Wednesday, March 19, 2008

United We Can

George Metrakos of United We CanToday I went to see George Metrakos, the executive director of United We Can. His organization is well known on the downtown east side for all sorts of programs to assist people in the area who are challenged with numerous obstacles. He operates a bicycle repair shop, a computer shop, a house plant rescue center, and one of the busiest Encorp Recycling Centers in Vancouver. The goal at United We Can is to create jobs and skills for those who want to have an opportunity to get clean and a reason to get up and show up.

I came across George because of a fantastic new program he has started. Its called UBU, short for Urban Binning Unit. What is an UBU? Its a mobile cart custom designed to collect recyclable containers. He works with "Binners", people who make a living collecting recyclable containers from trash bins, and turns it into a reputable business opportunity to connect the Binner and corporate customers. He has taken digging in trash cans and using shopping carts into a sustainable, modern, eco friendly, business opportunity.

Here's how it all works. All a "Binner" needs to do is show up at United We Can's office in the morning and sign out a UBU cart. George will give them a route of predetermined companies who have stored recycled containers for a scheduled pick up. The Binner will then walk or attach the UBU to their bicycle and make their rounds collecting throughout the downtown area and as far away as Broadway. When their UBU is full, they return to the United We Can recycling depot and sort their cargo. Each UBU Binner is dressed in a sharp uniform and visibly shows a ID badge identifying himself.

Each Binner can make money from the recycling refunds, and as well, United We Can pays the Binners by the hour. It was a great project to see in action and a very clever way to connect the downtown east side with the corporate side of Vancouver. The SFU Psychology class has been so impressed with the project that each day one or two students accompany the UBU collectors on their routes to assist and immerse themselves in the lives and stories of the Binners.

It seems a natural fit for Costless Express to support George and the UBU project. We sell over 3,000,000 recycled containers per year and a portion are delivered to downtown customers in George's area. I thought we could help set up some customers to have scheduled UBU pick ups. I will continue to work with George to roll out the program from the current 10 UBU's to a target of over 40 UBUs.

Great work George, and all the staff at United We Can!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

EcoTrust Workshop

Calvin & Darrin show their handiworkYesterday Darrin and myself attended our first of three workshops hosted by EcoTrust Canada. The course is three months long, and we meet once each month to learn how to measure our carbon footprint and reduce our footprint.

Surprisingly, there were only 10 companies in the workshop. But in the end the smaller group worked well, as we all had tons of questions. The EcoTrust staff was well prepared, with a fast paced agenda, a catered lunch, and a guest speaker from the past workshop - King Pacific Lodge. We all rolled up our sleeves and immediately began drawing out our own company's "Emissions Scope Map". From there, we learned what Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions were, and what emissions were directly controllable by our company. As you see, we were not the greatest artists.

the Costless Express Emissions Scope MapWe left with homework on measuring our carbon emissions, and we are to collect the data and enter it into the EcoTrust calculator to determine the amount of tons of CO2 our company is emitting per year.

Over the next month we will look at our trucks, gas and electricity, and even how our staff commute to work. Darrin and I both felt the workshop was well done, and we look forward to the challenge of measuring our footprint.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Green Living Show

The Green Living ShowToday is the last day of the Vancouver Green Living Show.

The Green Living Show is Vancouver's premier consumer show dedicated to all things green.
Information...Innovation....Inspiration...everything you need to green up your life is right here, under one roof!

It was a last minute decision for us to have a booth in the show. Kudos to our staff for pulling together on such short notice. Our booth theme focused on 100% recycled copy paper. We had over 40 paper boxes at the show and every single one came back empty. We sold a single ream for $5.00, and 3 reams for $10.00. Our booth was very popular, as people commented having a tough time locating quality 100% recycled paper. Our paper is also Green-E Certified, which means the actual mill the paper is made runs on clean energy. Something that did not go unnoticed on the crowds.

Save a Tree! Use 100% Recycled paperIn our booth we also showcased some of our over 2500 recycled office supplies, cleaning products and janitorial paper supplies. I had several new potential customers comment that they were specifically at the show looking for a single source supplier who had recycled products. All in all the show was a bit long, spread out over three full days so the crowds were fairly soft in the evenings but the quality of attendees was exceptional, well educated and environmentally conscious.

Sometimes it's quality not quantity, and that was the case for Vancouver's first Green Living Show.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Christmas in March!

Time for our Staff Christmas Party!

Calvin at the Christmas Party

Today was a busy day, juggling the Green Living Show and our annual staff Christmas Party. We traditionally have our Christmas party in late February for a few reasons. First, we decided there are too many parties and people are too busy in December. Second, February does not have a stat holiday, and can be quite the dreary month. Finally, our suppliers usually are able to donate better prizes for our staff games in February. Most suppliers are flooded with prize requests at Christmas from their customers. Our staff loves the timing of our party and looks forward to it every year.

I wanted to tell you about our yearly "IRON MAN AWARDS" we have during the staff party. Here is how it works. Any staff member who does not call in sick once for the full year wins Ironman! The prize is a plaque and $100.00. Any staff who can make it two years in a row receive $200.00 and if they go three or more it jumps to $400!

I was pleased to hand out 5 Ironman Awards tonight. Two were for $400!

The party was full games with memorable prizes like helicopter flights, airline flights, golf bags, kitchen appliances, movie tickets and the always present golf balls and golf shirts.

Special thanks to our staff for juggling time between the Green Living Show and preparing the party. Well done and very memorable! All I can take credit for is paying the bill.