MetroFax Blog http://blog.metrofax.com Internet Fax Service – Email & Online Fax Services Tue, 03 Dec 2013 00:36:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 U.S. is NOT the Largest Paper Consumer http://blog.metrofax.com/u-s-is-not-the-largest-paper-consumer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-is-not-the-largest-paper-consumer http://blog.metrofax.com/u-s-is-not-the-largest-paper-consumer/#comments Tue, 07 May 2013 15:50:00 +0000 Jeremy Higgens http://blog.metrofax.com/?p=1206 The United States uses a lot of energy, and—let’s face it—something of a bad rep when it comes to environmental policy. But despite all that energy use, the U.S. has something it can boast about in the environmental forum; we’re good at recycling our paper, and we aren’t the highest paper consumers. (Photo Credit: Vladyslav

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The United States uses a lot of energy, and—let’s face it—something of a bad rep when it comes to environmental policy. But despite all that energy use, the U.S. has something it can boast about in the environmental forum; we’re good at recycling our paper, and we aren’t the highest paper consumers.

U.S. is NOT the Largest Paper Consumer(Photo Credit: Vladyslav Starozhylov)

We did some more number crunching and found that, per capita, the United States is far from the biggest consumer of paper. In fact, Finland topped the list, each of its 5.2 million residents using 618.8 pounds of paper goods. Producing approximately one seventh of the paper that China—the world’s leader in paper production—does, Finland consumes four times more paper per person than the great Asian monolith.

Per capita rates can easily be skewed by population and industry. Countries with large forestry industries—like Finland, Austria, Germany, and Sweden—produce a lot of paper goods domestically and then export them, skewing the numbers. Massive populations can make big-time consumption seem puny when viewed at the individual level; China’s 1.3 billion people break down the 101 million tons of paper consumed in 2010 into surprisingly small per capita numbers.

So what’s going on in Japan? The 484.55 pounds per person that each of its 126 million residents use annually seems like a lot for a nation that is usually on the cutting-edge of technology. But while the rest of the world strives to leave fax machines and hard copies behind while Japan’s business world clings to them. In a survey of Japanese businessmen, 87.5% reported fax machines were crucial to their business. More than half of Japanese households still own fax machines.

Of the world’s 20 largest paper producers, the U.S. falls in 13th place for per capita consumption, with 193.61 pounds per person. China, the world’s largest producer of paper, uses only 151.91 pounds per person. Of course, it is also the largest consumer of paper—swallowing up more than 101 million tons in 2010.

But Japan, despite having less than half of the U.S. population and one tenth of the Chinese population; nestled itself in second place, consuming 30.7 million tons. When you look at the production of paper, they’re close to breaking even—with only a 640,000 ton difference from consumption to production.

China and U.S. are the two largest producers of paper, having churned out 101 million and 83.6 million tons of paper in 2010, respectively. But apparent consumption is a completely different story; China consumed nearly 99% of its paper, while the US consumed only 35.9% of what it produced.

The U.S., over decades of logging and environmental regulations, has shifted its goals. In 1990, the U.S. paper and forestry industry began establishing goals to recover 40% of paper consumed. They achieved this goal in 1996. They set a 60% recovery goal for 2012. As it stands, the EPA reported that in 2010, 45 million tons (or 63%) of all paper products were recycled.

In addition to recycling, the U.S. is also exporting recovered fiber. In 2009, about 36% of recovered paper was exported to Asia. China only collected 45.7 million tons of recycled paper in 2010, but consumed 73 million tons. Of course, this may change; China’s collection rate has spiked 19% since 2009.

The U.S. hasn’t decreased its production or consumption at all—it’s simply being out-produced and out-consumed by China and Japan. The only large country to decrease its production and consumption of paper was Canada, down 1.2% and 3%, respectively.

As other countries pump up their paper production, new environmental standards in the U.S. are propelling us into a new world of paper production and consumption where recycled materials, rather than the nation’s forests, are our greatest resource. We might not be slowing our paper consumption, but we are definitely fantastic at recycling and recovering paper—and that’s an important first step in a more environmentally healthy future.

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Don’t be the Last to Know: How to Keep up with Emerging Technology http://blog.metrofax.com/dont-be-the-last-to-know-how-to-keep-up-with-emerging-technology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dont-be-the-last-to-know-how-to-keep-up-with-emerging-technology http://blog.metrofax.com/dont-be-the-last-to-know-how-to-keep-up-with-emerging-technology/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 16:05:15 +0000 Jeremy Higgens http://blog.metrofax.com/?p=1200 The growing accessibility of the Internet and technology makes a profound impact on the way we interact with people, get our news, and do business. From traditional news outlets, to social media, to blogs like the one here at MetroFax, people get an increasing amount of their news online. This explosion isn’t without competition. Our

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The growing accessibility of the Internet and technology makes a profound impact on the way we interact with people, get our news, and do business. From traditional news outlets, to social media, to blogs like the one here at MetroFax, people get an increasing amount of their news online. This explosion isn’t without competition. Our information-driven world seems to demand new technology every minute. New platforms, hardware, and hacks are developing daily to improve the way we handle data, information, and our lives.

How do you keep up? It’s pretty simple: follow the buzz. Cultivate news-breakers in the tech industry on Twitter. Keeping an eye on the technology sections of news websites may keep you informed, but finding the blogs that focus exclusively on technology will keep you up to speed on each new development in the industry.

How to Keep up with Emerging Technology(Image Credit: Yuri Arcurs)

TechCrunch, Engadget, Verge, The Next Web, Mashable!, and MacRumors are just a few examples of the invaluable breaking news and insight in the tech world, from the perspective of the tech world. Mashable!, for example, often does livestreams of big announcements from Facebook, Google, and other major technology and software companies. But just a brief glance at these frequently-updated blogs puts a lot of posts (hundreds a week) in front of you. It’s a lot of information to digest, and it can quickly get out of hand.

Enter Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds. Not unlike email subscriptions, RSS feeds take new content and send it to you via aggregating software. These readers can be either downloaded or web-based. And that’s just about as complicated as it gets: choose your reader and then subscribe to what you want to read.

The Old Reader, Feedly, and Pulse are some examples of RSS readers. Pulse is a more colorful and visual reader, whereas The Old Reader interface is more text-based. Feedly is somewhere in the middle, depending on your settings.

You can connect through an email account, or via Facebook in Pulse. Adding an RSS subscription is as simple as hitting the, “add subscription” button and typing in the blog name or URL or clicking the RSS feed button directly on the site. With the latter method, keep in mind you may have to add the blog manually, if the RSS button on the website isn’t specific to your reader. Feedly will sometimes redirect to the blog’s landing page on their platform.

The freshest technology buzz often springs up in the real world first: at technology conferences. Developments in Twitter, Facebook, and Google might not seem like a big deal to your business, but they could fundamentally change how people find and interact with your business. And new technology like Twitter, which kicked off at South by Southwest, is apt to pop up over an information-packed weekend.

You don’t have to go out and buy a ticket to every major technology conference, thanks to things like blogging and Twitter. Recaps and liveblogs for many presentations will be available the day of or following the speaker’s closing remarks, and live-tweeting is common.

On the subject of Twitter, another great place to catch breaking technology developments is from the industry itself. Handles like @chrismessina, a Google+ user experience designer and the creator of the Twitter hashtag, @timoreilly, who publishes Make Magazine and writes technology instruction manuals and textbooks, and @davewiner, a Harvard research fellow who essentially invented RSS, blogs, and podcasts (Winer has also contributed to Wired and often tweets industry news and commentary).

Other good tech people to follow on Twitter are @asymco, who posts a lot of mobile figures for Samsung, Google, and Apple, @SammyWalrusIV, an anonymous Apple employee who tweets insider info, and @JonErlichman, the Senior West Coast Technology Correspondent for Bloomberg. If you follow at least a couple of these guys, and pay attention to whom they tweet and re-tweet, you can probably find other great sources of news, tips, and insights on Twitter.

Keeping up with rapidly-evolving technology and trends isn’t difficult: following the right blogs and people for just an hour of your day can keep you with, if not ahead of, the game.

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Increasing Health and Productivity with Deskercise http://blog.metrofax.com/increasing-health-and-productivity-with-deskercise/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=increasing-health-and-productivity-with-deskercise http://blog.metrofax.com/increasing-health-and-productivity-with-deskercise/#comments Tue, 23 Apr 2013 16:10:36 +0000 Jeremy Higgens http://blog.metrofax.com/?p=1184 It’s no secret that physical inactivity is extremely unhealthy—in a 2012 press release, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that for non-smoking individuals, physical inactivity may be among the most major risk factors for cancer. For office workers, though, sitting idle at a desk all day can have the added

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It’s no secret that physical inactivity is extremely unhealthy—in a 2012 press release, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that for non-smoking individuals, physical inactivity may be among the most major risk factors for cancer. For office workers, though, sitting idle at a desk all day can have the added danger of significantly inhibiting productivity. Just because you work a desk job, however, doesn’t mean that you also have to resign yourself to an unhealthy lifestyle. Dozens of options now exist for workers who want to stay in shape, improve their livelihood, and increase business productivity, all while remaining at their desks; here are some of the best.

Walking Desks

Increasing Health and Productivity with Deskercise

Desks that allow you to walk and work simultaneously are the superstars of healthy workplaces. Most pre-assembled models are pretty pricey: One of the most well-known comes out to a grand total of $4,399, while a lower-end version will set you back by about $500. These desks allow you to walk while still completing all of your work. Walking at a comfortable speed of 3 mph burns about 300 calories per hour, all while giving your hip and leg muscles a great workout. You might even get more work done than you normally do, given the fact that exercise has been proven to boost both stamina and productivity. And, since walking itself has been found to strengthen bones, improve the cardiovascular system, oxygenate the brain, and lead to a longer lifespan, by the time you’re ready to call it a day you may just find yourself feeling better than ever.

Desk Cycle

Though immediately installing a walking desk in your office would certainly be beneficial, sometimes it’s just not feasible. Maybe you work in a very regimented and structured environment where such a desk would be frowned upon; maybe you’re not willing to fork over the necessary cash; or maybe you simply don’t want to be the only one strolling along on your treadmill while everyone else remains seated. Whatever your reasoning, know that there exists an alternative both discreet and affordable: desk cycles. These compact devices consist of a set of pedals mounted on a small, sturdy frame, and usually only cost about $50. They’re able to slide under your desk with no trouble at all, and allow you to improve circulation, burn calories, and get in your daily exercise, all in an easy, whisper-quiet fashion. Pedaling away on a desk cycle for just 25 minutes raises the average number of calories per hour (over an 8 hour work day) to 111, and your newly active hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles will certainly thank you.

Standing Desks

Walking is indeed wonderful for you, but the simple act of standing is often overlooked. In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 office workers volunteered to alternate between sitting and standing while in the workplace. By the end of the study, 87% of the workers felt energized, 87% felt more comfortable, 71% felt more focused, and 62% felt happier in general. And, as if that weren’t convincing enough, standing burns about 144 calories per hour and also strengthens back and calf muscles in a safe, gentle manner. All those benefits could be yours, with no bells, whistles, or gadgets necessary—all you need is a taller-than-usual desk and a chair to go with it. You’ll then be able to switch between sitting and standing at your leisure, all while enjoying better health and a supercharged mood.

Balance Ball Chair

If you’d prefer to improve your fitness without even thinking about it, a balance ball chair could be for you. A standard model is refreshingly affordable at about $25, while a specially-designed balance ball chair is still reasonably priced at about $80. A 2008 study revealed that office workers who used balance ball chairs burned 4 more calories per hour than those using traditional chairs (totaling about 90 calories per hour), gave their back muscles a workout, and also preferred it to working in a standing position. Since balance balls are affordable, light, and just as compact as standard office chairs, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t reap the benefits of one.

If you’re looking to get fit at the office, you don’t need a fancy exercise routine, an elite personal trainer, or a slew of expensive equipment. All you need to do is walk, pedal, stand, or balance your way to a healthier, more productive you.

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The Eco-Friendly Office http://blog.metrofax.com/the-eco-friendly-office/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-eco-friendly-office http://blog.metrofax.com/the-eco-friendly-office/#comments Tue, 16 Apr 2013 15:15:43 +0000 Jeremy Higgens http://blog.metrofax.com/?p=1173 You already know all the “green office” stuff there is to know, and you probably already do as much of it as you can. But today’s environmentally-responsible office goes beyond recycling, printing on both sides of the page and using post-consumer recycled office products. Check out these eco-friendly office options you might have missed. Collaborative

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You already know all the “green office” stuff there is to know, and you probably already do as much of it as you can. But today’s environmentally-responsible office goes beyond recycling, printing on both sides of the page and using post-consumer recycled office products. Check out these eco-friendly office options you might have missed.

Collaborative Consumption

The Eco-Friendly OfficeImage Credit: Pressmaster

If you haven’t heard this phrase yet, it’s one to remember. Collaborative consumption is a growing trend of sharing, renting, or trading just about everything, including parking spots, cars, e-books—even money. Netflix® and Zipcar® come to mind as the most established examples.

Also referred to as the “sharing economy,” the basic value lies in the fact that, when people and businesses share, less goes to waste. This reduces personal expense and environmental impact. For example, 50% of U.S. households own a power drill, but most are used for less than 15 minutes over their lifetime.

Items that are recycled or disposed of can be swapped or donated instead. Probably the biggest impact possible lies in donating office equipment, like printers and computers, to schools or non-profits. One of the most intriguing “shareables” for businesses is office space itself.

Shared Space

Image Credit: Goran Bogicevic

Across the globe, individuals, businesses, and organizations of all kinds are exploring shared office space. The HUB is shared workspace that not only reduces the costs and environmental impact of many individual office spaces, but encourages collaboration and innovation among members in sustainability ventures. It was founded in 2005 in London. More than 30 Hubs are now open on five continents; an additional 50 Hubs are in development.

Other shared office spaces where you or your group can work on anything you want, while still limiting environmental impact significantly, can be found through companies like Green Desk. Their offices have taken sustainability seriously, so all you need to do is rent the space. Their sustainable actions include purchasing carbon offsets, a bicycle sharing program, energy-efficient lighting, low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) finishes, and filtered water on every floor to limit the use of water bottles.

Soy­-based Toner

Image Credit: manaemedia

Traditional toner is made using petroleum, a non­renewable resource. 400 million pounds of petroleum­-based toner are used to make 3 trillion copies and printed pages in the U.S. each year. As this type of ink dries, it releases VOCs into the air. VOCs contribute to global warming and can cause a myriad of health problems. A better alternative for laser printers is soy-based toner cartridges.

Soy ink has several benefits over traditional, petroleum-­based inks. It releases far fewer VOCs than traditional ink. In fact, the LA Times reportedly reduced their VOC emissions by 200 tons per year when they transitioned to soy-­based ink. Soy ink also produces more vivid colors, spreads further, and is both biodegradable and non­toxic. Soybeans are a sustainable resource. SoyPrint® takes the environmental friendliness a step further by remanufacturing their cartridges. Each soy-based toner cartridge replaces one pound of oil-based toner.

State and national soybean initiatives exist to help enhance and fund research into soybean use, including the possibility of soybean­-based inkjet cartridges, which don’t yet exist. Soy­-based toner does have some downsides. An important fact to acknowledge is that soy­-based inks still contain some petroleum, as well as a host of other un­friendly ingredients, like Carbon Black. While soy ink is known to have a longer drying time, the soy-based toner cartridges use a soy powder that doesn’t have that problem.

Apps

The Eco-Friendly Office_4Image Credit: Cienpies Design

Of course apps exist for everything, including apps to help us all be even more environmentally conscientious. While most apps focus on aiding individual behavior, like locating the nearest recycling bin with iRecycle, they still benefit your whole office (and the whole world). Smartphone users can use apps to search carpools, find the origin of the seafood they order at lunch, and keep their phone from sitting on the charger after reaching a full charge, among many other planet friendly helpers. If the whole office uses note taking apps, fax apps, and to-do list apps, the need for paper drops significantly.

Making a truly eco-friendly office requires constant follow-through on the efforts you’ve implemented, as well as staying informed on the newest developments. While advice like changing the type of light bulbs you use and printing on both sides of paper is valuable, thinking outside the box will help your business move above and beyond the basics of environmental responsibility and into a new era of eco-friendly business.

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A Look at Fully-Evolved Technology http://blog.metrofax.com/a-look-at-fully-evolved-technology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-look-at-fully-evolved-technology http://blog.metrofax.com/a-look-at-fully-evolved-technology/#comments Thu, 11 Apr 2013 15:10:26 +0000 Jeremy Higgens http://blog.metrofax.com/?p=1316 Are you clinging to outdated tech or is it just so perfectly functional that newer isn’t really better? Fully-evolved technology might not be on the cutting edge, but it’s still plenty sharp and being used in some surprising places.

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Are you clinging to outdated tech or is it just so perfectly functional that newer isn’t really better? Fully-evolved technology might not be on the cutting edge, but it’s still plenty sharp and being used in some surprising places.

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Avoiding the Greenwash http://blog.metrofax.com/avoiding-the-greenwash/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=avoiding-the-greenwash http://blog.metrofax.com/avoiding-the-greenwash/#comments Tue, 09 Apr 2013 16:47:19 +0000 Jeremy Higgens http://blog.metrofax.com/?p=1077 When it comes to smart purchases, “caveat emptor” (“let the buyer beware”) is as relevant today as it was in ancient Rome. New product standards are being laid down by the law and social action, and companies have come to embrace the true value of “green.” Yet, how do we know a product is true

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When it comes to smart purchases, “caveat emptor” (“let the buyer beware”) is as relevant today as it was in ancient Rome. New product standards are being laid down by the law and social action, and companies have come to embrace the true value of “green.” Yet, how do we know a product is true to its word? Is some wiley brand trying to pull the moss over our eyes?

What to Watch Out For

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines concerning green marketing leave some wiggle room for marketers, so it is truly up to the consumer to find the real environmentally-friendly products.

Packaging

You may have noticed that companies are using eye-grabbing packaging less often. They are instead opting for natural tones and an organic feel. Just because it looks green, doesn’t mean it is green. Check the label, look at the brand’s product page, and find out what you’re buying.

Labels, Seals, and Statements

As creative as packaging can get, the statements made on a product can be just as grandiose. If a label is making wild claims, like, “reduces carbon emissions by 50%,” or, “fights global warming,” you want to double check their claims.

Laid down by the environmental marketing firm, UL TerraChoice, the “Sins of Greenwashing” include: blatant lies about a product; a hidden trade-off; irrelevant or vague claims; no proof; using a green gimmick to distract from a larger problem; and giving a consumer the impression of a third-party endorsement.

When double checking a “green” product, ask:

  1. Do they have independent research?
  2. Does the brand provide information on their materials and their processes?
  3. Are they certified by a third-party organization? Is that third-party organization a real one?
  4. If a product claims to be “free of” a given substance, what is the substance in question? Why is harmful? Is it banned or restricted in production already?
  5. Pay close attention to buzzwords. Words like “eco-safe,” “biocompatible,” “biodegradable,” “all-natural,” and “organic” can miss the green mark.
  6. Does the company have a section on their website dedicated to environmental action? How does it look? Was it updated recently?
  7. Has the company been mentioned in environmental news lately?

This may take a little longer than going in and just buying a product, but it sure beats getting duped. Outdated “green” pages on a brand’s website might indicate environmental apathy. If you can’t find the information online, try calling the manufacturer. Companies who are tight-lipped with information may be hiding something. The news (or trustworthy blogs) can also point to a nasty picture behind the clean, green product dream.

Consumer Reports has a handy index for labels, certifications, and buzzwords used on green products and whether or not they mean anything.

Further Product-Specific Resources

Cosmetics

Checking out your cosmetics gets tricky. The FDA does not approve cosmetics before they hit the market—save for color additives. The companies are legally responsible for the safety of the materials they use, although federal regulations ban some materials.

For untested products, warning labels are supposed to appear “prominently and conspicuously… in bold type of contrasting background… but in no case may the letters and/or numbers be less than 1/16 inch in height… [unless the] label of any cosmetic package is too small.”

The next time you feel like you need to double check your products, or you find you’re allergic to something, head over to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep® database. Hosting more than 78,800 products in an easy-to-read format, Skin Deep allows you to search by specific product, brand, or chemical.

Food

If you browsed the Consumer Reports claims index above, you might have noticed a couple of things: terms like “100% Vegan,” “free range,” “hormone free,” and “natural” mean little or nothing.

For lovers of pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, and beef, EWG and CleanMetrics created a guide on how the meat you eat impacts your family and the environment. Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health provides a helpful breakdown of what “cage-free,” “grass-fed,” and other terms really mean, as well as the carbon emissions associated with specific sections of the meat industry. They won’t try to make you into a vegetarian, but they will educate you on the impact meat has on the climate and your health.

A more general guide to pesticides in common fruits and vegetables is also provided by EWG. Their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce analyzes 60,700 samples taken from 45 popular fruits and vegetables by USDA and FDA. They rank produce from dirtiest to cleanest.

Home Products and Cleaners

Like cosmetics, there is no approval process from home cleaners, nor do federal regulations require complete disclosure of materials. Hazardous substances, though, are required to be disclosed according to the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Pressure from consumers has led some manufacturers to release all the materials they use, but some have not. Make sure you check all warnings and chemicals before buying a product.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will give you a rundown on common products in their Household Products Database. While incomplete, the list will let you know the materials listed by the manufacturer, safety, and health alerts. Keep in mind the chemicals listed are only the ones the company has chosen to disclose.

EWG also saves you from legwork. In a much smaller (but still growing) database of 2,000 products, their Guide to Healthy Cleaning will answer some of your burning questions about detergents, dish soaps, and cleaners. They also note environmental hazards when grading products.

Cars

Plenty of cars are touting great gas mileage and environmentally-friendly features. But, in some cases, you need to look at the trade-off that supposedly “green” cars take to earn that label. In this case, it’s paying attention to ongoing research instead of a database or product label.

In the Journal of Industrial Ecology, a group of scientists published life cycle assessment research which busted a lot of green bubbles. Since they hit the market, electric vehicles (EVs) have been plugged as the environmental savior from oil and carbon emissions. When you get down to the business of actually producing EVs, things get tricky: Evidence suggests that EVs may significantly increase instances of human toxicity, freshwater toxicity and oxygen depletion, as well as depletion of scarce metals.

Nearly half of the global warming potential of an EV happens before it’s even sold. Carbon emissions from production are twice that of cars with internal combustion engines. And, after production, the question of where the electricity comes from affects an EV’s impact. If the car charges on electricity from fossil fuels or coal, charging the vehicle completely negates its environmental benefits.

The moral of the story? Just because it looks green and talks green doesn’t mean it is.

Gas

Despite being oxymoronic, eco-friendly gas—especially biofuel—is now a staple at the pump. Ethanol, an alternative fuel source the government is pouring money into, is a large part of the debate concerning cleaner fuel sources.

Is it a greenwash? The fuel economy of E10, or a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% gas, will take 3-4% off your average miles per gallon (MPG). For a 32 MPG car, that’s a 0.96-1.28 MPG loss. E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and %15 gas, will take 25-30%—or 8-9.6 MPG—off your car’s fuel economy. Of course, E85 can only be used in flexible fuel vehicles.

The question of whether or not ethanol reduces carbon emissions is heatedly debated as well. However, about 90% of gas sold in the U.S. is E10, so you might not have much of a choice.

Do Your Research

The only way to be a truly green customer is to keep an eye out for fishy tactics and fact-check everything. Take a look at some research online (it’s not as boring as it sounds). In some cases, even checking governmental or organizational decisions may be worth your while.

Environmentally-friendly product standards are filled with loose language and are often based on ongoing research. If you’re really looking to boost your green karma, arm yourself with knowledge before you buy.

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Six Ways Mobile Technology Can Give Your Business An Edge http://blog.metrofax.com/six-ways-mobile-technology-can-give-your-business-an-edge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=six-ways-mobile-technology-can-give-your-business-an-edge http://blog.metrofax.com/six-ways-mobile-technology-can-give-your-business-an-edge/#comments Fri, 05 Apr 2013 15:02:40 +0000 Jeremy Higgens http://blog.metrofax.com/?p=1213 Starbucks recently invested a reported $25 million to secure mobile payment options and it is quickly starting to pay off. Improved collaboration, better customer service, and reduced costs have made mobile technology indispensable for businesses of all sizes.

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Starbucks recently invested a reported $25 million to secure mobile payment options and it is quickly starting to pay off. Improved collaboration, better customer service, and reduced costs have made mobile technology indispensable for businesses of all sizes.

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The Dirty Underbelly of Your Sleek Electronics http://blog.metrofax.com/the-dirty-underbelly-of-your-sleek-electronics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-dirty-underbelly-of-your-sleek-electronics http://blog.metrofax.com/the-dirty-underbelly-of-your-sleek-electronics/#comments Tue, 02 Apr 2013 16:32:51 +0000 Jeremy Higgens http://blog.metrofax.com/?p=1119 For some, it may be hard to name what exactly goes into a smartphone or computers processor.The design of the best and brightest in the industry hinge on thin and easy-to-use designs that invite users to come and play. But a heavy level of sophistication is required to send a text message, load a video,

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For some, it may be hard to name what exactly goes into a smartphone or computers processor.The design of the best and brightest in the industry hinge on thin and easy-to-use designs that invite users to come and play. But a heavy level of sophistication is required to send a text message, load a video, or read a webpage’s html.

Gold, silver, copper, and palladium are all components in your cell phone. For every million cell phones recycled, the recycler can harvest 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 35,274 pounds of copper, and 33 pounds of palladium. In average 2012 market prices, that’s more than $2 million in gold, $384,000 in silver, $130,000 in copper, and $374,000 in palladium (all told, $2.89 million). That doesn’t include other metals like tin, zinc, and nickel, which can also be recycled and sold.

But they aren’t the only materials that bring your phone to life. Lead, mercury, and other heavy metals, along with various chemicals, are used in your phone and other electronics. Both lead and mercury have long been connected to neurological and kidney damage. Despite casings which make these compounds safe for everyday use, they still pose a serious threat to people and the environment.

The Dirty Underbelly of Your Sleek ElectronicsPhoto courtesy krunkwerke

The real danger of these vital electronic components is improper disposal. Most of the contaminants used in our technology are bioaccumulative, which means that it stays and builds in the environment or in a person. For all the danger they pose—not to mention waste of expensive, precious minerals—it’s a small wonder the U.S. doesn’t recycle them as religiously as paper or aluminum. Just how useful are they?

Lead is an incredibly versatile heavy metal; in electronics, it’s used in circuit boards, cathode ray tubes (CRTs), batteries, and as solder for stubborn metals. For all its usefulness, it comes with a heavy price. Inhalation or ingestion of lead can lead to anemia, nervous system damage, cardiovascular issues such as heightened blood pressure and hypertension, decreased kidney function, and reproductive problems.

Mercury, which produces light when energized, is a main component for LCD screens and the tilt switch that powers off your laptop when you close it. And while it’s a great display for our phones, mercury is exceedingly toxic. It can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through skin and accumulates in the body, damaging the kidneys and brain.

Cadmium, which is used in nickel-cadmium (NiCad) rechargeable batteries and as a corrosion protector for metals, coatings, and solar cells, is equally toxic. Cadmium sulphide can also be used in CRTs. Most exposure comes from fume or dust inhalation. Chronic contact can result in kidney, bone, and lung disease, as well as cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, reproductive, and neurological damage.

Copper-beryllium alloys are used in your cell phone and battery connections, allowing your smartphone to be the glorious, multi-function device it is. Direct contact with beryllium can irritate the eyes and skin. Inhalation will irritate the lungs, and prolonged exposure can cause lung disease.

Halogenated flame retardants (HFRs)—brominated and chlorinated—are complex chemicals added to plastics in electronics to reduce fire risk. Five brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are used extensively, although two are being phased out of regular production. Production of BFRs doubled from 2008 to 2010, but due to growing health concerns and regulations, all BFRs are being phased out in home and electronic goods.

Their replacements, chlorinated flame retardants (CFRs)—most notably chlorinated Tris or TDCPP—aren’t shaping up to be safe either. Production of CFRs went from 10,000 metric tons annually in 2008 to 53,000 metric tons in 2010.

As the names get more complex, so do the effects. Hindered neurodevelopment, diabetes, immunotoxicity, thyroid disruption and cancer, lowered fertility, cryptorchidism (failure of a boy’s testes to drop), decreased bone density, damage to DNA, and erectile dysfunction have all been connected to or associated with high levels of various HFRs. When HFR-treated products are burned, they release dioxins and furans that are associated with multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, also prostate and testicular cancers.

The Dirty Underbelly of Your Sleek Electronics_2Photo Courtesy isox4

HFRs are inhaled and ingested in our everyday lives. You don’t need to burn something to get minimal exposure to HFRs—dust on treated products can expose you. Levels of pentaBDE, a banned BFR, in U.S. citizens are reaching levels considered dangerous to animals.

And these aren’t the only ones. Zinc, yttrium, chromium, nickel, antimony trioxide, tin, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and phthalates are also frequently used in electronics. Most are recognized as probable or known carcinogens.

Aside from HFRs, the likelihood of being exposed to these substances is low. Unless you’re nearby an unsafe plant or you go out of your way to burn electronics, you’re not at risk.

The real issue with e-waste is disposal. Electronics have become so sophisticated that they’re incredibly hard to break down one by one, let alone en masse.

Awareness about the dangers of dumping e-waste is growing, which means that recycling rates are going up. In the U.S., 25 states have some kind of electronics recycling program. California’s seven-year-old program has collected more than 580,000 tons of electronic waste.

The Dirty Underbelly of Your Sleek Electronics_3(Photo Courtesy curtis palmer)

While regulation—in the U.S., at least—is sparse, the market is working on it. Pressure from environmentally-minded organizations like Greenpeace, and European Union initiatives like WEEE and RoHS, seem to have kick-started companies into green initiatives. The bonus of a green product stamp isn’t too bad either.

If you look at, say, Samsung™ and Apple® green product policies, you’ll see that they have both begun to phase out many of these heavy metals in their products. While organizations like Greenpeace have questioned some companies’ words, BFRs are being phased out of most products—you can look at Greenpeace’s green product report cards.

But as these dangerous compounds and metals move out of the market, we still have old devices to worry about. As the big e-waste problem shifts from U.S. landfills to the backyards of developing and transitioning countries today.

“Informal” recycling doesn’t really vary from place to place. For operations in Agbogbloshie, the focus is burning. It’s low tech, done out in the wasteland that used to be wetland. For Guiyu, primitive acid baths are used to collect gold, along with coal fires used to burn off plastics and collect copper. Seelampur, in New Delhi, has similar processes. The air is becoming toxic. No safe disposal measures exist for these drums full of toxic chemicals. They contaminate soil or water sources.

 

While the market is slowly developing safer products, it’s still vital to dispose of your electronics safely. You don’t know who you could be hurting by giving your electronics away to less-than honest recyclers, like the company who sent old CRTs over to Guiyu after assuring their customers e-waste was recycled in the United States. Knowing where you’re sending your e-waste is half of the battle.

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What if All Offices Went Green http://blog.metrofax.com/what-if-all-offices-went-green/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-if-all-offices-went-green http://blog.metrofax.com/what-if-all-offices-went-green/#comments Wed, 27 Mar 2013 15:56:37 +0000 Jeremy Higgens http://blog.metrofax.com/?p=1167 If a single office makes a single environmentally friendly change, it creates an impact. If all offices followed suit, the differences in emissions, waste, and even expenses would be enormous.

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If a single office makes a single environmentally friendly change, it creates an impact. If all offices followed suit, the differences in emissions, waste, and even expenses would be enormous.

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E-Waste Explosion: A Growing Concern http://blog.metrofax.com/e-waste-explosion-a-growing-concern/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=e-waste-explosion-a-growing-concern http://blog.metrofax.com/e-waste-explosion-a-growing-concern/#comments Tue, 26 Mar 2013 23:32:23 +0000 Jeremy Higgens http://blog.metrofax.com/?p=1160 In 2010, the United States disposed of some 2,439,000 tons of waste generated from electronic devices. 649,000 of these tons were recycled, while an astounding 1,790,000 were thrown in landfills or incinerated. [1] These disused electronics have come to be referred to colloquially as “E-Waste.”

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In 2010, the United States disposed of some 2,439,000 tons of waste generated from electronic devices. 649,000 of these tons were recycled, while an astounding 1,790,000 were thrown in landfills or incinerated. [1] These disused electronics have come to be referred to colloquially as “E-Waste.”

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