Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hope this "Green Team" doesn't come to your office!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DC Bag Tax in Effect

Today I stopped by my neighborhood drug store on the way home from work. I noticed the store has recently been reconfigured to accept self check out. This new technology has had two benefits that I can see: 1) the lines move much faster and 2) it overtly asked you "how many bags you are taking" and then charges you 5 cents per bag. By the check out counter there are only plastic bags to choose from, so it's the plastic bag or nothing. DC has recently passed a "bag tax" of 5 cents per paper or plastic bag starting the first of the year.

What was really interesting about this experience for me was the fact that I was buying a bunch of bulky items today and I really was considering picking up a bag to carry them a few blocks home. But in a split second... literally the moment after I realized that picking up a bag would cost me something... I decided to make due with stuffing the items in the bag I had with me. It's like I was watching myself in a social behavior experiment... will she take the bag if it costs her something? Or will the small cost of 5 cents not even enter her conscience? Honestly, I changed my mind to go sans bag, and probably would have again, even if the bag cost just a penny.

This little experience today has reinforced my belief in the importance of incentives and disincentives to drive behavior to be more environmentally friendly. Let's take this same analogy to the workplace. What if companies had to pay more hefty fines for garbage pickup? What if individuals had to pay for Styrofoam cups at the coffee bar? Would we make the same decisions if we always had to pay for the negative externalities of our choices?

In Doug McKenzie-Mohr's book, Fostering Sustainable Behavior: Community Based Social Marketing, he uses countless examples of leveraging positive and negative incentives to help the environment. Here are a couple of good ones:

When San Jose, California introduced a user pay program in which residents were charged based upon the size of the container they placed at the curb, the impact was a 46% decrease in waste sent to the landfill, a 158% increase in recyclables captured, and a 38% increase in yard waste collected. There was no charge for curbside recycling and yard waste was collected at the curbside.

Worchester, Massachusets introduced a program in which residents purchased bags for their garbage. This program resulted in a 45% reduction in the waste stream, with recycling responsible for 37% of the waste stream diversion. Residents were not charged for recycling nor for dropping off yard waste at a collection center.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ride Shark... Green Commuting is Fun

I live the in the Washington, D.C. area and one of the more interesting habits of commuters here is a practice called "slugging." At specific points throughout the city, drivers line up (as do passengers) and random strangers ride together to take advantage of HOV lanes. Drop off points in town are also centralized, so the system is surprisingly predictable. After having lived here a while, I've heard mostly good stories about this practice but a few bad stories too. Not everyone has a similar view on how to handle speed limits, for example. A number of riders have gotten to work a little more ruffled than when they left the house.

So how do you find a good carpool without depending on a strangers to drive you to work? That's where products like Ride Shark come into play.

Ride Shark basically connects people with a similar commute pattern together in a carpool. They have different systems for creating carpools within companies, within campuses and within metro areas. They facilitate carpools, vanpools as well as biking, walking and bus-riding buddies. They also can help you find an emergency ride home if you need it. And the best part? They track your "carbon emissions saved" by using their system.

Think of it as a transportation demand management and social networking tool all wrapped into one.

A number of my clients are using it and love it. They claim to especially enjoy the feature that allows companies or groups to compete against each other to reduce carbon emissions. Nothing like a little competition to make that morning commute more fun!

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Vote for The Fun Theory

Voting for "The Fun Theory" Award or BMW's competition for changing people's behavior for the better ended January 15. My vote goes for the two entries below. My two favorites are called "Fighting Germs with Fun" by Steven Blumenfeld and "Make Your Boyfriend Clean the Apartment" by Meirav Adler. For more information, see our post Save the Earth with Fun (Theory).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Book Event at AIA Center of Architecture in NY

Thanks to the AIA and HOK NY marketing team (Kim Dowdell, Chris Laul, Sharon Paculor, Liz Royzman, Alex Robb) for pulling together a fantastic book signing event for The Green Workplace at the Center of Architecture last Thursday night. Food provided by a local and organic caterer Natural Chef.

Interview with Stacy Straczynski from Contract Magazine here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Remembering Seasonal Foods

It's January and a time of New Year's Resolutions. Mine happen to be doing pushups every day and getting rid of the clutter in my life! A friend, however, has decided to eat more healthfully, and shared a great blog post about seasonal food.

This post not only addresses why to eat seasonally, but shares seasonal foods for the first 6 calendar months (and some recipe ideas, too)!

Check out some other seasonal food resources:

Mmmmm...I'm getting hungry already!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Retractable Flagpole

One of my colleagues and co-bloggers (Anica Landreneau) sent around an email recently about a cool new piece of exterior furniture... a retractable flagpole by Baartol. It automatically opens up with the sun in the morning and retracts when light disappears at night using little light sensors. You can manually set it to go to half mast or retract it with inclement weather.

The "green" part about this product is that you don't have to light it up at night (which is protocol).

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