February 6th, 2009
The 2nd Annual Greener Gadgets Design Competition is on, and there are lots of compelling, interesting, and just plain kooky designs in the mix. Core 77 design magazine and Greener Gadgets host this competition to inspire outstanding design innovations for greener electronics. The top 50 entries are published online for voting and commenting. You can vote for your favorites. Voting ends February 20, so get on it!
One cool product is the eMetric. This is a wireless office power management system. Designer Jason Deperro contends that the eMetric “allows teams of conscientious workers to control and learn about their electronics’ energy consumption - saving energy and money.” We like the idea very much that teams of folks could instantly track their usage and then work to lower their power consumption. It’s e-Nifty.
One design we also like is the Indoor Drying Rackby Rob Podell. First of all, it’s not electronic, so that’s cool. Also, we’re big fans of air-drying laundry here at Low Impact Living (remember that your clothes dryer is one of the worst power-sucking, inefficient appliances in your home), so we think this drying rack is pretty nifty. It folds down from the wall and creates an aerated kind of table for drying. Easy, attractive and electricity-free!
We also dig the CompostAll. This kitchen device, designed by frog design, is a replacement for the home in-sink garbage disposal. It allows food waste to be composted instead of sent down the drain. The CompostAll saves mulched food waste in a removable container under the sink. Frog design claims that the devise provides a convenient, discreet, and odor-free location for food waste. What’s also pretty cool is that it comes with an alert light on the sinktop that tells the user the container is full. Then you can just take the container out from under the sink and put the contents into your outdoor compost bin. You already have one of those, yes?
In the kooky column, I’ll add the Guilty Wallet. Ruhel Mohammed has designed a series of wallets aimed at helping people cut our consumer culture (which he spells in ALL CAPS). He makes the interesting argument that we need fewer green gadgets and instead should all buy less. He goes on, “We spend for so many reasons, but it is undeniably true that we spend through one of these vessels: GREED, LUST, PRIDE, ROTH, SLOTH, GLUTTONY and ENVY. Although spending and debt are the foundations of the capitalist society, we should be careful of excessive spending or GREED.” Wow, don’t get Ruhel involved in a debate at a cafe– it will not be a short discussion. His wallets may not have much of an impact, but they do make you think about spending for a brief moment.
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January 22nd, 2009
Since so many people have embraced our first piece on How to Green Your Office, we’ve come up with another 10 important steps you can take to make your office more eco-friendly. Let’s get to it!
1. Enlist a Green Team. If you’re interested in greening your office, chances are there are some other like-minded folks in your workplace. Round ‘em up, and enlist their ideas and support for changes. A team made up from different departments will ensure that everyone buys in to changes, and can help rally support company-wide.
2. Collect and recycle your e-waste. Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, includes printers, monitors, computers, and anything else with an on/off switch. E-waste should never go in the trash as it may contain toxic chemicals that can leach into the groundwater under landfills. Instead of just chucking it, take it to your local hazardous waste center, or contact one of the many recycling companies operating around the country. Since there’s value in the recycled components, look for one that doesn’t charge a fee for pick-up. You can find local resources for disposing of e-waste here.
3. Stop the flow of junk mail. We wrote a post awhile back about how to stop junk mail at home, but this applies to the office as well. Since catalogs and other mail sent to ex-employees tends to generate a lot of this annoying waste, check out the Ecological Mail Coalition, a nonprofit that maintains a database of terminated or transferred employees. Marketers, looking to save money by eliminating misdirected mail, compare their lists to the database and voila - junk mail reduced!
4. Contact your utilities for free audits. Many energy and water companies offer free audits of your facilities, leaving you with specific recommendations for conservation. Some even offer rebates or flat-out free items, like energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs or faucet aerators. You can also find professional energy auditors near you here.
5. Add power strips, and use them. You already know to turn off computers, monitors and other equipment at night, but don’t forget about the power they use while you’re snug in your bed. So-called “vampire” power can account for 10% of total energy use, according to the U.S. EPA. Stop the sucking by installing power strips under each desk and around other equipment, plug everything into them, and then turn the strips off at night after powering down.
6. Clean out the toxic chemicals. A common complaint of many office workers is poor indoor air quality. Using strong, toxic chemicals for cleaning and other office needs contributes to this problem, so switch to natural cleaners, and do a little spring cleaning under sinks, in cabinets and anywhere else chemicals may be stored. Dispose of expired, leaking, or obsolete chemicals. Adding a few green plants to help clean the air won’t hurt either.
7. Cut down on business travel. Video conferencing and web-based conferencing have really come into their own. Services like Skype are now widely used, often replacing the need for business travel – even Oprah’s on-board! If you absolutely, positively have to be there in person, offset your travel with carbon offsets. Look for certified projects, like those listed by the Environmental Defense Fund that would not be funded without contributions like yours (a concept called “additionality”).
8. Reduce the use of self-adhesives. If you’ve set up an office recycling program, good for you! To make sure that you’re contributing the best quality materials to the recycling stream, reduce or eliminate the use of self-adhesives or “peel-and-stick” items (yes, that includes “sticky notes”!) The adhesive is generally not recyclable and can gum up the works of recyclers. Go old school with paper clips and “lick ‘em and stick ‘em” envelopes and stamps instead.
9. Measure your company’s carbon footprint. Just like you can measure your household carbon footprint here on Low Impact Living.com, you can measure the footprint of your company. Some simple calculators are available, like the one at the EPA’s Wastewise site, or you can work towards a detailed analysis with tools and guidance from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
10. Want to learn more? Check out The Green Office Handbook. Created by our LIL’s very own contributor Cassie Walker, it’s a one-stop resource for companies looking to green their offices. With checklists for paper, energy, transportation, and more, it offers hundreds of individual steps. Pick the sections and steps that make sense for your office, but know that you’ve covered all of the bases. It even comes with a CD with Excel® templates for tracking your results. It makes the whole process clear and easy!
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