Reduce, Reuse and eCycle! 
In our last post, we looked at some ways to green your computer, particularly on the software and server sides. But there are other ways to make your electronic and computing life a little greener.

First and foremost is proper recycling of your computer and other electronic devices. Computers, batteries, cell phones, televisions and other electronics can – and certainly should – be recycled. As more companies and communities work to eliminate e-waste, it’s becoming increasingly easier to recycle electronics. That means you have no excuse.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a partnership with leading electronics manufacturers – called Plug-In To eCycling – that fosters opportunities for consumers to donate or recycle their electronics. In 2008, this program recycled more than 66.5 million pounds of used electronics – a 30 percent jump from the previous year. According to the EPA, those recycled items prevented the release of greenhouse gases equal to the annual emissions from about 15,500 cars.

Information from the EPA indicates consumer electronics – including televisions and video equipment, computers and phones – make up about 2 percent of the municipal solid waste stream. Now, that might not sounds like much in the grand scheme of things, but that number increases with our dependency on electronics and our need for the latest iPhone, laptop and gaming machine.

This eCycling Resources page from the EPA Web site has plenty of information on how and where to recycle your items. Businesses, especially those that upgrade computers every year or two, may be able to donate their items to a local nonprofit or school. They may also be able to receive a tax deduction for a contribution.

Another way take your computing green, as it relates to energy use, is through energy monitoring. Just this week, President Obama announced that projects in most U.S. states, D.C. and Guam would receive federal money for smart-grid projects. According to the New York Times, “The money will go toward deploying more smart meters, which use digital technology to deliver detailed usage data to the customer and the utility, as well as adding displays in homes that tell customers about their electricity use and improving technology in substations, transformers and other parts of the grid.”

If you want to get a taste of the concept of monitoring, check out Google’s PowerMeter in your small business or home office. It’s a free electricity usage monitoring tool so you can see just how much energy you’re consuming. You’ll be able to see whether turning off and unplugging your computer at night is really making a difference (I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.)

Finally, if you need more convincing on the importance of green computing, take a look at these 48 clean-tech facts compiled by PC Magazine. (Wow! The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle can power a computer for 25 minutes!)


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The power behind green computing  
When it comes to creating a green office, you have to turn your attention to the devices that use a great deal of energy – the computers and servers. Even if you make a conscious effort to turn off your computer – or at least the monitor – after hours, computers are still the company workhorses and demand a lot of power.

Millions of Americans are tethered to their computers daily, so what can a business do to create greener software and computer solutions?

A good first step to look at how your company is using its software programs – on-site versus something calls SaaS or Software as a Service. Taking a green perspective on this topic, your business could be saving a great deal of energy by using SaaS or Web-based applications that run through the vender’s data center and are accessed online. On-site software means you pop in the CD, install the software and run it on your own server or computer hard drive.

Chris Thorman on SoftwareAdvice.com, offers an extensive comparison of the two and which one is more green. In his example, SaaS uses significantly less energy, in part because a vendor can accommodate multiple customers on one server, and off-site software requires less power meaning employees can switch to more energy-efficient personal computers, such as laptops.

Another benefit to using online software or shared downloads is the savings on packaging (no CD, no boxes) as well as the energy savings from not having those items delivered to your office via a delivery truck.

Here are a couple of other green computing options:

• Canadian-based computer Userful has created Userful Multiplier, which uses Linux-based software and allows 10 users to run off the juice of one computer. The company boasts a savings of 90% on electricity use with its product.

Faronics Power Save analyzes your computer’s activities and powers down the computer when it’s inactive. The computer claims an average savings of $50 per computer per year when using this software solution.

But if you’re still thinking, “OK, what’s all the hype? How much energy can my computer really use?”, check out this article on the power consumption of computers. It gives good evidence for switching to a laptop (15-60 watts) from a desktop (60-500 watts) for energy efficiency and turning off your monitor when it’s not in use (0-15 watts versus up to 150 watts when a monitor is running).

In the end these extra efforts can ultimately save your business money as energy consumption drops and you can afford to upgrade to more energy-efficient computers for your employees. And that kind of green savings is something just about any business can get behind.

Let’s hear your ideas! What green computing solutions are you using?


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Greening your home office 
By its very nature, working from home is a greener option. The commute involves simply walking from the kitchen with coffee mug in hand to your home office space – no vehicle emissions needed.

People who work from home also have more control over how they can green their space, such as opting for natural lighting instead of harsh fluorescent overhead lights or purchasing eco-friendly products, such as recycled paper or refilled ink cartridges.

A downside to working from home is not being around co-workers who (hopefully) would share your desire to make the workplace a little greener. But there are still some ways you can be part of a green community, even if your only office-mates are a cat and a dog.

• Be part of the green online community. Twitter, for example, is a great “water cooler” for people who work from home. If you need a five-minute break, join in the Twitter conversation and connect with other people with a passion for green. (The Green Office Blog is on Twitter too.)

• Join a local environment or conservation organization. A local nonprofit would welcome your interest and involvement and it’s a great way to meet new people who share your eco interest. Plus, you might find it’s good for business networking.

• If you happen to telecommute or work for a company in which a large number of employees work from home, create a virtual green team. Share resources and ideas for making each home office greener.

Here are some more good tips for a green home office from www.BestGreenHomeTips.com, including investing in a programmable thermostat. This means you have control of the office temperature, so no need to have the A/C cranked when it’s only 60 degrees outside.

Finally, think about the equipment you’re using at home. You have the freedom to select energy-efficient products, including your computer. An excellent resource is the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). A product of the Green Electronic Council, this program evaluates computer desktops, laptops and monitors based on 51 environmental criteria developed through an extensive process supported by the U.S. EPA.

Do you work at home? What are your suggestions for making your home office green?


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Make the green call 
Back in March, the Green Office Blog gave a Green Thumbs Up to Sprint for its efforts to create a more sustainable workplace. So when a company representative contacted me asking if I’d like to test drive the new Samsung Reclaim cell phone, I jumped at the chance to check it out.

It arrived one afternoon in all its green glory, made from 80 percent recyclable materials. The Reclaim comes with a full slide-out keyboard, texting, e-mail and Internet capabilities. It is, as you might expect, available in Earth Green and Ocean Blue. At $50, it’s a robust phone with plenty of features most consumers expect from their cell phones today – camera, Facebook, MySpace and Google.

At first I had a little bit of a tough time figuring out the navigation on the main screen and which button did what. (Granted, like I’m sure most people do, I just started pushing buttons and didn’t first pull out the instructions.) The keyboard worked surprisingly well considering I’m used to my Blackberry, which has a slightly larger keypad and raised keys, whereas the Reclaim has a flat keyboard.

Definitely for the price, the Reclaim is a good deal and has all the standard cell phone bells and whistles. But I really liked the added bonus of a number of green features, including a Green Glossary, Guide Guides and Five Simple Steps all from the Discovery Channel.

One of the neat green side benefits is that $2 from the proceeds of each Samsung Reclaim benefits The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre program, which supports land conservation across the United States.

A few more green tidbits about the Samsung Reclaim:
• The phone’s bio-plastic material is made from corn and comprises 40 percent of the outer casing.
• The box and packaging are made from 70 percent recycling materials and printed with soy-based ink.
• The charger is Energy Star approved and lets you know when the phone is fully charged.
• Included in the package is a paper filled with green facts about Sprint that can be soaked in water, planted and turned into wildflowers.

Here’s another review of the Reclaim from EngadgetMobile.com.

Other cell phone makers are taking a turn toward the green and creating cell phones that are both functional and eco-friendly. About.com ranked the top three green cell phones. The Reclaim is on the list along with the MOTO W233 Renew from T-Mobile. It’s made from recycled plastic water bottles, and Motorola claims it is the world’s first carbon-neutral phone.

Also, the Samsung Blue Earth (pictured at right) is a green smartphone also made from recycled plastic water bottles. This phone charges not only with an energy-efficient charger but with solar panels (cool!). You can watch a video about this phone here.

Need more ideas for turning your cell phone green? Check out this Web site. And don’t forget to recycle your old cell phone when you upgrade.

Have you tried one of these green cell phones? Post a comment and let us know what you think.


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Taking a look at corporate responsibility  
"What does the world need most that we are uniquely able to provide?" That’s the question Jeffrey Hollender, Seventh Generation co-founder and chief inspired protagonist, poses on the company Web page heralding the release of its 2008 Corporate Conscious Report.

Seventh Generation, which makes environmentally friendly and natural household and personal care products, is a progressive and growing company. For a company that has long been looking ahead and measuring its success against the greater good, Hollender wonders about the future corporate social responsibility and its far-reaching impact on businesses.

…a growing breed of good companies has heard President Obama's call to a “new era of responsibility." Fueled by an emerging generation of business leaders, these companies are committed to merging economic growth with social justice. They view the financial crisis and the climate crisis as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to unleash principled behavior for the greater good. For them, values and principles are sources of innovation—opportunities to create products and services that deliver a Return on Purpose as well as a Return on Investment.


And, so, we return to Hollender’s initial question about what the world needs that our business can uniquely provide. Thought-provoking discussion topics, no doubt.

This is a great time to step back and take a look at your own business and its impact on your local community, your state, your region and ultimately the world. For many companies, it means taking an initial step toward more recycling or reducing energy consumption in the office. For others, it could mean going further in its effort by selecting like-minded suppliers and vendors.

In this “new era responsibility,” more individuals are taking a stand for the environment and that means businesses have to get on board. It explains why a company like Seventh Generation is growing – its products and its corporate mission strike a cord with many consumers. Can the same be said for your business?

If your company had to put together a corporate responsibility report, what would it say? Post a comment and let us know how your office is making a difference.

For inspiration, check out the online book Seventh Generation is working on that highlights best practices in corporate social responsibility. The company has partnered up with Justmeans, an online network for responsible business, to explore how the growing breed of socially responsible companies can become a voice in shifting business as we know it. Stop by the Web site to submit your ideas to the book or to simply be inspired.




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