energy efficiency http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/14290/all en-US 25 Eco-Friendly Changes You Can Make Today http://www.wisebread.com/25-eco-friendly-changes-you-can-make-today <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/25-eco-friendly-changes-you-can-make-today" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/tree%20huggers.jpg" alt="25 Eco-Friendly Changes You Can Make Today" title="25 Eco-Friendly Changes You Can Make Today" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>You don&rsquo;t need to be told to turn the lights off, but what else can you do to reduce your carbon footprint and become more eco-friendly today? Sometimes changing a small bad habit is all it takes to make a positive change for the environment. Other changes require a little more work, but the effort is worth it both for your wallet and the planet. Check out our big list of easy eco-friendly changes you can make right now.</p> <h3>1. Wash Clothes in Cold Water</h3> <p>Much of the energy used to wash clothing is spent on heating the water. Doing the laundry in cold water is effective for all but the most heavily soiled clothing, helps to prevent shrinking, and won&rsquo;t wear your clothes out as quickly. Another great way to save energy &mdash; hang dry your clothes! (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kilowatts-a-killer-tips-for-air-drying-clothes">Tips for Air-Drying Clothes</a>)</p> <h3>2. Open or Close the Blinds</h3> <p>In the winter, harness the sun&rsquo;s energy by opening the curtains during the day and letting the sun warm your house. In the summer, close the blinds while you&rsquo;re away to keep the house cool.</p> <h3>3. Recycle!</h3> <p>The amount of paper and cardboard that goes into our landfills is disgusting. A lot of product packaging (cardboard boxes, aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles) can be recycled, so the next time you find yourself dumping that cookie box in the trash, think again. If in doubt, check with your local recycling program to see what can and cannot be recycled.</p> <h3>4. Don&rsquo;t Leave the Water Running</h3> <p>Hopefully (since you&rsquo;re reading this), you&rsquo;re not one of those people who leaves the water running when you&rsquo;re brushing your teeth. Also, don&rsquo;t wash a pile of dishes under constantly running water. Fill the sink instead, and then rinse the dishes in a fresh sink of water.</p> <h3>5. Use Natural Cleaners</h3> <p>Use vinegar, baking soda, and other natural cleaning solutions instead of conventional cleaners. Alternatively, buy an eco-friendly brand of cleaner or detergent (such as Clorox GreenWorks, Seventh Generation, Method, or Mrs. Meyers).</p> <h3>6. Turn Down and Insulate Your Water Heater</h3> <p>If your water heater isn&rsquo;t adequately insulated (it feels warm to the touch), you can save energy by insulating it to prevent heat loss. Insulating jackets or blankets are cheap to buy, and if you have an electric water heater, you can install it yourself. Read more about it at <a href="http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13070">EnergySavers.Gov</a>. While you&rsquo;re at it, turn down the thermostat to 120⁰F on your water heater to prevent water from being heated until scalding hot (it&rsquo;s safer too).</p> <h3>7. Start Composting</h3> <p>Start a <a href="http://www.wholeliving.com/article/how-to-start-composting?backto=true&amp;backtourl=/photogallery/easy-ways-to-be-more-green#slide_21">compost bin</a> with kitchen scraps, old newspaper, and other organic materials. Use this fertile compost in your garden instead of commercial fertilizer.</p> <h3>8. Buy Pre-Owned Stuff</h3> <p>Shop on Craigslist, on eBay, and at local consignment and thrift stores for furniture, housewares, and clothing. Buy used books instead of new ones.</p> <h3>9. Buy Local Produce</h3> <p>Reduce your carbon footprint by buying seasonal fruits and vegetables from local farms. Even if you shop at a big grocery store, produce should be labeled with its place of origin. Buying locally reduces emissions from fuel used to transport food to you and supports local farmers.</p> <h3>10. Buy Music Online</h3> <p>Instead of buying CDs, buy digital files of the newest music. It's cheap and easy, and you reduce the amount of material used to produce a physical CD as well as the gas required to drive to the music store.</p> <h3>11. Carpool to Work or School</h3> <p>Save money and the environment at the same time by carpooling to work or school. As an added bonus, you&rsquo;ll get to use the carpool lane. Even better, bike or walk to work if possible.</p> <h3>12. Unplug Electronic Devices</h3> <p>Computers and other electronic devices continue to use energy even when they&rsquo;re turned off. Unplug them when you&rsquo;re not using them to save energy. Try using a power strip for your home electronics that you can switch off when not in use.</p> <h3>13. Reuse Scrap Paper</h3> <p>Whether you&rsquo;re taking notes for a class or letting your toddler go nuts with the crayons, never recycle a piece of office paper until it has been used on both sides.</p> <h3>14. Go Paper-Free</h3> <p>Cancel your newspaper subscription and subscribe to the online version instead. Send <a href="http://new.evite.com/#home">Evites </a>instead of paper invitations. Use email instead of the fax machine.</p> <h3>15. Get a Reusable Water Bottle</h3> <p>Get a stainless-steel or BPA-free <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-eco-friendly-water-bottles">reusable water bottle</a> instead of keeping a case of bottled water around.</p> <h3>16. Install a Water-Saving Showerhead</h3> <p>Today&rsquo;s low-flow showerheads have come a long way, and many of them have excellent water pressure, meaning you don&rsquo;t have to sacrifice comfort for the environment.</p> <h3>17. Eat Sustainable Seafood</h3> <p>Check out the <a href="http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/download.aspx">Monterey Bay Aquarium&rsquo;s guides</a> to sustainable seafood. Some popular types of fish, such as Chilean sea bass, imported mahi-mahi, farmed salmon, red snapper, and certain types of tuna, are being overfished or are caught/farmed in ways that are harmful to the environment. They even have a sustainable guide to sushi!</p> <h3>18. Use a Reusable Shopping Bag</h3> <p>Plastic grocery bags are recyclable, but usually you have to bring them to special collection points (check if your local grocery store has one). Avoid the waste and the hassle by getting yourself a reusable shopping bag, which will be sturdier and more stylish anyway. Be sure to wash your bag periodically to prevent bacteria buildup.</p> <h3>19. Change the Lightbulbs</h3> <p>Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) use a quarter of the wattage of regular bulbs and last way longer. These days, they come in a range of colors (from warm yellow to cool white) and don&rsquo;t flicker like they used to. Be sure to recycle them properly when they burn out though &mdash; CFLs contain mercury and shouldn&rsquo;t be dumped in a landfill.</p> <h3>20. Switch to Cloth Diapers</h3> <p>If you&rsquo;ve got a little one, you might want to consider trying cloth diapers. Think of the mountain of disposable diapers your child has produced by the time he/she is a toddler!&nbsp; Today&rsquo;s cloth diapers, such as the <a href="http://stinkerpants.com/weblog/post/being-a-hippy-mama-step-1-cloth-diapers-and-wipes">gDiaper</a>, are designed to be user-friendly, and with modern high-efficiency washing machines, don&rsquo;t take a lot of water and energy to wash. If it&rsquo;s easier, try a combination of cloth and disposable diapers as your needs allow.</p> <h3>21. Be Green When Traveling</h3> <p>Many hotels have figured out that being more environmentally conscious can save them money. Follow hotel guidelines for reducing water use by reusing your towels and sheets instead of having them changed every day. Choose to support hotels and tours that minimize their carbon footprint. Airplane travel is very polluting; if possible, minimize plane travel and pack light to reduce fuel consumption.</p> <h3>22. Drive Smart</h3> <p>Do your best to save energy and reduce emissions when driving. Don&rsquo;t idle your car (a pet peeve of mine!). Make sure tires are properly inflated and aligned, and maintain your car (worn out spark plugs, clogged air filters, and other problems can lower gas mileage). Avoid driving aggressively with sudden stops and speeding, both of which also lower gas mileage.</p> <h3>23. Plug Leaks in Your Home</h3> <p>Caulking windows and weather-stripping doors is cheap and easy enough to do yourself. Preventing leaks in your home can save you money and reduce energy consumption.</p> <h3>24. Turn Down (or Up) the Thermostat</h3> <p>Having grown up in Canada, I&rsquo;ve noticed that often I&rsquo;ve come in from the freezing cold outside into a steamy hot house. I have to immediately peel off layers of sweaty clothing. Why not just wear a sweater inside the house, and turn the heat down a degree or two? If you live in a hot climate, try the opposite.</p> <h3>25. Sell or Donate Used Stuff</h3> <p>Instead of dumping old clothes and other reusable stuff in the trash, sell it at a yard sale or <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cleaning-out-for-a-cause-make-a-noncash-tax-deductible-donation">donate it to the local Goodwill</a>. Someone else will benefit from your unwanted possessions.</p> <p><em>Do you have any other tips for greening your lifestyle? Share with us in the comments!</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-eco-friendly-changes-you-can-make-today" class="sharethis-link" title="25 Eco-Friendly Changes You Can Make Today" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/camilla-cheung">Camilla Cheung</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living 25 changes energy efficiency recycle reuse Tue, 01 Nov 2011 10:24:16 +0000 Camilla Cheung 766486 at http://www.wisebread.com 10 Frugal Ways to Keep Your Home Warm This Winter http://www.wisebread.com/10-frugal-ways-to-keep-your-home-warm-this-winter <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-frugal-ways-to-keep-your-home-warm-this-winter" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/sweater_dog2.jpg" alt="Dog in sweater" title="Dog in sweater" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="151" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Nothing can put your budget on ice quicker than a cold snap. Energy costs are rising across the board, and defending every dollar we spend on heat has never been more important. Forecasters say that the dry summer portends a severe winter, so as the temperatures start to dip, let&rsquo;s explore ten frugal ways to winterize your home. (See also: <a href="http://getcurrency.com/design-home/5-steps-to-a-diy-home-energy-audit">5 Steps to a DIY Home Energy Audit</a>, via Currency)</p> <h3>1. Seal Leaks</h3> <p>It&rsquo;s time to plug, seal, and caulk. Caulk both the inside and outside of your windows. Outside, focus on the sealing around all the edges of the sills with a water-resistant product. Inside, use a temporary silicone caulk around all moving parts of the window. In the spring, when it&rsquo;s time to open everything up, the silicone will break loose easily and not damage paint or varnish.</p> <h3>2. Bring Out Storm Windows</h3> <p>If you have an older home with single-pane windows, it&rsquo;s time to take off the screens and put on the storm windows. Though this can be a huge chore, and often storm windows don&rsquo;t fit that snugly, they do offer another layer of physical protection against the cold.</p> <h3>3. Insulate</h3> <p>Though more expensive than the other strategies, insulation gives you a big bang for your winterizing buck. Keep it simple and don&rsquo;t get lost in complex <a href="http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11340">R-value</a> calculations. Just remember this simple rule of thumb &mdash; you should have at least 12 inches of insulation in your attic.</p> <h3>4. Replace Air Filters</h3> <p>Replace the air filter in your central heating and cooling system. Use a handheld vacuum while the filter is out to get rid of dust and cobwebs that may have accumulated in or around the filter slot. A clean air filter will not only reduce dust inside, it&rsquo;ll reduce the amount of energy it takes for your heater to work and extend its life.</p> <h3>5. Duct and Cover</h3> <p>The ductwork in our homes carries the heat from room to room. Ductwork that&rsquo;s not well-insulated, disconnected, or dirty impedes air flow and makes your heating system work harder. Check ducts in the attic and basement, vacuum them out, and seal loose connections with a metal-backed tape.</p> <h3>6. Protect the Pipes</h3> <p>Like the ductwork in your home, any pipes that carry water need to be insulated from below-freezing temperatures. If you have a crawl space under your home or a basement that&rsquo;s not insulated, wrap your pipes with fiberglass insulation or use pre-molded foam rubber sleeves that you can pick up at most home improvement stores.</p> <h3>7. Turn on the Fan</h3> <p>Ceiling fans are a great way to help cool your house in the summer, and they come in handy during the winter months too. In preparation for colder weather, reverse the direction of airflow on your fans. Since warm air rises, the fan blades will push the air down and help keep the toastier air in circulation. How do you know if your fan is rotating in the right direction for winter? Here&rsquo;s the trick &mdash; turn your fan on and look up. For winter, your fan&rsquo;s blades should be moving clockwise.</p> <h3>8. Close Off Unused Space</h3> <p>Close vents and doors to rooms and other areas you don&rsquo;t use regularly. Typically, the ambient heat from the rest of the house will keep these areas warm enough to keep pipes from freezing. For other areas of your home that may drop below freezing, refer to tip #6 and insulate those pipes!</p> <h3>9. Optimize Your Cooking and Baking Schedule</h3> <p>Generations ago, our heating system was our cooking system. The wood-burning oven, coal stove, or fireplace served the dual purpose of feeding the family and keeping them warm. Pay tribute to this efficient idea by turning down the heat when it&rsquo;s time to cook and waiting to cook when everyone&rsquo;s home and can enjoy the added warmth (and be available to do the dishes afterward).</p> <h3>10. Let the Sun Shine In</h3> <p>You don&rsquo;t have to invest a lot of money to enjoy some of benefits of solar energy. Leverage passive solar power during the day by leaving your curtains and drapes open. Your rooms will soak up the heat and release it at night.</p> <p>So <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/six-ways-to-stay-warm-and-reduce-the-heating-bill">grab a sweater</a> (or two), make some tea, and enjoy your cozier and warmer home this winter &mdash; it just might be a long one.</p> <p><em>What are some fast and frugal methods you have to keep your home warm on those cold winter days?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-frugal-ways-to-keep-your-home-warm-this-winter" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Frugal Ways to Keep Your Home Warm This Winter " rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kentin-waits">Kentin Waits</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Home cold weather energy efficiency home improvement winterizing your home Fri, 30 Sep 2011 10:36:18 +0000 Kentin Waits 718656 at http://www.wisebread.com 8 Simple Ways to Make Your Refrigerator More Efficient http://www.wisebread.com/8-simple-ways-to-make-your-refrigerator-more-efficient <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-simple-ways-to-make-your-refrigerator-more-efficient" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/4787436060_2fe6fd6e32_b.jpg" alt="refrigerator energy" title="refrigerator energy" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>My friend Fabulous Frank is always coming up with neat ideas and inventions; one of his best designs boasts a refrigerator with a glass door on it. And while that may mean some extra-tough cleanups, just think of the one glorious advantage it offers: &quot;Every time you go to check the fridge,&quot; he says, &quot;you wouldn't have to open the door to see what's inside.&quot; Which, of course, means less energy wasted.</p> <p>Until Fab Frank's fridge becomes a regular consumer option, we have our work cut out for us. Even if you have an EnergyStar refrigerator, you know these big appliances still eat electricity &mdash; about 500 kilowatt-hours per year even for the stingier models. The question is, can we improve on that? You betcha. Below are some tips for making fridges (both standard and EnergyStar models) run more efficiently. And we'll start with a tip that comes courtesy of Frank himself. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-save-big-on-appliances" title="8 Ways to Save Big on Appliances">8 Ways to Save Big on Appliances</a>)</p> <h2>1. Open the Door Less Often</h2> <p>Particularly if you have kids, you know fridge doors get opened dozens and dozens of times a day. Whenever that happens, warm air rushes in, making it harder for your appliance to keep cool. Leave the doors open longer than two minutes, and you're putting strain on the fridge. So until they invent glass doors, do what you can to limit how often and how long your doors get yanked open. With shopping trips, I lump all the refrigerated items into one big pile and then load up as fast as possible. Try determining how much time you need to shave off your loading time with this <a title="electronic clock timer" href="http://www.amazon.com/Presto-04212-Electronic-Clock-Timer/dp/B00006IV0U">Presto Electronic Clock &amp; Timer</a> (<em>$10.68 with free shipping via Amazon Prime</em>).</p> <h2>2. Pack It Up, Baby</h2> <p>After each shopping trip, I love to stuff the fridge &mdash; and there's a reason besides the fact that many Italian Americans like myself do this. A full fridge means that there's less hot air that needs cooling. Of course, a stuffed fridge means poor air circulation, and any well-stocked cooler begs to be opened many times. But so long as you police your clan from peeking out of boredom (or swinging on the handles) you should come out ahead on the energy-savings side.</p> <h2>3. A Freezer on Top is Tops</h2> <p>For those of you considering a new fridge, keep in mind that not all EnergyStar models are created equal. The <a title="EnergyStar refrigerators" href="http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&amp;pgw_code=RF">government's EnergyStar website</a> reports, &quot;Models with top-mounted freezers use 10% to 25% less energy than bottom-mount or side-by-side models.&quot; Besides, a bottom-mounted freezer means stooping over to get the Haagen-Dazs, which isn't exactly my idea of how to launch an indulgent dessert experience. The <a title="top freezer refrigerator" href="http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&amp;productId=202822214&amp;langId=-1&amp;catalogId=10053">GE Top Freezer Refrigerator</a> in White or <a title="black top freezer refrigerator" href="http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&amp;productId=202933768&amp;langId=-1&amp;catalogId=10053">Black</a> (<em>$448 via code &quot;APP50B2&quot; with free shipping</em>) is an inexpensive option that fits the bill.</p> <h2>4. Chill Out on the Ice-Cube Maker</h2> <p>Maybe we could stand to learn something from the Europeans, who don't take ice in their drinks. Icemakers and through-the-door dispensers not only increase a refrigerator's price by up to $250, they also increase energy use by 14% to 20%, EnergyStar figures show. So if you have an icemaker, why not give it a rest? And if you really need crushed ice, consider the merits of these <a title="ice cube trays" href="http://www.target.com/Tovolo-Perfect-Cube-Ice-Trays-pk/dp/B000F3LF0G/">Tovolo Perfect-Cube Ice Trays</a> (<em>two for $14.99 with $3.99 s&amp;h</em>) and a hammer.</p> <h2>5. Location, Location, Location</h2> <p>This one comes courtesy of our friends at <a title="allyou.com" href="http://www.allyou.com/budget-home/live-green-save/make-refrigerator-energy-efficient-00400000051318/">allyou.com</a>, who point out that a fridge shouldn't rest close to obvious hotspots. &quot;Place your fridge away from your oven, stove top, radiator, or other heat sources, and make sure there are a few inches of space around it. The unit can nestle, but it shouldn't abut walls, counters, or other appliances.&quot; I suppose that means no cold storage for my Twinkie flambé, either.</p> <h2>6. Check the Seals and the Frost</h2> <p>Just as leaky window and door seals yield a <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-diy-tips-to-winterize-your-home-for-cheap" title="7 DIY Tips to Winterize Your Home for Cheap">drafty house</a>, a fridge with bad seals around the doors can't do its job well. If your seals have suffered from wear or damage, check out <a title="RepairClinic" href="http://www.repairclinic.com/">RepairClinic</a>, which stocks just about every type of replacement part for large appliances. As for the frost side, it's a good idea to periodically defrost your freezer, as that will help it work better. If you see more than a quarter-inch of frost all the way around, it's time.</p> <h2>7. Clean Those Coils</h2> <p>Dust is the enemy of many large appliances, from air conditioners to stereo systems. In the latter, dust blocking the vents can cause overheating, and dust on the coils of your fridge forces it to work harder. Getting in back of that monster may conjure visions of an emergency room visit, but tidying up isn't hard if you consult a reliable resource, like your appliance manual. A vacuum with a <a title="crevice attachment" href="http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&amp;productId=100074040&amp;langId=-1&amp;catalogId=10053">crevice attachment</a> is crucial, as is a small brush (like a paint brush) to reach more troublesome areas. Your efforts will not only keep the fridge working better, but also preserve its longevity.</p> <h2>8. Pick the Right Temperature</h2> <p>Going colder than the preferred temperature wastes electricity, and for refrigerators, that ranges between 35 and 38 degrees, according to <a title="howstuffworks.com" href="http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/question121.htm">howstuffworks.com</a>. There are other benefits as well to sticking in this range: &quot;Anything higher and foods will spoil too quickly (it also presents food poisoning problems). Anything lower and freezing becomes a problem.&quot;</p> <p>Common to all these tips is one overarching principle: habit. Once you get in the habit of checking on the appliances you take for granted, they'll reward you in kind with extended years of service and extra savings in the bank &mdash; all while making a dent in your carbon footprint.</p> <p><em>This post is by <a href="http://dealnews.com/" title="Dealnews">Dealnews</a>.</em></p> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-blog-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Even if you have an EnergyStar refrigerator, these big appliances still eat electricity. Here are some tips for making fridges run more efficiently. </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dealnews">Dealnews</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Home appliances energy efficiency kitchen refrigerator Mon, 22 Aug 2011 10:24:18 +0000 Dealnews 671095 at http://www.wisebread.com 4 Business Tips That Can Save the World http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/4-business-tips-that-can-save-the-world <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/4-business-tips-that-can-save-the-world" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/4-business-tips-that-can-save-the-world</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/4-business-tips-that-can-save-the-world" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000007618481Small.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/4-business-tips-that-can-save-the-world" class="sharethis-link" title="4 Business Tips That Can Save the World " rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>A few years ago I read an article in the Harvard Business Review that created a proverbial whack upside the head. Titled <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Road-Map-Natural-Capitalism/dp/B00005U01Y" target="_blank"><i>A Road Map for Natural Capitalism</i></a>, the article explains that we ignore one major capital component in our financial models &mdash; the value of Earth's services, nature&rsquo;s capital contribution to our success.</p> <p>We just don't think about, much less figure into our budgets &mdash; things like water storage, atmosphere regulation, and the other life-support services because Mother Nature is the vendor. These services have huge economic value. Some, in fact, are priceless because there&rsquo;s no known substitute. But because we don&rsquo;t count them among our resources, or for the most part haven&rsquo;t considered them at all, they&rsquo;re being liquidated.</p> <p>Here&rsquo;s the deeper issue: when resources seemed boundless, low per-capita productivity and a relative scarcity of workers drove innovations in technology and processes that led to increased productivity (the Industrial Revolution). Today we have lots of people and labor-saving machines, but natural capital is disappearing. In the same way the Industrial Revolution replaced agrarianism, a new era of natural capitalism, or whatever future historians decide to call it, will inevitably transform the way we do business now.</p> <p>The whack upside the head came when I realized that many companies today are looking for tradeoffs and consider economic, environmental, and social issues as competing factors instead of trying to integrate and optimize them. Carbon offsets are a good example of this &ldquo;whistling in the dark.&rdquo; Sure it might help, but it won&rsquo;t solve the problem because there really is a boogie-man out to get us. In the immortal words of Pogo, &ldquo;We have met the enemy and he is us.&rdquo;</p> <p>But the fight isn&rsquo;t over yet, and the article noted four key ways to build more sustainable, profitable, and competitive businesses.</p> <h3>Focus on Using Resources More Productively</h3> <p>Most businesses already do this because efficiency produces savings in operational costs, capital, and time. Such investments quickly pay for themselves, and in many cases the capital outlay actually goes down. But we haven&rsquo;t wrung out the possibilities &mdash; not by a long shot.</p> <p>A decade ago, fuel accounted for about 15 percent of airline operating expenses. Five years ago, it was 29 percent. Today, it's 35 percent. So Boeing&rsquo;s new 787, which saves airlines 20% in fuel consumption, is really going to help bottom lines. That said, the Chevy Volt takes the prize for efficiency &mdash; with four passengers it&rsquo;s <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_efficiency_in_transportation" target="_blank">more fuel-efficient than walking</a>.</p> <h3>Using Resources More Efficiently and Reducing Waste is Not Enough</h3> <p>We need to eliminate the concept of waste altogether.</p> <p>Closed-loop production systems modeled after nature, can be designed to return harmless unused by-products to the ecosystem or create valuable resources for other manufacturing processes.</p> <p>Lumber mills used to use sawdust to fire the boilers that ran their saws, for example. A couple of decades ago a company that made buttons sold off the chaff punched out of the holes as &ldquo;gravel&rdquo; for fish tanks.</p> <p>All steps in the right direction, but <a href="http://indigodev.com/Kal.html" target="_blank">an industrial park in Denmark</a> leads the way &mdash; take a deep breath if you&rsquo;re reading aloud.</p> <p>A plasterboard factory uses excess gas and bio-treated waste water from a refinery to sell a pure sulfur by-product and gypsum produced from the sulfur scrubbed from the stacks of power plants to both the refinery and the power plant and hot salt water to fish farms which sell the stuff at the bottom of the ponds as fertilizer to local pig farms that also use sludge (a combined total of a million tons a year) from a pharmaceutical plant which uses electricity and waste heat from the power plant. How&rsquo;s that for industrial symbiosis?</p> <h3>Value as a Continuous Flow of Services Instead of Sporadic Sales of Goods</h3> <p>Today, manufacturing is based on the sporadic sale of goods. Instead, we can deliver value as a continuous flow of services. By reducing inventory and revenue fluctuations, disposal liabilities, and other risks, it&rsquo;s possible for both seller and buyer to get what they want cheaper, more efficiently, and in a more durable manner.</p> <p>People want solutions not products. Lease plants for interior decor instead of selling them. Sell illumination, not lightbulbs, the authors of the article suggest. But, they also acknowledge, &ldquo;This model entails a new perception of value, a move from acquisition of goods as a measure of affluence to one where well-being is measured by continuous satisfaction of changing expectations for quality, utility, and performance.&rdquo;</p> <p>Changing people&rsquo;s values is never easy, but it can happen. For example: Do you still think a &ldquo;woman&rsquo;s place is in the home?&rdquo; Do you think a lifetime career with one company is desirable? Do you worry about the cost of a telephone call across the country?</p> <h3>Reinvest in Natural Capital</h3> <p>Any good capitalist reinvests in productive capital; it&rsquo;s good business. Companies are finding exciting and cost-effective ways to restore and expand the natural capital directly required for operations and indirectly in ways to sustain their supply system and customer base.</p> <p>Innovative companies are already changing their strategies and developing a competitive edge. Former Dupont CEO and Apple board member, Edgar Woolard, put it this way, &ldquo;Companies that adopt these principles will do very well, while those that do not won't be a problem, since ultimately they won't be around.&quot;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tom-harnish">Tom Harnish</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center cost cutting energy efficiency green business natural capital small business sustainable business Wed, 03 Aug 2011 19:17:27 +0000 Tom Harnish 629791 at http://www.wisebread.com Get Green for Going Green http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/get-green-for-going-green <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/get-green-for-going-green" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/get-green-for-going-green</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/get-green-for-going-green" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000006140358Small.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="156" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/get-green-for-going-green" class="sharethis-link" title="Get Green for Going Green" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>Whether or not you&rsquo;re a fervent global warming believer, there are several compelling business reasons why you should become greener. The most compelling? Doing so will put money in your pocket.</p> <h3>Cost Savings</h3> <p>Being more energy efficient will reduce your utility bills. Savings can be significant. Lighting accounts for about 30% of commercial utility costs, so implementing energy-saving fixtures, bulbs, and other cost-saving measures (such as turning off lights and equipment when not in use) can really pay off.</p> <p>Merely adjusting the thermostat can create <a href="http://www.txu.com/en/small-business/energy-savings/energy-calculators.aspx)" target="_blank">savings</a> in heating and cooling your facility. For example, the typical summertime setting is 78 degrees. By raising the thermostat 2 degrees, you can reap a 2% savings on air conditioning reflected in your utility bill. By contrast, a setting of 75 degrees will cost you 3% more.</p> <p>Check with your utility company to determine what programs may be available to help you. There may be:</p> <ul> <li><b><i>Energy audits</i></b> (free or low cost) to determine what changes are recommended for cost savings;</li> <li><b><i>Rebates</i></b> for switching to energy-saving fluorescent fixtures and bulbs;</li> <li><b><i>Grants</i></b> to pay for energy-related improvements;</li> <li><b><i>Special financing programs </i></b>to make certain energy improvements.</li> </ul> <p>Figure your utility cost reductions from changing to energy-saving fluorescent bulbs using an <a href="http://www.sylvania.com/Energy/Calculator/" target="_blank">online calculator from Sylvania</a>. There&rsquo;s also an <a href="http://www.energystar.gov/ia/business/bulk_purchasing/bpsavings_calc/Calc_Exit_Signs.xls" target="_blank">Energy Star calculator</a> (Excel spreadsheet) for changing the bulbs in your exit signs.</p> <h3>Tax Savings</h3> <p>There are some federal tax breaks to reward businesses for going green. A couple to consider:</p> <ul> <li>A <a href="http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=US02F" target="_blank">business energy investment tax credit</a> for installing solar-power, photovoltaics, wind power, fuel cells, geothermal heat pumps, and other renewable energy generators;</li> <li>A <a href="http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/industries/article/0,,id=160505,00.html" target="_blank">deduction</a> through 2013 for businesses that own their properties just for being energy-efficient.</li> </ul> <p>Keep in mind that capital purchases in 2011 may qualify for 100% bonus depreciation, which means that the <i>entire </i>cost can be deducted up front. For example, if your business buys more energy-efficient air conditioners now to replace old clunkers, the cost can be fully deducted this year. <a href="http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=ofc_equip.pr_office_equipment" target="_blank">Energy Star</a> now provides ratings for office equipment, such as copiers, printers, and water coolers.</p> <p>The IRS isn&rsquo;t the only one to dole out tax breaks for businesses that go green. States may also offer a variety of business-related incentives, including deductions, credits, sales tax savings, property tax reductions, and more. For information about state tax incentives to further your energy-efficiency policy, go to the <a href="http://www.dsire.org/" target="_blank">Database for State Incentives for Renewables &amp; Efficiency (DSIRE)</a>.</p> <p>Check with your tax advisor to learn which breaks may be beneficial to your business.</p> <h3>Marketing Edge</h3> <p>If you incorporate energy-saving practices into your business, you may be able to use this to a <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/using-green-practices-to-market-your-business" target="_blank">marketing advantage</a>. For example, architects, home builders, and contractors that use green practices in the design, construction, and operation of buildings may qualify for certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, called <a href="http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CategoryID=19" target="_blank">LEED</a>; classification as a green builder or green building owner may be highly attractive to customers.</p> <p>Other certification resources applicable to small businesses include:</p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.gbb.org/" target="_blank">Green Business Bureau</a>;</li> <li><a href="http://www.greenseal.org/" target="_blank">Green Seal</a>;</li> <li><a href="http://www.gbcertified.com/11-Home.asp" target="_blank">Institute for Green Business Certification</a>.</li> </ul> <p>Learn more about green certification and ecolabeling from the <a href="http://www.sba.gov/content/green-certification-and-ecolabeling" target="_blank">SBA</a>.</p> <h3>Final Word</h3> <p>At a time when many small businesses continue to struggle with profitability, going green may offer an important financial edge. Using less electricity, taking advantage of tax breaks, and incorporating green practices into your marketing can contribute to a better bottom line.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/barbara-weltman">Barbara Weltman</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center cut energy costs energy efficiency energy savings green tax savings small business Wed, 20 Jul 2011 21:03:48 +0000 Barbara Weltman 611285 at http://www.wisebread.com