Posts Tagged “economy”

Is there quantifiable evidence that green is gaining momentum? The question only requires that you take a superficial look around in the business community to see it.

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Lily pads multiply exponentially. They begin growing in the spring with very sparse coverage and by late summer they can look like this. One day you could come to the pond and where you saw gaps yesterday, the whole pond is covered today.

The recession has made living a greener life more fashionable. People are cutting back on driving, exercising more, eating healthier and even taking up gardening to save money –- or just to be current. Making that a more enduring lifestyle is easier than changing the marketplace, but only because of individual initiative. The energy of that initiative could just be the catalyst that propels us into a greener society.

We may be on the cusp of a real paradigm shift that will take us back to organic healthy practices, lift us up to be more responsible citizens and launch us into the creativity of more efficient, greener products that advance us to greater heights of achievement and quality of life.

At the moment less than 20% of our Fortune 500 corporations have really made green strides, even though all companies have at least dabbled in green or have fulfilled the required greener compliance adjustments. What we are beginning to discover, however, is that there is a fresh approach to the marketplace. A common awareness of the problems associated with a non-green mindset and the possibilities that greener products and practices provide is becoming the correctional modifier that engenders spontaneous collaboration of management, workforce and consumers to set new standards and, simultaneously, create real growth in the economy. It would not be the first time that remediation measures resulted in a pressure cooker environment that re-invigorates a fresh approach to a quagmire of repetitious activity and gives birth to a sustained renewal.

Trade shows are mushrooming with green ideas that have been turned into green products and innovative solutions. If you haven’t been to one recently, take my suggestion to attend and make a mental note of all the innovative ideas that are being brought into the marketplace. Yes, there’s much work yet to be done, especially in the US. The average American still consumes twice as much fuel each year as the average European. We’re pretty spoiled. We have large houses and several cars and we use them to make lots of trips to buy any little thing and shop for the next thing that catches our eye.

Not that those things are so bad, but if we could convert some of that energy into personal productivity and consciously seek ways to green up, we could absolutely regain what has been lost in our economy. At the same time we would live longer, healthier, happier lives. What we would find is a new passion for living emerging from within. Creative juices would begin to surprise us with new ideas and innovations. Sensitivity for the burdens of others would cause us to make a real difference in our home, our workplace and our community.

Even now, this can be witnessed to some degree in corporate America. More companies are working on sustainability standards for their own company and then assuming the leadership to show their suppliers how to make greener products, biodegradable packaging, greener, less toxic chemicals and other areas that are still being defined.

A good illustration of this is triple-concentrated laundry detergent. It does a better job cleaning, costs less and is chemically less toxic to the environment than the product it replaced. On the shelf it might look like it costs more, but if you do the math you will see the savings.

Green advancements in lighting is another area where leaps are taking place. LED’s (light emitting diodes) are super-efficient bulbs that use 10 to 30 times less energy than incandescent bulbs. They may seem a bit pricey, but they last for 35,000 hours –- at 3 hours a day average, that’s over 25 years. Incandescent bulbs last only about 1,000 hours. Even if you were to spend $20 for one of these 6-watt bulbs (equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb), you are saving money in just a very short time.

That, my friend, is crossing the rubicon of irreversible green momentum. One green idea sparks another and one day, when you least expect it, economic and environmental recovery becomes a reality.

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Green has become a big deal. Are you wondering if there’s any profit in green investing? Not too many years ago you had to be a hardcore “treehugger” to think there was a chance that going green could be good for the economy or for personal gain. It was just something that appeared to be the right thing to do, even if the return on investment was a loss. Today, however, green is everywhere — green is golden — green is cool, but just because marketing has turned on the green spotlights, it doesn’t mean that everything is as green as it appears.

Short-Termism

It has always been a dark motive — the desire to generate short-term results no matter what the long-term cost. Get-the-money-now businesses that give you slick talk and slipshod results have been around forever. The temptation to shortcut success is strong. It got to be epidemic. Short-termism has had its get-rich-quick results long enough and there may still be a few tricks left. Short-termism is fueled by greed and fear of loss. Impulse decisions based on greed or fear may give short-term satisfaction, but the long-term cost can be deadly.

A truly green business, by contrast, is a socially responsible business. It is not only about green buzzwords, but more importantly, it values the general well-being of its customers, its community and its employees for the long term. If socially responsible investing is important to you, then read on . . .

Greenwashing

Greenwashing is when a petrochemical company acts like it’s green because it mixes 10% biofuel with its 90% hydrocarbon gasoline or because it has an experimental fuel cell project. It could be a hotel chain that posts placards that it’s green because it conserves natural resources by not changing your linens every day. I think you get the idea. Exposing the greenwash involves making sure that when a company claims to be green, it uses socially responsible practices throughout its corporate policy. Is this company committing any of the seven greenwash sins? What really makes a product or service green? Does this company support your own values and beliefs?

Select a Green Investing Sector

Green investing encompasses a variety of sectors such as natural products and organic foods, environmental remediation, renewable energy, pollution controls, non-toxic practices, community involvement, energy-saving products, innovative solutions and there are even consulting firms that help businesses become greener. These sectors are then broken down further into subgroups. Your social, personal and environmental values help you focus on which green investing sector is most attractive for you. As you concentrate on the various factors, the companies who demonstrate the leadership to move forward in these areas will begin to rise above the others. Once you decide this, you have a company you can be passionate about supporting and, hopefully, the company will not only impress you with their innovations, but also reward your passion with financial growth.

Green Investment Strategy

Green investing can be as tricky and as problematic as any other type of investing and that is why you need a plan. Create a strategy for your green investment to help you make an informed decision that is in line with your belief system and that has the potential to be financially lucrative. Your green investment strategy should include:

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A Benefit Corporation maintains its status through sustainable business practices, environmental efforts, participation in community projects and well-being of its employees.

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I don’t believe in coincidence. What I do believe is that something happened to Kevin Costner in the course of making the 1995 film Waterworld that absolutely captured his imagination and wouldn’t let go. The caption below the setting sun says it all, “BEYOND THE HORIZON LIES THE SECRET TO A NEW BEGINNING.”

He saw the potential of being able to clean up oil spills like the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in short order. The questions and answers began to crystallize when he and his scientist brother Dan saw a tiny centrifuge that could separate toxic material from water. He began to ask the “what if” questions and five years later had a working prototype that would separate water and oil on a large scale.

I can identify with the phenomenon because there are challenges and the solutions to them that just will not let go of me and I will not rest until I see them fleshed out in real world scenarios. Some intelligent moves by some major decision makers at this juncture could absolutely have an impact on our sluggish economy and revive confidence in America’s leadership to respond to negative circumstances and turn them into victories.

The actor / producer / environmentalist had a vision and was poised for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but was detained by both the House and the Senate. They ordered the device tested to see if BP would verify that it is really effective. The model V20 centrifuge can clean about 200 gallons of seawater per minute, which translates into more than 200,000 gallons per day. 32 of these machines have the potential to process over 6 million gallons of oil-laden water every day and daily recover as much as 2.5 million gallons (60,000 barrels) of crude into tankers.

They could have been in place within the first week after the ruptured well began spewing oil to the surface – they should have been in place within the first month after the incident – 4 of them finally began to be used on the 2nd day of July, more than two months after the explosion. So much oil has washed ashore that could have been prevented. This advanced technology will shorten the length of time that it takes to return the Gulf of Mexico to its previous condition. At least it will be a weapon in the arsenal for future spills.

Costner’s water / oil separator has been, according to his own words, “sitting on the shelf for the last ten years.” It is proven technology, not just a dream. Various government agencies, as well as major oil companies, have witnessed the effectiveness of Costner’s device over the last ten years. Seriously, while we are in the middle of an economic valley, we could be turning this disaster into a history making success story. Somebody or several somebodies apparently don’t feel the urgency to make that happen.

Fifteen years and $24 million of Costner’s personal money went into the development of this water / oil centrifuge. The first 32 of the units stand ready to be deployed. Washington has signed off on it pending adequate testing; BP has contracted with Costner and Ocean Therapy Solutions, his manufacturing company, but when will we actually see a flotilla of these in action and have something of a sustainable recovery on the horizon?

Washington – 17 June 2010 . . .

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Port Fourchon, LA – 18 June 2010 . . .

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Port Fourchon, LA – 2 July 2010 . . .

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Academia is all about correct analysis and thorough treatment of every aspect of an issue. It has its place in historical perspective and in teaching the most appropriate course of action to take in future situations. On the other hand, leadership is about taking action now to prevent or to resolve issues.

When the Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded and the well casing collapsed on April 20, 2010, leaders with capable technologies immediately popped up from all over the nation and all over the world to help resolve the single most devastating environmental disaster in US history. Their offers were categorically refused by both the US government and by British Petroleum. The delayed and feeble efforts of BP to accomplish single-handed control of the ruptured well head and clean up the spreading oil spill have been apparently beyond their capabilities.

BP’s CEO Tony Hayward seems to place his leadership as far away from the Gulf of Mexico as possible, dodging specific questions about the incident or personal involvement with the restoration process. Over the last 5 years BP has been cited for over 750 safety infractions by OSHA compared to less than 10 infractions charged to major US petroleum companies. I would say that there is much to know here and not much of a way to find out. Bottom line seems to be a leadership void in this situation. A 20 billion dollar restoration fund administered by a third party seems to balance the scales of justice somewhat, but the demonstration of responsible leadership to correct the multitude of problems connected with this disaster is sadly missing.

Now, it is clear that millions of gallons of crude oil will drift to shore for a stretch of hundreds of miles along the Gulf Coast for an undetermined period of time — perhaps for years. As it creeps from open waters to land it is destroying incalculable numbers of aquatic life, both plant and animal. The suffocating slime is damaging ecosystems and shutting down fishing and shrimping and tourism and is amassing more damages every day. 2010 may well be long remembered as the year that, for all practical purposes, shut down the Gulf Coast economy. I can’t leave this sad thought dangling, so I am compelled to stand and applaud the efforts of thousands of volunteers and organizations who are working so valiantly to clean up the beaches and shores of the Gulf to at least ward off some of the damages of the daily assault from the waterborne sludge.

Watch this report from an Australian news agency that gained exclusive access:

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Had at least some of these most promising solutions been implemented, it is easily possible that well over 90% of the crude oil could have been recovered in open waters and prevented from reaching landfall. Even though blame will be assigned and some form of justice demanded, this is not the time for finger-pointing. It is the time for real leadership to step up and bring effective measures to bear on the situation at hand. It is time to create employment opportunities to help remedy the damaged environment. It is time for good old American volunteerism to shine its brightest. It is time to attack the problem with sustainable solutions that bring life and hope and restoration.

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what you do with your money actually says more about what you believe than what you say

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industries that produce consumables must employ green business practices to assure the continuity of the natural resources that feed their industry.

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Green_Bulb01What if you could cut your electric bill in half and be greener at minimal or no net cost to you? Given the innovations, developments and publicity that promote a greener world, it seems inescapable that you have to spend more money to go green. But let’s explore a little deeper.

Let’s ask the tough questions. Why should it cost more for recycled products than for original? Why does a hybrid vehicle cost several thousand dollars more than a conventional when they only improve fuel economy by 10-12%? Why would someone pay $200,000 for a geothermal system to heat and cool their home? Why should it take 10 to 20 years to break even on solar or wind power or solar water heating? Are we really saving our forests by using more expensive non-wood materials? Why do biofuels cost more to produce than petroleum fuels?

The obvious reason that more people are not jumping on the green wagon has to do with financial considerations. In some instances higher costs might be justified by the benefits, but frankly, it is generally cost prohibitive to go green. Sure, Hollywood is full of greenies. It’s free publicity to promote love for the planet and it’s a nice tax break, too!

Forget Main Street, let’s go all the way to my street, where I have to balance my checkbook or go to my online bank site every few hours to track my spending. So what’s my point? There are lots of ways you can go green and save money, and if that’s true, then we should spend some time exploring ways of going green without going broke.

In this blog I want to explode some myths about some much-publicized green ideas. I want to motivate you toward a more sustainable life. I want to give you some food for thought about some obvious and some not so obvious ways you can be green and save some green.

Here are some specific ways to benefit from the green wave without the dramatic switch to renewable energy. First, let’s talk about some things you can do immediately that will “reduce your carbon footprint” and, if you apply them all, you could cut your electric bill by 50% or more. What could you do with that much more disposable monthly income?  Read More . . .green_world02

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Small Loan Programs for Budding Entrepreneurs

microfinance01Repaying loans gives people dignity and confidence. It stimulates goal setting and creativity.  It boosts the integrity of the recipient with a greater chance for responsibility and respectability. Accepting donations makes people feel dependent and powerless. These simple truths have attracted many to get involved in microcredit programs. It is key to the sustainability of thriving communities.

You can see it in the eyes of the borrowers as they complete an application, qualify for and receive a loan, run a small business, repay the lien and apply for another loan. It is a cycle that gives borrowers a strength they could never get from a handout. Microcredit organizations like Grameen Bank, Kiva and Accion are already changing the lives of thousands with these small loans. The initiative of microcredit is capable of establishing the financial health of communities and nations.

We are not far from the day when both small and major investors can have the satisfaction of knowing their money is financing the expansion of sustainable entrepreneurial endeavors as well as paying a return. The International Financial Advisory Group to the Microcredit Industry, which has members with backgrounds in accounting, finance, business and microcredit, is committed to making that possible.

After financing a number of entrepreneurial endeavors the next step is tapping the larger funding sources. Most microcredit organizations depend on donations when they start, but once an organization is a few years old and has documented its ability to recover loans, it can raise money in the financial markets. To do that microcredit organizations must keep meticulous records in accordance with standard accounting practices. A common accounting framework is the CAMEL system, which documents the Capital, Assets, Management, Earnings and Liquidity of an organization.

With accountability in place a relatively small organization with reliable contacts in foreign locations could be financing a multitude of entrepreneurs and revolutionize the economy of targeted regions.

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