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Nikolette Orlandou September 30, 2008
Green or “Vertically Green”—That Is the Question!
by Nikolette Orlandou

These days, with everyone striving towards a more “green”…everything, really… and with so many companies and products claiming to be green, eco, earth-friendly, etc., one has to ask, “How green is this product or company, really?

If you are indeed striving towards a greener lifestyle and want to make a difference, you may want to consider being as “vertically green” as possible. That is the phrase I coined for myself a while ago as I tried to explain to a friend the criteria by which I make daily personal and business choices. This informs how I take a shower, wash my clothes or car, carry takeout food, choose products to buy, and—especially now as a business owner—what vendors I buy from, work with and support.

For years I did not care if I was one of the few that manically recycled everything I could (including plastic food containers and glass jars, which I washed before throwing into the recycling bin). I believed in leading by example and continuing to do what is right, regardless if others do not. However, as the stakes grow higher every year, and with our planet moving ever closer toward peril, (Thank God, more and more people are willing to listen) I decided to expand my own eco-reach and make choices that have a positive ripple effect.

In short, we all need to consider moving towards a “vertically green” lifestyle. What does that mean?

Much like in microeconomics and business management, vertical integration is a system where “companies are united through a hierarchy and share a common owner, with each member of the hierarchy producing a different product or service that combine to satisfy a common need.” One person (the common owner) and his daily personal and business choices represent the different product or services that, in combination, affect a large number of individuals and companies to satisfy a common goal.

In plainer English, make green choices and support others who share your mission, thus magnifying your positive impact in society and the earth.

It’s not enough to just reduce, reuse and recycle for ourselves and our families. If we want our actions to have the maximum effect possible, we must “vote” with our wallet, buying products and services from the greenest businesses we can find.

When buying a service or product, I ask myself whether it’s…

   1. Made locally, or at least in the US?
   2. Made of natural, non-synthetic, non-chlorine bleached, or sustainable fibers (fast-growing, high-fiber yield, minimal depletion of the soil).
   3. If colored, was it dyed with low impact (low toxicity) agents?
   4. Organically grown without pesticides, chemicals or antibiotics?
   5. Produced under fair labor conditions?
   6. Contains no petroleum byproducts?
   7. Contains nontoxic or less toxic ingredients?
   8. Uses minimal packaging, ideally non-plastic, recycled, high post consumer waste, non-chlorine bleached carton or paper?
   9. Does the company mind its carbon footprint? Does it follow sustainable practices, power its operations using renewable energy or through the purchase of Renewable Energy Credit (REC’s), and so on.

The more of these “checkmarks” a product or service fulfills, the higher the likelihood I’ll patronize it.

Now you will ask me, is any one company or person ever 100% percent green? Probably not… Much like nothing else in life is. But we must at least aim toward it and do our best to cover as many of the above criteria as possible. It’s all a process. We all strive toward perfection, even though we know that it is an uphill battle, an ongoing process—a journey, not a destination.

So do not be discouraged, intimidated or overwhelmed. Let’s take one small step at a time to be all we can be, as green as we can be, one day at a time.

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