Greenbacks from Live Green

Guest post by Claire Lafave

Want to save some green while enjoying a more eco-friendly lifestyle? Live Green has a solution.

The membership organization just launched its new Greenbacks site, which offers weekly discounts at Live Green spots (DC businesses screened for sustainable practices and products).

This week’s deal (starting Tuesday) is $50 off yoga at Flow Yoga Center, a $50 value for $25. Other recent offers include discounts at Holeco Wellness Medi Spa and Java Green.

The way it works is simple. Register for a Greenbacks account and you’ll you’ll receive weekly emails explaining the deal of the day/week. Follow the link in your email to cash in on your Greenbacks for either the member or non-member price. Then, print your voucher under the ‘My Account’ tab and bring it to the deal location to start saving.

Green Your Small Business: Q&A with Jennifer Kaplan

Jennifer Kaplan, author of Greening Your Small Business and founder of Greenhance, sat down with us to talk about easy and inexpensive ways to go green, her top online resources for small businesses, and her favorite green things to do in DC.

1. Tell us a little about how you got started with Greenhance. What was the inspiration behind the company?

My background is in market research and I was doing a project for a client who wanted to green her small retail store. I found that there is good information about going green for homeowners and for large corporations that have sustainability departments, but very little for small businesses.

There is actually a lot of information but it is all over the place. I thought: Someone should serve compile an extensive list of resources for small businesses that want to go green.  It quickly became clear that it could be a business and book. Then, along the way, someone I respect deeply suggested, albeit politely, that my writing a book of resources was a small idea. He was totally right.

There is so much more to greening a small business then simply changing business practices. For example, there’s a whole advocacy piece. The time a business invests in impacting policies and standards can be as valuable to environmental progress as installing new light bulbs.

And then of course, because I’m a marketer, there’s a whole marketing piece. How effectively a small business communicates its environmental commitment, objectives, and successes to customers, employees, and other stakeholders will in large part determine how much value they get out of a green program.

2. What are your top three cheap and easy ideas for businesses that want to be more green?

Use less. Virtually everything you use in your business can be assessed to determine if you can use less. We can all use less paper by employing double-sided and multiplex printing, and storing and distributing documents digitally.

Any business can use less energy by turning computers and lights off at night and by using power management strategies that power down electronics when they are idle.

We can also use less by reusing instead of purchasing new. When we use items that are refillable, refurbished, remanufactured, repairable, reusable and just plain used we reduce manufacturing and transportation related emissions, and keep those things out of landfills. The greatest waste prevention savings often come from not having to buy new things.

Buy local. This is a simple but important (and easy and cheap) greening strategy. In addition to the environmental benefits there are significant social and economic benefits to creating local economies. As a result, dozens of cities and towns across the country have adopted programs to label and promote locally owned businesses.

It is simple to check with vendors about the availability of local products and materials. Buying locally provides businesses with a variety of benefits: Reduced travel-related emissions, more control over materials and end products, shorter time to market, and lower inventory holding costs.  Also, buying locally isn’t limited to goods. Purchasing materials and goods from local suppliers, and hiring local subcontractors, will reduce transportation miles and fuel use.

Reduce business travel. There is a simple environmental truth about travel: It consumes a lot of energy and generates a lot of waste. In fact, airplane travel, lodging, and rental car usage can consume as much as one-quarter of a business’ carbon footprint and as much as 3% of its revenue. So, implementing green travel policies will often make it possible to reduce your carbon footprint, lower your expenses—and many believe—improve productivity.

Since airplane and car travel are such intensive greenhouse gas–emitting activities, the greenest thing you can do is find ways to reduce the need for travel or to eliminate travel altogether.  One quick way to do this is to use web-conferencing. But, if you just have to hit the road you can try to take fewer, longer trips.

Can you share a couple “can’t live without” online resources for green businesses?

I’m a big believer in cloud computing because it is inherently green; not only is buying less IT equipment more cost effective and efficient than owning your own data center, but data centers that house the software and store the data running in the cloud are inevitably more energy efficient than your IT operations.

So, my must-have online resources are all SaaS sites. I love Echosign.com, an electronic signature service that digitally stores and records documents with legally binding e-signatures. I also love paperlesspost.com, an online invitation site. Their designs and user interface are really clever and classy. And finally, Constant Contact, for email marketing and database management. All of these sites allow you to have cost-efficient technological capabilities that used to be reserved for large companies.

4. What’s your favorite green thing to do in DC?

I love taking my kids and dog for a walk in Rock Creek Park and buying local produce at the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market. I also love to eat at Sweetgreen–I get a kick out of their refuse station.  It’s a great example of how business owners can choose not to promote landfill-only disposables.

Join Jennifer for a lunchtime discussion (12-1:30) of her book at Bethesda Green on March 9th.

Hands-On Organic Beauty

For the Love of productsI’ve been slightly obsessed with bath and beauty products from a young age, so when I heard about a class that teaches you how to make delicious organic soaps and other goodies, I was intrigued.  Kristina Libby, owner of For the Love of, a local luxury body product company will come to your home and teach a class on how to make organic skin care products.

The class includes a short talk about organic skin care followed by the opportunity to make your very own scented perfume and bath bomb. The class costs a mere $12, and half of the proceeds are donated to the Susan G. Koman Foundation.

Libby started For the Love of when she left corporate work to follow her passion of creating beautiful feminine bath products. “I make these product because I truly believe that we shouldn’t put anything on our skin that we wouldn’t put in our mouth.” 

Products, such as homemade soap scented with Black Amber honey and Cherry Blossom scrub are made using locally sourced and organic ingredients, and are packaged in recyclable or re-useable containers whenever possible. Five percent of the proceeds from sales go to a variety of women’s causes.

Creative and Conscious Catering

Appetizer from Main Event CateringCanapes and hors d’oeuvres can now be had without the guilt. Well, sort of. Main Event will cater your wedding, Bar Mitzvah and more while having the rather lofty goal of a zero waste kitchen.

“The reality that our industry consumes an incredible amount of energy and creates an amazing amount of waste has forced us to investigate ways to mitigate the effect on our world,” says owner Nancy Goodman. “Our team searches for new and innovative ways to move toward our goal of zero waste every day.  We are proud to be able to offer to our clients green events while still providing a first class experience.”  

 The kitchen at Main Event is carbon neutral, 100% wind powered, and uses alternative disposables from recycled materials (Corn, Palm, Balsa and Bagasse). Main Event’s owners estimate that they have reduced landfill waste by 70% since the beginning of 2008. 

Main Event also recycles everything possible, including their food wastes through composting, which they give out for free, first-come, first-serve “Black Gold” fertilizer for the garden. They also give away their used cooking oil  — which can then be converted to bio-Diesel fuel.

Clients can use the carbon calculator on their web site to calculate their carbon footprint (including travel of guests) so they can purchase the appropriate offsets. Now that’s something to celebrate!

Local Fresh Food Delivered

Tired of takeout? Too busy to cook? Now, there’s a local food delivery service that will help you be more sustainable and eat well, too. Your Urban Kitchen does all the prep work and cooking and delivers on an as-needed basis with a three-meal minimum.

The brainchild of Nashwa Beach, a Brightwood resident, Your Urban Kitchen just launched last week and is currently available throughout northwest DC. Beach’s inspiration? Helping others to get their busy lives in order without having to compromise on flavor and nutrition.

Sample menu items for January include Indonesian Ginger Chicken, Creamy Chicken Basil Pesto or Pan Seared Tilapia with Chile Lime Butter. The food comes prepared and vacuumed sealed so you determine if you put in the freezer or fridge. All you do is heat it up.

Each meal is enough for six servings (4-6 adults) and split portions are available to serve 2-3 adults. Meals are delivered Saturday afternoon and Monday afternoon/evening to customers throughout northwest; the company is planning to expand its delivery area later this year

Now that’s the kind of fast-food dining we can get behind!