Category Archives: In the News


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?

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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?

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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.

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Filed under Business, In the News, inspiration, Restaurants

BUY LOCAL Network Kicks Off!

Earth Day, April 22nd, brought with it an exciting announcement from the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council:  the Buy Local Network for all businesses in Fayette County is now officially operating! Bob Junk and Jessica Steimer of Fay-Penn, and Val J. Laub of the Herald Standard, presented the material at an outdoor press conference in Connellsville’s Yough Park.

The program unites local, independently-owned businesses of varying types and sizes in an overarching network of discounts and incentives to encourage customers to choose local stores over generic, big-box chains.  “This is a new approach to an old concept of one another in the community supporting local businesses,” Laub said.

Buying in the neighborhood recirculates community dollars three-fold, and often supports agriculture and manufacturing in the region as opposed to halfway around the world.  That’s a heck of a carbon footprint reduction for each dollar spent.

Customers present a Buy Local card at participating businesses, in order to receive product discounts and the chance to enter monthly raffles to win goods from Buy Local Network businesses.

To join the network, businesses commit to these discounts (upwards of $25) while also donating monthly to a community reinvestment fund (upwards of $10); community groups can then apply for this funding through any business involved in the Buy Local Network.

Fay-Penn covers promotions, advertising, and card distribution – a business simply has to buy-in, put up the Buy Local window cling, and begin accepting card-bearing customers!

As with any network, its strength is in the number of businesses engaged. If you’re considering how to connect with your community in a multitude of ways, joining this program is an effective move.

Already 60 + businesses are engaged and thousands of cards distributed.  Fay-Penn works closely with the Herald Standard to circulate Buy Local announcements and updates.

Contact to find out more about joining the network.  A possibility for the network to extend into other counties may exist in the future, so stay tuned if your business lies outside of Fayette County…

Click here for a full article highlighting the program.

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Filed under Buy Local, In the News, Local Food, Restaurants, Retailers

Just our (Irish) luck! A Perfect Holiday to Advertise Your “Green-ness”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

Bless our hearts, there is at least one day a year when everyone wants to celebrate all that is green!  St. Patrick was a saint in the 5th century who used a (green) shamrock to explain the trinity in his religious teachings.  And due to the lush landscape of the Emerald Isles and Ireland’s beautiful natural scenery, green became synonymous with Ireland, eventually representing an immigrant Irish voting block (the Green Party) that U.S. political candidates attempted to win over in American elections starting in the 1850’s.

Why mention the history of this festive occasion?  Before you kick back with a strong stout at your favorite pub, break Lent for the afternoon, or attend your local parade, it’s worth considering the symbolism and meaning behind the color green. 

Any day of the year, what does it mean to be green?  How can a business re-invigorate this color to stand for firm commitments and market choices, without falling prey to the “greenwashing” trend overtaking the commercial world?

In 2004, Office Depot used this holiday to introduce a number of new “green” products to its stores, improving its website with recycling tips for the home and office, and clearly labeling the recycled content of its stock.

And this year, the Sierra Club offers a suggestion (to bars as well as to individuals) that “green brews” are available – enjoying local microbrews reduces energy burned on shipping and oftentimes organic beers match their competition in flavor and price. 

Have any nifty marketing tips to rake in the Leprechaun gold??  That is, will your business celebrate the holiday by providing discounts or deals for customers who support your green efforts in some way? 

Or maybe you can use this holiday simply as an excuse to talk about the conservation efforts of your business, for all the town to see, like a rainbow in the sky…

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Filed under Business, Buy Local, Creative re-use, In the News, Restaurants, Retailers

Getting ready for higher fuel costs: Walmart ahead of the curve

“We need to get ready for a world in which energy will only be more expensive, and there will only be a greater need to operate with less carbon in the supply chain.”

Ah, another quote about the upcoming environmental apocalypse!  Tighten your belt in solemn preparation for a world weaned of cheap oil.  As if a business in this economy doesn’t have enough to worry about!

But to put an interesting spin on the issue, what would you say if we told you that’s what Mike Duke, the president of Walmart, had to say to explain a noteworthy turn in Walmart’s marketing plan?  The company intends to cut 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from its supply chain by the year 2015.

An immediate reaction was this:  Since Walmart is such a megapower in the commercial world, this measure will probably affect a negligible number of its suppliers and make little to no impact on total greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, though the measure is not easy to enforce abroad and remains a voluntary choice for businesses that sell to Walmart, Walmart will favor companies adjusting to more efficient practices within the next five years.  This could effect 100,000 sizable businesses, including Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble.  Definitely not small potatoes there.

And in terms of the environment, the cutback is roughly equivalent to taking 3.8 million cars off the road for a year.

What does this have to do with a small business owner along Main Street, PA?  Skeptics doubt that Walmart intends to improve the state of the environment with this campaign.  In their book (or on their blog), it seems like one more power play to rule the marketplace.

Uh… so what?  As long as consumers vote with their dollar, Walmart will get elected again and again because this business refuses to ignore its constituents.  People now seek products that address environmental concerns; for Walmart, an example of that means selling clothing made from faster-drying materials, to reduce automatic dryer usage.  For the small business owner, this means phasing out Styrofoam dishware for paper or recyclable plastics.  Or better yet, providing in-house ceramic dishes that can be cleaned in an Energy Star bulk washer.

Yes, Walmart’s buying power and upfront capital far exceed that of the Main Street store owner.  But Walmart has set the bar far higher for itself and smaller businesses can capitalize on this trend in a relative way.

To read more about Walmart’s consultation with the Environmental Defense Fund to define specific qualifications for its suppliers, read Dominique Browning’s full blog post.  Or watch Walmart’s 45-minute webcast of the announcement.

Time will tell whether Walmart genuinely follows through on its promises.  But the small business owner who holds him or herself personally accountable can act on these objectives in an immediate and tangible way.

We’re interested to know:  How does this affect your opinion of Walmart, the marketplace, and/or how your efforts to create a more sustainable business might be perceived in the future?

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Filed under In the News, inspiration, Retailers

Got questions about Local Foods?

Attention restaurateurs and B&B owners!

Do you have questions about local or organic foods? You can get them answered by Pittsburgh chef Bill Fuller and the Allegheny Front’s Jennifer Szweda Jordan for the new segment Earth’s Bounty 2.0. They’re taking phone calls and e-mails pertaining to local foods and the environment that may air on the radio show.

E-mail them at or call 412-25-ZESTY with questions from dyes in food and sustainable fish to local wines and beef.

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Filed under B&Bs, Business, Buy Local, in Southwestern PA, In the News, Local Food, Restaurants