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Greening is a Term That’s Tough to Define

Greening is a term that’s tough to define, and it’s getting more confusing for buyers every day.  I try to keep it simple: being “green” means making decisions that are better: making decisions that have a positive environmental impact, no matter how big or small that impact is.

How did you get started in green business?

When I first moved to Boulder at age 25, I started seeing a few “corn cups” around town (disposable cups that are compostable, and made from corn, rather than regular petroleum-plastic cups) from a local manufacturer called Eco-Products.  When my dad was out for a visit from Oregon, I was raving to him about the cups while we were enjoying a coffee in the afternoon.  He said he’d never seen me so excited about a product before, and told me I should really look at working there.  The next day, I jumped online to research positions, and four weeks later I started with Eco-Products as their local sales rep!

Why did you choose to supply Greenhome.com?

At National Eco Wholesale (NEW), we pride ourselves on finding products that are good for the planet, and easy for consumers to switch to, whether that’s a reusable lunch box to replace a paper sack, or an organic fertilizer to help keep our streams and families safe.  Greenhome.com seems to share these values: make it easy, and make it better.  That’s why we chose to support and supply Green Home.

What do you and your company do in your own life and operations to walk the walk?

I believe that it’s most important for business and companies to take small steps that are easy to stick with, and that’s what I encourage at NEW and in my home.  In the office, we are a zero-waste facility, which means that we recycle and compost as much as possible, and try to send the least amount of waste to the landfills.  Whenever new employees come on board, I take it upon myself to educate them about their trash, and despite them thinking that I’m crazy for digging through waste, they recognize that our goals and our actions are in line with our mission.  We are also led by example, and are fortunate to have a President who gets around town by his hybrid Prius, or on his electric scooter.

In my home, I am focused on recycling, and using natural and organic products when it makes sense, both for the environment, and for my wallet.  I stopped eating meat, and try to purchase only locally grown produce from my neighborhood farmers market.  I tried my own gardening too, but have decided that it’s best left to the professionals!   My husband and I drive rarely, carpool frequently, and do our part to preserve the environment and the nature around us that we love.  We also volunteer to pick up litter, build trails, and encourage recycling at Red Rocks, the most beautiful, natural music venue in Colorado!

What is the best greening advice you can give our customers?

The best greening advice that I can provide a customer is to make small steps that you can stick with.  The changes that you make in your life must be easy for you to implement and must be financially feasible, in order to stick with them.  And, if everyone makes small changes, we’ll start to see a big impact!  Explore your local farmers markets, plant some trees, volunteer to help clean up your neighborhood park, ride a bike to work once a week, and make smart purchasing choices when it’s time to buy something new!

What’s your personal favorite of your products that Greenhome.com carries?
Preserve
I love kitchen- and tableware products from Preserve!  The products are brightly colored, incredibly durable and work great!  Best of all, they are manufactured in the US, are created from 100% recycled plastic, and are priced the same or better than their non-green counterparts.  Preserve is the perfect example of a company producing green products in a sustainable way, providing value to consumers, and protecting the environment.

What’s been the biggest change in the green sector since you got started?

Growth and awareness!  “Green” is a booming industry, and consumers are definitely recognizing that their dollars speak.  Consumers are also becoming more knowledgeable about what constitutes a “green” product, and what may be a green product in disguise (which I refer to as “greenwashing”).  The abundance of products and services available to this conscious consumer base has grown dramatically over the last five years.

Do you really think green products make a big difference and why?

I absolutely believe that green products make a difference, particularly those that save resources, provide for waste diversion, or reduce a carbon footprint.  But, consumers must recognize that it’s not just green products that will save our planet; it’s also the decisions that we make on a daily basis.  It’s important to recognize that simply buying a new green product isn’t always going to be the best option; for example, if you’re doing a makeover on a room in your home, don’t go out and buy all new furniture made of eco-friendly bamboo, but rather look at what you can reuse and repurpose from your existing set.

Do you think consumers now are aware green products exist, or is there still a lot more education to do?

Many consumers are aware of green products, but there will always be a need for more education.  New technologies, challenges and solutions arise, and it’s up to sellers and educators to keep consumers informed.

If you could invent a green product that doesn’t exist, what would it be?

Teleportation!

Melissa Hauser, National Eco Wholesale

Water, Water, Why Don’t You Save Yourself?

Water saving devices are often the unsung hero, forgotten solider, forlorn hope, and every other bad war cliche you can think of.  But it really is important to do our part in the fight for water conservation.  That’s one reason we started carrying the Instant Off Water Saver, (a pack of 3 is only $20 as of this posting).  And why we’re really excited to profile the President and founder of Instant Off.

And how can you go wrong with a product that pays for itself in 2-3 months!?

Name: Steve Gordon, President
Company: INSTANT OFF, INC.Instant Off

Greening to me means making the choice to be the type of person who respects the world’s natural resources and make an effort to conserve and protect them. Greening means being concerned with the state of all of our natural resources including the air we breath, the water we drink, natural habitat, rivers and streams and open space.

I got started in green business in 1991 because I wanted to make a difference. Water conservation has always been my passion.  I was lucky enough to design a product that can do so much for so many people. After 19 years I still get excited telling people about the INSTANT-OFF. I like things that don’t break and that attitude has led me on an ongoing quest for ever increasing durability and quality.

We are constantly searching for environmental companies that are committed to selling innovative products that make a difference. We found Green Home while doing research on the internet. I was impressed with their selection of products and their website.  We chose Greenhome.com as a marketing-partner to increase our sales and public awareness of our products.

Of course we have the INSTANT-OFF installed in our facility.  Our assembly plant and corporate offices share the same building space to reduce power consumption.   We have reduced the amount we print and are trying to become virtually paperless.  We also recycle all bottles and cans. At home I do my best to conserve, turning the thermostat up, using the cold water from the shower to water the plants, recycling more and turning off lights that aren’t being used.

The best greening advice we can give people who want to start “greening their home”  is to start with installing the INSTANT-OFF on all their faucets.  Start with a product that is easy to install, easy to use,  inexpensive and is made in the USA.  If half the homes in America installed the INSTANT-OFF we would save Tens of Billions of gallons of water every year.

Other than my biased answer that the INSTANT-OFF is the best product GreenHome.com carries, I would have to say that the AQUS Grey Water System (Editor’s note only $295 as of this writing saving 10-20 gallons per day) is a very cool addition that homes should have.

I think the biggest change in the green sector is that it’s now popular to be “green”.   Since the Presidential election in 2008, corporate America has finally embraced environmental responsibility.  I’ve been in water conservation for 19 years and its great to never hear your people tell me that I’m ahead of my time.

Green products make a difference because they help get consumers involved in the environmental movement. One small change leads to another small change that leads to more positive changes. Green products facilitate positive change toward environmental responsibility.

I think consumers are aware, but there is a lot more education that is needed.  I feel most average consumers think that being “green” involves too much work and requires changing habits that are tough to break. It is important for environmental companies to carry a wide range of different products and to have a tool on their website that sorts by price. Providing price sorting encourages people to start “greening” even though they may be on a budget and makes giving environmental gifts easy.

Actually I am already working on the perfect green invention. Can’t go into many details but I will say that’s it a new way to save power in your home and it will be the perfect expansion of the INSTANT-OFF product line.

Thanks Steve!  Keep up the world greening.

Ionize Away Them Thar Spots and Stains

We’ve carried a wide range of San Francisco based Orbeco’s Ion based cleaning supplies for a long time, and are just about the only place on the web you can get them!  It’s a long time favorite of our hospitality small business customers.

Name: Guy de Lacrose, COO

Company: Orbeco, Inc.

The Orbeco Story

The story of Orbeco Inc. began in the early 90’s in the heart of France, a region called Puy de Dome where a brilliant inventor and chemist was retired from years in the pharmaceutical and cosmetology industries. He became very concerned with the number of harmful or dangerous chemicals becoming more and more part of the products we use daily. His strong personal convictions and his creativity made him look for natural alternatives.
He developed several processes for different industries but always with the same ulterior purpose: to improve the capability of a product while making it healthier for the consumers and cleaner for the environment. His research was an instant success.
His inventions has since been adopted by some of the largest corporations who saw in his creations new ways to decrease waste and help our surroundings.

Today, the headquarters of our company, Orbeco Inc., are still located in the original site, the Puy de Dome. While staying a family business, Orbeco Inc. implemented its US headquarters in San Francisco in September 2005 to offer a complete line of products that respond to US officials’ concerns regarding the lack of true environmental products. Since its inception, Orbeco Inc. has already supplied to their utmost satisfaction clients as diverse as the most prestigious hotels and casinos as well as convention centers, airports, restaurants…

A few of the advantages of ionization based cleaners:

• Safe
• Instant results: no rinsing, vacuuming or waiting to see results
• Odor-free: no emission of odor
• Non-toxic: non irritating to normal skin
• Non-flammable: does not contain any solvent
• No testing on animals
Woolsafe certified
• pH Neutral

What’s your personal definition of greening? Using natural products, harmless to humans and the environment.

How did you get started in green business? In 2005, by looking at green alternatives to cleaning.

Why did you choose to supply Greenhome.com? Greenhome specialized in online sales of green products.

What do you and your company do in your own life and operations to walk the walk? Recycling, saving and using natural products.

What is the best greening advice you can give our customers? Look at labels carefully and check the certifications

What’s your personal favorite of your products that Greenhome.com carries? Our Ionization based wool safe carpet cleaner, of course!

What’s been the biggest change in the green sector since you got started? Growing awareness of customers

Do you really think green products make a big difference and why? Yes they do, especially with the increasing number of chemicals we are immersed in.

Do you think consumers now are aware green products exist, or is there still a lot more education to do? Yes they do and a lot more education is needed.

If you could invent a green product that doesn’t exist, what would it be? A green disinfectant and we just patented it. (Editor’s note:  We’re looking forward to carrying it!)

Thanks Guy!

What’s So Threatening About a Plastic Straw?

David, replacing plastic straws with glass is definitely not the first thing I think of when going green.  It just goes to show how small green can go.

Name: David Leonhardt, Owner/Founder

Company:  GlassDharma

What’s your personal definition of greening? 

Anything that promotes and contributes to our environment in such a way that it improves all of life on our planet.

How did you get started in green business?

My wife, Gail and I left the corporate world and moved to the Mendocino Coast in 2006.  I got back into lampworking and worked part time for a glass shop in Fort Bragg and also started my own lampworking business on the side. It was there at the glass shop that I noticed they had glass drinking straws for sale. I had been reading recently about how plastics leach toxins into our foods and knew for quite some time how plastics not only increase our landfill, but so much plastic never even gets recycled and ends up in our environment, destroying wildlife on land and in our oceans.

A plastic straw may not seem very threatening, and to be sure, there are bigger forces out there in our society that seriously need to be addressed. However, my interest was peaked. I started doing research on how many plastic straws are used on a daily basis world-wide. I saw this as an opportunity to make a significant difference. It is not so much teaching people how not to pollute – most of us at least here in California recycle to an extent. What needs to happen is we need to change how we think. How silly is it to have so many single use plastics in our society, knowing how damaging they are, knowing the huge percentage that never gets recycled and not do anything about it?!

I saw that glass straws could be a teaching tool. How difficult is it to learn to say “no straw, please” when ordering drinks in a restaurant? From there, how difficult is it to insist on a paper bag at the grocery store – or better yet, buy fabric reusable bags to bring when grocery shopping? From there, what else are we doing just because that’s the way we’ve been doing it? What if, someday, the concept of single-use plastics is only a dim memory?

What do you and your company do in your own life and operations to walk the walk?

We are constantly looking at our methods and processes to see if we can make our footprint greener.  We receive packing peanuts from some of our suppliers and we make sure they get recycled.  We look at our shipping materials to see if there is anything out there that is better than what we are using.  We use the SiloInk.com system with our inkjet printers that eliminates printer cartridge waste and we use reconditioned toner cartridges in our laser printers.  We rarely print out emails.  We will be redesigning our packaging soon to become more brick & mortar friendly and the materials used will be of primary concern.

What is the best greening advice you can give our customers?

Take it a step at a time and do what you know how to do.  It is easy to get overwhelmed with so much information out there.  Do what you know is right, and if you find yourself off-track, just put one foot in front of the other to get back into your own integrity.

We have been programmed by our society and many of us have a strong sense of entitlement that we don’t even realize that we have.  Becoming aware of that, for many, is the key to be able to discern between a “need” and a “want”.

Keep educating yourself.  One of the best resources I have found is the blog fakeplasticfish.com (Editor’s Note, hey! what about our Green Home Blog or our sister Cleantech Blog?).  There’s a ton of other information out there as well.

Do you really think green products make a big difference and why?

Yes, even if it appears to “only” contribute in a small way.  Take our glass straws for example – I see them more as a teaching tools, awareness tools.  The more we all come on board with a “can do” attitude, the more “environmentalism” becomes mainstream.  When that happens, large corporations and governments start making changes.  This is a simple statement for a rather complex process, but I think you get the idea.

Do you think consumers now are aware green products exist, or is there still a lot more education to do?

People are becoming more aware lately.  For example, if I had tried to sell glass straws 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have worked, so there is definitely an increase in awareness.  But we still have a long way to go.

Not Just Totes for Totes Sa(c)ke – How Green are You?

Nice to hear from you Marcelle.  Reusable shopping bags have become the rage.  My wife just leaves a stack of them in her car.

Name:  Marcelle Bakula, Owner & Original Cold Callin’ Tote Sales Person

Company: SteppingStones (manufacturer of the EcoSac Reusable Shopping Bag System)

What’s your personal definition of greening?

Awareness of human’s impacts on the natural world. It should become a way of life where we are all more conscious (and therefore conscientious) of every personal act and its impact on our planet and resources.

How did you get started in green business?

I have been an “environmentalist” my entire life so it was a natural fit when friends started up this reusable bag business back in 1988.  I became their “cold call” sales person and several years later, they allowed me to buy the company when they moved in a different direction.

Why did you choose to supply Greenhome.com?

Any way that we can expose more people to the concept of and access to renewable, reusable produce, bulk, and shopping bags, we want to offer it!

What do you and your company do in your own life and operations to walk the walk?

Everything we can! From the “typical” such as recycled paper, printing front and back for invoices/packing lists to low energy light bulbs etc. We also join and support organizations such as organic trade associations, environmental and green organizations, and donating to county-wide non-profits. We are still learning about more ways to be even more green….  Example: this past year we all got our “to-go ware” items so no more take-out containers and bought reusable/sustainable bamboo utensils for lunch!

What is the best greening advice you can give our customers?

Do your best to raise your own consciousness about your own impact on the earth:  driving – can I walk? Can I combine errands? Can I do something for a neighbor to save them a trip?   buying: ask “Do I NEED it? If so, is it “green” If not: “Can I donate this amount of money (instead of buying this product) to provide basics such as food for a hungry child? “Do my friends and family need more stuff?” Find alternative gifts for worthwhile non-profits instead of cheap goods…home: energy-efficient enough? Do I use reusable bags for all my shopping?  Am I pesticide/poison free?

Stop using plastic whenever & wherever you can: every piece of plastic you have ever used is still here and will be for generations to come..

What’s your personal favorite of your products that Greenhome.com carries?

The Uno and Duo EuroSac, GlobalGrocer Tote, and GardenSac kits you carry of ours, of course!

What’s been the biggest change in the green sector since you got started?

Lowering of “green” standards. Stores & organizations (even supposedly green ones) jumping immediately to synthetics (nylon, polyproylene & polyethlyne shopping bags) and cheap-from-China bags. The Wal-Mart factor: saying they’re green…but not “truly” – green-washing is abundant.

Do you really think green products make a big difference and why?

I hope they do, gotta try! (my cynical self is honest enough to know that I fear that due to the economy and lack of education, we’re compromising on too many fronts…I’ve known for over 30 years that much needs to be done, but here we are 30 years later & we’re still dragging our feet…

Do you think consumers now are aware green products exist, or is there still a lot more education to do?

Much more education – leaders leading by example…. stop the pendulum from swinging back?! Ex: When the next president, who might be a Republican,  gets into the White House, will he remove the solar panels?!  Take out the garden? go backwards?)

If you could invent a green product that doesn’t exist, what would it be?

Not a product:  a way of living:  don’t allow corporations to ruin the planet (no more gas-guzzlers allowed, no more “non-green” products – no more waste of non-renewable resources – Helium should NOT be allowed for filling balloons. Chemistry council and plastic bag manufacturers (or logging operations) should not be allowed to call the shots!

Jane Capital Partners LLC Acquires Leading Green Ecommerce Company Greenhome.com

Jane Capital Partners LLC Acquires Leading Green Ecommerce Company Greenhome.com

  • Greenhome.com’s ecostore is the market leader for online sales of green and environmental products
  • The acquisition provides Green Home with capital to grow, and expand its green business efforts, including its offerings of compostables and green cleaning supplies
  • Online sales of green products have grown at double digit rates since 2005 and are expected to more than quadruple by 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif – Oct. 12, 2010 –Jane Capital Partners LLC, http://www.janecapital.com/, an alternative energy and cleantech merchant bank, announced today the acquisition of green ecommerce pioneer Greenhome.com, http://www.greenhome.com/. San Francisco-based Green Home is the original online “ecostore,” now carrying thousands of green products for both the green home and green business.

“Our research shows Greenhome.com is the premier green e-tailing platform and one of the most respected green retail brands,” said Jane Capital managing partner Jane Lindner. Added Neal Dikeman, a founding partner of Jane Capital: “To reach business and consumer customers, the explosion of new clean technologies and new green products needs a way to market – a way the customer can trust. We believe Greenhome.com is that way.”

Started as just an idea in his garage by environmentalist Lawrence Axil Comras in 1999, Greenhome.com has sold millions of dollars of green products, has introduced some of the most successful green products to the consumer market including the transparent chlorine removing shower filter, and enjoys the top ranking on all search engines for “green products” and “environmental products.” Green Home was the first retailer to develop and insist upon using a rigorous green ratings methodology for all products sold. Green Home originator Mr. Comras is widely recognized as one of the creators of the term “greening,” and has been featured in radio and TV including The Today Show, CBS News, Fox News, and also in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Comras said, “Since 1999 I have worked to build Greenhome.com in ecommerce, but also drive practical use of rigorous green product standards into the market. Jane Capital has an appreciation and commitment to both strong standards and pragmatic environmentalism, and the resources and vision to continue to grow Greenhome.com.”

###

About Jane Capital Partners LLC

Jane Capital is a leading merchant bank in the cleantech sector, located in San Francisco and Houston, which has funded or founded multiple cleantech spin-offs, and advised multinational energy companies on alternative energy. Jane Capital operates Cleantech.org, CleantechBlog.com, cofounded Carbonflow and Zenergy Power, helped found the solar business of Meridian Energy Ltd. of New Zealand and advised them on the acquisition of solar IPP Cleantech America.

About Green Home, Inc.

Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, Green Home, Inc. is a privately held company. Since 1999, its principal product has been Greenhome.com, which has grown to become the premier online resource for consumers interested in environmentally conscious living. Green Home provides products and information that promote a healthier, more ecologically sound home environment. Green Home was founded and is majority owned by CEO and eco-pioneer Lawrence Axil Comras, a leading speaker on sustainability and widely recognized expert in the field of greening.

Media Contacts:

Jane Lindner
415-282-6400
jane@greenhome.com

Lawrence Axil Comras

415-237-6400
lawrence@greenhome.com

A Cleantech Blogger’s Home Energy Audit – The Results Are In

Reprinted from CleantechBlog.com

A few weeks ago I blogged a very bad experience trying to get an energy audit done on my home.  The vendor, Standard Renewable Energy, part of Gridpoint, just didn’t do the job.  After our blog article, the company came back to do the audit right for me, complete with a IR camera looking for hotspots, blower door test, and duct test.

I just got my report, and wanted to share the experience.  Consider it kind of like our cleantech blogger CSR report.  I’ve posted the full energy audit report on our Cleantech.org Yahoo! Group for your reading pleasure. 

For those of you who want to blog your own home energy audit, I’d love for you to join the Cleantech.org Yahoo! Group and send in a message with your experience or report in attachment.

If you’re looking to sort through what kinds of products are available, our sister site www.greenhome.com/ has a ton of them including:

as well as hundreds of articles on the how to side of things, for everything from energy efficiency to general greening.

My personal scorecard:

The results were mixed, not bad over all, but a lot of room for improvement.

I apparently have a pretty low energy rate house, at 23 kBTUs/Sq Ft, apparently a little over half the average.  Not bad for a 55 year old ranch house. This despite very little insulation in the attic, none in walls, and not particularly efficient appliances.  But for better or worse, with our total summer energy bill in the $125/month range ($8.9/kwh) plus gas bill for hot water at less than $20/month, not much makes economic sense to do.  I think we may just be very boring in our energy use! 

We didn’t do so hot on the blower and duct tests (that’s where they pull a light vacuum and measure how leaky your house envelope and duct work is.  The combination is a measure of how much your system is air conditioning things other than your home).  We are about double the recommended levels of leakage, and that’s after redoing the windows.

And we haven’t insulated the attic (current R value is estimated at 13, something like R 38 is desirable).  The nearly $1800 attic insulation quote I had gotten previously was looking like a 5-7 year payback, and unfortunately paying to seal the ducts and replace the air return looks like it would be marginal as well.  Sealing the ducts probably would pay off, however, we have an old house whose air return is way undersized and very poorly sealed, probably a vestige of the original heat only return pre air conditioning, meaning I’d need to tear up my hallway and put a new one in the ceiling to do it right.  The other big move would be to do some sort of an attic fan to do active attic ventilation, and keep my cooling load down.

One bathroom is basically an energy black hole, sucking my energy straight out to somewhere, but except for attic insulation they didn’t have a lot of good suggestions for this one. Since it’s my bathroom not hers, my wife just didn’t seem as concerned as I was.

The big contributor to be honest is likely not even in the house – we bought a very well shaded moderately sized house with 4 huge oak trees and 1 magnolia shading it, and keep the AC in high 70s in favor of a lot of ceiling fans.

And apparently, despite having big pretty windows and lots of light, we don’t have a high window area/square foot ratio, and all but one are pretty shaded. We did replace them with energy efficient double paned windows this summer, which besides an Energy Star washer/dryer was our only major energy efficiency move so far. Even more than the energy, replacing the windows made a huge difference in comfort, while still keeping the AC temperature fairly high.

On the negative side, I added 26 recessed can lights to the ceiling (I can’t help it, I like light!), about doubling the lighting capacity of the house to 5kW with very few CFLs.  But each room has multiple lighting systems (eg, ceiling fixture plus recessed or recessed plus lamps) on different switches, and we are pretty good about keeping on only what we need, so it really didn’t drive up the usage.

We’ve got a couple of small, cheap items that definitely make economic sense.   Only 1 of the 4 outside doors is weatherstripped (and one has a huge south facing single paned window that failed the IR test badly), and caulking along the base boards/sealing the various light switches (they make basically soft gaskets you can put on yourself that do the trick) and attic stairs would help seal the living area a bit (maybe just offsetting all those lighting cans!).

The south facing roof is mostly shaded by trees, and that plus our low electricity and hot water usage and low electric rates means solar is pretty much out.

We’ve done nothing about “vampires” or phantom loads, but we also don’t have a huge number of electronics, so it’s not too bad.

The one thing I was really excited about which the auditor just didn’t seem to think was worthwhile was an attic radiant barrier.  They recommended simply attic better ventilation as a first step.

In any case I’ll blog the results in a couple of months and give the blow by blow on whatever we end up doing.

 

My conclusions:

It’s hard to really find a lot things that were economic and environmental no brainers.  Most of the big items looked to be “on the bubble.”  Lots of little things from CFLs to those little light socket gaskets and weatherstripping need to get done.   And I do need to bite the bullet on some big items like the insulation.

Part of me really wants to see how far down I could get my energy usage. Is 300 kWh/month possible without self generating?  I’m going to have to do some calculations.

One of the problems with a house like ours is that when you start with moderately low usage, and plan on doing all the small cheap items, your bill gets so low you can’t payback any of the big ones.  So maybe energy efficiency retrofits is only really the province of the true energy hog or those who just believe.

 

 

Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners LLC, chief blogger of CleantechBlog.com, and is responsible for starting companies in carbon, superconductors, solar and fuel cells, as well as launching Cleantech.org.  He is a Texas Aggie, and his grandfather and great grandfather were both refrigeration and air conditioning engineers.