Atlantic Media hosted a dinner on Friday, April 30 that we had the chance to collaborate on with our client Susan Gage Caterers. It was great to help create this “green themed” event. From the LED lights surrounding the outdoor tent, to the seed paper menus which highlighted locally sourced foods and biodynamic wines, to the green raffle prize, among many other green attributes – this event demonstrated to us how to integrate green not just in catering operations, but also in creating a green experience for the guests.
Here are some highlights of what made the event green:
The Room – The room was lit using LED Lights – LEDs are light emitting diodes, which simply refers to the way light is emitted from the bulb. What are the advantages of LEDs? They consume less energy, have a longer lifetime than incandescent bulbs, and have greater durability and reliability. They do require a greater upfront investment but the energy saved and longer lifetime result in a total savings. Many cities in the US are replacing their incandescent traffic lights with LED arrays because the electricity costs can be reduced by 80% or more.
Centerpieces – the arrangements in the center of the tables contained herbs from a local farm in Burtonsville, Maryland. Leftover centerpieces were donated to two newly started school garden projects in the DC Northeast areas. The first is DC Prep’s elementary school campus off of Benning Road. Right now this school is pre-school through 2nd grade and for a year the students had nothing but an asphalt parking lot to play in. Now, they have a completely revamped playground and a huge school garden that they just planted in mid April. The children planted sunflowers they had grown from seed in the window sills and parents and teachers helped them plant the first watermelon, squash and other veggies. These herbs will be part of a perennial herb garden that will brighten the garden and keep the maintenance low for all the teachers.
The rest of the herbs went to a joint collaboration along the new Metropolitan Branch Trail that connects Edgewood and the New York Avenue metro station with Union Station. DC Prep’s middle school and Beacon House, a local community center, will be starting a summer program where the students will be building edible forest gardens. The students will be planting a small orchard of 10 fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs, perennial onions, purple tree collard greens and other perennial vegetables. The program will then plant (4) 60 foot rows of veggies for the students to take home to their families.
Linens – All of the linens were provided by Susan Gage Caterers, which custom makes their own linens and after every event returns them to their warehouse for cleaning in eco-friendly detergent and storage for reuse at future events.
Placecards – Ellie Pooh paper in cork holders. The placecards are 100% handcrafted, 100% recycled, and 75% elephant dung. What? Yes – elephant dung. Why? One day a man named Karl decided he want to make a difference by helping people around the globe take care of the environment. He ended up in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka they kill elephants because they interfere with the agriculture. So Karl had an idea – create value from the elephants by creating paper from their dung. Learn more about his story here.
Cork placecard holders – cork is rapidly renewable resource that is now also being used for flooring. Cork is actually the bark that is scraped off the Cork Oak tree, native to the Mediterranean basin. The tree is not harmed by the removal of the outer layer of bark and the layer renews for harvesting every nine years. In addition, most of the cork that is used in flooring is the waste from the cork wine bottle stopper industry, so this fast growing material is also recycled from use by another industry when it goes into flooring. Cork’s specialized cell structure – honeycomb hexagonal cells comprised of 90% gas – gives the material its light weight and low density. These properties make cork flooring soft and resilient underfoot and dampen sound while providing insulation.
Menu Paper – The menu was printed on seed paper that guests could take home and plant. It’s made of 100% post-consumer waste paper and contains wildflower seeds. They were printed by Botanical Paperworks.
Food – Much of the menu was locally sourced. Food highlights include:
- Local Kent Island oysters. Kent Island is the largest island in the Chesapeake Bay, and a historic place in Maryland. See also http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/science/04oyster.html
- Pea Shoot Pesto Pizza with goat cheese (Cherry Glen Farms) & pinenuts. Unique to this area, the 58 acre farm is located in Boyds, Maryland, within the Montgomery County Agriculture Reserve. Their products are 100% Maryland, 100% Cherry Glen Farm. All of the milk that goes into making their fine cheese comes from their many Toggenburg and Alpine dairy goats. Pea Tendrils from Arc Greenhouses in Shiloh, NJ. See http://arcgreenhouses.com/faq.htm for information about how their greens are grown (hydroponic)
- Wild Mushroom Crostini. McDowell mushrooms (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania). On toasted baguette (from Lyon Bakery, Washington DC). Kennett Square is a borough in Chester County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is known as the Mushroom Capital of the World because mushroom farming in the region produces over a million pounds of mushrooms a year. To celebrate this heritage, Kennett Square has an annual Mushroom Festival, where the town shuts down to have a parade, tour mushroom farms, and buy and sell food and other goods
- Radish Chive tea Sandwiches. Tuscarora Organic Growers (Hustontown, Pennsylvania). Mint from North Carolina.
- Cedar Plank Grilled LOCAL Tilefish in a fresh herb & spring pea broth with new potatoes
Why Go with Local Food?
Eco-Facts: Food, on average, travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from its point of origin to it point of consumption. It takes a lot of energy to refrigerate and transport food. Buying form local farmers supports family farmers rather than large-scale agribusiness, requires less packaging, and usually guarantees fresher, more nutritious food selection than those coming from long-distances because fewer to no pesticides and preservatives are needed.
Some labels to look for when purchasing food:
- USDA Certified Organic
- Local and regional labels
- Certified Humane Raised and Handled
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It’s Valentine’s Day. If you are embracing a loving spirit today and sending some love to those important people in your life, why not throw Mother Earth into that mix. I have to admit that after more than a week of battling record snowfall in Washington D.C. I’m not loving Mama Earth so much and may have even muttered a “so much for global warming” under my breathe after the 20th time of shoveling my way out of my house – BUT – a day of sunshine and glistening snow had me feeling a little less bitter, and reflecting more about weather, climate change, and our environmental responsibilities regardless of how hot or cold it is on any given day or week.
A Sunday opinion article in today’s Washington Post, “Global Warming’s Snowball Fight,” shed some light on the climate change challenge and raised some questions about whether the recent weather patterns have officially shoved climate change legislation to the backburner. A few comments I’d like to share from the article:
- Christine Todd Whitman, who since leaving the EPA is President of the Whitman Strategy Group: “Calling what is happening simply “global warming” is misleading. There will be many changes along the way, including colder temperatures. (…) Let’s not forget that 10 of the past 11 years were the warmest on record.”
- David G. Hawkins, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate change programs: “Just as a group of cancer-free, cigarette-smoking 75 year-olds does not disprove that smoking causes cancer, a handful of snowstorms does not counter massive evidence that we are changing the Earth’s climate.”
- Ed Rogers, White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; chairman of the BGR group: “There is global climate science and then there is the Global Warming Movement. (…) The movement was already dead in Congress in 2010, but Snowmageddon buried it. At least for a while, the left will have to think up a new way to dictate a lifestyle for the rest of us. Maybe now the science can continue without the clumsy overreaching of the movement’s priestly class.”
Quite different perspectives from different sides of the aisle. And this debate will likely continue for as long as I am still alive. In another article in the Washington Post today, writer Bill McKibben shed some interesting light on the cold weather effect of global warming: “…Rising temperature is only one effect of climate change. Probably more crucially, warmer air holds more water vapor than cold air does. The increased evaporation from land and sea leads to more drought but also to more precipitation, since what goes up eventually comes down. (…) global warming has added 4% more moisture to the atmosphere since 1970 [which] means the number of ‘extreme events’ such as downpours and floods has grown steadily.”
While we continue to examine the scientific evidence of climate change, shuffle legislation from the House to Senate and back to the review files, hold meetings in Copenhagen or other cities around the globe, why not take a few simple actions in the meantime. It may not prevent another historic snowfall in Washington DC this winter, but certainly won’t hurt any of us to show a little love to the planet!
A few ideas to live greener, showing some love to Mother Earth and your Valentine(s):
- Reuse: Get creative with things collecting dust in your junk drawer. Courtesy of treehugger.com, design your own necklace out of old keys.
- Be an Eco-traveler: Check out these sites for ways to support businesses making a commitment to green while you enjoy a little R&R.
- Recreate: Got roses from your sweetheart? Turn them into a natural skin enhancer.
- Improvise: Skip the restaurant. Hit the farmer’s market. Have nice candlelit dinner at home, probably saving money and CO2 emissions.
None of these green actions are destined to have a significant impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, but every little step helps. Less waste, less travel, supporting a green supply chain – all these efforts add up. So don’t be afraid to show some love to your planet by saying and doing more with less. Your loved ones might also appreciate your thought and creativity!
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Happy 2010! It’s a new year, a new decade and we’ve got more green stories to share with you, including those from our clients about what they are doing to be green.
In our first client feature of 2010, we talk to Arbour Realty about their green efforts and how working with an environmental consultant can help even when you’ve already taken steps to green your operation. While we are proud of all of our clients’ green efforts, we are particularly excited about Arbour Realty’s commitment to green at every level. Not only do they help people buy and sell homes with green features, they take time to educate them about green renovations and green living practices that are good for the planet and their often their pocketbook. Arbour Realty has also shown their environmental commitment through every level of their business operation, from designing their Virginia office with green materials to eliminating huge amounts of paper waste typical of most real estate agencies, to even offering energy audits and eco-home assessments to their home buyers.
Learn more about their green efforts in Sonia’s interview with Adam Gallegos, green visionary and principal of Arbour Realty.
interview by Sonia Heiles
Green Living Consulting: What does “green” mean to you?
Arbour Realty: Green means living healthier, conserving our natural resources and leaving a lighter footprint on our planet.
GLC: What was your biggest motivation in wanting to get your business green?
AR: We wanted to do more than run a business. We wanted to set an example that would inspire positive change.
GLC: Why did you choose GLC to assist in your green endeavors?
AR: We want to align ourselves with companies that truly believe in the benefits of green. From day one, GLC has shown their commitment to us and to the green movement.
GLC: What have you done to date since your initial GLC assessment?
AR: We have already implemented over a dozen suggestions from GLC. A few of my favorites:
2) an overview of our green commitment that we now include on our website and in our brochure.
4) an XLerator hand dryer that has eliminated the use of paper towels in our office.
GLC: What was the biggest challenge in greening your business?
AR: We knew from the beginning we did not want to be a green shell trying to prosper from people wanting to live more green. It was important that we find ways to “walk the talk” in ways that truly make a difference to the planet, our community and our clients.
GLC: What role did GLC play in greening your operations?
AR: We hit a ceiling with what we were able to come up with on our own. GLC brought new energy and new ideas. They really helped us take our green business initiatives to the next level. We have also implemented a program to offer Green Living Consultations to our home buyers. We have found this to be a great way to spread the excitement of green living.
GLC: What level GLC rating do you currently have? Do you hope to receive a higher rating in the near future?
AR: Gold. We would love to step it up and reach the next level. Our next project is lighting. We would like to transition our office to all LED lighting. This along with some smaller projects should get us to the next level.
GLC: Have you been successful in creating a culture of green with your staff?
AR: We have been lucky in attracting people to Arbour Realty that really embrace the benefits of green living. It’s great to have our staff contributing ideas and volunteering time.
GLC: How have you tracked your eco-practices progress since their initiation?
AR: I can’t say that we have done a great job of this. GLC really helped us take an inventory of what we are doing green. That was a big help for our own piece of mind and what we are communicating to the public.
GLC: What have been the most effective eco-practices?
AR: The process of writing contracts for home sales can be extremely wasteful. Lots of printing and faxing going back and forth. There is typically a lot of driving involved as well. We implemented a new technology that allows us to use electronic signatures, virtually eliminating the need to ever print a contract or addenda. It also eliminates the driving around needed to get signatures. We save more than a ream of paper a week with e-signatures.
GLC: How have you communicated your green efforts to the public?
AR: We have added our green efforts to most of our communication materials so that the public understand what we are doing differently that the other real estate companies out there. So far we have gotten a great reaction. Just this year we have won two prominent awards for best green business.
GLC: What have the most visible benefits of going green been for your business? Lowered operating costs? Increased sales as a result of your green efforts? Something else?
AR: There are over 10,000 real estate agents in the DC area. We are happy to not be just another one out there telling everyone that we are the best. Operating as a green real estate company really helps people understand at least one aspect of what makes us different and opens the door for them to learn all the other reasons we are a great choice for their real estate needs.
GLC: If money wasn’t an issue, what other green actions would you consider implementing?
AR: LEED certification of our office. We would love to go for a LEED rating. The only thing that has held us back is cost.
Thank you Arbour Realty for your continued green efforts. We look forward to working with you achieve a Platinum green business rating, educating homeowners, and making the DC area a greener, healthier place to live!
Stayed tuned for our next client feature: Brooksfield School
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For those of us whose lifestyle and livelihood are focused on educating others about healthy, sustainable choices, it’s a always a feel-good moment to read that consumers are increasingly putting a high value on green products, and willing to spend a little extra $green$ to have them. I’ve been intrigued by the various studies and consumer polls that are showing a preference for green products despite the struggling economy. This may be a testament to the “less is more” philosophy but also “quality over quantity,” with a growing number of Americans committed to purchasing practices that are both socially and environmentally responsible, and also simply better for them.
A study by Miller Zell, Inc. reported that the “majority of shoppers polled indicated they would be most likely to pay a 10¢ premium for household products.” Interestingly, the study also showed that low-income shoppers were more willing to pay a 10¢ premium compared to middle and upper income groups.
Writer Basil Katz’s recent article, “Shoppers going green despite struggling economy” in Reuters said that “despite the worst U.S. recession in decades, sales of organic and sustainable products have continued to grow, with shoppers willing to spend a few more dollars in a bid to become more green.”
The article also reported that U.S. supermarket sales of environmentally sustainable or “ethical” products — from energy-efficient light bulbs to organic produce — will rise about 8.7 percent in 2009 to nearly $38 billion, according to a recent study by Packaged Facts, a market research provider.
Other excerpts from the article state that “President Barack Obama’s commitment to tackle climate change, a string of scandals over tainted food and effective marketing of sustainable products have helped convince more Americans, whose environmental credentials lag behind Europeans, to buy green.” And, that sales of goods specifically labeled organic rose 17 percent to $24.6 billion in 2008, according to the Organic Trade Association.
The Miller Zell study reported that women are more eco-conscious, closely followed by Gen Y. One of the frustrations with both of these groups, however, is the level of communication offered in-store about green products.This is something that I hear often from my household clients, especially when I educate them on pros and cons of certain green products.
For example, many people are willing to spend a little more money upfront on compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to save energy and money long-term, but many people are not aware that you should not throw CFLs in the trash (See Earth911.org for recycling centers), and that there are safety precautions if one should break in your home (See EPA guidance).
With an increasing number of consumers purchasing green products, companies producing them have a responsibility to be transparent about what makes their products green. Consumers also have some due diligence of their own to do in making sure they are not victim to green-washing.
Here are some resources that can help consumers determine what companies and their products have been vetted by a third party and are legitimately green:
Green America – offers a directory of green businesses that have been Green America approved
Green Seal – provides science-based environmental certification standards for products and services
Responsible Purchasing Network – an international network of buyers dedicated to socially responsible and environmentally sustainable purchasing
Green Guide – National Geographic’s buying guide for green products
With the holiday season in full force, there are many ways to be an environmentally responsible shopper and gift giver. Our West Coast sister company, Greenshops.com, has many green products to offer this holiday, and eco-labels to explain exactly what makes their products green. Enter Code GLC2009 for a 10% discount on your first purchase.
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Nirvana Indian restaurant, one of Green Living Consulting’s newest clients, recently achieved a SILVER certification for its green operations. As a lunch and dinner service in the heart of DC’s downtown area, Nirvana’s vegetarian-only menu is the perfect option for lowering your carbon footprint (see below for how going veggie one day a week can reduce your environmental impact). Combining a wide range of Indian flavors that change daily, the Shah family owners present their take on the eight-fold path to Nirvana through their delicious food.
Nirvana will be participating in the Washington DC Green Festival, October 10-11, as one of the select food vendors at the event.
Stay tuned for more information about Nirvana and their green efforts!
Now, here are some stats I recently read in article posted by a Huffington Post writer on the Startling Effects of Going Vegetarian for One Day:
If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:
● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;
● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;
● 70 million gallons of gas — enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;
● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;
● 33 tons of antibiotics.
If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:
● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;
● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;
● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;
● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.
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photos by Brad Trent
Business Week’s new feature “When Going Green Isn’t About Marketing“, by Amy Barrett, gets at the heart of what Green Living Consulting preaches daily – it’s possible to green your business in a way that saves money and reduces your impact on the environment. Our client Ripe has demonstrated how you weather a tough economy in both a fiscally and environmentally responsible way by greening up your operations.
Ripe, a DC-based web and graphic design studio, has been in the creative world for many years and continues to be a leader in innovative design practices, increasingly incorporating sustainable design into their products and services. But that’s not all. They have embraced sustainability as not just something they should consider when designing, but in every aspect of their business – from how they get to work (see Maryam’s bicycle below right), to how they light, cool, and heat their office, and even what they use to clean it.
Ripe also looks for opportunities to giveback, for example by donating laptops to the One Laptop per Child Foundation, whose mission is to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. Tomas, owner of Ripe, even subsidizes alternative transportation for his employees – something not unusual for DC given the number of federal employees that receive transit benefits, but for this 5-person design firm, that’s a major commitment.
The studio’s design also incorporates sustainable materials: bamboo floors, low-VOC paints, and recently added Sansevieria plants, which are a big favorite of ours for cleaning the air naturally indoors. This plant is great because it is low-light tolerant, requires little water, and absorbs many of the toxins in the air that we don’t even know are there (See NASA study excerpts on how house plants absorb potentially harmful gases indoors).
Ripe was also the first design firm in Washington DC to adopt the Design Accord – a global coalition of designers, educators, and corporate leaders, working together to create positive environmental and social impact. Adopters of the Designers Accord commit to five guidelines that provide collective and individual ways to take action.
Ripe also recently received its Green Living Consulting certification, in which they rated SILVER in our Scorecard Assessment for their green actions across our 8 pillars of sustainability. We can’t wait to help them reach GOLD and keeping climbing the green ratings from there.
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If you are not a design enthusiast, you may not be a subscriber of Dwell – the at home in the modern world magazine. But if you are a green enthusiast that also enjoys modern, sustainable design then Dwell will have plenty of reading and viewing pleasure for you. The current issue – September – features one of Green Living Consulting’s clients: Taylor Gourmet, a Philadelphia hoagie deli and Italian market in Washington D.C. Owners David Mazza and Casey Patten are featured because they live above the deli, having converted a former beauty parlor on H Street NE into a mixed-use live/work space that embodies urban, and green living (click here for the online feature).
GLC couldn’t be happier to see them featured (pages 92- 99) for multiple reasons:
a) We love when our clients get good press for their business successes, which often include their green initiatives, or are at least due in part to their efforts to lessen their impact on the environment while also delivering top-notch products and services.
b) Casey and Dave chose the H Street NE district to build their home and Italian deli. The H street NE corridor – which starts roughly at the boundary of North Capitol (near D.C.’s Union Station) and extends to 15th street NE – used to be a thriving commercial district prior to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, which sparked riots that caused destruction from which the corridor has not since recovered. A transition is underway, however. New restaurants and bars have invigorated parts of the H Street corridor, often referred to by DC residents as the Atlas District (the streets from about 11th – 14th NE) because of the historic Atlas theater, a former movie theater that now houses a Performing Arts Center. The Rock-n-Roll hotel also reels in young, hipsters who want to spend their evenings in a grungy bar listening to bands that they didn’t have to spend a paycheck on to hear.With a trolley car scheduled to be installed and other redevelopment efforts planned by D.C.’s Office of Planning, whispers of this corridor becoming a once-again thriving district are not unrealistic, and probably not too far off.
c) H Street is near and dear to our heart. Green Living Consulting not only has shared office space along the corridor, we are also part of a major initiative with DC Greenworks and H Street Main Street organization to Grow H Street NE Green – starting with educating the local business community on the benefits of greening their operations and taking advantage of government grant programs to add green roofs. Our hope is that if other businesses along the corridor witness the benefits that implementing green practices has both for their pocketbooks and reputation as well as the environment, as Taylor has demonstrated, then they will be motivated to make even small changes that collectively will serve to have a big impact.
d) We would be lying if we weren’t also thrilled at getting a name mention on page 98 of the feature article, given our love for Dwell and almost all things both modern and green!
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