Wednesday, April 28, 2010

American's Commitment to Going Green: How Serious Are We?

Ever wonder if Americans are really serious about going green? At The Green Workplace we decided to find out. We developed the Green Lifestyle Survey and sent it out during early April of 2010. To our pleasant surprise, it was completed by 1,050 people. Respondents were all ages, primarily college educated, all from the United States, all Facebook users, and primarily progressive or independent in terms of their political view (though roughly 7% of responses are from Republicans and Libertarians, which turns out to be a helpful point of comparison).

The focus of the survey was to "take the eco-pulse" of America and determine how much Americans are concerned about, and willing to take action to protect the environment. The questions address: Are people truly as green as they say they are? Do they engage in green activities on a regular basis? Do they use environmental sensitivity as a means for evaluating an employer (or a date)? What current habits would they be willing to "give up" to avoid climate change / global warming?

Below is a quick summary of some of the more interesting findings:

  • 85% of total respondents said they were "moderately concerned" or "very concerned" "about climate change

  • When asked about their personal habits, the most common answer was that repspondents "always" recycle paper, cans and plastic, and they "never" recycle batteries, compost, carpool, bike or walk to work

  • 47% of total respondents claim that commitment to green/environmental issues is a "moderately important" or "very important" factor in choosing an employer (this factor was twice as important for Democrats than Republicans or Libertarians)

  • 49% of total respondents claim that they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a more green/ environmentally conscious organization (even higher for Greens and Independents)

  • 93% of total respondents claim they would be willing to pay more for an environmentally friendly product (all other things being equal); 63% say they would be willing to spend 10% more on a product; 5% claim they would pay "double or more" for a greener product

  • 33% of women (15% of men) claimed that they would not go on a date with someone who did not recycle

  • 17% of total respondents would be willing to give up salary for "one year or more" if they could stop climate change (7% would be willing to do so forever)

  • 21% of total respondents would be willing to give up sex for "one year or more" if they could stop climate change (10% of women would be willing to do so forever vs. 3% of men)

  • 15% of respondents would be willing to give up their spouse for "one year or more" and 11% would be willing to do so forever

Big House Long Drive

I was cleaning out my inbox today and ran across an article courtesy of Planetizen: Commuting. This is a brief post discussing happiness research as related to commuting and big houses. The suprising finding: you have to earn a LOT more money (40% more) to be happier with a bigger house and a long commute than a smaller house and a short commute. Check out The Commuting Paradox to see more detail supporting the Commuting article.

It's interesting to apply this to my life - I live in a medium sized townhome with a reasonable-ish commute to my job in the city (~35-40 minutes for 11 miles most days). I personally would LOVE to live closer to my job and would be fine taking a place that is the same size or slightly smaller than what I have today. Fortunately, my husband is on board with this long-term plan. Conversely, some of my neighbors and also some family members are moving out further into the burbs where they can afford a big single family house with a yard.

While the space (both indoor and outdoor) is definitely appealing, I could not handle the commute. Those few days that my 35 minute commute takes 2.5 hours (I could walk it that fast!) are enough to tell me that moving out is NOT an option for me.

Where do you stand on the house/commute balance? Are you considering moving?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free Food for Exercise

Usually when looking for hotels, one of the first things I check is to see whether it has a fitness center and what restaurants are on site (and/or nearby). I pretty much, without fail, pick the one that has a nice, free fitness center, and some delicious food options.

Next time I go to Copenhagen (ok, first time I go to Copenhagen), I've got my hotel picked out: Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers. This hotel has brilliantly tied together two of my favorite things: eating and exercise.

The hotel itself is located in a green building and is attempting to become carbon neutral. One small way they're doing this is to use the energy of their guests. Spinning bicycles are set up with monitors - each guest who generates at least 10 watt hours of electricity gets a $40 meal voucher. According to the hotel's calculations, a guest cycling at 30km/hr (18 mph) will generate approximately 100 watt hours for one hour of exercise. That means just 6 minutes of cycling will get you a free meal voucher! Of course, for the slow folks like me (~14 mph), it'll take a bit longer. That's ok - I'm in it for the exercise as well as the free food!

Image Source: The Guardian

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Prefab OfficePOD for Your Backyard

I just saw this fantastic prefab little office space on Inhabitat. I'm pretty sure I NEED one even though I live on an upper floor of a co-op building. Sadly, the OfficePOD is only produced in the UK and is a little pricey given VAT tax and shipping. O.K. all you brilliant prefab designers in the United States, here is an idea for you! With teleworking on the rise, and parents everywhere desparate to escape from their kids during the office day, this is a business just waiting to happen.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

On My Bookshelf: Animal Vegetable Miracle

You may remember a couple of months ago, I shared about Clean Energy, Common Sense. Well, I'm reading another TGW-related book that I thought was worth sharing: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

First, let me confess that I have not finished this book and probably won't for a while. It is SLOOOOOW going. Interesting, but super slow. I don't know why - usually I'm a really fast reader. This one is just killing me.

BUT...I still love it. As we affectionately call it in my book club, AVM makes you think about your relationship with food. Basically, the author and her family move from a water-hogging community in Arizona to their family farm in West Virginia, and after adjusting to the lifestyle a bit, make the decision to eat only locally grown food for one year.

The book chronicles their adventures (and misadventures) and shares some tasty recipes along the way.

While chances are good that I'll never move to the family farm, there are some things this book really drove home the point about eating local. My first post-AVM attempt was hosting book club feeding my guests only local, organic, and seasonal food (and wine). I thought for sure Whole Foods could hook me up. WRONG! I did find things that were local, organic, and seasonal...but very few items that met more than one of the categories. For example, even though asparagus is seasonal in Virginia in early spring, the only asparagus in the store was from Mexico. Argh!

I've had similar experiences shopping at farm stands/farmers markets. One time last summer I stopped by a farm stand on Maryland's Eastern Shore...only to find nectarines with "Product of California" stickers. Double argh!

So, what did I do (besides resolve to be better about looking at labels)? I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). My first pick up isn't for a while yet, but the farm sends newsletters every week detailing life on the farm and updates on our veggies, fruit, and eggs... This week, papa bear got into the bee hives - uh oh!

I'm very excited about the prospect of CSA veggies (mine is Bull Run Mountain Farm) and hope that I can truly make the transition to thinking about food more holistically!
Many thanks to Kingsolver and AVM for giving me the push that I needed to try something new!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I know you're always looking for opportunities to see our fearless editor, Leigh "Greenette" Stringer.... Fortunate members (and friends) of the USGBC-National Capital Region chapter had the opportunity just last night. Leigh was the featured guest speaker at the event, which was hosted at Jones Lang LaSalle's K Street offices in midtown Washington, DC.

As a colleague of Leigh's and contributor to the book, I have seen her presentation once or twice before (or maybe more than that). I can tell you, it's never the same show twice (READ: even if you've seen her before, come back and learn something new)!

During her presentation, Leigh shared a number of insights from both the book and the process of writing the book.

One of the themes that recurred throughout the presentation and the question and answer session was the importance of having strong leadership. Companies that have proven to be the most successful at sustainable operations are those that have leaders in the "c-suite" or reporting directly to the CEO. It's also critical for "everybody" within an organization to have responsibility for sustainability at every level and in every aspect of their job.

Some of the biggest crowd-pleasing moments included findings from the Green Lifestyle Survey - for example, did you know that plenty of people are willing to give up chocolate and even sex to stop climate change? Some would even be willing to give up their spouse!

The group left with books in hand and a some ideas for achieveable goals: measuring their own carbon and water footprints, committing to do just one thing more sustainably, and incentivizing themselves to be greener.

Many thanks to Leigh, USGBC-NCR, and JLL for a great event!

Reminder: just because you or your company are USGBC members does not mean you're a member of your local chapter. Be sure to sign up so you have access to great presentations like Leigh's and local networking opportunities, as well as educational events.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Make Your Purple Cow Green

I've just finished reading Seth Godin's The Purple Cow. For all of you people who think you don't have time to read... this one is quick and powerful. The premise of the book is how important it is today to "stick out" and take risks. In fact, Godin postulates, taking risks is the least risky thing to do. If you stay put, you will surely be left behind.

There are lots of insightful points throughout the book. One of my favorite passages is called "Follow the Leader:"

"Why do birds fly in formation? Because the birds that follow the leader have an easier flight. The leader breaks the wind resistance, and the following birds can fly far more efficiently. Without the triangle formation, Canada geese would never have enough energy to make it to the end of their long migration.

A lot of risk-averse business people believe that they can follow a similar strategy. They think they can wait until a leader demonstrates a breakthrough idea, and then rush to copy it, enjoying the break in wind resistance from the leader.

If you watch the flock closely, though, you'll notice that the flock doesn't really fly in formation, Every few minutes, one of the birds from the back of the flock will break away, fly to the front, and take over, giving the previous leader a chance to move to the back and take a break."

In the green movement today, there are lots of followers and very few real leaders in my view. The large majority of people and companies are waiting to see what everybody else does and then "doing just enough to not get bad press." Truth be told, the leaders in the green movement need more people and more organizations taking the reins every once in a while to keep the real momentum going. So, is it your turn to lead the flock?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Green Lifestyle Survey

It's time to take a temperature check and see how green people REALLY are.

At The Green Workplace, we've developed a poll to determine just how far people are willing to go to be green. The questions in the survey are designed to measure how committed people are in general to being eco-friendly and how important it is for them to work in a place with eco-friendly values. Some of the questions are a little provocative, but all answers are completely anonymous. Your secret is safe with us. If you're interested in seeing the survey results, we'll be posting them right before Earth Day (April 22) on this blog.

Our guess is that we're going to get some very interesting results... Please help us out, click below, and take the quick survey! There's no registration necessary. Please click below, take the... survey, and spread the word to others!
Note: The survey is now closed. For results, go here.

Sierra Club's Green Pledge

For those of you itching for a chance to win a trip to Hawaii and green your habits at the same time, consider taking the Sierra Club's Green Pledge Sweepstakes for Earth Day 2010.

Hey, I'd plant a tree for a paid vacation to paradise!

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