Obama, the Green President.

The President of the United States is serious when he says the environment is a top priority of his administration. This week, the President’s walking-the-talk on green issues comes through General Motors, and interestingly enough, the White House.

At a GM plant in Ohio, President Obama hailed the new fuel economy standards that would decrease greenhouse gases and provide clear directions for auto designers.

“For too long,” the president told the autoworkers, “our auto companies faced uncertain and conflicting fuel economy standards. That made it difficult for you to plan down the road. That’s why, today, we are launching—for the first time in history—a new national standard aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in America. This action will give our auto companies some long-overdue clarity, stability, and predictability.”

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Efficiency – Green Energy's Ugly Sister.

Efficiency – the other side of green energy – just isn’t as sexy. You don’t see a lot of celebrities touting efficiency. The few who do (cough cough Ed Begley cough) just aren’t that cool.

People think of efficiency along the lines of reasons other than sustainable living. Take electricity conservation – when asked why they reduce electricity consumption, over 72% of the public named cost reduction as their primary reason, says a new study from the Shelton Group.

Only 26% said they had the environment first on their mind. Another 40% mistakenly believed that generating electricity hurt the ozone layer.

A shame, really – over $1.2 trillion in potential savings can be realized by 2020 if the U.S. invests $520 billion in efficiency improvements, if a new McKinsey survey is to be believed.

The McKinsey report cites a number of “success stories” that could serve as models for other national policies. The list includes federal appliance energy-efficiency standards that have saved Americans an estimated $50 billion over 12 years; California’s incredible efficiency efforts; and heroic local efforts.

One local effort of particular note finances renewable energy and efficiency improvements by raising property taxes, allowing homeowners to avoid skyrocketing up-front costs.

The California plan works this way: the municipality covers the up-front costs. The homeowner then provides reimbursement through taxes.

Earth Savers Go Pedal-Powered.

Green energy be damned, battery powered cars aren’t the only way you can tap energy in an environment-friendly manner. People are getting turned on to the original green energy – the bicycle.

Mother Earth News shows you how you can transform your morning stationary-bike session into an alternative power source – this power-bike can produce 5 to 10 amps of power continuously.

This power-bike’s builder isn’t the only one – David Butcher sells plans for his power-bike, claiming excellent results (both in terms of calories burned, and energy generated):

The Pedal Generator I ride charges batteries, that run an inverter, that produces 110v AC, that powers LED lights, the monitor on my computer, my cell phones, and charges my Roomba as well as many other small battery-powered things. It is the most inspiring workout you can imagine.


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LEED and Green Buildings: A Big Letdown?

A LEED certification is a must-have for a green building, a mark of excellence that any environmentally-conscious builder can leverage into tax credits and bragging rights.

LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” – its certifications are overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization that is now the country’s numero uno watchdog for green and sustainable buildings.

But apparently a “gap between design and construction” is becoming apparent, according to the New York Times’ Mireya Navarro:

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Solar Panel Price Drop Delights Green Building Contractors.

The New York Times reports that a crucial piece of the green building puzzle just got a lot cheaper:

For solar shoppers these days, the price is right. [Solar] Panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year, driven down partly by an increase in the supply of a crucial ingredient for panels, according to analysts at the investment bank Piper Jaffray.

The price drops — coupled with recently expanded federal incentives — could shrink the time it takes solar panels to pay for themselves to 16 years, from 22 years, in places with high electricity costs, according to Glenn Harris, chief executive of SunCentric, a solar consulting group.

The price drop can be attributed to worldwide increases in solar panel production, coupled with a global drop in demand. Polysilicon, an essential ingredient in solar panels, has increased in availability thanks to more plants making the stuff in China.        (read more)

Getting a Green Office Makeover: Start Small!

You can’t see it from the outside, but the Empire State Building is transforming itself into an eco-friendly building, thanks to a $20 million green office makeover that aims to cut its energy consumption by almost 40%.

By current estimates, its transformation into a green office will reduce the Empire State Building’s annual CO2 emissions by some 105,000 metric tons.

That’s a major step, considering that the tower’s emerald lights on St. Patrick’s day were about as green as it normally got before now!

There’s a simple objective behind any green office makeover, even one as expansive as the Empire State Building’s: reduce the organization’s impact on the environment. Awareness is job number one – most organizations aren’t even conscious of their massive footprint on Mother Earth.

“We depend on paper, plastic and other materials to communicate and transmit goods,” says Annex Brands marketing VP Steve Goble. “Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the amount of resources we use when completing these tasks, but by taking a few simple steps, people can greatly reduce excess waste.”

Taking steps to a green office could be as simple as recycling paper, using electronics with the Energy Star power feature, switching appliances off at the power source (instead of letting them “sleep”, draining even more energy), and installing eco-friendly office lighting.    (read more)

Green Office Trends

The green office is here to stay, as more office managers realize that going green is more than a conscientious effort to save the planet, it also protects the health of their employees and saves the bottom line.

The green office trend may already be in your workplace, showing up as one or more of these things:

Telepresence. Google uses high tech in deceptively simple ways to minimize its carbon footprint. For example, business travel has been slashed to a bare minimum through the use of videoconferencing, reports the New York Times – not a tiny gesture when you consider that Google has 119 offices all around the world.

“Hundreds of meetings per day are done via videoconference,” says Google project manager Adam Banks. “The technology is primarily about making the company work better, but it has the nice effect of saving on carbon as well.”

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Celebrity Green – Julia Stiles Brings It.

While we at Cubicles.com are proud of our remanufactured office cubicles and their raw materials – like the Terratex fabrics we use for our cubicles, made from 100% recycled material using sustainable manufacturing methods – we’re not above having a laugh at green marketing that, er, goes off the loopy end.

As far as we can tell, Julia Stiles’ tongue-in-cheek “Julia Stiles Styles” video parodies celebrity green bandwagon-jumping: she presents weird green fashion ensembles that even we, green enthusiasts that we are, have trouble embracing.

For our part, we would never steal ideas for our office cubicles from homeless dudes in South America. Not that we’re ruling it out.

To Green or Not to Green?

Office spaces these days aspire to be both efficient and environment-friendly… but achieving both takes some doing. Yes, it’s important to make an office more productive, but how can you do that in a greener, more earth-friendly way? How do you furnish your office and boost employee morale, without leaving the planet in the dumpster?

It’s actually easier than you think. Here are ten ways you can have your earth-friendly cake and eat it too, by choosing remanufactured office cubicles:

1. Minimize your impact on the environment with green furniture. Remanufactured office furniture rescues old furnishings from the landfill or the incinerator, minimizing the impact of these items on the environment. Recycled furniture gets taken out of the waste cycle, and placed back on the consumer market. This leads to less waste and fewer pollutants released into the atmosphere.

2. Green furniture is more cost-effective. Remanufactured office furniture looks and performs just like its brand new counterparts; yet offer up to 50% savings compared to new. This leaves you with more funds to allocate to more essential areas of your budget – something you need in a recession-plagued economy!

3. Green furniture is just as good – if not better – than brand new. Modern remanufacturing techniques have raised the bar for remanufactured office furniture. Green furniture is reassembled to match brand new office furniture in both form and function – replacing worn parts and discolored fabrics, refinishing desktops, and repainting panels. The end result is just as good as brand-new in all respects – with the added bonus of knowing you’ve done your part to save the earth!

4. Green furniture increases your use of recycled materials. Office furniture is typically replaced within a period of 10 years, long before any serious wear occurs. This explains the high reusability rate of remanufactured office furniture – more than 85% of the original material makes it into the remanufactured product. The other 15% consists of material recycled from other sources – the new fabrics used by Cubicles.com in their remanufactured cubicles are actually made from recycled plastic bottles.

5. When you buy green furniture, you contribute to a fast-growing sector of the economy. The office furniture remanufacturing industry is a significant sector of the commercial furniture business, earning about $1.2 billion in revenues a year. The business continues to grow, aided by new remanufacturing techniques and a growing supply of raw material. This just goes to show that green furniture isn’t just a worthwhile environmental goal – it’s good business, too.

6. Green furniture offers a constantly expanding product line. The recession has caused an increase in the supply of cubicles on the market, resulting in an increase in both supply and demand for remanufactured office furniture. The choices for conscientious businesses have never been greater, or more affordable.

7. A green office leads to less waste. Remanufactured office furniture extends the life of office furniture, the casualties of a wasteful procurement industry. It’s estimated that U.S. companies buy about 3 million desks, 16.5 million chairs, 4.5 million tables, and 11 million file cabinets a year – with half of this amount reaching the dumpsters at the same time. Remanufactured furniture short-circuits this process – items are spared from a pollution-spewing fate and put back to good use, for less than the cost of buying brand-new furniture.

8. Green furniture is good for your health. Think of all the emissions produced in the manufacture of brand new office furniture – volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a common byproduct of the furniture making process, contributing to air pollution and extracting an equivalent cost to manufacturers and end-users alike. Green office producers like Cubicles.com use less harmful manufacturing techniques, like using powder-based finishing coats that create less waste and minimize VOC emissions.

9. Green furniture is flexible and grows with your company. Modern cubicles are designed for quick disassembly, and the remanufactured cubicles derived from them are no less flexible. The lower price point attached to these items increases the end-user’s latitude for choice, enabling them to pursue more ambitious solutions with a smaller budget at hand.

10. Using recycled furniture advertises your company’s commitment to corporate responsibility. There’s great cachet in being the first business on your block to embrace green office furnishing practices – this gives you a great talking point for clients, and also provides a foothold for increased office morale. After all, isn’t it wonderful to work for a company that serves a greater purpose than just the bottom line?

"Clean and Green" makes headway in office furnishing

If you think “doing green business” is just a passing fashion, you’ve got another think coming – green trends have created a $227 billion a year marketplace for sustainable products and services, a figure estimated to hit the $1 trillion mark by 2020.

This is a large (and growing) market – and their clout is making itself felt in the $10-billion-dollar office furniture industry. Increasing attention is being paid to how the process of creating office furniture impacts the environment.

For example, the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released during the production process may contribute to air pollution and health problems down the road.

Also, the average 10-year lifespan of office furniture raises concerns that a great volume of furnishings are sent to the landfills long before they’re due.

As a result, remanufactured furniture is looking better and better. New techniques in refurbishing office furniture create a whole new world of possibilities for environment-conscious companies.

Remanufacturing companies take previously used cubicles and other office furniture, replace the fabrics and work surfaces, and reassemble them again, the end result costing up to 70% less than equivalent brand-new furniture. A whole office can be remodeled this way, at a fraction of the cost of using new cubicles.

Cubicles.com’s line of cubicles takes this idea of value engineering for the earth’s sake and runs with it. By sticking to a simple yet all-encompassing philosophy of reducing, reusing, and recycling as much as possible from the original material, Cubicles.com manages to reuse up to 85% of the source into its remanufactured furniture.

Cubicles.com offers a wide range of pre-owned models sourced from respected brands like Herman Miller, Knoll & Steelcase. The look, feel, and function are almost indistinguishable from brand-new cubicles – you wouldn’t even know it was remanufactured, green furniture if you weren’t told it was.

Saving the earth isn’t just a feel-good platitude; it’s good business. As more workers wake up to the impact their enterprises are making on the Earth, companies like Cubicles.com are stepping up to help them do their part for the environment, and save big in the process.

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