Tag Archives: environmental impact

GSR5620 - Womens-1

"Joggings" Are Happening AND are Actually Pretty Cool

While it may not be socially acceptable to take a jog in jeans, one of the trends for men and women this fall/winter season is bending the rules.

Jog jeans, a unique fusion of not only style and comfort but of design and denim, are the perfect medium for anyone deciding which pair to wear: sweats or jeans.

What’s really outstanding about the new trend is how the look and feel is achieved. Died in an indigo wash, and then designed with signature denim details, the jog jean surpasses past trends like “jeggings.” As much as the exterior looks and feels like denim, the soft sweat knit fabric on the inside makes for a notable difference.

One variation of the trend can be found at G-Star Raw located in Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall.

The GSR 5620 for men and women mixes classic sweat details at the hem and wait with G-Star Elwood denim pocket details.

Managing Downstream and Upstream Risks

Managing Downstream And Upstream Risks

Examine your company’s cash flow needs and managing downstream and upstream risks

Even the strongest, most sophisticated contractor has probably taken a lump or two over the past year as a result of one of the worst stretches the construction industry has seen in decades. Because of these challenges, there are many ways that you should be examining your own company, your cash flow needs, profit estimate and balance sheet projections.

Managing both your upstream risks and downstream risks will be critical to your success in the coming years. Ask the following questions:

  • How much bad debt can my company absorb before having a critical impact on my balance sheet and cash flows?
  • How long should I perform work without being paid? What does my contract allow for in terms of work stoppages for non-payment?
  • Who bears the risk of non-payment by the ultimate project owner? Do I have any “Pay If Paid” contracts?
  • How is this private project being financed? Has anyone seen a bank commitment letter?
  • What would happen if my receivables were stretched another 30-45 days on average?
  • How would this job be impacted if one of my subcontractors could no longer perform their work (due to bankruptcy or otherwise)? How much would it cost me to replace them?
  • What is my added exposure when I bond a job?
  • How do I address onerous contract terms with my owner/GC/client?
  • How do I know if my subcontractors are still financially viable?

There are landmines at every turn so be sure to not discount the value of doing your homework before signing a contract. What are some specific areas of risk to pay close attention to?

Upstream Risks

We all understand the inherent risks with subcontracting a portion of “your work” to another contractor for whom you will be responsible. How many of us though give a lot of thought to upstream risk? Are you a sub to a general contractor? Sub to another sub? Vendor, supplier? Or a general contractor doing work for a private company? All of these scenarios carry several risks.

The most obvious upstream risk is no pay/slow pay from your client. As a general contractor doing work for a private owner, you will typically have the ability prior to starting the work to inquire about project financing. Do not dismiss this right and take full advantage of this opportunity as you will likely have difficulty getting anything else from the owner once the project has begun. Useful tools here include a “set aside” letter from their bank, loan commitment letter for project specific funding or a bank reference letter stating that the owner has sufficient cash on hand to pay for the project.

Even if you are not prime to an owner, all of these risk factors affect you. Unfortunately, you will not likely have access to your upstream contractor’s financials and will be somewhat dependent on their due diligence with the owner. Even so, don’t be afraid to ask your prime contractor (or upstream contractor) if they have done their homework. Also, check with your peers or any subs/suppliers who are working for your general contractor to see how timely they are currently making payments.

Downstream Risk

If you are a general contractor, part of your normal operating procedure is to monitor subcontractor bids and hopefully that includes a formal prequalification process for the majority of your subs. The amount of data you request is up to you, but the following is a key list of things you should know about your potential subcontractors:

  • What is their reputation? Do they have reference letters? How many jobs of similar size and scope have they performed in the past?
  • What is their safety history? Do they have a dedicated safety director?
  • What is their financial status? Have they ever failed to complete a job? Will they share financials?
  • Do they have a bond company and/or a bond line? If so, what are their single and aggregate limits? Can you obtain a letter from their surety stating these limits and current capacity?
  • Do they have all the required insurance currently in place? How do you monitor and track expiring certificates throughout the year?
  • Do you know how many subs or suppliers they will engage to fulfill the contract? If you are providing a bond as a prime contractor, these parties will all be covered by your Payment Bond and add to your potential exposure for non-payment claims.

This economy has certainly taken its toll on a large number of contractors. Often the smaller, trade contractors are hit the hardest as they did not carry large backlogs of work or large balance sheets into this downturn. They could be dependent on their next job for their very survival so it is critical that all parties are aware of potential risk factors with key subs and suppliers and employ as many additional tools as possible to mitigate those risks and prevent another contractor’s problem from being your problem.

[stextbox id="grey"]For more information about downstream and upstream risks, visit www.mjinsurance.com.[/stextbox]

 

Fifth Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference

Fifth Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference

Arizona Entrepreneurs Hold Fifth Annual Meeting Of The Minds

Join in for an exciting opportunity to connect, share ideas and be inspired at the fifth annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference.

This year’s conference, which will take place Wednesday Nov. 17, 2010 at the Desert Willow Conference Center, will feature tips and ideas from expert CEOs while also providing allotted time for networking with fellow entrepreneurs.

Over the course of the day several topics will be discussed including everything from effectively using social media and creating an eco-edge to conquering the chaos of entrepreneurship and engaging in top-notch customer service.

Attendees will not only get the chance to learn from local leaders on what it takes to get funded in Arizona, but will also see a showcase exhibit of Arizona companies and organizations that provide services that support entrepreneurs.

Additionally, this year AZEC will be addressing five of the most important needs to consider when reaching out to Arizona communities: collaboration, civics, education and training, arts and culture, and investment capital.

A variety of keynote speakers will accentuate the conference by providing their knowledge and expertise of the entrepreneurship field.

Debra Johnson, founder and CEO of EcoEdge will share how her passion for reducing environmental impact and being frugal created her award-winning company.

Jeremiah Owyang, a web strategist for Altimeter Group will discuss useful approaches to entering the digital world.

Dr. Paul Bendheim, founder and CEO of BrainSavers, a company that provides assistance in reducing the risk of memory disorders by incorporating healthy lifestyle habits, will speak about his entrepreneurial experience.

For those who are just starting out or who have been lifelong entrepreneurs, this year’s conference will provide abundant opportunities to foster new ideas and learn how the experts first got started.

To register and for more information, visit azentrepreneurship.com.

Local neighborhood

Can Sustainable Housing Really Be A Part of Arizona’s Future?

Perched on the threshold of economic recovery, cities whose housing markets crashed and burned during the Great Recession are struggling like modern-day Phoenix birds to rise from the ashes.

While rebirth comes naturally for some, others seem caught between a trap labeled “sprawl” and a wide-open window tagged “sustainability.”

The question is, can cities that once embraced policies favoring sprawl over density buy into a new vision calling for a more sustainable, livable and socially just way of life? The shift required may be dramatic, but it’s not impossible.

The sprawl trap is certainly familiar territory for Phoenix, a post-WWII boom town where production builders John F. Long and Del Webb are hailed as the Godfathers of Post-Modern Development. Using innovations like simple, mass-production construction techniques, Long and Webb delivered Phoenix’s first work force housing to an eager middle-class audience.

Now, a half-century later, sprawl and the suburbs are being blamed for everything from global warming to social segregation. High suburban-growth states like Arizona, California, Nevada and Florida felt the busted housing bubble like a sock to the gut two years ago. And, faced with aging infrastructure and higher maintenance costs, fringe communities are now home to the country’s largest and fastest growing poor population, according to a report by the Brookings Institution. Between 2000 and 2008, the country’s largest metro areas saw their poor population grow by 25 percent, almost five times faster than either primary cities or rural areas, the report states.

Many economists believe the country’s latest economic pause presents the opportunity for a massive do-over; a chance for cities to end their love affair with the automobile and hook up, instead, with development practices that create more dense, walkable neighborhoods.

The Obama administration evidently agrees.

“The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over,” President Obama declared shortly after taking office. He followed up those remarks earlier this year by telling the U.S. Conference of Mayors, “When it comes to development, it’s time to throw out old policies that encouraged sprawl and congestion, pollution, and ended up isolating our communities in the process.”

The President’s willingness to back up his convictions with $1.5 billion in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants and $1 million set aside for regional integrated planning initiatives is further proof that the suburban landscape is indeed changing. So is the federal government’s new Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an all-hands-on-deck approach to smart growth by the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency. It — along with the government’s “Smart Growth Guidelines for Sustainable Design & Development” — presents a radical new perspective on how future growth is handled, and offers a lifeline to municipalities looking to turn over a new and greener leaf.

But, for cities like Phoenix, where density has traditionally been considered a dirty word, the challenge is not so much where the money is coming from, as it is how to change public perception. Will Phoenix, with its Wild West sensibilities and traditionally renegade attitude, take kindly to federal intervention intended to help wean itself from a dependence on sprawling development?

In all honesty, it’s likely to be a tough sell. True, infill development takes advantage of current infrastructure and services and produces a measurably smaller environmental impact than does its conventional counterpart. True, higher-density building creates additional living options for homeowners in the way of row houses, walk-ups and brownstones. And true, Phoenicians, like many Americans, acknowledge they would rather walk than drive, or at the very least, have access to more transit-oriented housing, making it easier and more convenient for them to utilize public transportation.

The first step forward, however, will have to come from developers and municipal leaders willing to reach out a hand and grab the support line being offered in the way of these new smart-growth initiatives and incentives.

“Successfully addressing the challenges and opportunities of growing smarter and building greener will require that communities collaborate with each other, as well as with regional, state and federal agencies and organizations,” write the authors of Smart Growth Guidelines for Sustainable Design & Development. The end reward, they say, is decisions that benefit households in the form of greater choice, lower combined housing and transportation costs and healthier communities, thereby producing stronger local economies.

Isn’t that what communities like Phoenix, that are battling their way out of the recession, really need? Shelley Poticha, a transportation reformer and Partnership for Sustainable Communities senior adviser, thinks so.

“To me this is about helping to rebuild our economy, about growing jobs in terms of making housing more energy-efficient,” she said in a grist.org interview. “It’s also about helping places and regions really understand where their economic future is going and how they can use that to be more sustainable.”

This exhibit showing the creative uses of recycled items is aimed at raising awareness of the sustainability movement in Poland. Photo: Kasia Marciszewska

Seeing Poland In A Green Light

Our associate editor and resident green blogger, Kasia Marciszewska, is currently traveling in Europe. While there, she stopped by her native country of Poland. Ever vigilant about the subject of sustainability, Kasia sought out Poland’s green side.

Visiting my home country of Poland is always a fun and exciting experience. It seems every time I come here something is different, as Poland continues to shift and grow with the changing times.

This visit proved to me once again how far the country has come, when I realized that Poland was taking “being green” to a new level.  The concept of eco-friendliness in some ways is new to the country, but upon closer inspection it seems that Poland was on the road to helping the environment long before it became popular.

One way the country is and has been reducing its environmental impact is through its transportation system. Many of Poland’s residents commute via public transportation, which includes trams, rail and bus. Though not always the fastest routes, public transportation is an integral way of life for the Polish people and definitely the greener way to travel.

One can easily travel throughout Poland on public transportation. The rail systems span the whole country, and you can travel with relative ease; from the northern city of Gdansk all the way down to Krakow in the south, it’s all just a train ride away.  Travel to neighboring countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic also can easily be done via trains, making visiting other countries ecologically sound.

Though transportation by car has steadily increased over the years, the sizeable difference is in the cars themselves, literally. Cars in Poland are taxed based on their engine size, so many people choose to drive cars with smaller engines (thus fewer emissions) in order to reduce their costs. That frugalness helps the environment at the same time (The price of gas in Poland is also extremely high, so using public transportation makes much more economic sense for most people).

Another “green” innovation in Poland is grocery bags, or rather the lack thereof. Many of Poland’s cities are making an effort to reduce plastic bag waste by simply asking customers if they need a bag. The catch? If you want a bag you’ll have to pay for it! A nominal fee is tacked on for plastic bags during your shopping, so a better, cheaper and greener alternative is to bring your own bags.

The cities of Gdansk, Inowroclaw, Tychy and Zabrze already have passed local laws to ban the free handing out of plastic bags, and many more cities are deciding on similar initiatives.

Poland is truly undergoing a cultural shift toward environmental friendliness. Awareness about the topic is spreading with more and more initiatives sprouting up all over the country.

I recently observed an exhibition at a shopping center in Wroclaw titled “Eco Fashion.” The goal of the exhibition was to demonstrate practices on how to recycle with a focus on fashion.  The campaign showed a multitude of creative ideas for recycling everyday items into clothes, furniture and more, along with games, prizes and interesting facts about recycling. For example, did you know that recycling one plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for six hours?

The entries varied in shape and size from a plastic cup coffee table to a dress made from garbage bags. But the overall message was heard loud and clear, eco-friendliness is here to stay in Poland — with many more “green” advances to come!

Green tax incentives 2010

Go Green With Government Tax Incentives


The increased cost of energy, the country’s dependence on foreign oil and the environmental impact of current energy use have inspired many companies to “go green.” Federal and state governments are expanding tax credits, tax incentives and grant programs to create economic incentives to help companies produce and/or use energy from renewable sources. Here are a few tips to help your company “go green.” As with all tax advice, be sure to consult with an expert as these laws are subject to various limitations, phase-outs and other nuances.

Federal incentives and credits for general businesses

  • Energy-efficient commercial business deduction – Businesses can deduct up to $1.80 per square foot of space in new or existing buildings where they install interior lighting, HVAC or hot water systems.

  • Business energy investment tax credit – A 10 percent credit (for geothermal, microturbines or combined heat and power systems) or a 30 percent credit (for solar, fuel cells or small wind turbines) for alternative energy property designed to generate power for the taxpayer’s own use.

  • Alternative motor vehicle credit - A tax credit of up to $2,400 for the purchase of a qualifying fuel cell, hybrid, advanced lean burn technology or alternative fuel vehicle. There are various phase-outs depending on the make and model of the vehicle.

  • Plug-in electric vehicle credit - A credit of up to $7,500 (depending on type of vehicle) for consumers, including businesses and individuals, who purchase or lease and place in service a qualifying plug-in hybrid vehicle.

  • Qualified reuse and recycling property - Businesses can take the equivalent of bonus depreciation for qualified reuse and recycling property that otherwise would not qualify. The machinery or equipment must be used exclusively to collect, distribute or recycle qualified reuse and recyclable materials.

  • Fringe benefits for employees – Bicycle commuters are now allowed a $20 per month fringe benefit exclusion and the transit fringe benefit exclusion has been increased to $230 in 2009.


Federal incentives for specific manufacturers and developers

  • Energy-efficient appliance credit - Provides manufacturers of appliances a credit for the production of energy-efficient clothes washers ($75–$250), dishwashers ($45–$75) and refrigerators ($50–$200).

  • Energy-efficient new homes credit – Provides homebuilders and developers a credit of up to $2,000 for newly constructed homes that meet certain energy-efficiency standards.

  • Alcohol fuel (ethanol) producer credit - Businesses can take a 60 cent per 190-proof gallon credit for alcohol produced for use as a fuel or to be blended into fuel. An additional 10 cents per gallon small ethanol producer credit is available, as is a higher credit rate for cellulosic biofuel.

  • Biodiesel and renewable diesel credit - Provides up to a $1.00 per gallon credit for qualifying biodiesel and renewable diesel, similar to the ethanol credit. The incentive may be taken as an income tax credit, an excise tax credit or as a payment from Treasury.


Arizona-specific incentives

  • Renewable energy operations credit - Arizona enacted a refundable corporate income tax credit for qualified investment and employment in expanding or locating qualified renewable energy operations in Arizona.  The credit is available for tax years beginning on or after December 31, 2009 through December 31, 2014. The credit is 10 percent of the capital investment in projects meeting minimum employment requirements.


  • Pollution control equipment credit - Taxpayers may claim an income tax credit for 10 percent of the purchase price of property used in the taxpayer’s business to control pollution.  The credit applies to certain qualifying equipment that reduces the pollution resulting from the taxpayer’s operations in Arizona.  The maximum credit that a taxpayer may claim is $500,000 per tax year.

  • Ken Garrett is a partner and the tax practice leader in the Phoenix office of Grant Thornton, LLP. For more information, please contact Ken at 602.474.3456 or at ken.garrett@gt.com



General Dynamics Green Processes - AZ Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

BIG Green Awards: Green Processes

Twelve categories, hundreds of nominations — but only one will take home the green. It’s the first annual Southwest Build-it-Green Awards, where BIG teamed up with the USGBC to bring you the leanest sustainable leaders and projects in Arizona.

Recipient: General Dynamics C4 Systems

Scottsdale-based General Dynamics C4 Systems is cutting costs and its environmental impact at the same time. The company has applied various sustainable practices to its Scottsdale facility and achieved almost $750,000 in cost savings annually.

General Dynamics C4 Systems develops and integrates secure communication and information systems and technology for businesses and governments. Although the company does not directly focus on green products, it is committed to becoming environmentally friendly. The company’s Environment, Health and Safety Policy states that it strives to reduce its impact on the environment and continues to pursue improvement.

General Dynamics C4 Systems certainly found a way to shrink its environmental impact at its research-focused, 1.5 million square foot Scottsdale campus, which houses more than 5,000 employees, visitors and contractors.
The site utilized sustainable ideas and practices on the road to becoming a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified facility. Through the certification process, General Dynamics C4 Systems replaced or reconditioned the existing structures to lessen the site’s environmental impact. Also, the Scottsdale campus has saved more than 1.4 megawatts of power simply by turning off thousands of devices when they are not in use.

General Dynamics C4 Systems also integrated green cleaning and maintenance practices into its operations. The company utilizes reusable cleaning materials and cleaning chemicals that are non-obtrusive. It also extensively re-uses construction materials, equipment and components. Plus, the campus has upgraded the lighting system at its LEED-certified site and converted completely to locally manufactured recycled paper products.

The company also integrated its Computerized Aided Facilities Management system into its construction and maintenance processes. This system tracks sustainable data such as materials, infrastructure capacity, energy impacts and indoor air quality at its Scottsdale campus.

Additionally, General Dynamics C4 Systems produces the maximum energy savings and extends the life of equipment by integrating building operations procedures with systems commissioning.

Not only is General Dynamics C4 Systems’ own site lessening its impact on the environment, the company strives to meet environmental and safety requirements as it designs and manufactures products and services for its customers.

www.gdc4s.com

Arizona Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

Green News Roundup- Moving Toward a Meat-Free Diet

Green News Roundup – Meat-Free Diet, BP Oil Spill In Perspective

Welcome to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about curbing meat and dairy intake to save the world from impacts of climate change, the BP oil spill in perspective and more.

Feel free to send along any stories you’d like to see in the roundup by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com. Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.

UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet
Meat lovers beware! According to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report a “global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change.” According to the report, as the global population grows to a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable. To reach their conclusions, the panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. “Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said.” The only way to reduce these impacts would be a worldwide diet change, one that doesn’t include animal products. What do you think? Can we lower our meat intake?

BP Oil Spill in Perspective
We’ve been hearing many news reports about the size and scope of the BP oil spill, but it’s difficult to put the facts into perspective when you’re observing from a distance. Sometimes the true devastation cannot be accurately portrayed. However, thanks to a new website there’s a way to bring the spill to a real-life vantage point. The site www.ifitwasmyhome.com uses satellite map technology to illustrate how the oil spill would look if it was in your state, near your home. The results are staggering. When I visited the site, I saw all of Phoenix and many surrounding communities covered in the black oil. The imagery is effective in showing just how serious this oil spill is.
For more photos of the oil spill and its aftermath visit the Huffington Post website.

AZ Energy Guide
Ever wonder what you can do to save money and make your home more sustainable? Well a local company has come up with a FREE solution to help you do just that. AZ Energy Guide makes it simple. Just log on, specify your property type, power company, average monthly bill and see what kind of savings there are available to you. Then, to further inquire about available rebates, simply type in your address. This website makes saving money with solar a no-brainer.

Valentine's Day Film Goes Green

‘Valentine’s Day’ Film Is Going Green

The new romantic comedy “Valentine’s Day,” in theatres now, has been getting a lot of hype for its star-studded cast, which includes such famous actors as Julia Roberts, Patrick Dempsey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Biel. While the names on the movie posters are sure to draw in a wide audience, the film really hasn’t been getting played up enough for the truly amazing thing it’s doing: “Valentine’s Day” is going green.

While the fight to save the environment continues its uphill battle, Warner Bros. decided to show their support for the earth-saving movement. The prodution of the film is among the first in the film industry to implement green practices to lessen its environmental impact. To me, it seems like an enormous task. Being a college student and living in a dorm, I see first hand every day how tough it can be to remember to recycle, or even to put your trash in the garbage instead of throwing it down on the sidewalk. It’s hard enough to make the individual commitment to help the environment, but going green on a movie set would involve not just the actors’ cooperation but that of equipment suppliers, vendors and film crews — surely difficult to coordinate.

But it seems that Warner Brothers’ green endeavors with the film “Valentine’s Day” have been successful. Green initiatives were seen throughout all aspects of the production. Producers used reusable water bottles and solar-powered generators. Biodiesel fuel was used to power rental trucks and set lighting generators. Caterers used biodegradable plates, cups and utensils, and most of the waste was either composted or recycled. Perhaps most significantly, each actor was provided with a hybrid rental car to use in place of gas-guzzling limos. Way cooler, if you ask me, and the best part for the company is that only the solar panels added to the budget.

The best part about it — this wasn’t even a stand-alone project. Lots of studios are doing their part to reduce energy costs, and Warner Bros. has even hired environmental managers to help figure out the most sustainable production techniques. I have no doubt that before long, seeing “green” films will be the norm, and I can’t wait. There’s a lot of buzz and “speculation” as to why the sudden focus on the environment in Hollywood: Is it just for the good PR? To save money? Do the rich and famous actually care about the environment? It could be any or all of these, and if you ask me, it doesn’t even matter. The point is, for whatever reason, they are doing their part to help the environment. And hey, I know better than anyone how teenagers can be slaves to Hollywood: this could easily inspire us sloppy college kids to throw our trash in the recycle bin.

www.valentinesdaymovie.com

No Impact Man

The Adventures Of No Impact Man

Can you imagine a life without toilet paper, electricity, or any of the modern conveniences many of us consider a staple in our daily lives?

Colin Beavan — aka No  Impact Man — and his family did without any of this (and more) for an entire year. During their experience, Beavan wrote a blog that later spawned a book and documentary film about what it’s like to go off the grid while living in New York City. The goal of the No Impact project was to live life in the city while causing no net environmental impact. They did this by giving up on many things i.e. electricity, toilet paper to decrease their negative impact. In order to increase their positive impact they volunteered at various environmental groups, cleaned the banks of the Hudson River and donated to charity among other things.

In an excerpt from his book: “NO IMPACT MAN: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes and Our Way of Life in the Process” Beavan writes:

“This book, in short, is about my attempt with my little family to live for a year causing as little negative environmental impact as possible. If what I’ve described so far sounds extreme, that’s because it’s meant to be. My intention with this book is not to advocate that, as a culture, we should all give up elevators, washing machines, and toilet paper. This is a book about a lifestyle experiment. It chronicles a year of inquiry: How truly necessary are many of the conveniences we take for granted but that, in their manufacture and use, hurt our habitat? How much of our consumption of the planet’s resources actually makes us happier and how much just keeps us chained up as wage slaves?
What would it be like to try to live a no-impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Would living this way be more fun or less fun? More satisfying or less satisfying? Harder or easier? Worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed, or is there hope? Is individual action lived out loud really just individual action? Would the environmental costs of producing this very book undo all the good, or would the message it purveyed outweigh the damage and add to the good?
But perhaps most important, at least when it came to addressing my own despair, was I as helpless to help change the imperiled world we live in as I’d thought?”

I was able to catch a showing of the documentary at the Global Institute of Sustainability on Monday and thought the film was fantastic. It portrayed a family that went to the extreme, all in the name of Mr. Beavan’s experiment and came out of it with a truly renewed perspective on the environment. Now, the goal of Mr. Beavan’s message isn’t to ask people to go to the lengths he did, but rather bring attention to an important issue. He hopes that his family can, in a sense, lead by example and others will be inspired to do what they can to help the environment.

I was surprised to read a lot of backlash against Mr. Beavan and his No Impact experiment. He was doing a good thing, after all, why all the bad blood? Some dismissed this as a gimmick for a book deal, but I think they’re missing the bigger picture. Did the premise land him a book deal? Sure. However, after watching the documentary it’s hard not to believe the fact that Mr. Beavan and his family really are striving to do the right thing — help the environment and make a difference. According to Beavan, this change has to begin on the individual level, and only then will government implement laws that will hopefully undo the years of havoc we’ve wreaked on our planet.

Most importantly, Beavan himself admitted that the project didn’t end after their year was over, rather it had begun. His family had to decide what kind of a life they would lead, while still maintaining their principles and desire to help the environment.
They turned the electricity back on, but air conditioners, dishwashers, and freezers are still gone. They continue to eat locally-grown food, but have added previously banished coffee, olive oil and spices into their diets. Most importantly, they recognize the need for individual action and continue to take steps in helping the environment.
Beavan has also launched the No Impact Project, a nonprofit project that encourages individuals to “make choices which better their lives and lower their environmental impact through lifestyle change, community action, and participation in environmental politics” as stated on the project’s Web site at noimpactproject.org

noimpactman.typepad.com
noimpactproject.org

old computers, electronics

Do You Know What Happens When Your Company Chucks Its Old Computers?

It’s time to swap out your old clunker computer for a fast, new one. You discuss your needs with your systems manager, she buys a new machine and makes the swap. Where does that old computer go after it leaves your desk? Do you need to care?

Electronics waste, or e-waste, is getting increasing attention from environmentalists and policy makers around the world. There are a number of reasons why. One is that computers and IT equipment contain heavy metals, in particular lead, which could pose a health concern. While you’re using the computer these metals are safely stuck inside the machine. The concern is that after the computer is disposed of those metals could get out and cause harm.

Policy makers around the world are developing regulations that aim to make sure electronics are designed more safely and are collected and recycled at the end of their usefulness. Europe has a region-wide mandate for both design and recycling of electronics. While there is no federal e-waste recycling law in the U.S., 19 states have mandated systems to collect and recycle electronics. Arizona has yet to enact e-waste legislation, but it would not be surprising if a national law is developed in the next few years.

From the standpoint of complying with current laws, businesses in Arizona need to be aware of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules relating to cathode ray tubes (CRTs). Due to their lead content, CRTs are considered hazardous waste, and above a certain threshold there are regulations on how they are to be disposed. There also are rules relating to exporting used CRTs for reuse or recycling.

The notion of corporate social responsibility, increasingly part of business strategy, calls on businesses to move beyond environmental compliance to tackle proactive action so as to “do the right thing.” But what is the right thing to do with e-waste?

It turns out that manufacturing computers and other IT hardware is surprisingly environmentally intensive. For example, if you replace your office desktop computer every four years, the energy to make the computer is about equal to the amount you used while it was plugged into to wall. This means that extending the lifespan of computers can have a big effect on reducing energy use and other environmental impacts by cutting down the number of new computers purchased. Extending lifespan also reduces the amount of e-waste generated.

One way to extend lifespan is to use computers longer. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice productivity with sluggish computers, but on the other hand, a new computer doesn’t always mean better job performance. Upgrading CPUs (central processing units) and memory are strategies to squeeze more performance. It’s also important to keep in mind the labor and hassle associated with swapping machines.

Even if a machine is deemed too slow to be appropriate for your firm, there are others who might be able to use it. There are organizations such as AZStrUT, a partnership between local schools and businesses, that accept donations of used computers, and refurbish and provide them to schools and students.

The export of e-waste abroad is an important issue to be aware of, as well. A lot of e-waste in the U.S. gets shipped to China, India and other countries for reuse, which is good. But the e-waste also ends up in backyard recycling, which is bad. In backyard recycling, primitive methods are used to recover materials, processes that cause significant harm to the environment. For example, to recover copper from wires, wires are pulled and piled up and then set on fire to remove the insulation. The emissions from this type of fire are very harmful. While the export of used equipment has the benefit of making IT more accessible abroad, it’s important to export usable equipment instead of junk intended for recycling. Whether your firm sells a computer for reuse, contracts recycling or throws it in the trash, data security also is something to be careful about. Deleting a file doesn’t mean the data is completely wiped from a hard drive; there are tricks people can play to recover the file. You could be shipping your firm’s confidential data right out in the bin. There are special software tools that rewrite over hard drives, so as to destroy all previous stored data.

To sum up, my advice on managing IT hardware in a greener way is:

  • Extract maximum use from the equipment while it’s in the firm.
  • Donate or sell usable old machines when possible.
  • Selling abroad is fine, but make sure it’s usable.
  • Contract recycling for junk equipment.
  • Finally, before letting a machine leave a business, make sure data is properly erased or that the contractor will do this.