5 Benefits of Using Reusable Bags to Promote Your Business

Reusable bags have taken the grocery business by storm right now, and for a variety of reasons. People are more environmentally conscious nowadays, and they’re asking the same from the companies they do business with. This is why there is such a huge trend towards eco friendliness, and you can’t afford to fall behind. Here are some of the benefits of using reusable bags to promote your business.

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Effective Promotion Tool

Branded reusable bags work for promotion on so many levels. First of all, they are a prime tool in increasing your brand’s recognition and building brand awareness. Not only that, but every time someone decides to use one of your bags for any reason, they will be reminded of your brand. Your bag will work as a sort of portable billboard that will advertise your brand wherever your clients go. And not only that, it will work as a sort of endorsement; your friends and family will see this bag as a personal vote for the brand, and might form a more positive image of that brand as a result.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Since you’ll be using sustainable materials, you will be reducing your carbon footprint on the planet. Many reusable bags come from recycled materials, such as old bottles for instance, reducing our reliance on natural resources. And once the bag has served its purpose, it can be easily recycled and repurposed, or even composted in some cases.

Show Your Commitment to Going Green

Using reusable bags shows to your clients that you are actually willing to walk the walk and really do your part in protecting the environment. While this may work on a superficial level, you also have to follow through with actual measures if you want to be consistent. But this alone will do a lot to improve your image among your environmentally conscious clientele.

Allows You to Stretch Your Marketing Dollar

One of the great things about reusable bags is that they are a fairly cost-effective marketing tool. Not to mention that you’ll often charge clients for the bags themselves. So in a clever way, your clients will be paying to advertise your business on your behalf.

They Have Various Uses

Reusable bags are by far the star of the promotional item world. As a matter of fact, they are some of the most sought-after items at trade shows and people will literally make lines for them in some cases. So much so that they’ve become genuine items now, with Ikea’s iconic aqua reusable bag which has become sort of a pop culture cult. Because of their usefulness, people tend to hold on to them for many years, allowing your brand to gain even more visibility over time.

Recycled reusable bags have tons of benefits every business owner should consider. They’re cheap, convenient and are one of the most powerful and understated marketing methods you can use to build awareness for your brand.

Saving the Environment While Driving When You Can’t Afford a Hybrid

While you might love the idea of cutting back on the number of emissions your car churns out into the atmosphere, you might not be able to afford a hybrid vehicle. While you may not have any problem covering a hybrid with quality Austin insurance, it could be the monthly car payments that give you fits. Thankfully, there are other ways to do your part to save the environment without going broke as a hybrid vehicle owner.

Remove Your Junk

Before you head out again, clean out everything that you don’t need from the trunk, backseat and passenger seat. All that extra weight is negatively impacting your overall gas mileage, which sends you back to the pump faster. There’s also the fact that your engine is working harder to handle the stress of the extra weight, which certainly isn’t doing the air any favors.

Take It Easy When Stopping and Starting

There’s no need to gun the engine as soon as the light turns green. Not only does jackrabbiting chew up your gas and release more emissions, it can also lead to accidents should you collide with drivers trying to make lights just a second after they turn red. Easing to a gradual stop rather than stomping on the brakes is better on your brakes as well as your engine. This means you should make sure you’re going the posted speed limit and pay attention to cars and traffic lights ahead of you so you have time to respond accordingly.

Keep Your Car Tuned Up

Be sure to take your car in for regular oil and air filter changes. It’s understandable to want to put off an oil change for a while, but doing so can cost you more in the long run by eating away at your fuel efficiency and belching harmful fumes into the air. The same applies to tune-ups, which allow your engine to operate more efficiently and let you get as many miles as possible out of your vehicle. Something else about regular tune-ups even when your car seems to be running fine is that mechanics can let you know if there are any minor issues with your car that should be addressed in the near future, giving you time to start saving up for those needed repairs rather than learn of them when they’re more expensive.

Pay Attention to Your Tires

Proper tire pressure is essential not only to how your car maneuvers on the road, but also how much gas it burns. You want your tires to have the optimum amount of contact with the road so there’s just the right amount of friction and resistance to get you where you need to go without your engine or tires having to work harder than necessary. In the colder months of the year, you might have to over-inflate your tires to compensate for the cold air sapping air from your tires. In any case, a tire-pressure gauge or a professional mechanic’s help is essential for making sure your tires have the right amount of pressure.

Don’t Be Afraid to Turn Your Car Off

When you’re stuck in heavy traffic that moves slower than chilled molasses in the winter, go ahead and shut your engine off. Traffic jams can seem more like you’re in a parking lot and less like you’re driving on a road, so you might as well shut the engine off like you would in a parking lot. Imagine the reduction in emissions if every vehicle on the road was turned off during traffic jams. Do your part to start a positive trend all while saving gas.

Know that driving a hybrid only does so much if you don’t practice the basics of being an environmentally-conscious driver. How you drive is much more important than what you drive.

 

The eco-struggle: a tricky task for businesses

If there’s one thing businesses struggle with, it’s maintaining an air of social responsibility. In a world of corporate greed and unfettered capitalism, the free market reigns – and any notion of social enterprise, particularly when it comes to the environment, is placed on the backburner.

It’s a problem we’ve covered in this blog before – but there’s still little sign of change from governments and businesses.

December 2015 marked major environmental talks in Paris between leading heads of state, one heralded by attendees as a major step forward for eco-concerns. But the praise hasn’t been universal.

The talks, intended to establish a viable predecessor to the Kyoto Protocol, have been called a “triumph of mediocrity” by Spiked columnist Ben Pile.

The problem? It didn’t go far enough. Governments agreed to cut carbon emissions however they pleased, rather than reaching a real consensus. In short, it wasn’t an agreement at all.

Hypocrisy from governments

Without any kind of protocol in place, heads of state can continue to favour capitalism over the environment.

In Britain, for instance, The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) is expected to cut subsidies for solar panels by up to 90 per cent, a move announced only a few days after the Paris climate talks ended.

Instead of green measures being bolstered, funds are being funnelled into oil mining in Scotland, fracking in England and Britain’s first nuclear power station in over a decade.

Governments, then, appear to have found a way to make it look like they’re doing far more than they actually are when it comes to the environment.

But green concerns can be tackled without the help of world leaders, albeit on a smaller scale. With collective action, the rapid pace of climate change could be slowed.

Becoming the force of change

As was alluded to in the first paragraph, businesses can be the real force for change if they choose to be. What can they do?

Even minor improvements can help in a small business. If you’re the owner of an SME, invest in a few office plants (we’d recommend this company for great service) to further oxygenate your workplace. Thanks to photosynthesis, plants will “breathe in” carbon dioxide and “breathe out” oxygen, offsetting much of the waste in your company.

To go even further, reduce waste by cutting down on paper, car journeys and electricity. You could even persuade your employees to ride bicycles to work, or get the bus instead of using their company cars.

As governments continue to frustrate green activists with their refusal to help the environment in a meaningful way, your business could become a pioneer in eco-concerns. So consider how you can cut back on wasteful resources.

Why Buying Second Hand Items Is the Easiest Way to Help the Environment

When you consider environmental issues, we all know that there is a lot we should be doing to make sure we waste as little as possible, recycle wherever we can, and conserve energy both in our homes and businesses. We also know we should look to buy items with recycled, recyclable packaging and which have wasted as little fuel as possible, and created the least amount of carbon emissions in getting to us. All of these things are good, but can be fairly easy to neglect in our every day lives as convenience sometimes gets in the way of what we know we ought to be doing to look after the planet.

One thing that is very easy to do and to remember to do, and which gives benefits to us as well as the environment, however, is buying things second hand where we can. Here, we take a look at why second hand shopping is environmentally friendly, and also good for you and your household.

Second Hand Shopping Reduces Both Waste and Over-production

When you buy items second hand, you are making good use of something that may otherwise have been thrown away forever. This will usually be something perfectly good which the original owner simply didn’t want anymore (as there is no market for completely used up items), or something which can be refurbished into a great item fairly easily (like an old piece of furniture in need of new upholstery). These items could easily have ended up in landfill or being disposed of in other environmentally damaging ways, but when bought second hand, can live out the full extent of their useful lives. Of course, for every appliance, device or other item bought second hand, there is one less brand new product needed too, so in general terms, as long as people willing to accept second hand items (or happy to for cost savings) will do so, less wasteful manufacturing will go on.

Second Hand Shopping Saves You Money and Is Easier Than Ever

It is obvious that a second hand item will cost less than a brand new one that is equivalent, however in the past buying second hand often meant compromising on the thing you wanted. You may have had to take a slightly different style of furniture, you may not have been able to find second hand clothes you liked in your size, or they simply may not have had the thing you wanted in your local thrift store or second hand market. However, now, online, there are lots of marketplaces where people all over the world list items they want to sell like ebay and gumtree, and this means that you can just about always find exactly what you want at a good price. Even having second hand items sent to you from abroad can be cheaper than buying new, and even with shipping by air it can still be better for the environment (given many new products are imported as well).

If you want to do your best for the planet and get great value into the bargain, buying second hand goods really is a great place to start.

Holy $hit, there’s 2

Since I began my financial turnaround in 2009 and began focusing on paying off my debt, I found that it was really easy at first. I had no time and no money, and I was in a ton of debt so there was nothing else on my mind, every. single. day.

Since I’ve now paid off 3 credit cards, 2 student loans and taken out (and paid off) a vehicle loan, I dont feel like my back is up against the wall anymore. I’ve gotten married since then, and now H and I make a comfortable income compared to our expenses, and have been able to save quite a bit of money over the last couple years. We bought a house, spent a boatload fixing it up, and are now just trying to take care of the last little things (and build a new room, which is also almost finished). That being said, I’ve been feeling for quite a while that we probably should be saving more money. It’s not like we are going on a bunch of trips to far-flung locales, we arent buying a whole slug of new appliances, and we arent really buying anything big – just kind of wasting money because of our occasionally lack of preparation (mainly around mealtimes).

Though we would like to save more, it’s always difficult without a concrete reason. We arent going to alaska again this summer (which I think my wife is still broken hearted about – as am I), we dont have a wedding or a honeymoon to save for, and we arent making major upgrades on the house any longer.  The compulsive urge to save has dwindled, so we are looking for ways to get it back on track.

Well, we didnt have to look for long. We found out that we are pregnant toward the end of august, which was very exciting. We had been trying for a few months, and both H and I were happy that it finally took (though I wouldnt mind still being in the trying phase). We went to the doctor to get everything confirmed at week 8, and we were not prepared for what happened there.

As we were getting the ultrasound done, the tech moved the little wand around and I thought I saw 2 black spots on the screen. All I thought to myself was Holy shit, there’s 2! and a few seconds later, the tech said “well, it looks like there’s 2 in there” and my wife looked pretty shocked. We both left the doctor pretty excited and a bit nervous.

(For those that were at fincon, this is why you didnt see much of my wife – she still was not feeling all that hot in october). For those that heard me talking about her, and were convinced that she didnt exist (Joel, Kevin) she’s very real.

Right now, mom and babies are feeling much better than they have, and are starting to enjoy life again. Officially, our due date is may 1, but that is for 40 weeks and twins almost never make it that long – we are expected to go 37 weeks, which will put us sometime around early to mid april. She’s starting to tell people at work, but a lot of them have not figured out quite yet – she’s showing, but not all that much, considering it’s twins.

Needless to say, there’s now a fire lit under us again (though we did buy a roomba, but that’s a subject for another post) and we’ve been doing pretty well at increasing our savings drastically. I’ll let you know more about exactly where we are at the end of the month, but I think we are doing pretty good so far.

Right now, I’m also searching for ways to lower our impact (cost, and waste) while raising twins – those things go through diapers and baby wipes like it’s going out of style! So soon, be on the look out for some of the things that my wife and I are learning in the process.

Readers: Do you have any kids? Got any helpful tips for us? Leave them in the comments (please!)

Cheap Summer Vacation Series: Glacier Bay National Park

This year, H and I took a trip to alaska to visit a few national parks that I was unable to get to when I went up there in 2011. We went to two parks, Denali and Glacier Bay National Parks. We had an awesome time, and I wanted to share some financial details of our trip and some pictures.

Both of these parks are in alaska, and are not the easiest or cheapest places to get to, but once you get there there are plenty of activities for low or no cost. Getting to glacier bay is difficult – you need to fly from wherever you are to anchorage, then down to juneau, then take a (literally) 13 minutes flight to gustavus. Once you get to the gustavus airport you need to make your way to the national park, which is about 10 miles. H and I took a cab that we split with a group of people and it cost us $10 bucks each. Since we couldnt fly with any fuel, we had to stop by the store and pick up some fuel for our camp stove. From there, it was on to glacicer bay to our campground.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from the trip

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This was the beach that we did all of our cooking on. You had to cook in the intertidal area so that if you dropped any food or left anything that a bear might smell, it would get washed away by the tide. This is a sunset from the first night – after 4 days in fairbanks, it was nice to see the sun set at a normal time (around 1030pm, If I remember correctly)100_4530

This is a picture that we took on a hike the first full day we were there. It was a nice hike – I’ve never been in forests that were that dense before. There was moss and trees and other things growing everywhere! I’m just used to tall trees and bare forest floors.100_4557

The next day, we went on a guided kayak trip. This picture was taken from the kayak of a sea otter who was just hanging around eating. I had fun in the kayak, but I think that I positioned the steering pedals wrong because my leg kept falling asleep.100_4606

This was a picture from our last day in glacier bay – We decided to take what they called the “long boat” which is a day cruise to the upper reaches of glacier bay that are fairly unaccessible without this boat. What we found out while we got on the boat though was that you could bring your own kayak, and this boat would drop you off somewhere along the route, and you could kayak around the portion of the park where basically no one goes and camp on the island beaches!  I wish that I had known that before we left, but unfortunately I didnt. It’s just something we can save for next time.100_4672

This is from the boat ride – a little island full of sea lions. I saw these last time I went to alaska and went fishing, but it was cool to see them again, and H had never seen them outside of a zoo setting.100_4774

This picture is from the glacier that we got to see (if I remember correctly, it’s the mendenhal glacier). I love glaciers and think they are so fucking cool, so I was really excited about this. This glacier was huge, and like all of them, very cold once you got close. It was really fund to see the glacier calving, and it really made me envious of the people with the super fancy new cameras with the giant lenses. We were very close so I still got some good pictures, but they could have been much better. This is one of the few glaciers in the park that is advancing (growing every year).100_4752

This is a picture of the same glacier, and you can see how far it extends up into the mountains behind it! It’s a huge glacier and awesome to look at.

H and I had a blast in glacier bay, and we are hopeful that we get the opportunity to travel there in the future. It was a nice time, and a great way to spend our 1 year anniversary. I’ll include a sappy anniversary picture that we took on the final day in glacier bay. We were able to get the boat on our anniversary, then head to anchorage and have a pretty good dinner at glacier brewhouse. So even though there was about 2 hours of flying in there, it was a great time.

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There are our cold hands near the glacier.

Readers: Have you ever been to glacier bay national park? If not, are you interested in going now? If you are, drop me an email and I can tell you how I did it for super cheap for H and myself.

 

Our Home Energy Audit

Recently when I was talking about our one year utility analysis, I mentioned that we had signed up for a home energy audit from the utility company.  This service is provided by our utility free of charge (which was awesome) and is done so that the homeowner can figure out what sort of energy saving measures get the most ‘bang for their buck’. It’s also done to help the utility company tamp down demand (mainly during peak times).  If you are conserving what the utility gives you, then they are reducing the demand over what your home took before, allowing them to allocate that demand elsewhere in the system (or keep it in reserve for the hot summer days when everyone turns on the AC). The unfortunate thing about utilities is the have to be able to meet peak demand at a moments notice, even if that peak demand is 15% higher than the normal demand for that day. On the one hand, they can just build more power generation facilities, or on the other, they can simply reduce demand.

Energy Saving Lightblub

What is a Home Energy Audit?

A home energy audit is when someone (typically certified by someone like BPI) comes to your house and examines it. They are looking for things like insulation in your walls, attic, around your ducts and on the floor joists, the efficiency of your windows and doors.  They look for air leaks around the doors and windows that can be easily sealed that are letting cold air in (during the winter) or letting warm air in (during the summer).  They also look at your hot water heater and your furnace, to see how efficient they are. They also look at lighting to see where you can make any improvements. After they do all this, they sit down with you and tell you what they were looking for and explain the audit.

What does a Home Energy Audit Say?

This obviously will vary from house to house, but I’ll let you know what they told me. We have no insulation in our house, save for a small amount in one of the rooms.  We were told that insulation would be the problem most easy to correct, and would also be the most cost effective (meaning we would derive the greatest energy savings from the smallest cost).  They recommended an r value for insulation in our ceiling of r60, and one for the walls of r13. I knew they were going to recommend that, so I wasnt surprised at all. They also mentioned that our water heater was “nearing the end of its useful life”, and suggested we went with a more energy efficient model when the time came.  (There is a consumer behavior aspect of this that I wont get into, but it makes selecting an energy efficient model difficult in most situations). The auditor also went over what assistance was available from our utility to make the upgrades recommended.

Now What?

Well, now that we’ve gotten a home energy audit, we have decided to take some action on what the auditor said.  Keep in mind we were planning to increase the efficiency of our house through these measures anyway, mainly because even without the rebates, the payback period is pretty good and H and I don’t want to be wasteful if we dont have to.  In addition, it will save us a lot of money, as I estimate the payback period on the insulation to be just under 2 years, which is pretty good.  Hopefully, it will also knock our gas bills under $100/mo during the winter months (last years high mark was ~$120-$130.

Now that the audit has come through, we’re having (more) work done on the house. This isnt like last summer where we have to live in the basement again, but it’s still something. We are having insulation blown into the attic and the walls, which the utility is paying for about half of. Our cost is ~3100 and they are rebating us 1600+, which put our total cost somewhere in the 1400 range, which is really, really good.

In addition to the insulation being put around the house, we also have decided to get new windows. If you recall from last summer the time we had a window person out and they quoted us north of 10k for 1 window, and our subsequent balking at that, we decided to keep an open mind when someone else came by and asked to talk to us about our windows. As I mentioned, we have something like 23 windows in the upstairs of our house, so we knew it would be a large pill to swallow when we did it.

We decided that we should forgo the 8 windows in the front room, and focus on the windows in the rest of the house for now.  After looking at everything we decided to go for it and replace 14 of the 23 windows that we have in the upstairs of our house.  We also found out the point at which we would take out a loan for new windows. Even though we have the money in savings, we took the offer of 0% for the windows for a full year, and plan to pay it off (with credit cards for the points) before the interest rate changes.  I couldnt believe they were offering such a low rate for that, and feel great about taking it.  I know this is new debt, but we plan to pay it off as soon as the windows are actually installed (sometime in august/september) and enjoy the miles from the cards sometime next summer.

All in all, once the insulation is blown in and the windows have been installed, we should have a visible improvement in energy efficiency in the house, lowering our monthly bills quite a bit, as well as reducing our use of fuel.  This will go a long way in completing our plan of lowering our monthly bills as much as possible before we consider renewable energy.

Readers: What energy efficiency improvements have you made recently? Were they big projects or something that you could quickly do yourself, such as change a light bulb? Would you have taken the 0% interest for 12 months on the windows, or would you have just paid cash for the whole thing on the spot?