Thursday 11 November 2010

It's Time for Secret Santa a.k.a. The Book Blogger Holiday Swap again!

It's that time of the year...Time for gift swapping among book bloggers!
I've taken part in it every year since Nymeth from Things mean a lot started it and it's one of the most fun thing I've done blog-wise. The rules are simple: send a gift - receive a gift :)
Obviously, being a book blogger thing, the gifts tend to me bookish. But not strictly so!
Go on, join now. You'll love it.
Ah go on, go on, go on.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Green Books Campaign - The Green Guide for Business by Chris Goodall

Hello Internet People! I haven't reviewed a book in months and so I feel a bit out of practice, but I could not miss this event.
It's the Green Book Campaign organised by Eco-Libris, in which bloggers around the world review eco-friendly books and help raise awareness on the importance of sustainability in the publishing industry. I took part last year, when I reviewed "Sustainable Sushi" and learned a lot about the fish industry and the impact it has on our oceans. This year I decided to take part again, because I think it's important to always keep educating ourselves and others on the big issues facing our mistreated planet.
And the Green Books Campaign does just that. Here's the official introduction:

This review is part of the Green Books campaign.Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.
The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on "green" books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

The Green Guide for Business by Chris Goodall

(printed in Britain on paper from well-managed forests and other controlled sources = FSC certified)

I chose to review this book for mainly one reason. I'm looking to start an independent business soon, and one of my main goals is to do it in the most eco-friendly way. Before reading it, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do to implement green measures: recycle as much as possible, source materials from local suppliers, use transport with low-carbon impact, such as bikes and hopefully an electric car or van, use a compost bin and natural cleaning products.
After reading this, I realised that my ideas were set in the right direction, but, also, that there is so much more to consider.

It challenged some of my most firm beliefs and urged me to read even more about many issues, from recycling to alternative renewable energies.
This doesn't mean to say that I necessarily agree with everything Mr Goodall advocates. I found myself shaking my head more than once at the blatant way the book often refers to (and endorses) financially convenient choices and corporate hierarchy. The author addresses his advices to the CEO of businesses of any size, while referring to the junior staff in a, sometimes, dismissive and patronising way. Maybe it's just me who's allergic to this king of talk. Maybe Chris Goodall and I won't be the best of friends. But that's not the point. The important thing here is that I learned A LOT. I gathered lots of insightful information, useful tips and a general, clearer idea of how I'd like to run my business, so I can say it was an important read.
I should also say that, as insightful and well-researched as it is, this guide is almost completely UK-centred. It speaks to a British audience, so whoever doesn't live there, like me, needs to do their own local research on regulations, allowances, statistics etc.

But let's go more into details on what the book is actually about.

The first chapter looks at the reasons why a business should go green:

Contrary to general beliefs, going green doesn't mean spending more simply to be kind to the environment. It means being more efficient. A green business is able to monitor its costs better than a non-green one. It's also going to be ready to face changes in energy prices and respond quicker to changes in environmental regulations. It's basically saying that it makes all kinds of sense to switch to more sustainable options, even financially.

Having established that going green is a necessity, and not a luxury, the guide goes on to look at what it means to be a green business and what it can be done to implement real changes, from simple housekeeping to bigger but still easy steps, to major and revolutionary green projects. It also contains a whole chapter on how to calculate your carbon footprint (not an easy feat, I'm warning you), another one on how to reduce emissions on transports, and another on recycling, reducing and reusing (focusing on paper, water, stationery, and even furniture).

The major lesson I've learned is that whatever you do, you can never hope to achieve a completely green business. Everything we do is bound to be linked to carbon emissions, like it or not. But the answer isn't to seat back and keep doing nothing. The sensible and smart way to deal with it is, firstly, to be aware of the impact of our actions on the planet. Then to make informed choices on what to do to minimise this impact.

Maybe not surprisingly, the general public and the media, is apparently focused on things that don't matter as much as others, in terms of reducing emissions.
For example, the emphasis is on reducing stand-by power use of electrical appliances but the electricity consumed when things are in use has a bigger impact.

The attention is directed on issues such as recycling domestic waste, but this is generally a trivial matter compared, say to the importance of home insulation or the role of car and air transport in adding to carbon footprints.


Not buying stuff in the first place, or only purchasing from suppliers that minimise the amount of energy or materials used, is not something that is well understood.

Now, while I would agree that awareness should be raised on those issues, because saving energy and using less things are essential ways to reduce CO2 emissions, I wouldn't call recycling a trivial issue, in any case. And this lead to the main criticism I have about this book. It focuses almost solely on carbon emissions. It's definitely vital that the world learns how to reduce them, but I wouldn't underestimate the importance of other factors as well, such as chemical or plastic pollution in the oceans.
It was certainly interesting to learn that it's greener to choose plastic cups in a business instead of china or metal ones. They takes less energy to make compared to glass or ceramic, and if recycled, will have a small carbon footprint.But I'm wondering, why can't paper cups be used instead of glass or china? If the paper comes from sustainable forests and it can be recycled again (up to 5 times, as I've learned from this guide), wouldn't it be better than plastic? It would come from a renewable source and it would be easier to recycle.
These are all doubts than I have which I'm still trying to work out in my head. They, by no means, intend to diminish the value of the author's researches. I just like to question everything. And I do hate plastic with a passion.

The section on energy saving in building was interesting and definitely alarming. Did you know, for example, that refrigerators can be the single most important contributor to climate change for some businesses? I had never even thought about it.
The book shows small and big changes that can be done to effectively reduce energy needed and thus reducing emissions AND costs. Some ideas are very alluring, like the possibility of having a green roof (look them up, they look amazing!). Some other sound very daunting. But I'm grateful that now I know about the existence of all these different options and I can carefully ponder if I should invest on them or not.
The section on travel and transport has convinced me even more that choosing an electric vehicle is the best choice. Don't know if I will afford it, but I will definitely aim for it.
The section on reducing, recycling and reusing was possible the most interesting for me. I always thought that biodegradable products equal good. Think again. If not recycled, paper will end up in landfill and will rot, releasing methane, a potent climate change gas. Bio-plastic (PLA made from maize) is not currently recyclable, so it's even a bigger problem. Recycled plastic seems a better choice than the bio alternative. Also, I had never really thought about green stationery or furniture.

I realise this review is getting very long and I haven't managed to mention everything I intended. I know I won't be able to. This guide contains so much information and valid options, not to mention examples coming from existing companies who are trying to or have already succeeded in becoming greener. I could stay here all night telling you all about it. The truth is that it'll be boring. Better to go and read it for yourself, if you're running a business or planning to, like me.

I know this won't be the last book I read before taking all my decisions on how to run my future business. Nevertheless, this was a great start and I will be returning to it again for future references.