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Monday, December 22, 2014

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5 International “Green” Businesses That Are Doing It Right


green conservation

Going green has been a buzzword in the corporate world for the first decade of the 21st century. Determining which international companies are serious about the process as opposed to the ones who are simply paying lip service to the concept is important. The businesses that go green are better investments long term, simply because they will have lower overall expenses. Here is a list of five international businesses that are going green to make more green.

Samsung
The television and smart device manufacturer ranks 13th on the Global Fortune 500 list, but what differentiates them from their peers is their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. Samsung has spared no expense in eliminating hazardous products from its best-selling electronic devices.
They also still have room for growth as home appliances have not been part of their major green initiative yet. In addition, their use of clean electricity has been minimal thus far. The company can save a fortune in future years when it follows up on its stated plan to employ solar power with many of its generators.

Apple

phone in phone image

The two smart device titans are competing in the green-friendly corporation challenge just as much as they do in cell phone sales. Apple is slightly behind Samsung in worldwide business ranking, as it is number 15 on the Global Fortune 500 list. With regards to the environment, Apple has a slight edge of terms of announced performance. With regards to transparency, they need improvement.

Apple has listened to criticism about their shy reporting, which explains the hiring of Mike Taylor as their new Director of Renewable Energy. Taylor exited his job as the Solar Electric Power Association’s Director of Research to work for Apple. This is particularly notable, because SEPA had been one of the company’s foremost critics. Apple turned an enemy into a friend in anticipation of turning the company’s former transparency weakness into a newfound strength.

The Vanguard Group
This investment company bears the responsibility of investing $3 trillion in assets. As part of their green initiative, they have financed a series of community gardens to create sustainable food ecosystems in populous areas.

Wal-Mart
Yes, they were once the most hated company in the world with regards to environmental awareness. However, Wal-Mart has spent the past decade walking the walk while most of their competitors waste time talking the talk. Their green-friendly strategy has proven so successful that other corporations feel compelled to study their tactics in order to better implement their own plans.

Key to Wal-Mart’s strategy has been a focus upon aggressive goals. Appreciating that they were far behind the curve at the start of the 21st century, the company leveraged their tremendous financial resources as a kind of international money transfer. Revenue attained from non-American properties was funneled into their actionable areas of growth.

Whereas most companies are satisfied with slow, incremental progress over decades, Wal-Mart reduced its carbon footprint dramatically in an extremely short period of time. The number one company in the world on the Global Fortune 500 list worked hand in hand with their formal mortal enemies, the Environmental Defense Fund, to reduce their emissions. By deciding to employ safer chemicals for all of its store-brand products, they met the high standards of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for Environment.

ABB Group
You may not be as familiar with this Swiss corporation, as they are ranked only 273 on the Global Fortune 500 list. They are, however, industry leaders with regards to eco-friendly policies. ABB employs 124,000 people worldwide, and the majority of the jobs involve electricity and robotics. Other companies follow their lead with regards to energy efficiency.

What ABB understands is a key part of all green initiatives. The easiest way for a corporation to save money on environmental issues is to use less power. ABB is in the business of electricity, and so they have mastered the art of providing the same power output while reducing actual energy use. Such high-efficiency products save millions of dollars when used in volume.

Being environmentally friendly is a positive step for a major corporation not just with regards to social responsibility but also potential revenue gains. Paying less money for the same energy output has proven extremely lucrative to the bottom line of all of these companies.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

The Alternative Approach to Saving Energy in the Home


domestic-solar installation

There is an infinite number of things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and use less energy within your home from small things like recycling your plastic to the more elaborate plans such as installing solar panels or switching to an underground heat pump – hundreds of tried and tested methods that you’ve most probably heard many times before.

However, there are a number of simple actions you can take in your home to aid a larger energy saving plan, take a look at these alternative energy saving methods you may not have implemented yet:

Conduct an Energy Audit:

There are a number of ways you can carry out an energy audit in your home, for example you can invest in a smart energy meter which will tell you when you’re using a significant amount of energy and where that energy is being utilised. Although you may be aware what appliances use a lot of energy in your home, you may be surprised just how much energy certain items such as your tumble drier consumes.

Another option is to simply take a look around your home on an average day and consider which lights are always left on – could you alter the switch to a sensor? What appliances are constantly plugged in even when they’re not in use? Are there thick, heavy curtains draped over your radiators, pushing all that warm air straight out of the windows? Conducting a simple walk of your home, may unearth some very simple changes you could be making to combat energy wastage.

Home Appliance Checks:

The majority of home appliances will have a set program which we don’t tend to detract from, leaving them to run on a specific setting; however that may not be the most efficient way of utilizing your appliances:

  • Your fridge and freezer can account to around 20% of the electricity you use in your home. Use a thermometer to set your fridge to around 2.5°C and get your freezer to as close to -16°C as you can
  • Set your washing machine to clean your clothes on a warm or cold water setting – not hot. Washing your clothes at a lower temperature just twice a week can save nearly 500 pounds of CO2 per year if you have an electric water heater, or 150 pounds if you have a gas heater
  • Always make sure your dishwasher is completely full before switching it on and use the energy saving setting if you have one. You should also be able to turn off the drying cycle on your dishwasher, letting your dishes dry naturally can lower the energy use of your machine by up to 20%

Substantial Changes You Can Make:

Alongside those little amendments you can also make significantly larger changes as and when the opportunity arises. For example when it comes to replacing appliances or heating systems in your home always look to invest in the most energy efficient model your budget allows.

As you make home improvements you should put plans in place to insulate your walls and ceilings, this could provide savings of around 20-30% on your heating bills, if you can utilize a Government incentive scheme, you can plan to see a return on investment even sooner.

If you’re thinking of building an extension or replacing old windows and doors, make sure you do your research and invest in double-glazed, ultra energy efficient brands that are guaranteed to save you money and reduce energy wastage in your home.

solar-car-port

If you’re very serious in looking after the planet in all aspects of your life and have chosen a battery powered car you could also choose to invest in a solar car port. Utilizing solar energy will mean that charging your car won’t cost you a penny! Find out how a solar car port can reduce your carbon footprint.

As mentioned above, there really are a million and one ways you can reduce energy usage in your home and create a more eco-friendly home through the use of subtle changes and an effective long term plan for those larger modifications.

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Nest, The Smarter Home Thermostat


Nest programmable thermostatWith the busy lives that we live, people find themselves forgetting things like locking the door and turning off the lights. But forgetting to lower the heat while you’re away is no longer something to worry about with Nest. Now there are many home thermostats on the market, but what sets Nest apart is that it is a learning thermostat. After a week of use, Nest will know your habits and make adjustments for you. For those who want control you can use the Nest mobile app on your smart phone to control your nest while away.

Nest thermostat

Currently however the app is only available for Apple products but an android version should be rolling out sometime in December. The app allows you to change the temperature, control up to ten thermostats in two homes, check and adjust your schedule, see and change settings, put Nest into and out of away mode and show you a Nest leaf when saving energy. Remote changes are just like in home ones, Nest will learn these too and do it for you next time.

Nest app on smartphone

Nest learns based on what you teach it; it’s as simple as that. To teach Nest simply live as you would for a week, turning the dial to the right to make it hotter and to the left to make it cooler. After a week Nest will learn what temperatures you like and when you like them and change your thermostat for you … optimizing and saving you up to 20% on heating and cooling costs. So for those who are absent minded like me, having a piece of technology in your home that can remember for you is great and makes money saving habits easier to maintain. (more…)

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Friday, December 19, 2014

eco-fashion friday finds: winter shades of grey


organic bamboo yoga leggings

(above) Head turning … Everyone needs some great-looking yoga leggings. These yoga pants are made with sustainable bamboo terry. The fit is slightly roomier than most thinner leggings so you may want to go a size down if you like a snugger fit. They feature a beautiful original henna style wing print to reflect your yoga spirit. The organic bamboo fabric is super soft and with the option to fold down the high waist and shorten the length at the ankle. Great for running around or a serious yoga experience. $47.81 from Sea of Wolves Design

vegan eco fleece sweatshirt

(above) Make a statement … This handmade, off the shoulder Eco-fleece sweatshirt is hand silk-screened with a “Vegan” design on the front.

materials: Eco Fleece, water-based ink and a bunch of attitude. $37 from FTLA Apparel

handmade recycled cashmere wrap

Versatile and fun … This recycled cashmere OOAK wrap (above) is handcrafted in grey cashmere. One size fits all, handcrafted from 100 percent recycled cashmere sweaters. The wrap can be worn in a variety of ways by buttoning any one of the 3 vintage buttons. Great over a tank or a little dress. Can be had in a bunch of colors. Features: luscious cashmere, ruffled, hand dyed with vintage buttons. $78 from Beth Nielsen and Recycled Cashmere

handmade merino wool fingerless gloves

(above) Wild and wooly … This lovely pair of grey fingerless gloves is hand-knitted with a soft merino wool-acrylic yarn in gray, with cable patterns. Stylish, warm and comfy. $39 from Rumina

With the holidays in full swing, here’s wishing you good times, good health and much happiness in the coming year. Remember to pass along your pre-loved items and keep it green.

related: more eco fashion finds

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

green furniture: handmade mid century modern


moderncre8ve walnut table

Artisanal furniture maker and designer, Chris Williams, and his company Moderncre8ve create sweet, mid-century handcrafted furniture that’s evocative of some of our favorite 1950′s Heywood Wakefield pieces.

moderncre8ve walnut table

Most of the furniture pieces (pictured above and below) are created from FSC-certified black walnut and made to order. No filler, plywood or veneers found here – the furniture is made of solid, high quality walnut. Many pieces are finished with Danish oil and beeswax. Love the simple lines and craftsman construction.

moderncre8ve dresser

moderncre8ve walnut coffee table

The clean, modern pieces are handmade in the company’s Cleveland, Ohio workshop and sold via Chris’s Etsy shop.

moderncre8ve coffee table

related: more eco-friendly furniture featured on The Alternative Consumer

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APT Motoped™ Facilitates Your Escape from Civilization… or Zombies


motoped survivor

For those of you who live in a fair climate and jump into your gas-guzzling machines each day to make the commute to your place of business, the guilt you feel at the gas pump could now be replaced with the joy of the wind through your hair as you rumble down the roadway getting 150-200 miles per gallon on your new Motoped™ from American Performance Technologies (APT). These are the same people who brought you the SmartCarb, which is proposed to be installed on the various Motoped™ models in the near future to provide even higher fuel efficiency.

For those who enjoy tinkering and customizing their ride, The Motoped™ blends the motorcycle, the moped, and the off-road bicycle into a multifunction, environmentally-friendly vehicle that, in most instances, does not need tags, inspections, or a special license to operate, as it basically classifies as a moped. But check with your DMV to confirm its local, official status. The Motoped™ weighs around half that of the average conventional motorcycle while being only slightly larger than your common downhill mountain bike, allowing for easy transport. You could also be the coolest kid on campus when you either pedal or motor the Motoped™ up to the bike-rack outside your classroom. Feel free to choose any of the four different models offered by APT: Cruzer, Pro, Black-Ops, and (my personal favorite, above & below) Survival.

Motoped 4

Although the Survival Motoped™ provides you with that extra storage space required when taking to the hills following a future zombie outbreak, each model can take you up to 400 miles on a single tank. Couple the APT Motoped™ with the SmartCarb™ to unleash even more fuel efficiency, engine power, and back-country freedom, all while reducing your emissions and carbon footprint by as much “as 50% to 70% when compared to competing small engine transportation or recreational products.”

Motoped 2 The Motoped™ from American Performance Technologies represents the company’s continued dedication to the environmentally friendly power-sport industry, which we may argue, is very small. To wrap your head around this revolutionary product as you fall in love with it, view any of the many videos presented here. Sales are piling up and being regularly filled, so get your order in now to get the ball rolling!

related: more articles on innovative green technology from The Alternative Consumer.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How to Have a Great and Stress-free Christmas


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When our calendars show December 1st, we all know what that means – Christmas is around the corner. The kids get excited and can’t wait to open their Advent Calendars, taste some delicious milk chocolate, and open their Christmas presents delivered by Santa. It is so much fun to see kids running around excitedly because Christmas means family time and many new great memories. But what does it mean to a mom? To many, a little bit more work to do around the house and a lot of headaches.

Before you get to the final stage, where you open the presents together, mom is usually the one doing most of the preparing. We clean the house, find the actual presents, and do not forget that this year you’re hosting everyone, so the house needs to be decorated, too. Doesn’t it sometimes seem that there are many of you in the family, but the burden is always on mom’s shoulders? I mean, you try to assign different jobs for everyone, but somehow you are still the one that is doing everything.

Well, this year can be different. There is no need any more to spend hours looking for presents for your kids or trying to figure out what to get them. In overstock.com with overstock coupons you can easily find something that your kids will love and will enjoy for a long time. The variety of toys this online shop has, you will have no problem to find a present that will be also not too expensive. Kids love toys, but for some reason, they also love to break them, so why spend tons of money on something that soon will need a replacement? Your fifteen year old daughter started asking for makeup already? Well, buy her a beautiful vintage table mirror to show her that she is still gorgeous the way she is.

With various overstock.com discount, you can buy something you really want to give to someone without worrying about the price. And what about those house decorations for your Christmas gathering with the family? In this shop you can find everything you might need to decorate your house – from rugs to small and cute house decorations that will make your house to look really festive! Overstock discount deals will help you to find the best products for the best price. A lot of people get really frustrated because holidays usually mean a lot of spending and it is something that they try to avoid. From now on, there is no reason to worry about it anymore. Oh, since when getting ready for Christmas has become so easy?

Do not make your life harder when there is a solution that can make everything so much easier. Find everything you need for the perfect Christmas with your family in one place. Don’t like the price? Then change it with an overstock promo code and have Christmas your way! Be a great mom and amazing hostess without putting too much effort to it and let yourself relax this year a little bit. I hope you feel better already. Now you’ll have time to focus on just spending quality time with family and friends as you gather to celebrate fun times.

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Smart DIY Projects: Construct a 3-Part Survival Kit


multi-tool-knife
Disaster strikes. You have seconds to react. What do you do? Think quickly. If you don’t have a survival plan already in place, you’re toast. If you’re new to the whole survivalist thing, it can be a little disorienting. You don’t want to live your life in a state of emergency. At the same time, you must be prepared. This is what survival kits are for. You plan ahead, and then you just react when the time comes, if it ever does.

What To Keep On You At All Times

  • The first step is to make sure you’re carrying some basic essentials with you at all times. A multi-tool pocket knife (like the ones that Boy Scouts used to receive) is probably one of the best tools you can have with you anywhere you go. It fits easily in your pocket. Most people aren’t going to think you’re “weird” for carrying one, and it’s incredibly practical.
  • A para cord bracelet is a bracelet made of parachute cord. It’s incredibly strong, and useful for making all sorts of things from climbing rope to ties for a makeshift shelter to a tie for a tourniquet. It can also be used as a makeshift fishing line.
  • With para cord you can also rig up a trap (for food) if you’re reduced to hunting for your food, and you can even use it to mark trees or other landmarks if you need to so that you don’t get lost in an unfamiliar place. These bracelets are typically 8 to 20 feet in length when they are fully unraveled – consider wearing two of them, or at least carrying one in your pocket or around your ankle as a backup.
  • Finally, you should always bring something to drink with you. It might sound strange, but it’s actually becoming more and more commonplace to see water bottles in peoples hands out in public. Water is one of the most important things to have in an emergency situation, and it’s plentiful. The thing is, not all of it is potable (clean and drinkable or safe to use for bathing or other normal purposes). That’s why filter water bottles, like Seychelle’s filtered bottles are the go-to bottles for survivalists. Just fill it up and keep it handy. They look like regular water bottles, so you’ll have an incognito thing going on which is also pretty cool in and of itself.

The Emergency Kit

Beyond keeping some essential items on you, you’ll want to have an actual emergency kit that you can easily access. These items aren’t things you would normally keep on your person, mainly because it’s a pain in the butt to haul it around everywhere you go.

  • An emergency bag or kit should contain: a spare change of dry clothes, like long underwear, a hat, a jacket, waterproof gloves or mittens, leather work gloves, a rain coat or poncho, some leather (preferably waterproof) boots with non-slip treads, wool undergarments (they’re warm, but they also breathe well and wick moisture so you don’t overheat while also staying warm), 25 kitchen-sized (13 gallon) garbage bags with lime or sewage treatment chemicals, and 50 feet of heavy-duty nylon string or light rope that’s really strong – strong enough to make a shelter.
  • You’ll also want a first-aid kit with all the usual stuff plus tea tree oil, moleskin, medical tape, stretchable Ace bandages, oil of oregano (it’s a potent antibacterial compound), concentrated grape seed extract (a broad spectrum anti-bacterial/anti-fungal compound), triple antibiotic, and Benadryl.

Get a record of your bank accounts and credit cards, some spare cash, a few hundred or thousand dollars worth of gold or silver (these can be traded in for cash very easily, even in times when liquidity in the marketplace isn’t great), and some spare checks.

If you bank at a small credit union or community bank, consider opening an account with a large bank and trust company that has widespread branch locations all over the country, or even all over the world. The bigger, the better. Why? Because small banks may become inaccessible in times of emergency.

When times are good, smaller institutions can weather storms. When there is a serious local economic or social crisis, however, these institutions can be hit hard. Plus, if there’s a natural disaster, and there’s only one or two bank branches for your bank, you may be physically blocked from getting to them – not good.

Your 72-hour emergency kit should also include waterproof and windproof matches in a waterproof container along with a utility butane lighter. Get yourself some lanolinized wool blankets (not cotton, because they absorb moisture and hold it in), since these will be both water resistant and odor-resistant.

The Bug Out Bag

The bug-out bag is for extended emergency situations, and is basically an extension of your emergency kit. It will include a copy of everything in the emergency kit, plus a foldable shovel, a weapon like a firearm or a knife (you may be forced into a situation where law enforcement is either disbanded or non-functional for a short-period of time), 3 different ways to make a fire, cooking equipment (think camping equipment used for cooking), lights, like Faraday flashlights, a survival knife, and lots of rain gear.

You’ll also need food. According to 4 Patriots, a company specializing in survivalist supplies, you’ll want at least 72 hours of food, preferably up to 3 months worth of non-perishable items.

Try to get the highest quality you can afford. Most non-perishable items are, in fact, perishable after a few months or even a year. You’re going for something with at least a 5 year shelf-life, possibly longer.

Military MREs are usually the first choice, but these tend to be not so nutritious. Ideally, you’ll source organic dehydrated food and keep a stock of non-GMO seeds on hand that can be planted, if needed. Only non-GMO seeds can be grown into plants that can then be replanted from the previous stock’s seeds.

Now hide all of your kits in easy to find (for you) locations, and wait – and hope that you never need any of this stuff.

About the author: Allen Baler is a Partner at 4 Patriots LLC, a Tennessee based small business that provides products to help people be more self-reliant and more independent. Allen founded the company in 2008 after 14 years as a corporate executive leading profitable business for the Easton Press and the Danbury Mint. He graduated with honors from Harvard University and resides in Nashville with his wife and 3 daughters.

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