Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Green" Vehicles

It’s amazing to see such great demand for environmentally friendly vehicles nowadays, mainly driven by the rising price of gasoline. However, the cars available in the market are not as eco-friendly as we would hope for.

Electric vehicles are not really all that “green”. What will everyone do with those batteries after their life expectancy is reached? Electric vehicles are not convenient either! How many charging stations can we find on our way to and from work? What are we going to do when we want to go on a long trip? An alternative is to go with hybrid cars, but the number of miles per gallon (mpg) is not as great as we would expect. For example, the regular Ford escape does 22 / 28 mpg, while the hybrid version does 34 / 30 mpg – definitely not an impressive difference! Well, one could say that motorcycles are “green”, as they are fuel efficient, although not many people are willing to risk their lives in such an unsafe vehicle.

It seems like there’s technology already out there to build real green vehicles! Check out Aptera, a 3 wheel vehicle that does over 230 miles per gallon: . The company is based in Carlsbad, CA and they are already taking reservations. When I was getting my MBA at UC Irvine, a couple of my classmates and I got together and wrote a business plan to build a vehicle similar to Aptera – fuel efficient, convenient, comfortable and safe. We even borrowed a 3-wheel prototype from a designer in Texas and showed it in a couple of car shows in Southern California in order to gauge consumer’s interest. The results of our surveys and interviews were excellent. Everyone we talked to was on board with the idea and ready to buy such vehicle. Unfortunately, we were not able to raise funds to move forward and start the manufacturing process.

There are a few questions that I still haven’t been able to answer: When will the large car manufacturers start investing in this kind of technology (cars that do over 200 miles per gallon)? Will people start driving smaller and more fuel efficient cars to save the environment or simply to save money in gas? Will they forgo the large SUVs or at least use them on weekends to go out with the family, but drive the small cars to commute to and from work? I sure hope that a true eco-friendly vehicle arrives here soon!

Tatiane Perazzo
Guidance Green

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is eCommerce GreenER?

Recently, I toured an apparel retail outlet in Amsterdam. I work with the same retail company in the US by providing various ecommerce technology services. And I wondered, is eCommerce greener than operating brick and mortar retail stores?

In terms of electric energy, a retailer with even a few retail stores probably consumes more energy when you account for simple must-haves like bright lights, cash registers, building signage and air conditioning. In fact, if you imagine a large, multi-channel retailer, it's not uncommon to have one website and hundreds of stores.

The electric energy required to operate a multimillion dollar (in sales) website is assuredly less. Sure there are PC's, Mac's, servers, power supplies, air conditioning and even air conditioning for the computers. You also have gasoline used by employees going to work and running the website. But that's generally limited to a single physical site or hosting company, along with the retailer's web development office.

In terms of shipping, I think it would vary quite a bit by retailer. Consider that most online retailers use expensive and non-renewable energy (i.e., airplane fuel, diesel gasoline) to ship the overwhelming majority of their products sold to their customers.

Stores also require the same costly shipments from distribution centers to their physical stores which in some cases can be spread across the country or the globe. But if you think about it, a UPS truck is already passing by your house once per day. Rather than driving to the store, why not just add another stop to a route that already exists?

I know! The physical space and the materials that make up the stores could be eliminated, too. The distribution centers that currently supply stores could service online customers. So all of the paper, concrete, steel, paint, plywood and other materials used to create retail space – even those crazy mannequins – they could all be spared!

It's quite likely the rising costs of fuel, the value of the dollar and the general economic slowdown in the U.S. is driving the closures of the dozens of huge retailers closing their stores down this year (Home Depot, CompUSA, Starbucks).

But imagine… what if we started to get used to fewer stores? What if the convenience of driving to the mall and buying a pair of shoes was supplanted with the convenience of a mouse click? Would we miss all those stores? Would our environment? Our planet?

Jason Meugniot
Guidance Green

Monday, May 19, 2008

Faking Green: Spotting the Greenwashers

Non-toxic. Chemical-free. Eco-safe. All natural. Every day, more and more companies roll out new products and services that claim to be eco-friendly. Some also claim their business operations are environmentally safe, but not necessarily their products. So how do we know who’s really green and who’s faking it? Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer to this question, but there are ways you can detect the signs of greenwashing.

Greenwashing are marketing practices that are meant to deliberately mislead consumers about a company’s environmental practices. According to a report released by Terrachoice Environmental Marketing, there are six sins and signs of greenwashing. These are:

Hidden trade off

Companies use this technique to highlight one eco-friendly attribute, and intentionally overlook other – and potentially more important – environmental concerns. This is the most common of all greenwashing practices.

No proof

This is the practice of using environmental claims that cannot be substantiated by supporting data, evidence or certification. The Terrachoice study found that 26% of environmental claims fall into this category.

Describes the use of broad and poorly defined terms like chemical-free or non-toxic which are both universally true and false depending on interpretation. For example, no product can claim to be chemical-free as nothing is really free of chemicals. Water is a chemical, and all plants, animals, and humans are made of chemicals as are all products.

Irrelevant environmental claims may be truthful but are unimportant and unhelpful. The most frequent example of an irrelevant claim relates to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which have been banned for almost 30 years.

Lesser of Two Evils
These are green claims that may be true for the product, but underplay the greater environmental impacts of the product category as a whole. Examples are organic cigarettes and green pesticides.

While rarely in use, this is the practice of making environmental claims that are completely false. The study shows that less than 1% of today’s products use this greenwashing technique.

At Guidance, we disapprove the practice of greenwashing. From following a green office etiquette, to using energy-efficient equipment and buying renewable energy credits to offset remaining carbon footprint, we take sustainability and social responsibility very seriously, and are committed to operating as an environmentally aware, 100% carbon neutral company.

So, if helping the environment and living a green lifestyle are important to you, consider doing a bit of research before shopping for products or services that claim to be green. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.

Alejandra Espinosa
Guidance Green

Check out this month’s issue of Smart Business L.A., where Guidance CEO Jason Meugniot shares his thoughts and tips on reaping the benefits of sustainability. (“
Leaning Green”, Smart Business L.A.- May 2008)