Category Archives: how-to

The Business of Bees

Considering planting a garden to help beautify your business front?  Try planting native wildflower or plant species that will draw in honey bees!  By planting varieties that are attractive to bees, you can help your garden thrive while benefiting the insect population in your region.  According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, since 2006 about one-third of the honey bee population in the US has disappeared due to what scientists today refer to as ‘colony collapse disorder.’   This startling loss of honey bees has been linked to numerous causes ranging from pesticides to parasites.  However, scientists have yet to narrow down the exact reason(s) causing honey bees to die.  The most helpful thing that we, as community members can do is to encourage the repopulation of honey bees is by carefully selecting garden varieties that are irresistible to these buzzy insects! Continue reading

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Filed under how-to, in Southwestern PA

Creating a Second On-Season

Between May when the weather gets warm and when it starts to get cold in November, the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) brings thousands of potential customers through the towns along it’s length. During peak summer months and holiday weekends tourist destinations like Ohiopyle can be awash with visitors and their dollars. Finding ways to maintain and increase this seasonal traffic is a great way to increase profits, but the problem becomes what to do during those months of the off-season. For established businesses strong local patronage during the trail season is a bonus and the off-season brings slower but still good levels of business. The issue is really for those businesses that depend on the trail customers.

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Filed under B&Bs, Business, how-to, in Southwestern PA, Restaurants, Retailers

Slow Down and Think Locally

Running a business can be stressful and overwhelming, so here are some green thoughts to help you balance out your workload. “Going green,” as they say, has many aspects, all revolving around synchronicity, localization and holistic approaches. The recent Farm to Table Conference hosted in the Pittsburgh Convention Center encompassed all of these, cutting out the middleman of corporate industry. All these attributes of being healthier, better for the environment, and so on, are all good and dandy, but are not accessible to all. Going to this event myself, tasting expensive cheese that I can’t afford was bittersweet. Smaller amounts of organic whole food is needed to fill you up than when consuming processed fillers with often empty calories, but all in all it’s often hard to be thrifty and buy organic. Spending more on health now is saving on hospital bills later.

With the fast paced food and lifestyle Americans lead, it’s often difficult to take the time to slow down. The one thing that comes to mind is “America, be patient.” The regurgitation of “you are what you eat” is overwhelmingly omnipresent. Sometimes we automatically rebel against things forced down our throats, but if we can get past that in this situation, we will not regret it. Being the kid in elementary school made fun of for having a whole wheat sandwich and raw foods in place of “Lunchables”, the sweet revenge of health is now mine. Although I’m no spring chicken, I feel the difference of what I put into my body. This isn’t a lecture, only a hypothesis. It is not scientific, only backed up from the guttural instinct of listening to self. Once someone is tuned in to what their physical and mental self needs, you then can better predict the onset of disease, stress, and be in a better position to take preventative measures.

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Homemade Body Lotion: Green and Cost Effective Alternative

By this point in the Sustainable Business Network game, I’m sure you’ve already swapped your old light bulbs for CFLs, stopped using Styrofoam and maybe started biking to work.

…So kudos to you, and all alike, but why stop with your business?

It should be pretty clear that sustainability starts at home, down to the very basics: like cleaning supplies and personal care products such as body moisturizer.

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March 23, 2012 · 11:04 am

Victory Gardens: Past & Present

Victory Gardens: Past and Present

Back in the 1940’s during World War II, Uncle Sam asked us to become more self-sufficient and produce our own fruits and veggies, as transportation to market was difficult during the war. Millions of people started Victory Gardens because of this need for self-sufficiency. Community members made a cooperative effort to help our nation in its time of need.

Today we have modern Victory Gardens.  Rather than a government plea to ration our food supply, these modern Victory Gardens are a grassroots movement to change our food system. Commercial agriculture has taken over America’s food supply and has nearly wiped out the small family farm. A significant cost to the commercial agriculture system is transportation and a larger shift to eating more locally and seasonally significantly reduces the transport costs.  Additionally, fresh produce from the garden is a great eating pleasure – everyone knows the sweetness of picking something and then having it on your dinner plate. If you want to read more about a modern victory garden then check out: http://www.modernvictorygarden.com/

With fresher produce in mind hopefully more Victory Gardens will be planted next year. Gardens come in many forms. Some people may enjoy the traditional row garden in the backyard but the sky is the limit when it comes to how creative you want to get with your Victory Garden. If you do not have the space in your yard for a garden, then container gardening may be for you. Flower gardeners may want to add some edible landscaping to next year’s beds. Some plants with edible elements and beautiful flowers to consider are Painted Lady Runner Beans, American Groundnut, Nasturtiums, and Pansies.  Families might want to do themed garden beds, such as the pizza bed (tomatoes, peppers, basil, or any of your favorite vegetable toppings), or perhaps the spaghetti bed (spaghetti squash, onions, garlic, and rosemary).  There is a garden for everyone to enjoy—so cook and can with this year’s harvest and start planning next year’s to include new varieties.

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Filed under Buy Local, Green on the GAP, how-to, inspiration, Local Food, Resources, Restaurants

How to Make Your Event a Little “Greener”

How to Make Your Event a Little “Greener”

Whether you are having a family get-together or a community-wide event, there are ways to help you save money as well as save the planet in the long run. 

First off, invest in any reusable products – From plates to gloves to tablecloths to containers!  Do you often use plastic tablecloths to cover the tables at your picnic, monthly meetings, or special event?  Next time consider opting for a few fabric table coverings that you can simply wash each time. They will last for years, unlike plastic tablecloths that will last for decades in a trash dump.  The same goes reusable plates and silverware.  You may not want to use your good china or daily dinning ware, but perhaps you could buy a set of durable, reusable plates (usually a heavy plastic) and utensils that you can use and wash for the next time.  These make better options than Styrofoam and other disposables. 

Planning to do a clean-up in the community or even at your own home or business? Will you be using gloves to collect the litter and trash along the way?  Invest in garden gloves rather than latex/plastic versions.  Much like fabric tablecloths and heavy plastic plates, these gloves can be washed and reused each time instead of being tossed in the garbage.  In any case, it’s always best to find a way to reuse a product before recycling or even throwing something away. 

Another thing to consider in planning your event is your location.  If you can, hold your meeting or festival outside using natural light.  Another option would be to hold an event in a room with plenty of natural sunlight where you would need no or very little artificial lighting.  All of these options can reduce your overall energy usage. 

Now on to the food! Every picnic or meeting has to have something to snack on! Why not try creating an entire meal from local farmers markets and fresh produce vendors.  Supporting local farmers supports the local economy. Many of these vendors have organic choices to make your meal even greener!

Finally, make getting to your event more environmentally friendly.  Encourage friends and family to walk, bike, or even use public transportation to attend your “green” picnic, meeting, event, or festival! 

These tips are just a start to help your organization, business, and family make small differences with a big impact on both the environment and your wallet!

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Filed under Business, Buy Local, Green on the GAP, how-to, Local Food, recycle, Reduce, reuse, Triple bottom line

Stay Sustainable in the Summer

The cold weather has finally given away to warm, if not hot days, and we are all aching to get out of the office to spend time outdoors!  Read on to find out how to make your summer more sustainable.

Sustainable Vacations

With gas prices up and the economy still down, plan a low impact, high quality summer vacation.  Vacation locally and save time, save gas money, and reduce carbon emissions.

  1. Spend the week on the Great Allegheny Passage, riding from Pittsburgh to Cumberland.  If you are adventurous, continue from Cumberland to D.C. on the C&O Canal Towpath.  Visit www.atatrail.org for trip planning suggestions.
  2. Spend a weekend or a week hiking and backpacking on the Laurel Highlands Trail.  This 70 mile trail runs from Ohiopyle State Park to near Johnstown.  Visit the Laurel Ridge State Park website for more information: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/laurelridge.aspx.
  3. Explore Pennsylvania State Parks.  Camp or stay in cabins during the night and hike, swim, fish, and relax in beautiful Pennsylvania during the day.  http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/index.aspx

Whether you are spending a lot of time outside or you serve customers that are visiting our region to enjoy the natural wonders here, you can use these tips to promote sustainable lifestyles.

From a personal perspective:

  1. STAY HYDRATED THE SUSTAINABLE WAY Use refillable water bottles.  Bottled water costs about 2000 times as much as tap water.  Bottled water is not safer to drink than tap water.  The EPA strictly regulates tap water quality under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The FDA regulates bottled water, yet cannot require certified lab testing or violation reporting.  In addition companies are not forced to disclose where the water they bottle comes from.  http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater
  2. BUY LOCAL Farmers’ markets are starting up for the summer.  Buy locally produced and grown foods this summer.  Local, fresh produce tastes amazing and is energy and resource efficient.  Most produce grown in the US is shipped an average of 1500 miles before being sold.  Produce grown in other countries is shipped even further.  Buying local will reduce the energy use attributed to shipping and will help build local economies.  If you live in Fayette County, get a Buy Local card and receive discounts at local stores.  You can also save $5 at Fayette County farmers’ markets if you are one of the first 20 people to arrive.  http://www.localharvest.org/buylocal.jsp                                 http://www.faypenn.org/economy.jsp?pageId=2161392210281306139485965
  3. WATER EARLY OR LATE  Water your plants in the early morning or the late afternoon to reduce the amount of water that evaporates on these hot summer days.

From a business perspective:

  1. Offer customers to fill up reusable water bottles in your sink.
  2. Encourage customers to buy/use reusable bags rather than just giving them a plastic bag.  Consider charging for bags like companies such as Aldi.
  3. Promote local farmers’ markets to customers.
  4. Invite customers to dispose of any packaging from purchases in your store so they are not tempted to litter.  Recycle what can be recycled.
  5. If you sell food, buy locally produced and grown food.  See above for advantages.
  6. WALK, BIKE, OR CARPOOL Enjoy the nice weather or the company of a co-worker, and use alternative transportation to get to work.  Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help reduce tropospheric ozone pollution (formed when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from car exhaust interacts with sunlight).  http://instaar.colorado.edu/outreach/ozone-oceans/ozone.html

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Filed under Business, Buy Local, Green on the GAP, how-to, in Southwestern PA, inspiration, Local Food, Outdoor/Bicycle Outfitters, recycle, Reduce, Resources, Restaurants, Retailers, reuse