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Friday, July 18, 2014

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5 of the Best Companies That Use Alternative Energy


solar panel and sun

Alternative energy sources reduce carbon emissions and offer a sustainable solution for power use. By using renewable energies, these companies are helping the country shift away from its dependence on fossil fuels. This is a major environmental movement, and several big names are leading the way.

Intel Corporation: Massive Purchases of Energy Credits
The Intel Corporation has an annual usage of more than three million kilowatt-hours (kWh), 100% of which is sourced from green power resources. Intel uses biogas, biomass, small-hydro, solar, and wind power. It purchases the majority of its power through renewable energy certificates. However, Intel also generates some green power of its own through 18 solar plants with a capacity of about 7,000 kilowatts (kW). Altogether, the company’s use of green energy has the equivalent impact of taking more than 455,000 passenger cars off the road annually.

Kohl’s Department Stores: On-Site Renewable Energy
Kohl’s uses more than 1.5 million kWh annually, but manages to get 105% of its energy from renewable sources. By producing more green energy than it uses, this company is able to actually put excess renewable energy back onto the grid. Kohl’s purchases renewable energy credits that offset 100% of its power usage. On top of that, the company uses solar panels on select stores. These panels can provide up to 40% of the store’s power in 156 locations across 12 states.

Kohl’s also activated wind turbines on two sites. Vertical turbines outside a store in Findlay, Ohio generate approximately 40,000 kWh a year. Horizontal turbines in Corpus Christi, Texas provide 14,000 kWh annually. Wind turbines are an innovative option that are often powered by the same transformers used for more traditional forms of energy, which allows companies like Solomon Corporation to gradually enter the green market with wind turbine projects.

Whole Foods Market: Energy Efficient Stores
Nearly everything about Whole Foods Market is designed to create a greener environment, so it’s no surprise that this company supplies 107% of its energy usage through renewable resources. A recently constructed Whole Foods store in Brooklyn showcases the extreme lengths to which this company goes to create a green environment. The store uses energy-efficient lighting, refrigeration, and heating systems. Solar canopies in the parking lot supply 20% of the store’s energy, and the lot’s street lights are powered by small-scale wind and solar power systems.

Whole Foods has regularly purchased renewable energy credits to offset its power usage since 2006. The company’s trucks are gradually converting to biodiesel fuels as well.

Staples: Hitting Impressively High Goals
Staples has lofty goals when it comes to its green vision. The company aims to offer only sustainable products, recycle 100% of the technology that it sells, and produce zero waste in its operations. Though it hasn’t hit these goals yet, it’s come particularly far in its attempt to maximize renewable energy use. The company gets 106% of its annual power use of more than 630,000,000 kWh from renewable sources.

Not only does Staples buy energy from renewable sources, it has solar panels on the roofs of many stores to provide additional green power. Staples has also partnered with companies that are pioneering sustainable business practices, such as Rainforest Alliance SmartSource, the GreenBlue Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and CarbonFund.

Unilever: Shifting Energy Usage
Unilever, like the other companies on this list, offsets 100% of its energy use through the purchase of renewable energy credits. While this goes a long way toward supporting the use of renewable energy, it doesn’t actually reduce the amount of non-renewable energy that the company uses upfront. Unilever is taking its energy campaign a step further by striving to cut down on the total non-renewable energy that it consumes.

The company reports that by the end of 2013, renewable energy made up 27% of the company’s total upfront energy use. This is a marked improvement over 15.8% from 2008. Unilever’s goal is to get 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Consumers who want to support green energy initiatives can do so easily by shopping at retailers who are part of this movement.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

vintage truck parts become iconic sculptural benches


chevy tailgate bench

A great green concept – take some junkyard salvage and transform it into industrial art – in this case functional benches that can also serve as rustic sculptures. These benches have been created from the remains of vintage Ford and Chevy trucks, reclaimed wood, some heavy duty old chain and other discarded industrial waste.

ford vintage tailgate bench

Rusty Gold, of Tyler, Texas-based, Recycled Salvage, has made recycling an art form by creating a variety of welded items from recycled and reclaimed materials. We particularly like his line of benches that feature old pickup truck tailgates and grills.

chevy apache grill bench

Rusty taught himself to weld just a few months ago and now he’s pursuing his dream as a designer and scrap art specialist. These handmade, hand-welded benches range in price for around $1,000 to $1,500 @ recycledsalvage

related: more green design finds on The Alternative Consumer

 

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How to Brighten Up Your House for the Summer Sun


shutters and garden

Summer is here and enjoying the sun should be your number one priority. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy – especially when you have kids, work and general chores to contend with.

For those who find much of their day needs to be spent indoors, letting the light in and brightening up your house can allow you to enjoy the beautiful summer days. Here are a few tips on how to do it.

Flowers
Not everyone can afford to entirely redesign their house in the summer, but an easy way of embracing the light and keeping your home airy and free is through flowers. A small bouquet in a tasteful vase can elevate a room from dark winter warmth to fresh summer light.

Clean
Throughout the winter months, it’s easy to hoard items we don’t really need. Avoiding stepping into the brutal cold air means your house can become a collection of old and dated cupboard fillers that you really could do without. Invite the summer in with a clean out of your cupboards, wardrobes and drawers and create an open free space to enjoy the summer. You’ll also be able to make room for a new summer wardrobe – and some tasty summer treats!

 Accessories
Blankets, rugs and thick curtains and the order of cold, brisk winters but a good dose of homey accessorising can help bring summer into your home and lighten the whole room.
Opt for light linen curtains and light coloured bedding will help your house look summery and reflect light.

special shapes shutters

Shutters
Another great year-round solution to lightening your house is shutters. Purely Shutters offer a wide range of designs and colours that can help you create a versatile look that brings in the light during summer and keeps the cold out during winter. What more could you want?

Light, light, light
If your home struggles to receive sufficient natural light to brighten it up then why not fill the void with artificial light? Place lamps or spotlights in strategic places and use bright but energy-efficient bulbs to achieve the best impact.

If you have a chance to redecorate a little this summer, stick to light colours for your walls and furniture, bringing colour in through accessories. Whites and light greys help keep a room free and airy whilst blue and green accessories maintain character in the room.

So, there you have it. Enjoy the good weather with a bright and light room that can bring that summer smile inside … even when you can’t get outside!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Conscious Consuming – be a better consumer


green shopping cart

Has your daily grind forced you to take the easy way out, making you a victim of deceptive ad campaigns, cynical pricing scams and a mindless recruit in the corporate consumer army? Maybe it’s time to insert your values back into your shopping and consuming equation. What and where you buy something can have a tremendous impact on those around you – and around the world. By supporting products, companies and individuals who share your values, companies that invest in creating products that are earth-friendly, people-friendly, and ethically made and manufactured, you can make a profound difference. Here are just a few of the things you may want to consider before purchasing an item:

  • Do I really need this? Avoid impulse buys, redundant purchases and wasteful behaviors. The landfill is filled with junk that at one time someone thought they really needed. Sometimes your best decision is to just keep your wallet in your pocket… or purse.
  • Buy local. Keeping your local stores, farms or artisans gainfully employed will help support your local economy and your community’s social fabric – all important stuff. Before you head for the local big box store consider whether or not, you might find the same product or service closer to home from a neighborhood store. Help keep small town America alive.
  • Buy from ethical and Fair Trade Certified sources. You should always consider how a company, particularly those who manufacture products overseas, treats and compensates its workers. Search out products that pay their workers a living wage and that support the communities that make their products. FairTradeUSA.com is good place to start researching.
  • Buy organic. We know it can sometimes cost a little more, but buying organic fruits and veggies can keep all manner of fertilizers, GMOs, pesticides and additives out of you and your family’s bodies as well as the greater ecosystem.
  • Buy from real people. Don’t purchase a piece of crap furniture item made from engineered wood when you can bop over to Etsy or a local shop and find something handmade and original, made by a craftsman, for the the same price. Jewelry, art and clothing are also items that can be bought from artisans who have created them with style, vision and skill.
  • Avoid trendy fashion items made from living creatures. Do you know how the rabbit that provided the collar for your ski parka met his death? Think about it.
  • Keep it green and sustainable. Avoid buying disposable junk when sustainable, or reusable alternatives are available. Consider whether a company supports the same green and sustainable values and initiatives that you do before ringing up that purchase.
  • Stop ingesting dangerous chemicals. Thousands of chemicals in our food and everyday products have never been fully tested for their health, safety and environmental impact. Do your research and base your food, cosmetics and consumer products buying decisions on more than just price. Visit the Environmental Working Group for info and ratings on many consumer products. Big food companies want to maximize profits by mass-producing products filled with high fructose corn syrup, sugar and salt – check the label to see what’s in there – your kids will thank you. Additionally, many crops are now genetically modified to be disease and pest-free and you’ll be consuming those same pesticides and chemicals when you eat them at your dinner table – support GMO labeling initiatives in your state and municipality – the info can help you make an informed choice.
  • Ignore the noise of the mass marketing machine. Don’t fall victim to cute commercials and catchy marketing and advertising campaigns. Make your buying decisions based on facts, research and thoughtful consideration – not a jingle, celebrity endorsement, bikini-clad spokes model, or cute and cuddly animal actor. (more…)
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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Benefits of Purchasing Green Cars


Eco-friendly car

Choosing a car was hard enough back when the assumption was that a personal vehicle was a necessary evil – each option was as polluting as the next. Now green cars have added another layer of complexity to the car buying process. The choice isn’t just between eco-friendly and conventional anymore, either.

There are the standard hybrids like the Toyota Prius, plug-in hybrids like the Prius PHV, battery electric models like the all-electric BMW i3 and fuel cell vehicles like the Honda Clarity. All four types bring major green cred to the table and that’s a good thing. Whereas once it was the hybrid that was going to change the world, we’re seeing a revolution in the auto industry as the big car companies race to outdo each other.

But back to choices. Too many people have the idea that green is good when it comes to the family car but aren’t sure exactly why. Or what sets one green car apart from the next. First, the odd man out is the fuel cell vehicle. It’s a great idea in theory – amazing fuel efficiency and the only emission is water – but in practice it’s not a feasible alternative for the average consumer right now. There are only nine public hydrogen fueling stations in California and just one in South Carolina. Live anywhere else and you’re out of luck. Until the infrastructure is in place expect fuel cell vehicles to be a relative rarity.

Evaluating Electrics

That leaves hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric models for the eco-conscious consumer. Standard hybrids are essentially the starter option in the green car lineup – they’re low polluting but still use gas and add to the emissions load being pumped into the atmosphere. They’re also budget friendly. Because the internal battery charges when the driver brakes, gas usage goes down pretty dramatically.

The biggest benefit of hybrids (including plug-in hybrids) over all-electric models is that there’s no range issue. Fuel flexibility means you can top off anywhere. One hundred percent electric cars, on the other hand, are zero emission vehicles but pricey thanks to specialty batteries and at an average 60 to 80 miles per charge you can’t go very far from home. The outlier is the Tesla, which can go 200 miles on a single charge.

2014 toyota prius

Taking the Plunge

The car buying bible, Kelley Blue Book, is anything but silent when it comes to green cars. The company’s top three picks for 2014 were the Toyota Prius (which is the most affordable option), Nissan Leaf and BMW i3. Opt for the Prius Liftback and you’ll be in good company – Toyota’s posted 2013 sales topped out at 34,981 and with close to 11,000 sold in 2014′s first quarter alone expect to see more on the road.

The Leaf may boast 55 percent of the 2013 market share when it comes to all-electric vehicles but that translates into less than 10,000 units. However as interest in electric cars grows there may be a surge in sales. This car is sure to garner much attention as the Automotive Science Group listed it as having the lowest overall carbon footprint throughout its lifetime.

The number one vehicle on KBB’s list of top green cars is the (more…)

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