Green up Your Office

Entrepreneur Magazine
Making a Green Office
By Tiffany Meyers, March 2009

Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, and office buildings are guilty. They binge on more electricity than any other type of commercial building, representing about 25 percent of the sector’s total electricity consumption. The natural gas they guzzle accounts for almost 14 percent of consumption in nonresidential buildings. But if you take a few simple steps toward a more sustainable office, you’ll see payback in many shades of green—from money saved to increased employee morale and retention.

1. COOL IT   According to the most recent statistics from the Center for Sustainable Systems, space cooling accounts for 11 percent of total electricity consumption in commercial buildings. If you’re in a mild climate, ask your landlord to consider adding an economizer, which conditions by bringing in outside air—not by using refrigerant—when it’s cooler outside than in. For optimal wintertime savings, experts recommend setting thermostats to 68 degrees during work hours and 55 degrees after hours. Stay on track with a programmable thermostat. HVAC maintenance matters, too: You and your landlord should seal leaky ducts, change filters and have your contractor come out to do annual tuneups.

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Meet Barbara Turf, Ceo, Crate and Barrel

PINK Magazine
Crate Expectations: A profile of Barbara Turf
By Tiffany Meyers |  December 2008

If not for a few details – the cash registers, the sales associates – I’d swear I was a guest in Barbara Turf’s home getting a tour of the rooms she’s lovingly decorated.

Strolling through the Crate and Barrel home store adjacent to suburban Chicago’s Northbrook Court shopping mall, near the company’s headquarters, the new CEO and I stop intermittently to admire the things she loves most – textiles from India, a French table of solid oak. As in any home, her relationship to these pieces, many of which hold reminders of her family, is deeply personal. “My daughter just bought this sofa for herself,” Turf says as we sink into the Huntley, a couch with clouds instead of cushions. “You’ll have to tell me if you think it’s comfortable.”

Of course, in many ways, Crate and Barrel is Turf ’s home, one she helped build over the last 40 years. In one of the highest-profile succession stories of the year, Gordon Segal, who opened the first Crate and Barrel in 1962 with his wife, Carole, named Turf the company’s new CEO in May.

In one of the highest-profile succession stories of the year, Gordon Segal, who opened the first Crate and Barrel in 1962 with his wife, Carole, named Turf the company’s new CEO in May. With eight new Crate and Barrel home stores up and running this year, including the first international foray, Turf is leading with the same commitment to innovation that’s prompted Segal to describe his longtime No. 2, now the company’s No. 1, as nothing short of a “retail visionary.”

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Design Your Home Office on a Budget

Entrepreneur’s StartUps
Design Your Home Office Space
By Tiffany Meyers | March 2009

Among the benefits of working from home: your 32-second commute, pajamas and the freedom to create an environment that works for you, not the common denominator. Checking in with interior stylist Amy Lenahan of Chicago’s design i interiors, we located two lackluster office spaces with one goal in mind: break all the rules of corporate décor without breaking the bank. 

HOME OFFICE NO. 1
Don’t know where to start? Follow your heart. Commit to an item you love and build the room around it. For curtains, Ikea’s Fredrika fabric ($5.99 per yard) paired with a more basic red fabric, the Minna ($6.99 per yard), set our hearts aflutter, so we carried the eye-popping reds throughout the rest of the room.  “In a home office, where privacy isn’t such an issue, I advise clients not to hide windows behind heavy drapes,” Lenahan says. To maximize natural light, mount your curtains on the outside of the frame. (While we’re on the subject, Ikea’s Täljare curtain rod set, $14.99, couldn’t make curtain hanging easier.)

“The color red speeds up our heart rate and increases our pulse,” says Kate Smith, founder of color consulting firm Sensational Color and member of The Color Marketing Group, an international color trend forecasting organization. “It’s good for an office because it encourages action and confidence. It makes us feel physically empowered–and even the boldest entrepreneurs sometimes need a little of that.”

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When Designers Moonlight

Communication Arts
Advertising imitates art
By Tiffany Meyers | 2005

At some point in history, the advertising industry decided to turn an adjective into a noun and formally call its practitioners “creatives.” Aside from bewildering people on the outside, the title aptly describes a type of person inclined to explore diverse forms of expression in a lifetime, and not just those that move product.

More than a few creatives manage to produce a body of art even as they build successful careers in advertising. Invariably, one influences the other.

Creative director Tom Lichtenheld is also the author/illustrator of several acclaimed children’s books, including “Everything I Know About Pirates” (Simon & Schuster, 2000), “Everything I Know About Monsters” (Simon & Schuster, 2002) and “What Are YOU So Grumpy About?” (Little, Brown & Company, 2003). Two more titles, “Everything I Know About Cars” (Simon & Schuster) and “What’s With This Room?” (Little, Brown & Company) are slated for publication in 2005.


Lichtenheld—who began as a fine-art student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, then realized he might want to buy a car one day—served as a creative director for BMW and United Airlines at Fallon, Minneapolis, when he stumbled into book illustration by accident: His young nephew asked if he might draw him a pirate or two. Lichtenheld more than satisfied his requirements as an uncle, completing a pirate book—his first—with Fallon’s support.

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How to Motivate Your Sales Team

PINK Magazine 
Sales force stuck in a rut?
Top women managers tell how attention to individuals builds a more productive team
By Tiffany Meyers | February 2008

When it comes to motivating talent, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. But in sales – which teems with naturally driven, highly independent professionals – the value of a customized approach redoubles. “Everything you do in terms of recognition and reinforcement needs to be meaningful to the individual,” says Jill Eichwald, sales effectiveness consultant at Maritz Inc., a sales and marketing services company.

When Maritz conducted a national study on employees’ favorite rewards, results showed that each of six employee types – described and organized according to what they find inspirational, from praise to bonuses – split rather evenly across gender lines. “We were amazed to learn that from a gender standpoint, there’s not a lot of difference,” says Jane Herod, president of Maritz Motivation, a division of Maritz Inc. It’s further proof, she adds, that recognition programs need to be individually customized.

While motivation incentives appear to be gender-neutral, many of the qualities of effective sales managers – who have to light a fire under each seller and cultivate collaboration among competitive types – seem to come more naturally to women. Experts point to the attributes of empathy, consensus-building and intuition more often exhibited by women managers – which are precisely the qualities that result in several best practices in sales motivation.

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Entrepreneurs: Make Like a Bird and Go Cheap

Entrepreneur Magazine
Frugal is Back
Here’s how to channel your inner miser–the right way.
By Tiffany Meyers

As recessionary gale storms blow, entrepreneurs are reining in runaway costs. “Smart entrepreneurs are doing more with less,” says Joseph R. Cardamone, president of the U.S. Federation of Small Businesses. “With diminished cash flow and tight credit, only those businesses that operate efficiently will survive this economic downturn, which may last several years.” So if you’re going to make like a bird and go cheap, these measures can help and range from relatively to totally painless.

SYSTEMIC SAVINGS
Announce your plan to ration paperclips and watch employees use binder clips like they’re going out of style. “Whatever savings you see from one-off efforts will be short-lived, while costs pop up elsewhere, like for binder clips,” says Adam Hartung, managing partner of strategic business consulting firm Spark Partners.

Instead, ask employees to map out how they do their jobs from start to finish, then solicit their ideas for efficiency gains, explains Hartung. “Instead of saying, ‘We need to cut travel costs’–which will get everyone groaning–say, ‘Let’s look at how we get work done and see where we can make changes.'” To jump-start imaginations, ask: How would you do your job if you worked at a different company? How would you do it if you were four years in the future?

You might discover that some part of billing could be automated, a step in payment processing could be eliminated or client interactions could be handled via web conferencing. “Now you’ve introduced more efficient processes,” Hartung says, “and the savings will be everlasting.”

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Green Cities: Director’s Cut

Author’s Note: In spite of my best efforts, I occasionally geek out on my reporting. In this case, I dug up way more content about green cities than my editors had space to publish. So I sliced and diced it. Then came the blog, vessel for all good stuff that ever got cut. Here is the longer version of the Green Cities story, salvaged from the cutting room floor.

AUSTIN, TX
POPULATION: 743,074
PUBLIC TRANSIT: 18 million trips taken during the second quarter, 2008.
HOME TO: The nation’s largest utility-sponsored sustainable building program, Austin Energy Green Building.
ALSO HOME TO: Whole Foods HQ.
LEED-CERTIFIED BUILDINGS: 18.
LIKES BIKES: According to The League of American Bicyclists—which gives Austin a Silver—almost 4 percent of Austin’s residents bike to work.

In what Austin Mayor Will Winn has called “the most polluting state in the most polluting country on the planet, from a carbon-emissions standpoint,” the straight-talking city chief enacted the Austin Climate Protection Plan, which calls for, among other things: powering city facilities with renewable energy by 2012; requiring new single-family homes to be zero net-energy capable by 2015; and making all municipal facilities and fleets carbon-neutral by 2020. A major player in meeting these targets? Utility company Austin Energy (AE). That recipient of the 2008 EPA Climate Protection Award offers a sweet photovoltaic rebate (up to 75 percent of installation cost). Meanwhile, so many customers recently subscribed to buy clean energy through AE’s GreenChoice program that the company stopped taking applications until 2009. In 2006, AE and the city launched “Plug-In Partners,” a campaign to show automakers that there’s market demand for plug-in hybrid cars now (So get cracking). Austin is also tackling the water crisis, coupling conservation measures with a Water Reclamation Initiative that will provide reclaimed water for non-drinking purposes to several venues, like the University of Texas.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN
POPULATION: 377,392
THE LARGEST URBAN SOLAR ARRAY: In the upper Midwest will be built here, thanks to a $2 million grant from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund.
LEED-CERTIFIED BUILDINGS: 2.
LIKES BIKES: The League of American Bicyclists gives Minneapolis a Silver.

Mayor R.T. Rybak aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from city operations 12 percent by 2012 and 20 percent by 2020. And in true Midwestern fashion, residents rolled up their civic shirtsleeves in 2007 and did their part, buying enough wind-generated electricity from Xcel Energy’s Windsource program to power almost 2,800 homes for a year. In this City of Lakes—which planted, on average, 3,385 trees annually from 2003 to 2007—environmental enthusiasm reaps rewards: Minneapolis recently awarded 25 grants to support local organizations’ efforts to motivate Minneapolitans to conserve energy. The University of Minnesota continues to garner accolades for its renewable-resource research, while The Green Institute, which operates a $2 million salvaged building materials ReUse Center, diverts 4,000 tons of building materials annually from landfills. The city also cut 150 vehicles from its fleet since 2003, and those vehicles it is adding will be green: In five years, says the mayor’s office, buses on main thoroughfare Nicollet Mall will be hybrid-electric.

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Which Is Greener: LED’s or CFL’s?

Author’s Note: For The Chicago Tribune, I answered a series of readers’ questions about living a greener, more sustainable life. This Trib reader wrote in to find out if LED lights were more efficient than CFL’s. Here’s what I dug up.

There’s no question that LED’s have a bright future, but Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFL’s) remain your most accessible, environmentally responsible lighting option for the home. Which is not to say the CFL is perfect. It is vastly more efficient than an incandescent bulb, but each CFL contains about 5 milligrams of environmentally harmful mercury-about equivalent to the size of a ballpoint pen’s tip, by ENERGY STAR’s calculations.

Not only are LED’s mercury-free, their long lifespan makes the Energizer Bunny seem like a quitter.Unlike traditional light sources-which throw off relatively consistent light and then, poof, burn out–LED’s get dimmer over time. Analysts recommend that the LED’s last rites be administered when they emit 70% of initial light output. Using that measurement, the Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (DOE, EERE) calculates that the highest-quality white LED’s have a useful life of around 35,000 hours.

Some context: You could turn on a high-quality, white LED and forget about it for four years, when it would finally need replacing. Compare that to your garden-variety, 75-watt incandescent bulb, which throws out 1,000 lumens for about a buck, according to the DOE. That dollar bulb-which converts only about 5% of the electricity it consumes into light-will expire in about 1,000 hours. Comparable CFL’s-which are five times more efficient than incandescent bulbs-cost less than $5 and last 10,000 hours.

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Which Is Greener: Styrofoam or Ceramic Mugs?

Author’s Note: A Chicago Tribune reader wanted to know: Are disposable coffee cups made of Styrofoam more or less harmful to the environment than reusable mugs? Here’s how I answered, with much help from sustainability engineer Pablo Päster. 

The debate over coffee cups-disposable or not-happens torunneth over with tough-to-measure variables. For instance, do you use a dishwasher? Is your model energy efficient? And: Just how clumsy are you? (Reusable mugs: Useless when broken.) Scientists analyze this issue in myriad ways, but overall, consensus is that brew imbibed from reusable, ceramic mugs is the most sustainable option.

But there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip. To reap environmental rewards of the mug, you’ll need to hand rinse it–putting it in your (energy-efficient) dishwasher only when absolutely necessary. That’s according to Pablo Päster, a San Francisco-based sustainability engineering consultant who also writes a column at AskPablo.org on the science of sustainability, including a technical analysis of this very issue.

In his analysis, Päster found that a ceramic mug has a higher total “material intensity”- a measure of resources used to manufacture a product (like the extracted clay and gas to heat the kiln)-than a Styrofoam cup. But the mug’s reusability-which means it can provide multiple “service units”-justifies its higher material intensity after about 46 uses. “If you have one cup of coffee daily for a year, that’s 365 ‘service units,'” says Päster. “That can be accomplished with either 365 disposable cups or one reusable mug.”

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