Category Archives: In the News

Make sure you have a roof over your head – and double check that it’s green!

Green walls are the way to go!

To keep your business and home safe, you must put a roof over your head, but what about a green roof.  Over the last few years, green roofs and now green walls have been a trend in helping improve the environment as well as your business.  Adding a green roof to your business can also add new life to your community.  Literally! Green roofs create new gardens and ecosystems on places that one would never think to find growing produce or even a butterfly sanctuary. Green roofs are set up to help control rainwater, but also increase the diversity of the concrete jungle.  By definition, “green roofs are the result of a complete underlying roof build-up system, providing continuous, uninterrupted layers of protection and drainage.  Free drainage covers the entire roof surface, avoiding problems associated with walls and pillars built off a roof deck.”

Investing in a green roof will help reduce the costs of your heating and cooling bills, reduce storm-water runoff, and bring new life to your building (both wildlife and new customers as well!).

In more recent years, green walls have been popping up on buildings in addition to roofs.  Green walls take the same concepts as roofs but make them vertical.  Both roofs and walls help insulate buildings for sound and remove pollutants from the air; making your business that much fresher! Depending on the size of your building, green walls also offer the opportunity to create artworks using various designs made out of natural green plant life.

Check out these sites for more info:

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Green on the GAP, In the News, Reduce, Retailers, Triple bottom line

Greenest Building to be Built in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is racing forward in the world of green. The proposed $400 million, 40 story PNC Tower to be built in the PPG Plaza in Pittsburgh is planned to be the world’s greenest building. The tower will supposedly consume 50 percent less energy than a typical office building, and will reduce energy costs by about 30 percent. Construction is planned to begin in 2012 and should be complete by 2015. Horray to PNC and Pittsburgh for green innovative leadership.

Check out the full story at

Although you probably don’t work in the greenest building in the world, you can do your part to cut every costs as well. Don’t forget to replace burned out light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent bulbs, use energy saving settings on your computer, use power strips for electronics so you can easily switch them off at night, and use natural light as much as possible. Stay tuned to the GAP SBN blog for more tips.


Filed under Business, Green on the GAP, how-to, in Southwestern PA, In the News, inspiration, Triple bottom line

New York Times Recognizes How Sustainability Can Save Businesses $$

In a New York Times article entitled “How to Make Your Business Greener (and Save Money)” published on February 2, businesses discuss techniques they’ve tried to reduce energy and waste, and therefore to save money. 

Besides the general advice to replace older equipment, turn off lights, educate employees about sustainable behavior, and inventory the most expensive purchases for the company in an effort to identify cost-cutting options, the article mentions the following tidbits:

– “An inexpensive software program puts [Community IT Innovators]’s computers in sleep mode when not in use, reducing their energy consumption by about 50 percent.”

Share cost savings with staff to keep employees motivated and to prove the company is making a long-term commitment to sustainability.

Don’t outright sell your business as “green,” but honestly outline to customers the steps you take to be sustainable.  Joe Santana, the owner of a tortilla company named Mi Rancho, who estimates his business will save $100,000/year via energy efficiency and waste-reduction practices, says:

“I don’t want to say, ‘We are a green company.’ I think we have taken steps in that direction but we are not there yet.” But he has discovered, “when you start looking at your operations through the sustainability lens, you are able to see opportunities to reduce costs that you may have missed before. And isn’t continuous improvement the most important part of any business?”

Santana attributes his desire to change to workshops on sustainable business practices.  What workshops would be most helpful for your business?

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, In the News

Why is air quality relevant to your business?

The history of southwestern Pennsylvania in the last 150 years is largely shaped by industry – coke, coal, steel, and energy production, all of which generate air pollution.

Human health and air pollution are directly linked – particulate pollution from industrial and vehicular traffic have been proven to exacerbate asthma, heart diseases, and Type 1 and 2 diabetes.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette recently completed a thorough series on regional air quality in Southwestern PA called “Mapping Mortality,” discussing the human, environmental, and economic relationships involved with the issue of air quality.

Why is this related to your business? Consider how the health of your community would influence the local economy.  If your community is affected by heavy pollution, residents are more prone to dying younger, paying more for health care, and perhaps are even more likely to move away to avoid health complications.

In addition, out-of-town patrons may not want to support an area plagued by poor air quality. People will visit less, invest less, and take less interest in your town, which hurts business in a very direct sense.

Take a look at this map of SW PA to get a visual of the worst pockets of pollution.

The American Lung Association compiled a list of the Eleven Biggest Clean Air Events of 2010, some good, some bad, that will influence progress on this issue in the years to come.

If you are concerned about the social and economic vitality of your community, please stay informed about this issue and support lobbies for stricter regulations and more thorough enforcement.

Visit these sites for more information:

GASP PGH – Group Against Smog and Pollution in Pittsburgh

DEP BAQ – The Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Air Quality for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, in Southwestern PA, In the News

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy End of Year Challenge

Due to a proposed cut in government funding for trail projects across the United States,* the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is rallying support to encourage government to continue to allocate Highway Trust Fund dollars to transportation projects other than highways.

“In a recent issue of AAA World magazine, Don Gagnon, president and CEO of AAA Mid-Atlantic, argued to restrict the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to just highways. That argument may sound reasonable on its face given the fund’s name, but such a change would eliminate popular and effective programs that have been the lifeblood of our movement for two decades, helping to create more than 19,000 miles of rail-trails and many other bicycle and walking facilities around the country.”*

TTOC attended the 20th American Trails National Trails Symposium in November, where government representatives discussed the implications.  Some explained that the name “Highway Transportation Fund” is a misnomer, because since 1991, “… Congress has clearly stated that federal gas tax revenues be used for all aspects of a surface transportation system, including bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.”*

Consider what your town would be like without its bike trail.  How would your business change? What other economic and recreational assets would you rely on to attract customers and provide an active resource for your community?

Losing a bike trail, or halting the growth of more trails, would devastate regions all across the county; that’s why Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is asking for support to continue its campaign against AAA’s outdated stance on transportation projects.

Click here to donate to the End of Year Challenge, to match a $25,000 fund from the RTC Board of Directors, raising a total of $50,000, for the upcoming battle.

Consider it a holiday gift for friends and family who walk and bike every day, every week, every month, every year.

1 Comment

Filed under in Southwestern PA, In the News

SB20 – The World’s Top Most Sustainable Business Stocks

Each year, Progressive Investor ranks the top 20 most sustainable businesses on the stock market.  Businesses chosen vary in size, location, and industry, though all are contributing to an environmentally-productive economy, according to an expert panel of environmental analysts.

Companies that perform a head above their counterparts in the following two categories qualify for the SB20:

Sustainability Criteria – Businesses have innovative performance models and/or are creating cutting edge green technologies.

Financial Criteria – Preferably profitable companies with strong management and balance sheets.  Each company would enhance a portfolio even if it is not in a buying position today.

View the SB20 from the past three years.

Progressive Investor also publishes ten issues a year highlighting these businesses in depth, as well as information on the following topics:

– News Highlights related to renewable energy, green building, private equity and our other
investment sectors
– Upcoming or recent IPOs, new mutual funds, ETFs
– Upcoming Investor Conferences
– Trends affecting green investing, such as China and green technology
– Stock Market Commentary as it relates to green investing
– Updates on stocks we cover
– Green company stock profiles
– Analyst Conversations on their outlook for the stock market or stock recommendations on
specific segments such as green building, thin film solar, batteries, investing in forests, etc.
– Comprehensive list of the most important green stocks with buy/hold/sell ratings & brief

Click here for subscription information.

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Data, In the News, Resources

Alternative Waste Contract Discussion at Net Impact Symposium

The 18th annual Net Impact conference, held at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, highlighted visions for a sustainable decade in the areas of waste, community development, natural resource conservation, professional sector growth, energy, and clean technologies, among other fields.

Net Impact is a web of young business students and professionals across the country who support socially-responsible business models.  It hosts conferences for individuals to network and learn about positive change in the business community.

Marc Gunther of attended the 18th annual conference at the end of October, and reported in particular on alternative recycling contracts that are at the forefront of reducing waste.


Three notable initiatives:

1.  RecycleBank

Homeowners rewarded with points for recycling that are redeemable at over 1500 businesses.

2.  TerraCycle

This business collects hard-to-recycle materials and sells them for re-purposing.  According to Gunther, “the company gets paid by brands whose products it recovers, by manufacturers who buy its materials and by marketers who use its logo on finished products.”

3.  Waste Management, via Greenpolis

WM intends to put interactive kiosks on public streets where people can redeem cash and points for recycling, as well as improving its website to better engage potential recyclers.


In the Trail Towns:

What incentives are needed in your community to encourage residential and commercial recycling?

If your waste contractor agreed to adopt three recycling practices or incentives, which three would be most effective for your business?

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, In the News, inspiration, Reduce


According to cutting edge technology, sustainable housing these days not only uses energy efficiently, it also maximizes space.

Staff and students at Virginia Tech have designed a solar-powered, spacious yet efficient home that sets a positive tone for future building development.

Have you ever wondered:  can we continue to live and work in the buildings that we do today without a second thought?

The current opinion is no; our building trends of the past couple centuries are heavily influenced by the assumption that land, power, and water are cheap and bountiful.  Conventional appliances, construction materials, and building designs do not recognize the rising cost of oil, diminishing land, and rising population.

Not to be foreboding.

Instead of viewing these truths with despair, architects like those at Virginia Tech see these limitations as just new guidelines for the final product.

Explore their design here. The house won the 2010 Solar Decathlon Europe award, a competition among 17 colleges from around the world that all convened in Madrid.

How does this apply to your business?

While we don’t all have the luxury of designing from scratch to create the perfect building, there are opportunities for space-saving and retrofitting in every business place.

Of particular note is how the kitchen table in Lumenhaus can be hidden beneath the counter when not in use, or rolled onto the outdoor patio to extend the function of the house without adding extra furniture.

Can you think of other ways to save space and cut down on unneeded accessories in your business or office?

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, In the News, inspiration, Resources

Al Gore + Martha Stewart = Sustainable Exterior Design

We’d like to follow up on our recent “Ivy on Brick:  Insulating Your Building” post from July 12th, 2010, which provides links explaining how ivy can insulate a building in winter and keep it cooler in summer.

Despite articles suggesting otherwise, some folks are still concerned that ivy tears a brick wall apart over time.  Of particular worry is that certain types of ivy stick to the brick and will take down pieces of the wall when removed.

Instead of dismissing this form of natural insulation entirely, consider an alternative:  green curtains! Green curtains are made by leaning a large trellis against your building wall, upon which ivy will grow.  The ivy is planted in pots above or below and trained to grow on the trellising.

In Japan, where this structure is growing in popularity, certain green curtains also include food crops.  Picture a hundred cucumbers hanging casually against your wall, blowing in the breeze…

These curtains seem to be fashionable furnishings draping the (double-paned) windows of opportunity… Any thoughts?

Leave a comment

Filed under Creative re-use, how-to, In the News, inspiration, Local Food, Resources, Restaurants, Retailers

Blue Star Refreshments Earns Blue Ribbon for Green Mantra

Blue Star Refreshments, a catering service for offices in Silicon Valley of San Jose, California, is an atypical business venture for a number of reasons, highlighted below.  For these tasks, Blue Star received the Better Business Bureau Santa Clara County Green Business award.

1.  This business provides sustainable consulting to clients in addition to delivering (fresh, healthy) food.

2.  This business has helped customers cut back on energy costs by retrofitting the conventional vending machine design.  The Blue Star version of a vending machine includes LED lighting, a sensor that can inform the stocking company remotely that the machine needs to be filled (thereby greatly reducing labor and gas costs by eliminating routine check-ups), and use of the VendingMiser® technology.  This technology powers down the vending machine when traffic is reduced, monitors the room’s temperature to consume the least amount of energy necessary, and automatically re-powers the cooling system at one to three hour intervals to ensure the product stays cold.

3.  This business practices what it preaches by implementing the following “Climate Friendly Actions,” according to the case study:

  •  Using service vehicles that run on B99 biodiesel• Utilizing a pallet and packaging recycling program
    • Retrofitting old equipment with energy 

    saving technologies free of charge to customers

• Promoting Vendmiser and Coolermiser cooling Technologies in all implementations
• Retrofitting LED lights in vending machines to reduce energy consumption and increase life span
• Implementing route scheduling system which reduce time and transport expenses by 20%
• Conserving water by use of low flow toilets and washing delivery trucks 50% less
• Providing biodegradable utensils, cups, bowls and plates, napkins and paper towels for catering• Promoting bulk snack program to reduce individually- packaged snacks
   How does this relate to your business?

While you don’t have to formally market a sustainable product, or act as a professional green consultant for the customers you serve, your role as a green business owner encompasses education and outreach.

Consider discussing energy saving options with a business next door, and encourage them to join the Sustainable Business Network.  Recommend EnergyStar appliances or “green” techniques that have worked for you.

Place signs all throughout your store or restaurant informing customers of your sustainable practices.  Or feature these qualities on your website for customers researching their bike trip online.  They may choose your business because you are greener!!

Spreading the word is as easy as having a conversation:  in person, on the phone, online…  Because really, that’s how this information is best discussed. 

We hope you’re boasting about your green practices, because they are definitely something to be proud of!  Keep up the good work and keep on reaching for that blue ribbon standard.

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, In the News, inspiration, Restaurants