tremendous amount of heat. They need to be cooled continuously through both active and passive methods to avoid circuit malfunction. The rule of thumb is to keep the room temperature within 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Effective temperature control equipment can achieve this through massive cooling equipment which chills the air to the desired level. A persistent problem within data centers is that as much as 60% of cold air can escape through raised floor openings. As a consequence, the servers can have hot spots and chillers need to work harder to maintain the low temperature. This can be remedied through the use of products which seal off the cable opening to prevent cold air from escaping.

They are simple solutions that require virtually no maintenance. Bypass airflow will immediately be reduced once they are installed. A thermal assessment may be conducted to identify the hot spots where these grommets are most needed. A reevaluation can be conducted after the installation to measure their effectiveness. Energy consumption due to active cooling should drop down considerably and result in fantastic savings for the company.

Energy Efficient Data Centers

Data centers take a lot of energy for their operations. However, there a number of centers that are monitored more efficient than others. Green data centers are designed in such a way as to maximize energy efficiency and minimize environmental impact. Here is an infographic for more insight:
Green Data Centers

What’s old is new again energy storage

The electrical grid is a complex network connecting thousands of power sources with millions of consumers all across the U.S. While producing enough power to supply the energy needs of a nation is an extremely difficult task, just as challenging, if not more so, is the need to balance supply and demand on the grid.

Traditionally, the key approach to addressing this issue has been a centralized one, with power generators adjusting daily production based on anticipated levels of demand. But as the supply and demand picture continues to become more complex, emphasis is beginning to shift again toward energy storage – systems that can hold excess electricity until it is needed and then responsively release it into the grid. The utilization of energy storage in the U.S. is far from new.

A report by the Energy Storage Council (ESC) highlights power generators in the 70’s and 80’s recognized the potential of these technologies – creating a base of large-scale storage facilities that accounted for nearly 3 percent of the nation’s electric capacity by the early 90’s. However, the industry suffered major setbacks under the pressures of deregulation causing development to stall.

In the last decade energy storage technologies have enjoyed a resurgence spurred primarily by the burgeoning electric vehicle industry and private investment. Utilities and investors are again recognizing the broad potential benefits of energy storage technologies for power generators as they strive to meet demand.

The potential economic impacts of energy storage are fairly widespread, but the most basic idea is that these technologies will benefit utilities by maximizing power generation and conservation through reliability. Instability can lead to higher electric costs both because of inefficiencies at the generation level and the need for greater maintenance at lower levels. The prospective benefits of energy storage are also gaining government attention and support.

Most recently, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $43 million in funding from its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) for 19 new projects aimed at developing energy storage technologies.

Energy storage also offers a more cost effective solution for intermittent renewable energy sources like solar and wind, which are incapable of scaling generation up or down in response to changing demand. At the same time, energy storage also has the potential to allow for more consistent use of coal-fired power plants, which have difficulty adjusting their output based on demand.

Energy storage holds the potential to address many of the key challenges facing the electric power industry. By raising the overall capacity and flexibility of energy storage helps meet the needs of a high demand modern grid by optimizing existing assets.

With such wide ranging benefits, growing the energy storage sector is certain to open up new and innovative opportunities for the electric power market.

healthcareHow Health Care Ethics Extends to the Environment

Among the top concerns of many people today are both the state of health care and the state of the environment. What few people may realize, however, is that the two issues are inextricably linked.

While in general, human health and health care has improved remarkably in recent years, the overall state of the environment has declined precipitously — and that decline is responsible for a large portion of the illness and disease among humans.

In fact, according to one study, one-fourth of all health problems stem from the environment, thanks to poor air and water quality, toxins in the ecosystem and other issues that are a result of environmental abuse. The blame for these environmental problems falls on many shoulders, including the medical community.

It’s almost ironic that the very organizations devoted to improving and maintaining human health play a significant role in the culture of consumption and waste that lead to the environmental conditions that cause health issues.

Because health care’s environmental footprint is so significant, providers and organizations have an ethical responsibility to mitigate their impact by engaging in sustainable practices and reducing the amount of material and energy resources they consume.  However, as with many ethical dilemmas, the solutions aren’t that simple.

The Patient or the Environment?

While health care facilities and providers do have a responsibility to limit their environmental impact, they also have to balance their commitment to patient care with a commitment to caring for the planet.

First, providers must balance the principle of “do no harm,” the basis of the Hippocratic Oath, with the need to provide adequate patient care. Providers want to offer the best possible care to their patients, but there are times when that care could do harm to the environment by creating medical waste, releasing toxins into the environment or using significant material and energy resources.

How do providers weigh the needs of one patient against the impact that the treatment could have on the environment, and by extension, many other people?

The second ethical question pits the notion of overall public health against issues of sustainability. Many of the greatest advances in health in the last 100 years, including sanitation, vaccines and improved technologies have come at a price for the environment.

Continued research and development will have additional impacts on the environment, but can providers maintain the level of services they provide while using fewer resources? Don’t we have a responsibility to maintain the level of service that patients have grown accustomed to — and that we have the ability to provide?

These are important questions for health care providers to consider, and as we look toward changing the landscape of health care delivery, they will move to the forefront of many discussions regarding the delivery of care.

It’s no surprise, then that the field of health care ethics and health care ethics degree programs is growing; why not look here for more information regarding this field and the opportunities it presents to health care professionals?

Beyond Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle

While the study and practice of health care ethics is beginning to look at the relationship between health care and the environment, many facilities and providers are making changes on their own to become more sustainable and reduce waste in recognition of their responsibility to the environment.

Federal, state and local laws and standards place significant restrictions on many aspects of health care waste, and in some cases providers have limited options for reducing their footprint, but they can work to reduce consumption in other areas.

Some facilities’ efforts include:

  • Using environmentally friendly cleaning methods, including limiting the use of toxic chemicals
  • Reducing the use of equipment and materials that contain contaminants such as PVC and mercury
  • Choosing renewable energy sources
  • Creating a culture of reduced consumption; employees are encouraged to limit their use of paper, turn off unused lights and equipment, recycle when possible, etc.
  • Employ green materials and design in new projects, and strive to meet LEED certification standards in physical plants
  • Developing environmentally conscious treatment plans — only prescribing procedures and treatments that are absolutely necessary

As new technologies and standards for patient care and environmental protection emerge, more health care organizations will make the shift to sustainable practices. In the meantime, however, providers and facilities are managing the delicate ethical balance between doing what’s best for their patients and what’s best for the earth.

Legal Implications Of Air Pollution In The US

The United States government is very dedicated to “going green,” something that has been a point of focus for years now, as evidenced by the Clear Air Act. While business owners used to be able to create as much pollution as they wanted, they are now held to standards and the pollution levels are measured to make sure that they do not create more than is legally allowed.

It is important to note that the regulations are not the same across the board, as they may be harsher in some areas than others. Traditionally, California has had the strictest laws when it comes to air quality, though these laws are growing stricter in other states as well.

The challenges of auctioning pollution (Source: Jan Smith)
The challenges of auctioning pollution (Source: Jan Smith)

The Carbon Credit Program

One thing that business owners could do if they created too much pollution was to buy carbon credits. This system was used so that they could make sure that they were offsetting air pollution with positive action.

For example, a tree farm would create a lot of oxygen and fight for positive environmental change, and a factory would create pollution and work against it. Factories that were producing more than they were allowed could plant tree farms in order to counter the damage that they were doing.

This system was also set up just to keep total pollution at an “acceptable” level. Therefore, most businesses were given a number of carbon credits that they could use, which related to how much pollution they created.

If one company was under the amount that they were allotted, they could then sell those credits to another company that was over the limit. This gave positive reasons for business owners to try to go green because they would be paid handily if they could do it by companies that could not.

Fines and Fees

That program did not have the positive impact that was hoped for, unfortunately, largely because companies would just buy up tree farms and other things to get extra carbon credits. They were not taking positive action, but just buying the credit from places that would have been having that impact anyway.

Therefore, the government operates on a basis of fines and fees for businesses that are not green enough, that produce too much pollution. If a business is found to be in offense of the law, the government decides how much damage they have done, assigns a monetary value to it, and forces them to pay a fine.

Making Changes

alternative energy sources
Source: 2nd Green Revolution

However, profitable companies could simple pay those fines without making things any better, so the government also uses the laws to force them to change. If they are found in offense – and especially if they are repeat offenders – they have to put programs in place to reduce their impact in the future.

This could include using alternative energy sources like solar power or wind turbines. It could include using recycled paper. It could just include creating a committee dedicated toward green efforts. The company has to show that it is trying to change, or it could get more fines and fees.

Drastic Legal Action

As of now, there is no real precedent for any more drastic legal action than what has been outlined above. Though too much pollution could be a civil offense – and an affected person may be able to sue and win a civil suit – the government would usually not jail or imprison a company owner for an offense.

This has happened in rare occasions – a developer in Washington was given a prison term of 6 months for purposely ignoring regulations – but it is not common. In order to become an expert on environmental laws of this nature, individuals should consider investing in higher education, whether through law school,  paralegal degrees  or even environmental studies degrees.

Fun Facts about Corporate Accounting Scandals

The infographic below, which recently crossed our desk courtesy of Accounting-degree.org, provides a nice overview of some of the big corporate accounting scandals of the last 15 years or so. The title may be misleading – it hardly seeks to capture the biggest scandals of “all time” – but it does give a good summary of those that have happened in recent memory.

And the sources of the details they provide are cited – most of which (but not all) are pretty reliable. So if you want a five-minute summary of all that’s wrong in the world of accounting fraud, and you don’t mind a strong US bias, this is a good place to start.

One thing we particularly like are the “fun facts” accompanying each scandal. OK, so most of these are not really much fun at all – is anyone laughing about the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley after the Worldcom and Enron scandals? – but they do point to some of the absurdities of the system in which the accounting scandals have taken place.

Enron being voted most innovative company six times in a row by Fortune magazine, Lehman brothers being honored with “Most Admired Securities Firm” a year before its collapse, AIG execs getting $165m in bonuses just after posting the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history and getting a government bailout? It doesn’t say much about how well we scrutinize or reward supposedly “successful” companies, does it?

It’s also interesting that the infographic has been created by an organization promoting online accounting degrees (we might add that their other Featured Article is titled “10 Accounting Tricks the 1% Use to Dodge the Taxman”, which is also worth a look). Are they saying that an accounting degree will help avoid some of these problems in the future?

That what we need are better accounting degrees? That an on-line offering is in any way more or less likely to lead people to engage in shady accounting practices? Clearly there is an important role for accounting education in here somewhere, but we’re not too sure about the offerings being recommended by Accounting-degree.org, or even who the organization is or what its methodology is.

In the spirit of good accounting, a little more transparency would be a good thing. But don’t let that stand in the way of enjoying a nice infographic.

Accounting Scandals
Source: Accounting-Degree.org