Seventeen—the threshold of adulthood, the last gasp of wily youth, the last days of burning the candle at both ends and greeting the burn with a grin. What if, however, you were an environmentally conscious seventeen? What if you were one of those second graders who’d toured landfills with Oprah guest Mrs. Barnett and you knew the land’s resources, Mother Earth’s core was limited? What if you turned to your own mother, personal and executive coach extraordinaire, a woman concerned about people stifled and starved as executives and as human beings? What if you, conscious, aware, and worried, turned to your mother and dared her to find 17 ways to green her coaching business? What might your mother discover?

1. She might begin to read all about it on Treehugger.com. There’s nothing like information, and as a Ph.D. who completed all of her initial research online, your mother knows how to tell an informative site from simple sales blitz. She loves the brevity yet informativeness of Treehugger’s green lists; she is thrilled by their diversity and catchy titles: “How To Green Your Office,” “How To Green Your Furniture,” “How To Green Your Wardrobe.” She is happy about the catchy titles and simple lists because she had feared greening her business, her home and her life would a laborious, unpleasant affair. When the very next day after you give her this assignment, Oprah does a show on how to go green, she learns that these events are not only providential, but fun. Fun because shopping is involved!

2. The second step after composing her list of seventeen greening actions one can take? Buying an O bag for shopping, and she hastens to point out to her readers that O bags are not just for the grocery store. These are O bags we’re talking about here; O, the unique and universal symbol for quality through struggle, the bag that says “I have made it!” Keep an O bag in your Lexus (you know, the one you will soon be trading in for a hybrid), Mr. or Ms. Executive Coach on the go, and show that symbol of quality and achievement as you run your Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, MAC Cosmetics and Target errands. The items you buy at Pottery Barn or Linens n Things might not fit in your O bag, but it can handle that staple remover and ream of paper from Office Depot.

3. No time to run by the office supply store? Staples a dangerous place for your wallet whenever you are within fifty feet of the nearest location? Let that rewards card burn rubber once a month, biweekly, or weekly as you save on gas and prevent additional carbon dioxide emissions. Greening your coaching business could be as simple as doubling or tripling the size of your office supply orders AND carefully scheduling your order frequency so that the delivery truck (that old diesel burner!) comes as INfrequently as possible and stocks you as thoroughly as it can! Study the usage of office supplies and order what you know your business will need once per month. Less hassle, less expense, less harm to the environment!

4. And while we’re discussing cutting back and cutting down, did you know that eliminating paper plates, plastic cups and disposable utensils could lead to impressive office beautification? Imagine this scenario: You have eliminated plastic and paper dishes and utensils from your office’s kitchen. You have two or three or ten employees, but instead of opening the cabinet in the kitchen area and finding a random assemblage of cups, mugs, knives, forks, and spoons, there is a MATCHING set of ENGRAVED dishware with EACH employee’s name or initials on each element of their place setting. In addition, there are three to five to twenty—depending upon the size of your business—place settings with “Visitor” or “Guest” engraved upon them. What employee will not want to come to work when they know lunch, dinner, breakfast waits for them on their own place setting? Visitors and guests, i.e., the clients you want to capture, will feel like royalty, and royalty that has been pleased tends to return the favor. Green experts across the globe agree that removing disposable dinnerware from the office is one of the easiest ways to green your office and has the greatest impact on landfills.

5. Not convinced? Elizabeth Rogers, author of The Green Book, informs Oprah’s Green 101 show audience that if we give up one paper napkin per day we will save one BILLION pounds of paper waste that would ordinarily go into landfills PER YEAR. Wouldn’t you like to be able to tell your colleagues and clients that you helped Mother Earth “save a billion”? Still not buying the benefits of real dishware and flatware as opposed to disposable, cloth napkins as opposed to paper? Consider this: as early as eighteen years ago, eating disorder specialists at the Rader Institute in Torrance, CA, advised patients struggling with bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and compulsive eating to make every meal an occasion. Use your nicest everyday dishes or your china and nice flatware as well as your best glasses at every meal, the dieticians and nutritionists suggested. What would happen? You automatically eat more slowly, take the time to actually taste and enjoy your food, and thus feel much fuller afterwards. Your body has time to process that you are eating and you come away from the elegant table more satisfied and not needing to eat again so soon. Must this personal coach and mother remind her readers of that old companion stress? High-powered executives and their coaches often skip lunch, adding to their stress and under- or malnourishing themselves in the bargain. If, however, lunch becomes a pleasant occasion on nice stoneware with glasses that ring, the stress of doing business has to take a temporary leave and clear, restful thought, often leading to enlightened perspectives and creative problem solutions becomes a daily, welcome occurrence.

6. Want to have that new and now inviting lunch by candlelight? Would create a nice atmosphere indeed, but candlelight is not required to successfully green your coaching business. How about taking expert Simran Sethi’s advice, she recently of Oprah’s Green 101 and the Sundance Channel, and “have a light bulb moment?” Not only are compact fluorescent light bulbs 70-75 percent more efficient than regular filament bulbs, they last longer and reduce one’s electric bill. One Oprah guest reported a $50 per month saving on her bill after switching to CFLs.

7. All of this fancy eating and new lighting seem a bit extreme? As though one was reaching too far? Take a step back and, if yours is a home-based coaching business, begin to read the leaflets that arrive with your utility bills—especially gas, electric, and water. Utility companies understand the appeal of the green movement, and they are experienced in marketing alternative energy sources (or the funding of their development) and methods to their customers. Read those leaflets and see what YOUR companies offer!

8. Renting office space? Become Lockian (as in John Locke, author of two treatises on government), and demand that your landlord institute green measures as part of your new lease agreement when renewal time rolls around. If the landlord refuses, notify this author and she will send her seventeen year old; the landlord’s home obviously needs t.p.ing.

9. Too bold a move perhaps? As a mother and a successful coach, I’ve learned to read personalities and thus have an option for the quieter, subtle folk: green your supplies. Switch to paper products—computer paper, toilet paper, file folders, manila folders, you name it—with the highest post consumer content your professionalism can stand. Look for post-consumer content AND absence of chlorine bleaching. Go to Treehugger.com, The Green Pages, or “Going Green 101, The Oprah Winfrey Show, January 4th, 2008” for a list of companies that offer recycled office products.

10. Your office supplies should not be the only items changing colors. Honor your custodial staff with organic and recyclable cleaning products. The plethora of cleaning products on the market that are not organic or natural are known to increase one’s risk of asthma or other respiratory problems, not to mention plain old poisoning. That lemon-fresh pine smell is part of a cleaning solvent “cocktail” warns Sethi, a cocktail just waiting to create problems for your lungs and your skin.

11. You’ve been warned about microwaves fleeing those wonderful appliances and assaulting your chest and face. Urban legend or no, there is a source of appliance/machine leakage we may not often consider: appliances and office machines left plugged into the wall still draw power! Treehugger.com reports that “standby settings” use as much as 15-20 watts and “low power mode energy use is responsible for about 10% of total electricity use in California homes.” Sethi and Oprah recommend the use of a Smart Strip—when you turn the strip off all of the machines plugged into it automatically power down. If Smart Strips are not yet in your company’s budget, simply turn off all machines or appliances when the workday is done and turn out lights in areas of the office or home office that you will not be using until the following work day. Note: If you use an inkjet printer, turn the machine off BEFORE you turn off the strip or surge protector; inkjets need to preserve their cartridges before powering down.

12. If you really want to honor the cleaning staff that occupy your workspace when you are elsewhere, and you are not the purchaser of their supplies, encourage them to use organic, natural, and recycled cleaning products. Explain the strong possibility of increased cost and equal possibility of greater health, fewer sick days and reduced respiratory or skin distress. They might not even have to buy as many boxes of gloves!

13. Should said cleaning staff be of the obstinate, I’m-sticking-by-my-Comet persuasion, fire them—gently—and look for a cleaning service that uses only organic, natural, or recycled products. They can be found and they ARE reasonable; Google reveals all.

14. The cleaning service may be watching their bottom line, but greening your coaching business may be as simple as moving from a fine dime to a green dime, www.greendimes.com that is. Yes, that gorgeous and talented hunk of man, Matt Damon, graced Oprah’s Green 101 show to tell her studio audience about the nonprofit that does what we all dream of: reduces the wasteful, uninteresting, luridly colored junk mail we all receive, business owners, coaches, and executives alike. Damon was so impressed with Greendimes that he now sits on the board of the organization!

15. Some greening of your business involves activities that occur outside of your office. Let’s return to this mother and coach’s favorite activity: shopping. Every successful business, coaching or otherwise, has them: giveaways. Instead of a standard pen or mug or calendar magnet, why not a recyclable water bottle for each client? Those adorable 500 mL bottles of water we purchase by the case require five liters of water just to cool the plastic of ONE bottle. You want to encourage good self-care in your coaching clients by suggesting they drink lots of water? Give them a recyclable bottle of plastic or aluminum and a water filter; some recyclable bottles come with their own filters. Your clients will thank you every morning at the gym when their water is sweet, cool, and refreshing, plus savvy coaches know the high-powered love to be self-sufficient.

16. In case you missed the message in number 15: the giving goes beyond recyclable water bottles. Look for and purchase in bulk if you can (remember maximizing the efficiency of deliveries) organic, natural, or recyclable giveaways. Find thousands of green gifts in the National Green Pages (“Co-op America: Buying Green”). Remarkable, from the U.K., makes a range of exciting pens, pencils, and other school/office necessities from recycled materials and FSC certified wood (“How To Green Your Work”). Your example may prod a client into taking his office green.

17. Last but not least—something your cell phone-i-fied seventeen-year-old can relate to: USE YOUR TECHNOLOGY, not your paper. If you can email instead of fax, do it. If you can videoconference instead of meeting at headquarters downtown, do it. No one will know that you’re in your bunny slippers below the camera and under the table except your office staff, and they’ll be too thrilled that they don’t have to endure a commute downtown to turn you in. An added bonus? The carbon dioxide emissions that are NOT occurring because no one is driving!

Perhaps the most resoundingly positive message the 17-year-old’s executive coach mom discovered as she composed her list of tips for greening her business—in addition to the multitude of new shopping opportunities—centered upon one fact: the green world was not a lonely one. www.treehuggers.com’s trendy lists now reside within her computer’s bookmarks and Co-op America, its Green Business Network, and its National Green Pages will be available once she pays her unbelievably low $75/year web membership. The expertise that will be at her fingertips! Co-op America’s “Who We Are” tells us that it is the nation’s leading non-profit educator on socially and environmentally responsible consumption and investing, devotes itself to harnessing economic power—the strength of consumers, businesses and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. American capitalism with more than a hint of chlorophyll.

As a parting gift or a last warning, depending upon your perspective, remember these statistics when balancing the pros and cons of greening your business:
-----one office worker can use 10,000 pieces of copier paper in one year
-----40% of carbon dioxide emissions and 70% pf total electricity usage in offices stem from heating, cooling, and powering office spaces
-----several recent surveys show that workers, especially from the generation that grew up separating paper from plastic, don’t want to work for big fat polluters (“Going Green At the Office”). And no one, in any industry, wants to have the adjective “fat” attached to their company image. Choose trim, choose healthy, choose environmentally conscious. You just might get that seventeen year old you’ve birthed and raised and fed to say he’s proud of you.

REFERENCES

Co-op America. “Buying Green.” January 6, 2008. www.coopamerica.org/programs/shopunshop/buyinggreen/greenyouroffice.cfm.
Co-op America. “Who We Are: The Green Business Network.”
Cullen, Lisa Takeuchi. “Going Green at the Office.”
“Going Green 101.” The Oprah Winfrey Show, January 4th, 2007.
“Green building is escalating.” Business & Education News. www.greenbuildings.com
“How to Green Your Work: Treehuggers Green Guides.”

Author's Bio: 

BIOGRAPHICAL STATEMENT

Niama Leslie Williams (www.blowingupbarriers.com), a June 2006 Leeway Foundation Art and Social Change Grant recipient, and a 2006 (July) participant in a Sable Literary Magazine/Arvon Foundation residential course in Shropshire, UK, possesses a doctorate in African American literature from Temple University, a bachelor’s in comparative literature from Occidental College, and a master’s in professional writing from the University of Southern California. Dr. Williams’ master’s thesis at USC earned her an honorable mention in the University’s 1991 Phi Kappa Phi competition. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, she currently resides in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Williams has participated in several writers’ conferences, including the Squaw Valley Community of Writers (2000), Hurston/Wright Writers Week (1996), and Flight of the Mind (1993). Her work has appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine; Dark Eros: Black Erotic Writings; Spirit & Flame: An Anthology of African American Poetry; Catch the Fire: A Cross-Generational Anthology of Contemporary African-American Poetry; Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century; Mischief, Caprice, and Other Poetic Strategies (Red Hen Press); A Deeper Shade of Sex: The Best in Black Erotica, and Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets & Emcees. Check the Rhyme was nominated for an NAACP Image Award (2007).

Her prose publications include essays and short stories in MindFire Renewed, P.A.W. (Philadelphia Artists Writers) Prints, Midnight Mind Magazine, Amateur Computerist, Tattoo Highway #6, Obsidian II: Black Literature in Review, and Sojourner: The Women’s Forum. She has 7 titles available for sale on Lulu.com (http://stores.lulu.com/drni), an online print-on-demand publisher based in the U.K.

Dr. Williams hosts “Poetry & Prose & Anything Goes with Dr. Ni” Friday afternoons from 2-3 p.m. EST on BlogTalkRadio (www.blogtalkradio.com). The show originally aired from February to April of 2007 on Passionate Internet Voices Talk Radio, a station owned by Ms. Lillian Cauldwell of Ann Arbor, MI. Dr. Williams’ short story “The Embrace” was selected for the 2006-2007 Writing Aloud series at the InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia, PA.

Of her purpose for writing Dr. Williams says: "I frequently do not err on the side of caution in my writing, but I believe in the purpose of it: to speak to the things others do not want to speak of, with the hopes of reaching that one woman, or her lover, or her friend, who refuses to deal with her pain, who hides from it, who doesn't think she'll survive it. That's the audience I hope to reach."