Blog : October 2011
We all know ways we could be greener and more responsible. Some methods are simple, like making sure we throw that coffee cup in the right bin. Others, like choosing a bicycle over a combustion engine, take more effort. And then there are green technologies, like alternative energy or hybrid cars, with upfront costs many people can’t afford.
But, ideally, shouldn’t sustainable living come as easily as choosing the recycling bin? One seacoast business owner has found a few simple ways to use technology to not only conserve resources, but to increase efficiency as well.
Portsmouth Atlantic Insurance (PAI) has been a paperless business since signing its first policy in 2005, which is no small feat in an industry that’s known for piles and piles of paperwork. Their secret is really no secret at all: computers and the Internet. While these are technologies that are often blamed for impeding workplace efficiency, this isn’t a problem at PAI. Instead, the business takes advantage of a management program by a company called Applied Systems that is designed for insurance companies and allows them to use all the same documents, just digitally.
With this weekend's weather forecast predicting a possible Nor'easter -- complete with up to 7 inches of snow -- we can finally say with a straight face that October isn't too early to begin thinking about ski season.
Weird, we know.
So if the early snow suddenly finds you in a ski mountain mood, be sure to take advantage of Shawnee Peak's 9th Annual October Online Ticket Sale!
Just $92 buys you a pair of lift tickets, a savings of $13 per ticket. What's more, there are no blackout days and no catches. You can Ski Christmas Week, MLK Weekend, President's Week -- literally any weekend at this special, limited-time-only rate.
But keep in mind, you must purchase your tickets before midnight on Halloween (Monday the 31st).
So while you might have to wait a few more weeks before the lifts start cranking, it's never too early to save!
To purchase your tickets, click here!
Our good friend Matt Silva of Ridgeview Construction recently passed along this rather hilarious comic:
While the comic is intended for humor more than anything else, it does raise a few interesting points. One of the chief criticisms and apprehensions regarding green technology, environmental protection, and related agendas has to do with cost. Stricter regulations, government grants and subsidies, and investments in research and development, it is often argued, are simply too risky to be worth the cost.
But setting aside for a moment the economic or scientific arguments, isn't there something to be said about the aesthetic appeal of a world where spewing smokestacks -- to take one obvious example -- are at the very least limited, and at most eliminated entirely?
Industry has many benefits, but it also has many costs -- not all of which can be boiled down to bottom lines. As the bullet points on the cartoon illustrate, there are certain things you cannot put a price on. Either that, or our economics -- like our approach to the environment -- still has a long ways to go before it can truly capture the essence of green.
In a tough economy, it’s understandable – smart even – for customers to want to save a buck. Which is a big reason why big box stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Walmart remain prosperous despite the lean times.
But often forgotten in the week-to-week household budget calculus is where, exactly, that $15.99 for a hammer or gallon of paint actually goes. As it turns out, probably not where you thought.
“People need to realize that with the big box stores, most of that money gets funneled out of the local economy,” says Andy Carberry, Manager at Middleton Building Supply in Hampton. “It goes straight back to the corporations and to the stockholders.”
As it turns out, the statistics more than back up Carberry’s claims: According to a study conducted by Civic Economics, for every dollar spent locally, 68 cents remains in that business’ community, compared to just 43 cents of every dollar spent at big box stores.
For many communities – and doubtless for the Seacoast writ large – the difference could amount to millions of more dollars circulating and re-circulating throughout the local economy.
Re-circulating through places like Middleton – family owned and operated since 1962 – and hundreds of other independently businesses.
Despite both its Dover and Hampton branches standing mere miles from the shadows of their corporate competitors, Andy Carberry says Middleton’s community loyalty is nothing if not a two-way street.
“It’s a conversation I have every day with our customers, why they do business with us,” he says. “I had a customer just the other day go out of his way to tell me he’s going to buy as much as possible from us because he believes in local and he believes in the quality of products that we offer.”
Over the past few years, the GA has been fortunate enough to have a number of their Business Partner stories featured prominently in Foster's Daily Democrat's annual "Going Green" inset magazine.
This year is no exception.
Pretty much the entire insert is made up of steallar GA content, and includes stories on Coughlin, Murphy, Rainboth & Lown, Children's Museum of New Hampshire, Nicely Done, Habitat For Humanity ReStore, and Zero Waste Portsmouth (a recycling initiative involving Tim Gaudreau Studios, Middleton Building Supply, Little Green Homes, Cornerstone Tree Care, Simply Green, Minute Men Painters, ReVision Energy, and EcoMovement Consulting & Hauling).
We weren't kididng!
Click here to check out Foster's "Going Green"!
By Andy Carberry
It's that time of year again: Time to plan ahead for the long winter. What kind of fuel source are you using? If the answer is wood, we here at Middleton building supply would like to invite you to compare our service and pricing on premium hardwood pellets and wood bricks. Let us show you on paper the true value of our service and the cost to you.
BIG BOX STORES:
1 ton Brand X pellets: $197.00
Delivery charge: $65.00
- Non-local company
- No community contribution
MIDDLETON BUILDING SUPPLY:
1 ton New England harvested hardwood pellets: $269.00
1 ton wood bricks: $299.00
4 or more tons of New England hardwood pellets: $259.00 per ton
Total: $269.00 for 1 ton; $259.00 per ton for 4 tons; $299.00 for wood bricks
- Local company
- Several community contributions
Plus, our delivery service includes bringing out a pallet jack and rolling the pellets or bricks into your garage! Our forklift will bring it out back for you and we will be there on time, even Saturday.
Community projects we are involved with include: Boy scouts; Little league; domestic violence programs; and zero waste projects educate recycling in schools, just to name a few.
We believe at Middleton building supply that our pricing is very competitive. Furthermore, when you buy from a local company, your community benefits, and you receive the best service available.
A little more than a year after its initial launch, the Efficiency Maine Home Energy Savings Program – the stimulus-funded initiative which provided cash incentives to Mainers who undertook various energy efficiency measures – has officially invested 100% of its money.
An impressive number on its face, to be sure. But it certainly isn’t the only such one.
Overall, 4,931 homes received comprehensive energy audits through the program. 3,184 of those homes – about 65% of those audited – received substantial upgrades, resulting in an average savings of 40% per home. That works out to about a $1,400 per home savings annually, or $4.5 million statewide.
With upgrade costs per home averaging around $8730, that adds up to $27 million invested into Maine’s construction and energy efficiency sectors – no small thing in what has been a painful recession. That includes over 100 energy advising companies, many of whom were able to hire new employees during the program’s administration.
What’s more, the program’s success has helped curb a larger, more nefarious number: That of Maine’s $5 billion a year fossil fuel habit.
With a state GDP around $46 billion annually, the resulting savings – as well as the curbing of petro dollars towards renewable energy sources such as wind and solar – are nothing to scoff at, says Ed Henningsen, an Eliot-based energy auditor who participated heavily in the Efficiency Maine program.
“The results go to show how important economically it is for us to reduce our consumption of fuel oil, both as citizens and as a state,” said the Henningsen Inspections owner, who helped 99 fellow Mainers with their home audits. “For the number of audits that were conducted, it beats any other state program like it anywhere.”
On November 8th, Portsmouth residents will choose nine City Council Members to represent the city for the next two years. Brad Lown, partner in Green Alliance Business Coughlin, Rainboth, Murphy & Lown, is one of ten candidates vying for a seat on Portsmouth’s governing board. Lown, who has served on both the City Council and School Board in years past, is eager to bring his unique perspective and expertise to bare, and is looking forward to the challenges and opportunities confronting our fair Port City.
I had a chance to speak with Brad via telephone, to get a better sense for both his motivation for giving public service another go-at-it, as well as the chief issues he intends to tackle if elected.
JC: What made you want to run for city council again?
BL: The first time I served was right around the time my son was born. He was born in August, and I ended up being elected in November. We knew he was coming, obviously, but it just wasn’t the best timing. My wife and I had two young daughters as well. I served one two-year term on the Council, and since then I’ve been doing various other things and have been on Boards and have been one of the City’s Trustees for 3 years, on top of having a busy law practice in Portsmouth. My wife has been involved with our Church – St. John’s – for the past six years, where she’s been a Senior Warden. This time around we just felt the timing was better.
JC: What would you cite as your chief priorities, if in fact you are elected?
BL: First, I want the schools to maintain their relative high quality. Our public schools have done quite well compared to others in the region and throughout the state, and I think that’s a reflection of the quality of our school system. Even if it costs us a little more money to maintain class sizes and to keep the best teachers, I believe it’s important to try to do.
Second, I want to help keep tax rates down as much as possible. The Council has done a good job over the past four years doing just that. Obviously one of the results of budget austerity is that some departments get pared down, but I think we’ve done a good job of making do with less. But it’s definitely going to be tougher in the next budget year.
Known for its out-of-this-world softness and the fact that it’s made from recycled plastic bottles, Earthtec apparel has finally returned to its roots in downtown Portsmouth.
Located at 76 Congress Street right in the heart of Market Square’s main retail district, Earthtec ’s new store is focusing on its own brand of apparel, including jackets, pullovers, hoodies, blankets, and socks. And if you can take your eyes off the colorful clothing inside the store that seems to beckon patrons, the store itself is an attraction to downtown’s many visitors.
Befitting a company that’s known for outdoor clothing, a rustic yet modern look dominates the décor, with original wood flooring, brick walls, and a bamboo butcher block top used as the checkout area. The renovation of the retail space entailed Randall reaching out to local contractors and retailers, including Portsmouth-based Greenovations and Newington-based Rockingham Electric, to support the local economy, and integrate their green building concepts into a location which merges style and sustainability.
“We wanted this store to be an extension of who we are and what we love,” mentioned Dennis Randall, owner of Earthtec. “And we’re all about the outdoors, and sustainable clothing that looks good and keeps us warm and dry.”
But it’s not as if Earthtec’s apparel is only for the hardiest of outdoorsmen; they also carry children’s fleece vests, making the new location a destination for parents and holiday shoppers. “Kids may not completely understand the process by which plastic is converted to reusable fabric,” said Randall. “But they sure understand how incredibly soft the material feels. I had one parent tell me her daughter wants to wear it to bed!”
The New Hampshire Public Utility Commission has announced the availability of $927,964 in new funding for its popular rebate program for residential renewable electricity systems. Homeowners who install a solar photovoltaic or wind power system under 5 kilowatts in capacity can apply for a rebate worth up to $4,500.
“There is never going to be a better a time to install solar than right now,” said Fred Greenhalgh, Online Marketing Manager for Revision Energy, a company that installs solar hot water and photovoltaic systems in Maine and New Hampshire.
“It’s really exciting to see this rebate return at a time of lower prices on solar panels,” he noted. “We’ve seen solar panels drop in price by about half since 2008, and by 10 percent this year alone.”
With a federal tax credit for 30 percent the cost of installation already in place for residential wind turbines and solar electric systems, the new rebate funds are expected to go quick. More than half the money will go to applicants already on the program waiting list.
“Roughly $500,000 will go to applicants already in the funding queue, leaving about $425,000 for new applicants,” according to Jack Ruderman, Director of the PUC’s Sustainable Energy Divisions.
“Don’t put it off until spring,” Greenhalgh suggested. “Solar is not just a summertime project. People continue to be impressed by how much electricity their systems produce throughout the year, even on cloudy winter days.”
Money for the rebates comes from the Renewable Energy Fund, created in 2007 as a component of New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard law, which requires that 23.8 percent of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2025. The fund is also used to provide rebates for central wood pellet home heating systems, as well as for commercial and industrial scale renewable energy projects.
It's been a little over two weeks since we bit a solemn adieu to our Kittery office and moved into downtown Portsmouth's Franklin Block Building on Congress Street. It's been an interesting adjustment period, to say the least. Having nearly doubled our space, we've been desperately trying to fill our sprawling new abode with used furniture. Let's just say we've had a couple swings and misses on that front.
We've had a handful of Business Partners come in and say hello (Tim Gaudreau stopped in to take some photos of our new space, for instance), but today was the first time an actual, card-carrying Green Alliance member poked their head through the door! Her name is Meg Bohne, and she just stopped in after a stop at Earthtec (which just opened its doors across the way!) to sign up for a Green Card. She was even so kind as to snap her own photo.... so we could brag about people visiting us, mostly (that's Meg in the middle there with Sarah and Scott).
Many thanks to Meg for stopping by! And if any of you out there are ever in downtown Portsmouth and feel like stopping in, don't hesitate! We may even hand out some freebies! (Unfortunately, Sarah's delicious spinnach artichoke dip is gone, so don't ask.)
A few weeks back, Zero Waste Portsmouth officially launched the city's first public recycling program. The day’s events centered around the placement of four colorful recycling stations throughout the downtown area, along with a fifth in Prescott Park.
A strategic partnership of the Islington Creek Neighborhood Association, Tim Gaudreau Studios, and EcoMovement Consulting & Hauling, Zero Waste Portsmouth has over the last two years spearheaded efforts in and around Portsmouth to reduce the amount of waste being dumped into Rochester’s Turnkey landfill through creative recycling and composting alternatives.
Steve McGrath over at CleanSpeak did a fantastic story on the day's events, which he also made into a great video. Check it out!
They’re not superheroes. They might never trend on Twitter. Their profession – while certainly beholden to flairs of the artistic – is nothing if not workmanlike. They’re manner is unassuming; their demeanor, as friendly as it is humble.
But catch a firsthand glimpse of what occupies Nathan Johnson and Ernest Proper’s spare time – to say nothing of their encouraging business ethic – chances are what you see might surprise you.
Co-owners of the Portsmouth-based Visions Kitchens & Design, Johnson and Proper can both trace their lineages back to Native American roots. Lakota, to be exact (Johnson is Hunka – or adopted – Lakota, while Proper is Lakota Oglala and Miq Mac).
November being Native American Heritage Month, Johnson and Proper’s unique journey is one on which both are proud to reflect.
While Johnson was born and grew up here in the Granite State, the New Hampshire-born Proper – whose father served in the Air Force – spent time in locales as far flung as Wyoming and Texas. The two’s paths first crossed 13 years ago at a Boy Scout summer camp. Since then, they’ve become as close as family, with Johnson having joined Proper’s Native American music group, “Black Thunder Singers”. Two weeks ago, the group’s album, Black Thunder, was awarded a Native American Music Award for “Best Pow Wow Recording.”
Then there’s the company’s branding: Taking its graphic inspiration from the Lakota Star, Visions’ name and logo are meant to directly reflect the owners’ unique – and decidedly proud – heritage.
“We believe dreams and visions are very important, spiritual things,” explains Johnson. “When we’re honored with a vision from our Creator, it’s pointing to a higher ceiling and giving us a direction. Having been a designer for 8 or 9 years and seeing how things were done in the industry, our calling was to have a company that could put out better, more conscious designs and products.”
We are proud to announce that your Green Alliance has a new home in downtown Portsmouth! As card-carrying Green Alliance members, we want to extend a special invitation to our October Green Alliance Office Warming and Business Partner event! We hope you will join us on Wednesday, October 26 from 5:30 - 7:30 PM at our new office in downtown Portsmouth.
Although our new office is big, we can only fit 30 of our Green Cardholders, in addition to the 90+ green business owners in the Green Alliance. We only have room for about 10 more guests, so if you would like to attend, please RSVP to Scott@greenalliance.biz this week!
Come participate in a real GA Business Partner meeting, and network with Green Alliance staff and sustainable business owners and managers. We will provide drinks and snacks if you will grace us with your company!
Thinking about going solar, but still have questions? Two upcoming workshops will explore integrating solar power into your home and lifestyle.
Green Alliance Business Partner Jack Bingham, owner of Seacoast Energy Alternatives Inc., will hold both workshops at the SEA Solar Store, located at 187 Route 108 in Dover, New Hampshire.
- Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 6:30 PM: Come learn about residential solar hot water and why everyone should consider it. Topics will include types of collectors, storage options, back-up heat sources and more.
- Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 6:30 PM: Learn about solar PV for residential electricity production. Topics will include off-grid, grid-tied & grid-tied with batteries, system design, home integration & financial practicality.
“There are a host of great reasons to use alternative energy,” said Bingham. “A system that pays for itself is only one of the benefits."
“You will be reducing your carbon output,” he explained. “You are fixing a substantial portion of your energy cost for the next 20-30+ years. You will be increasing the value of your home. This is the only investment you can make with a guaranteed return.”
“Plus, you will be able to bask in the satisfaction of making your own energy.”
Light refreshments will be served at both workshops. Space is limited, so be sure to RSVP by phone (603) 749-9550 or email email@example.com.