Episode 101: Environmental Coaching for Businesses with Eco-Coach Anca Novacovici

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Sean Daily, Green Living Ideas' Editor-In-Chief, talks to eco-coach and environmental business consultant Anca Novacovici of Eco-Coach about sustainable and green business practices, and what employers and employees can do to go green at work.

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Sean Daily: Hi, and welcome to “Green Talk”, a podcast series from GreenLivingIdeas.com. “Green Talk” helps listeners in their efforts to live more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors, and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today as well as the technologies, products, and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.

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Sean Daily: Hey, everybody, this is Sean Daily. Thanks as always for listening in today on GreenLivingIdeas.com, it's at GreenTalk Radio. The topic of our program today is something I'm very excited about which is talking about going green at work and at the office. For those of you with small businesses, we'll be talking about that as well.

To talk with me about that today is Anca Novacovici who is an eco-coach, that’s actually her business name is eco-coach and she is a consultant to businesses and employees who are looking to go green at the office.

Anca, welcome.

Anca Novacovici: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Sean.

Sean Daily: It's our pleasure. Yes, so, I'm really very curious to hear about--first of all why don’t we just start with your background. How did you become an eco-coach and how do you help businesses?

Anca Novacovici: Well, my background is actually in management consulting. So I've been doing consulting for about eight years and I've always been passionate about the environment. So I decided to marry those two about a year ago. I actually started in February of 2006 part time and then November of 2006, I went full time with this.

Sean Daily: I see. So, who’s your first client? Can you talk about that as a first example?

Anca Novacovici: Sure. It was actually a local restaurant that is very socially responsible and sponsors a lot of events making people aware of social aspects of the city and also because I'm in Washington DC and it's a political city. So we have a lot of politically-related events but they didn’t have the environmental portion of sustainability so to speak. So they were interested in bringing that on board, so being environmental and socially conscious and they can be more sustainable overall.

Sean Daily: Have you found that most of your customers or interested prospects are companies that are already green or [xx] or ones that are sort of saying, “We don’t know what to do. Can you help us get there?”

Anca Novacovici: It's actually the second. There are lot of companies that have heard about going green or maybe seen their competitor doing it or had had customers asking about it but they're not really sure where to go. So they want to bring someone on board or a team on board to tell them where to go. But there are also some that have started, that have an environmental group, so to speak, and they’ve taken the first steps. But after that, they're not really sure where to go, so they need additional directions from someone who’s been doing it obviously longer than they have.

Sean Daily: Sure. So can you give us an example, Anca, walk us through a typical client walking into the business and what you look for and some of the typical suggestions you might make in terms of increasing their sustainability as a business?

Anca Novacovici: Well, there is no typical client actually. What's interesting with this is that clients range from Fortune 500 companies, I've worked with some of those and I've worked with small Moms and Pops stores. But in general, there are two services that I found most businesses are really interested in. One is an eco-audit where essentially we would go in and look at their energy consumption, water consumption, waste management practices, their procurement, their training, their transportation, and overall policies. See where they are right now, where they want to be, and help them to get there in terms of whether they are sustainable, how much more eco-friendly they want to be given their budget, given their timeline and what have you.

The second thing is workshops for employees. Actually, a lot of employers are interested in educating their employees and realize that although they can take action in the workplace and they're starting to, they should also take those actions and apply them to the home. So there are a lot of workshops that kind of going into how to green your work but also how to do you take that into your everyday life.

Sean Daily: Sure, because certainly the same principles that would apply…

Anca Novacovici: Exactly.

Sean Daily: …at work would apply at home.

Anca Novacovici: Yes.

Sean Daily: So let's pretend now that we're in one of your workshops or seminars. What would be some of the things that you might be saying to the attendees?

Anca Novacovici: OK. Well, for businesses, there are a lot of things that they can do for example that can reduce their energy bills. Depending on whether they own the building or not, there are some things that they can do. The one that I'm sure you've heard of is changing the light bulbs obviously, but there are other things that are related to energies and electricity.

For example, when you're in the office, you can turn off computers overnight, turn off the lights, or install motion detectors within the offices and also within the bathrooms. Unplug any equipment that’s not in use overnight or just set a timer for it. So there are some really basic things that you can do to decrease your energy bill. Some other things are if you do own the building or if you are able to change, for example, the fixtures and the appliances obviously if there are kitchens put in energy-style [sp] refrigerators in the restrooms and install low flow toilets and put aerators on the sink, on the faucets.

Sean Daily: Yes, those are good ones. I'm curious, too, on some of those recommendations which are all definitely found really sound--you mentioned about the power usage of devices and turning them off or unplugging them. Logistically, I imagine it may be hard to go around and pull the plug out of every cord. Are you finding that some of the employers are doing things--you know, I've heard about people just doing surge strips everywhere because they're sort of a standby passive power usage that happens. Is that one of the recommendations or are there other devices or products that make a little bit easier for businesses to implement there?

Anca Novacovici: The power strip is one of the bigger ones right now, there are stuff there are strips which works little bit better more on a timer. But as of now, I think for smaller offices it's easier to kept turn things off manually and use a surge protector. For larger offices, I think it would be great if there are other electronics out there that are available but unfortunately, from what I'm aware of, they're not yet on the market.

Sean Daily: Yes. It seems like there's a place to go for any budding entrepreneurs listening out there. It seems like it hasn’t been embraced yet where you can really simplify this process of really dealing with that, that passive power usage that I was talking about. They haven’t made it easy so there's definitely an opportunity there, a lot of business opportunities in the space.

Well, Anca, we're going to take a quick break here. I'm talking with Anca Novacovici who is an eco-coach in the Washington DC area, and will be right back with Anca right after these word.

[radio break]

Sean Daily: OK, we're back with Anca Novacovici, and you mentioned toilets, too, low flush. I know duo flush is very common in green apartment and residential building projects, but what about in commercial?

Anca Novacovici: There's some organizations that I've been to that I've had consulted with, too, that have started implementing those although the cost is a little bit higher. When they're doing renovations they will do that but they don’t necessarily do it right away.

Sean Daily: But duo flush toilet do exist in the commercial market?

Anca Novacovici: Yes, yes. They do.

Sean Daily: Because I know that the commercial versus the residential bathroom, it's a different market, different products and such.

Anca Novacovici: Exactly. For example, it's not exactly the duo flush that you think at the top. It's a handle on the bottom where you either push it down or pull it up.

Sean Daily: I see.

Anca Novacovici: So that’s the two different ways, but they do exist in the commercial market as well.

Sean Daily: OK. I'm [xx], too, whenever I travel in Europe, here a duo flush toilets, it's like, ‘Oh, wow! That’s very high tech, avant garde, and everything.” In Europe, they are everywhere.

Anca Novacovici: Exactly.

Sean Daily: It's default, so that’s funny. And also I think the other question I had was about do you get involved at all or do you have other consultancy work with to bring in for Leed building projects for somebody who say--I don’t know if you've dealt with this--but a company that’s maybe moving their offices or remodeling their offices to build towards the Leed standard.

Anca Novacovici: I do, I am involved with it. I'm actually Leed-accredited but most of the time I don’t really have time to focus on it so I will bring in other people. There are quite a few businesses now that when they're moving offices, they're looking to do that. Not maybe and not necessarily to get the certification for the building, but there are some clients that I've spoken to that want to do as much they can given their resources and their timeline to get as many points as they can and maybe later on they can move forward and possibly get certification.

Sean Daily: Right, and just for those listening in who may not be familiar with Leed, I definitely recommend looking on our website on GreenLivingIdeas.com and putting in the search box, L-E-E-D, to get more information or certainly on Google as well, you get lots of good info. But basically, a building standard that applies now both as residential and commercial and there's a point system where you have to achieve a certain number of points in different categories in order to rate different levels of certification for as a green building.

Anca Novacovici: Right, and US green building site is a great resource as well for that…

Sean Daily: Which is?

Anca Novacovici: USGBC.org.

Sean Daily: Thank you, thank you. So now, we talked a little bit about the employer’s side of it, the commercial building. Tell us some of the things that the employees can be doing both at the offices as well as at home and at the office maybe in terms of their day-to-day activities, the things they deal with, and then the things that they can crossover into the home.

Anca Novacovici: There are a couple of things that are relatively easy to do at the office, and one of them is reusing and recycling paper. About 85% of all office papers discarded annually. So if we can even use a portion of that and keep it from the landfill, I think that’s a huge step. So using the back of such paper, paper prints on one side or scrap paper, printing double sided or thinking twice about printing draft materials reading them on the screen. That’s a pretty easy one.

Another really easy one is recycling. If recycling is available in your building, make sure to do it, to take that extra couple of steps and go to the recycling bin versus the trash basket. If it's not, talk to your employer about [xx] and see about starting a program, maybe taking the initiative on that. Another thing is bringing in a mug and reusable plates and utensils for drinking and for lunch. Yet another--I could go on and on.

Sean Daily: Please, please, that was great info.

Anca Novacovici: Reusing supplies because commercial waste including office waste amounts to about 35-45% of total waste generated.

Sean Daily: Worldwide, you mean, in a countrywide?

Anca Novacovici: In the US.

Sean Daily: In the US, OK.

Anca Novacovici: Reusing binders, envelopes, tape dispensers, having a common area where things can be dropped off and picked up, that’s another suggestion. Some other that can be used that work—well, from home and to work and vice versa, either biking or using public transportation or car pooling which I'm sure you've heard over and over again.

Sean Daily: It's always good repeating.

Anca Novacovici: Yes, but even if you do it once or twice a week, walking is a great exercise and maybe even walking to the bus stop or to the Metro and back is great.

Sean Daily: I want to pause and I really appreciate and I'm listening so I just want to do this. This is my favorite part of the show is talking to experts with all the recommendations they come up with and hearing that content, I knew that the listeners really [xx] that as well. But it's funny about the public transportation thing because I know a lot of people hear that and just go, “Yes, right. I'm not going to take public transportation.” But there are so many ways if you change your thinking.

Even for example like the commute, it can be difficult because a lot of people live unfortunately where our society is designed and our cities are built and the suburb scenario and such. It can be difficult to for example bike to work unless you're a hard core biker or you happened to live a few miles from work. But I think that it really bears really looking at it. I think a lot of people who might dispense that idea out of hand maybe haven’t really looked into all the available options - ride sharing, car pooling.

It's not just about, “Oh, I don’t want to get on the bus with” whatever your mental image might be. It's worth the investigation. People do things--I love the things that are out there. There's an opportunity for personal expression, too. I've talked to people and we have experts on our site that write about things like electric bicycles where it's power-assisted bicycle. There are hybrid scooters or electric scooters now, even electric motorcycles or, if you can't do public transportation ride. There's a plethora of options out there for people that if you just investigate.

Also things like for example, not getting in the car to go to lunch and driving across town from the office and maybe walking to a place because as you pointed out, it's an opportunity for exercise. Maybe you're not getting enough exercise in your life, so if you start getting creative and combining these things, all of a sudden you're going to hit two birds with one stone.

Anca Novacovici: That’s exactly right.

Sean Daily: Yes, I think it's a change of thinking more than anything. Yes. So any other tips on the employee’s side?

Anca Novacovici: On the employee’s side, one of the things is really communicating and there are quite a few tips that I think some that I've mentioned before like turning off your computer, turning off the lights, trying not to use supplies, use only what's necessary. But the other thing that I really stress is education and communicating with others in the office. So that they are aware of: a) what you're doing because I think it's something great and to be proud of; but b) they understand the benefits of doing it for themselves and also for the earth. So the more like many activists [sp] at the office, the more you talk about it and get excited about it, the more other people are going to get excited about it. Even if you put together a team, if you get enough people excited about it, you put together a team and it can really impact your organization at a much higher level than just you're recycling or you're reusing paper or what have you although those are the basic building blocks.

Sean Daily: I would imagine that there are a lot of employers--I mean at least smart employers to me--would really get behind this and be supportive of an employee or a team of employees wanting to implement these types of programs as opposed to somebody who might be concerned that you're being the green Nazi in the office or something like that. To me, I think most employers are really getting that this is important and they mean to do that.

Is that what you're finding as well?

Anca Novacovici: Yes, I definitely am finding that, and one great thing that I'm finding is that employers are looking for creative ways to incentivize their employees to do these things. So they are implementing floor-by-floor challenges or competitions or different ways that they can get the employees to actually change their behavior and make it fun. So that’s one thing that’s been really exciting.

Sean Daily: And we'll be right back with Anca right after this word..

[radio break]

Sean Daily: OK, we're back with Anca Novacovici, and she is an eco-coach. We're talking to her about going green at the office both for employers and employees. Anca, I had another couple of questions for you. One was about for any employers that are out there, business owners that are listening to this podcast, one question I think that some of them maybe are really saying, “This all sounds really good, but why should I be doing these now versus waiting and doing it later?”

Anca Novacovici: That is a great question. One reason is obviously there's increased awareness of global warming and the impact that we are having as humans and the impact that corporations are having on this. The other, obviously, is that global warming is here to stay and it is something that we have been impacting and we can impact negatively or positively. Another reason I guess from a business perspective is the fact that there are consumer-based that is asking for green products and green services is growing quite quickly.

Actually there's a term for it which is the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, LOHAS, which some people may have heard of. Essentially they represent about $230 billion--I believe--market right now annually and they have been growing at about 10% per year. They anticipated to grow at about 10% per year. So it's quite a large chunk of money right there that a lot of businesses can benefit from.

Sean Daily: That’s right. It really has developed into its own world and its own very large industry, that’s for sure. That actually does delves pretty well into my next question which is along with that interesting space, the LOHAS industry which you described and just being green, it also brings in and I think a certain element of what's come to be known green washing. In your world--and this is a term we hear put out there quite a bit--in your estimation what is green washing in your world and how do you see that happen or do you see that happen?

Anca Novacovici: Well, yes, I do see it happen unfortunately and I see it more in the news and from companies that are doing little things that they want to pass off as being “green”. From what I've seen essentially it's taking actions that the companies are already been doing. For example if they’ve been recycling or they’ve been using minimal products or minimal packaging to cut down on costs and touting those as being green. While they are green, essentially the company is taking that one action or two actions that they have taken in the past and saying that their whole organization is green because of it.

Sean Daily: I see.

Anca Novacovici: So essentially they're not really a green organization but parts of it is taking steps towards it is one way that I've seen it. The other way is the way that some companies are marketing their products. For example, you might have seen that a lot of companies that your local drugstores are using the word “natural” on their products and because that’s not regulated right now, natural can mean anything.

Sean Daily: It will mislead one essentially.

Anca Novacovici: Yes. They may have one natural product and they may have a percentage of a product in there and so they're calling it natural. It's unfortunate.

Sean Daily: Yes, that is unfortunate. It's unfortunate especially particularly I can agree whether it's non-regulated so it's just really easy for them to do it. It's very tempting for less scrupulous marketers to do that. We're seeing even with the organic label which is gotten watered down recently unfortunately, we're seeing that happen there, too. That’s a good point.

Are you also seeing, I'm curious, if you're seeing it with regards to--you mentioned an example of where the company was already doing and implementing certain practices. Are you also seeing it where they're implementing these practices more specifically for financial reasons and cost cutting and increasing profitability, yet they might also coincide with being green in some way? So they tout the green side in this ingenious fashion where it's really there's an economic incentive that’s driving it?

Anca Novacovici: Yes, I have but if they haven’t been doing it and they're doing it now for cost-cutting measures and they are calling it green, the argument that I have is there, I don’t have as much of an issue because the way I look at it is they are still saving resources and materials. So either they may be doing it for the other reasons and they're calling it by the wrong the name--so they're saying it's green although they’re not really doing it for that reason--they're still taking steps that are decreasing their [xx]. So I'm going to look at it on the positive side of that even though they are taking steps and they're mislabeling them, at least they're taking those steps.

Sean Daily: Yes, I think it's really a process and I think it's great the work you're doing because what I have seen in my own life and I knew people that I've talked to and people visit the website, employees here and there's people that I ran into in tradeshows and things, this is a snowballing effect that happens in your life. You do one thing or somebody like yourself introduce these certain concepts and you put a little energy there and it just sort of begets additional things. All of a sudden it just starts to increase and you find other ways and it just opens your mind to things and things just start happening and your awareness expands as it were around sustainability and what that means.

So any place you start, if you're listening in either as an employee or as an employer or any place is a good place and there's no right or wrong place to start here.

Anca Novacovici: Exactly. One thing that I did want to add is for a lot of people starting, it can seem overwhelming because there are so many things that you can do in the beginning even at the office. So what I tell my clients is to start with a few things that are the easiest to do and so I'll make recommendations on that. But pick a couple of things where you can change your habits and you feel comfortable doing it. See how that works for the next three months or so and then pick a few more things. Or if you get excited, do more at once.

Sean Daily: Great. Well, my guest today has been Anca Novacovici talking with me about going green for businesses. She's the President of Eco-coach which you can find online at www.Eco-coach.com. Anca, thanks again for being with us and sharing all these great information.

Anca Novacovici: Thank you so much. It's an honor and pleasure.

Sean Daily: Thanks as always to everyone listening in today. Remember, for more free on demand podcasts, articles, videos, and other information related to living a greener lifestyle, visit our website at www.GreenLivingIdeas.com. We'd also love to hear your comments, feedback, and questions. Send us an email at [email protected].

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