Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Greening Up: Part One, Online Design

A couple of months ago we pledged to do more for the planet. We attended City of Plano's kickoff event declaring 2007 the Year of Living Green. Through their website -- www.livegreeninplano.com -- we vowed to shave minutes off our shower time (to conserve water), to replace at least one light bulb with a CFL (to conserve energy) and to buy more local food (to promote our own health, organic gardening and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other benefits.) Our home is greener than most in our neighborhood, but like everyone, there is much room for improvement. Since we office out of our home, we thought it would be a good idea to evaluate our processes as well as our services.

Currently, most of our office supplies, including our printing paper, is manufactured with 100% recycled materials. I'm still looking for 100% recycled paper on 24 x 36" rolls and 11 x 17" laminating pouches made from recycled plastic. Instead of printing and mailing invoices we email them in pdf format; this reduces paper consumption and greenhouse gas emissions transporting mail from our office to your home. Our home/office is powered by 100% renewable energy from Green Mountain. Two of our three websites are hosted by ThinkHost, which is powered 100% by renewable resources (e.g. solar and wind.) We find second and third uses for every consumable item and/or its packaging; we recycle the rest. Our trash -- both business and personal -- amounts to two plastic grocery bags per week. Through our home and office, we already employ the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle, rebuy and replace, with one exception...

The largest part of our carbon footprint relates to driving. We travel a lot of miles to visit with clients, participate in events and present educational programs. Last year we spread our fuel usage over three vehicles: Daisy, Bluebonnet and Sabal (as in 'minor', or Dwarf Palmetto.) Daisy is our white diesel workhorse. Last year she hauled many tons (literally) of plants and landscape materials. She is no longer a work truck, since we are not doing the installations in-house this year, but we still need her. Her job now is to carry all our equipment and plants for display to meetings, events and presentations. Bluebonnet is our old worker that was retired from heavy duty when we adopted Daisy. Bluebonnet gets better gas mileage than diesel Daisy but really isn't suited to hauling equipment and plants anymore. But she starts up every time and asks for nothing; we can't seem to part with her. Sabal is our passenger car that saw very little action after Daisy came on board. We sold her earlier this year. Our plan was to sell all the vehicles and buy one super fuel-efficient vehicle.

But, as it is with most of us, practicality supercedes idealism and we find we must keep both trucks for now. So now we have a dilemma: how do we continue to conduct our business yet reduce our fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions? Our answer -- online design! Initially online design was intended to serve clients in areas beyond our service area. However, we have realized increased interest within our local clientele, too. We hope more of our new clients will opt for this service because by moving our workload online we: a) reduce our impact on resources such as oil and air quality; b) spend less time driving and more designing; c) turn around designs more quickly; and d) pass along these savings to you. Our online design fees range $400-500, compared to a minimum of $1,200 for "in-person" design services, and you will still receive one 24 x 36" customized design, to scale; 11 x 17" laminated copy of your design (not to scale); detailed list of plants and materials; care and maintenance instructions; and referrals to vendors and installers to help you implement your plan. The only difference between the design packages is one is online, the other onsite at your home.

Part Two of this Greening Up initiative will be announced soon. Stay tuned, and thank you for your continued support of our mission to make positive changes in our community!

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