Sunday, June 28, 2009

Featured Green Companies: Week of June 19

The following companies were featured on the Supporting Green Companies Facebook page last week. (Supporting Green Companies is sponsored by The Green Workplace blog). If you want to send any of these companies a message of support, "fan" them on Facebook now!

Ice Stone: IceStone makes a range of products--slabs for wall coverings and flooring in addition to countertops--from 100% recycled glass that is mixed with cement to create a highly durable, aesthetically beautiful and green concrete surface. Their factory uses day lighting, graywater recycling and soy based machine lubricants and will recycle 2.6 million pounds of glass in 2006.

Clif Bar & Company: In 2001, Clif Bar & Co. hired a staff ecologist and began working to reduce the company's environmental footprint. Among the changes: shifting to organic ingredients, eliminating shrink-wrap (that saved 90,000 pounds of plastic and $400,000 annually), and supporting a wind farm to offset fossil fuel usage.

New Belgium Brewery: Looking for a better brewski? Try a New Belgium beer. It meets all its energy needs through a combination of wind power purchased from the city and cogeneration of thermal energy from the brewing process. The company recycles or reuses 98 percent of its waste stream--converting spent grain into cattle feed, for example.

Frog's Leap Winery: In 1988, Frog's Leap became the first Napa winemaker to have its grapes certified as organic. Today, Frog's Leap produces 60,000 cases of wine a year, all from grapes that are grown organically. Perhaps more notably, they are grown with water-saving dry farming methods. In February of 2005, the winery essentially “flipped the switch” becoming 100% solar powered.

Seventh Generation: Not only does Seventh Generation have products that are squeaky green, they also offer their employees interest-free loans (up to $5000) to become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint. These loans can be used towards the purchase of fuel-efficient cars or for home improvements.

Open Blue Sea Farms: Free range fish farming. Who knew? Open Blue Sea Farms raises fish in the the open ocean in order to minimize environmental impact. Here's a quick video that explains:

G-Diapers: Thanks to one of our fans for suggesting gDiapers as a company to support. You must go to their site and watch the video to really understand how this works ( Basically, the diapers are made up of a cute washable "shell" with compostable/ flushable inserts.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Onion: Greening Your Home the Snarky Way

Check out this slide show from the Onion. One of my colleagues found this... priceless.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Parans Solar Lighting

I recently found Climate Solver on WWF's Swedish website. It showcases 12 young entrepreneurs who are coming up with environmentally businesses. Their solutions are varied and focused on solving one particular problem related to energy production, energy efficiency, construction, transportation, and system innovations. See 12 Climate Entrepreneurs for a white paper on their products and services.

One of the companies, Parans Solar Lighting has concept that struck me as a very realistic option for existing buildings with deep floor plates or no windows (sadly, we have a number of these in Washington, DC). Parans fixtures use fiber optics and LED technology to harvest natural light and save 50% of the energy typically required to light buildings. Considering that lighting is the largest impact on energy use (hence energy cost) for most office spaces, this is a significant savings.

Images from Parans' website.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Baumgartens' Eco-Friendly Products - Less is More

Baumgartens sells all that stuff hidden in your office or home supply closet - from paper plates to binder clips to dusters. One of their latest products is an eco-friendly brand of cleaners that are sold in tablet form. The company claims that they can produce and sell these products at a lower price because:

"... our cleaners create environmental savings at every step in the product lifecycle such as lower shipping costs, 75 percent less warehouse space, 75 percent less shelf space" and they also produce "75 percent less waste in landfills and meet the EPA’s Design for Environment (DfE) earth friendly chemicals standard.”

The company aims to be 100% carbon neutral by 2015.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Soap Hope Uses Ugly Boxes

Soap Hope is a soap company that also sells lotions, shampoo and a few other personal care products. In additional to selling some fairly exotic flavors of soap - like Pine Tar Neem Oil, Prickly Pear or Wild Weeds - they have a sustainable business concept:

  • To be the most trustworthy and reliable source for body care products for health-conscious people.
  • To carry only products that are 100% all natural and of exceptionally high quality.
  • To be the best value anywhere for the products we carry.
  • To use businesses practices that create as little impact on the environment as possible.
  • To provide our customers with the kind of service that creates lifelong customer relationships.
  • To give back to our world community.
The best part...for non-gift-wrap orders, they wrap items in reused cardboard from local retailers who would otherwise scrap their cardboard boxes. It just proves that great things come in recycled packages.

Time to Go Potty!

There's been lots of talk about tax incentives for businesses and homes to "go green" and plenty of CFL lightbulb giveaways....but did you know you can get a free toilet??

The City of Austin, Texas is giving away new toilets as part of a Toilet Replacement Project. After hearing about this, I did a bit of research and found that they're not the only ones. Other similar programs are available in California, Toronto, Miami-Dade County, the Cascade/Puget Sound region, and Calgary, just to name a few.

I wish my municipality would give me a free toilet - as it is, I have full water bottles sitting in my circa-1982 toilets. Functional and free, but maybe not as cool or water-efficient as a new dual-flush toilet!

Image source: Advanced Buildings

Monday, June 15, 2009

Using Social Networking for Social Good

I'm a huge fan of Facebook and all the joy it brings connecting me with long lost friends from all over the world. And based on Facebook's growth, many, many others are huge fans as well! Interestingly, companies have realized this big time and are creating groups and pages for users to "fan" as they see fit. HOK is no different - we've got lots of pages and groups showcasing our work and mission. Go here for HOK Careers. I've been shamelessly promoting The Green Workplace (our new book coming out August 4) on Facebook as well. (Please fan the book, seriously, my publisher will totally love you.)

But here's a thought. With all of these companies vying for our attention on Facebook, what if Facebook users "fanned" for social good? What if, in addition to voting with our wallets and buying green / responsible products, we supported a company's social message with, well... social networking?

Yesterday afternoon we created Supporting Green Companies, just a simple Facebook page with a lame graphic (you designers out there, please help!) As of this minute, less than 24 hours later, the page is up to 1,009 fans - not bad for viral growth! Each update has a link to different companies that are making a positive environmental or social impact with a link to their Facebook page to "fan" if you feel so inclined. I can't think of a faster or more efficient way to become an environmental activist.

So take action today, fan Supporting Green Companies and then fan companies you feel inspired to support on the page. And if you have great ideas of company's you would like to support, send comments and we'll spread the word!

Saving the Earth - One Date at a Time

I ran across a new dating website called EcoDater - a facinating new and green twist to the online dating scene.

Green singles and members of the natural dating community have a new home online: EcoDater is an eco-friendly online dating site for green single men and women who care about living a natural, holistic lifestyle. Members include environmentalists, vegans and vegetarians, organic farmers, outdoor enthusiasts, yoga practitioners, activists and much more.
I wish them well... after all, they are out there creating new "passion" for the environment ;). Seriously, I do know a little about online dating. My husband and I run an online dating website called (a politically progressive a portion of the proceeds go to activist causes and charities). EcoDater has taken a similar approach with a portion of their proceeds going to environmental groups such as the National Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, and American Forests.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Coworking is Cool!

I recently ran across a relatively new concept (well, new-to-me): coworking. I'd heard of cohousing, which is essentially a collaborative housing community that includes private property ownership along with community space and shared responsibilities (think of it as falling somewhere in between an HOA and an intentional community/commune), but not coworking.

Coworking is an emerging trend that basically takes people from all kinds of professional backgrounds working independently in a shared space. To put it in a small-scale perspective, coworking is what my husband and I do when we both work from home on the same day. Or what college students do when studying for different courses in the dorm study lounge or someone's house.

Coworking takes this concept further and opens up opportunities for "like-minded" telecommuters and independent contractors to come together and work in a space. Coworking spaces can vary widely, from a coffee-shop atmosphere or someone's private home to a more formal space that requires workers to rent desks and supplies, or an environment with multiple areas for different work functions (such as a 'heads-down' space and a loud space).

It's definitely a fascinating concept...and something I could definitely get into. I know that despite the environmental benefits, I can't stand to work from home more than a day or two a week because I get lonely. Conveniently, Jelly! has DC-area meetups...I might have to try that sometime!

Check out a cool article on Urban Omnibus: Work and the Open Source City. And another one in Business Week: Where the Coffee Shop Meets the Cubicle.

Image source: The Small BizNest

Friday, June 12, 2009

Greenest Consumers

Most of us are making an effort to green our purchasing, whether it be by shopping at the local farmers' market or demanding more local, organic, and fair-trade products in our retail interactions.

National Geographic and Globescan conducted a survey of 17,000 people in 17 countries in January 2009, asking questions related to housing, goods (both every-day and big-ticket), transportation, and food.

The survey's results showed that consumers are making environmentally-friendly choices for one of two reasons: either to be environmentally cautious, or to save costs. The countries that are doing best as green consumers are Brazil, India, and China. Sadly, my home country (USA) came in at the bottom of the list.

Check out an article in The Dirt, published by the American Society of Landscape Architects, or the highlights report.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Change Seen from Above

Ever go visit the area where you grew up and feel astounded by the change? Well, it's not just your hometown that is rapidly changing. Check out Wired Magazine's Time Lapse Videos of Massive Change on Earth.

This article shares videos of the following areas:

  • Development in Dubai
  • Decline of the Aral Sea
  • Clearing of the Amazon rainforest
  • Post-war cleanup of Mesopotamian wetlands
  • Drought in Utah
Image Source: Dubai Masterplan from Kuusanmaki

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

NYC's Greenway in the Sky

Yesterday, New York City opened its newest reuse project: an elevated park, situated on old railroad ties, in the West Side that will, in its final glory, meander through the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea, and Clinton/Hell's Kitchen.  

The High Line has been a mainstay in Manhattan for 75 years and was originally a mile-and-a-half rail line that lifted freight trains carrying cattle and dairy products off of the streets below.  The High Line has faced threats of demolition since the discontinuation of use by trains in 1980, but, in 1999, a non-profit organization called Friends of the High Line set out on a campaign to turn it into an open, public space.  

Construction of the first (of three) section began in 2006.  The park is a network of winding concrete paths blended with "naturalistic plantings" that mimic the vegetation covering the railway after years of no use.  The park will also feature seating, lighting, water features, and views of the streetscape below.

The recommendation?  Take advantage and head out for a lunch break or an evening stroll after work.  It is certainly great to see the creativity driving this endeavor and to watch it come to fruition!

For renderings, images, and more information, check it out here:

Image courtesy of

Monday, June 8, 2009

Become a Transportation Planner for the Day

Ever sit through four cycles of a traffic signal before you finally make it through? Or sit in ridiculous bumper-to-bumper traffic for no reason other than a blinking sign on the side of the road? Well, here is your chance to not only solve these problems, but earn $50,000 in the process.

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), in partnership with IBM and Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations, has announced a Congestion Challenge.

Submissions will be judged based on its approach to sustainability, safety, behavioral impact, economic competitiveness, and speed & efficiency.

Image source: Architecture & the Environment

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Linking Compensation to Environmental Metrics

At the end of the day, one of the strongest motivators for getting employees to change their behavior is... well, their salary. Intel has realized this and in 2008, a portion of their employee bonus was based on environmental metrics. OK, admittedly environment-related "points" were only 4 out of a possible 125 that determine bonus distribution. However, Intel included environmental metrics in the calculations that determine all employees' year-end bonuses. It sends a clear message that they stand by their sustainable practices.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund:

As part of Intel's total compensation package, the employee bonus is based on Intel's net income, each employee's bonus target, and company-wide performance on operational goals, which in 2008 included three environmental goals related to:

  • Energy efficiency of products. This included specific targets for key products.
  • Reputation for environmental leadership. The company hired market research firms to survey customers, IT professionals and other business people to see what they thought of Intel's reputation around sustainability.
  • Completion of renewable energy projects and purchases of green power. This included solar installations at Intel facilities in India, Oregon, and New Mexico. Intel also became the largest purchaser of green power in the U.S., according to the EPA's Green Power Partnership program.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Are We Really Driving Less?

As somewhat of a geek, I was supremely excited to find this cool regression model that shows the decline in driving in America. The creator, Nate Silver, is known as a baseball statistician turned election predictor.

Essentially, Silver uses math to prove that we are driving less than one would expect when taking into account low gas prices and the crappy economy.

For fifteen consecutive months, the average miles per American has dropped. Some of this can be attributed to high gas prices in summer 2008 (remember those days of $4+ a gallon?!), and the current high unemployment rate (don't need to drive to work if you don't have a job).

When Silver put together his model, taking into account fewer jobs and less expensive gas, he found that Americans were driving even less than the model predicted - potentially meaning that culture is shifting away from cars. Fascinating stuff - definitely check out the article, and Silver's website.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tiny Houses, Tiny Workplaces

There have been a number of posts recently from my favorite blogs about the trend in smaller houses, in response to the economy and the environment. One cover story from The Environmental Magazine ( references the changing tide in America's preferences for smaller not larger:
If McMansions were the trademark of the overindulgent ’80s and ’90s, the not-so-big house may be the symbol of a generation that is slowing down, considering the earth’s resources and doing what it can to preserve them. Consider this: a 2008 survey by the National Association of Home Builders shows that more than 60% of potential homebuyers would rather have a smaller house with more amenities than the other way around.
For me, this mindshift rings true. My husband and I have almost done an about face on the subject just in the last year. We live in a 900 SF apartment with our 3-year-old and decided that it was time to move to the suburbs and buy that big house with the yard everyone goes for when they have kids. We even put a bid on a house... but it fell through to our (now) relief. In hindsight, having that house would have put a strain on our finances, lengthened our commute, and burdened our every weekend with fix up jobs (this house needed some work). As it stands, we're living well below our means in a super-convenient neighborhood and have even considered "building in" or creating a bedroom out of one of our multi-use spaces. Our place is tight, but honestly, we've got more than we really need and it's giving us time and money to spend with family and friends, to and to treat ourselves now and then.

At work, my team is kind of in the same place. We sit at small 30" x 60" tables and keep things simple. We try not to store too much and get rid of paper as soon as humanly possible. It's just not worth having all that "stuff" around and frankly, it stresses me out!

Less is more is my mantra these days. It feels pretty good and pretty green.

How Green is Your Mayor?

Grist magazine recently posted a list of 15 green-leaning mayors. Some will likely come as no surprise (Bloomberg, Daley), but others more so (where exactly is Fairfield, IA, for example?). I was disappointed to see only two women on this list, but really excited to hear of some of the cool things that are being accomplished:

  • Green strategic plans
  • Ban of plastic bags (grocery-type)
  • Reduction of city government emissions
  • Green roofs
  • Improved public transit
  • City code upgrades
  • Accountability for polluters
  • Creation of sustainability departments
  • Fuel-efficient fleets
  • Bicycle advocacy
  • Green jobs training
That said, here's the list. If your mayor's not on it, consider a call to your local government to see if you can get some of these great initiatives rolling.
  1. Michael Bloomberg, New York City
  2. Greg Nickels, Seattle
  3. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco
  4. Ed Malloy, Fairfield, Iowa
  5. Richard Daley, Chicago
  6. Shirley Franklin, Atlanta
  7. Ralph Becker, Salt Lake City
  8. Jerramiah Healy, Jersey City
  9. Manuel Diaz, Miami
  10. Elaine Walker, Bowling Green, Kentucy
  11. David Cicilline, Providence, R.I.
  12. Phil Gordon, Phoenix.
  13. Christopher Coleman, St. Paul.
  14. R. T. Rybak, Minneapolis.
  15. Bob Dixson, Greensburg, Kansas.
Image: Mayor Bloomberg's open bullpen office, source Contribute Media

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