Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Brush Away Those Winter Blues

Ok so there are hundreds, excuse me, thousands of self-help books, CDs, blogs, podcasts etc offering solutions to improve one’s mood. If you’re anything like me, at the onset of winter, you’re ready for a change: change of wardrobe, outdoor/indoor activities (camping, sitting by the fireplace, skiing, etc), but by January, the psychological effects of dreary skies, chilling temperatures, and short days start to take effect.


Groundhog Day with Bill Murray is
one of my all time favorite movies.
Please, let the groundhog not see his shadow this year, I want an early spring. Sound familiar? Well, there’s not much we can do to change weather patterns (pretty sure the tilt of the Earth’s axis is not about to change anytime soon) but there are some simple solutions to brighten up your everyday life even as it remains bleak outside.

COLOR plays an important, if not vital role as an environmental factor of our mood. Since I’m no interior designer (although for a bachelor, I do have color coordinated linens), below, I’ve deferred to the advice of trained professionals.

Paint is one of the least expensive and best home interior decorating techniques to bring a room to life, but before you rush out and buy your favorite paint color, you have to ask yourself one question. It is...

"What mood do I want to create in this room?" Do you want it to feel warm and cozy? Or maybe you prefer lively and cheerful?

Your answer is very important because it will determine which side of the color spectrum matches your style and personality.

Soft yellow uplifts without agitating.

Warm up. If you feel depressed, your house colors may be too cool. "If you are a person with depression issues," Pike says, "you don't want to have cool tones." For people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, for example, Pike recommends mood-enhancing warm tones such as yellows, soft reds and oranges. Energizing warm tones convey happiness. But be careful not to overdo it. Bright yellow, for example, can agitate. Look for a softer version of a strong color.

Cool shades slow the heart rate and lower body temperature.

Cool down. Are you a fast talker? If you feel antsy, your house colors may be too warm. Consider adding cool shades, such as blue and green. Cool shades slow your heart rate and lower your body temperature. "Find a blue that has its toes dipped in green," Pike suggests. "That is absolutely satisfying." And although it is a warm tone, pink is also tranquilizing, as are neutrals.

Neutrals create a restful environment.

Stay in neutral. While not the best medicine for people suffering from depression, restful neutrals are great for people who like a calm environment and who like to switch out colors in their furniture and accessories as their mood changes. Neutrals are also the best bet for those planning to sell their homes. Neutrals allow prospective homebuyers to envision themselves in a home.

Try a color before you commit.

Sample color. Before settling on a particular color, try it on your walls. Paint a large patch on the wall or on poster board and live with the color for a week. Because light changes our perception of color, the same color may look different at various times of day and in each room of the house. Most people are not afraid of color, Pike says, but of choosing the wrong color. "We all have emotional responses to color," she says, "so colors can serve as tools to help us feel better."

Eco Accents Low VOC interior latex paint by Eco-Protective Products is available in over 1200 colors. Click here for more information or email us here for ordering info.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanks for Everything

In 2007, over the Thanksgiving break from the University of Georgia, when my father approached me with the idea to utilize my International Finance and Spanish degrees to help re-brand and revitalize his paint business as an alternative to pursuing a career as an Investment Banker or Financial Analyst, I saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime. Do not be fooled, the job was not going to be easy – my father would never allow me to take the easy road. There would be no silver spoon, no coat tails with which to ride, no meetings left unattended, no sales call not made, and no abundance of sleep.

It hasn’t been a cakewalk, but three years later to the week, our business has seen growth each calendar year; our brand (Eco-Protective Products) has become recognizable to some but not overly known – still work to be done; personally, we have deepened our father-son relationship, and I have learned invaluable lessons of life and business from him and my experience along the way.

I’ve always been told that if we do not stop to appreciate that which we already possess, we can never expect to receive more. So to commemorate my three years with the family business, this is my thank you.

I am not quite sure when we, as people, develop the mental faculties to truly begin to appreciate things we have in our lives. Is it a function of maturity, age, or accumulated experience (all three similar but also very distinct)? Do we awaken to the reality of what's precious to us by chance, situational environment, or at milestones? Does it take tragedy to strip away the unnecessary fluff of the everyday, the mundane, to find the inner meaning, substance, and value in our trip around the sun?

As a regular contributor to this blog, I'll be honest to our readers; I can't say that at my age I have the all the answers - I certainly do not, and each day I realize that I’m probably not even aware of all the right questions to ask. To me, life has been [cliché] a roller coaster. As uncommon as I have perceived my experiences to be, I know that shear statistical probability means that there are hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions who have lived 25 (almost 26) years on this green and blue planet similar to my own. 

As I contemplated the subject for this post, I felt the need to expand on some profound theme, but while helping elementary school students at church make pictures depicting things for which they are thankful, I had the epiphany, and I knew what I wanted to write. 

Raised as an only child, I sometimes wonder how to define what a home is. From one perspective, home can be a fire place, laughter, accumulated sports trophies, hardship, birthday parties, troubled times, Christmas card pictures, tears, missed high-fives from over exuberance, burnt meals, treasured suppers, doggie treats, All Dogs Go to Heaven, hugs and kisses, arguments - "I'll never raise my kids like you", prayers and at times curses, broken bones, mended hearts, story time, good report cards and, at times, urgent parent-teacher conferences. Parents are super heros then they become the enemy. Home is base camp for hide and go seek, refuge from summer jobs, and the return from summer vacations. It is sneaking out at 11 and the sneaking back in at 7-- only to get caught, grounded, spanked, put into time-out - whatever punishment fit the crime. Home is ears when no one else will listen. Home is your favorite t-shirt hidden away in the attic. It’s where sleeping in my parent's bed is ok because I was scared, and it’s where Jiminy Cricket sings to me to wish upon a star. It’s taco salad night, or perhaps, it's Friday Night under the Lights in Raider Valley. It’s graduation day, an empty nest once again, but it’s where I return again four years later. 

Is that really what home is?

Home can be anywhere and anything because home is not just shelves, roof shingles, eco friendly paint (product plug), hard wood floors, GE appliances, or a drive under garage; it's not necessarily the laughter that fills the halls or the sobs of sorrow when we say goodbye; it's not sleepovers, the Super Bowl party, or the time the neighbors had one too many on Christmas Eve; it's not the flood in the basement from the Washing Machine or the subsequent one from Atlanta's storms in 2009; it's not the renovation, the landscaping, the trampoline, or countless games of  H-O-R-S-E. It’s not Super Mario, Sega Genesis, an N-64, Playstation or XBox (although thank you Santa); home certainly is not the broken coffee table (I had to break in the new baseball glove) or the broken windows (it was Brent's fault); it's not the beers you caught me drinking in high school, although that was a terrifying experience to say the least; it's not when I drove away to college or when I came home with 2 degrees; it's not the place I left when I moved to a new state, and it will not be the place I return to in one week.

These are just the symptoms and signs of a good home.

It is you, Mom and Dad, that are Home to me. No matter how far apart we may be, I can always go home by picking up my phone, or reading that Facebook post from you mom, or the encouraging email from you Dad. For 25 (almost 26) years, I have fought, loved, hated, argued with you, but this Thanksgiving, I say thank you. It is the idea of home & the love of family you instilled in me that makes me who I am.

In business and life, your brand may grow – something for which every business strives – but do not be fooled, success is not derived from the products we sell but from the people we are.

In closing, to quote a beloved American icon, Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."


Weatherization - The Key to a Comfy Winter

I know for many parts of the country, winter is already taken a firm grip 
that will not release until March, Arpil or even May for some areas. However, there is still time (even if the snow is falling high outside your door) to take minor winterization and weatherization steps to save you money this season. 

  • According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use. Start simple and adopt that old Great Depression fixture -- the draft snake, which you can easily make yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door, or make a more attractive DIY draft snake with googly eyes, felt tongues and the like. You can use any scraps of fabric -- even neckties -- and fill with sand or kitty litter for heft. Make sure drafts aren't giving your thermostat a false reading too, and read on for more advanced solutions.
  • Change furnace filters regularly (typically once per month). This will ensure your furnace runs efficiently and conserves power to keep you warm

  • Don't forget to TURN DOWN your thermostat when no one is at home or at night. For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you'll save between 1 and 3% of your heating bill. Make it easier with a programmable thermostat; they are widely available for as little as $50, and the average family will save $180 a year with one. Go one step further and ask your local utility if it's making smart meters available in your area as part of recent federal smart grid investments.
  • LOW-E window film. For a small price, you can DIY by covering your windows with a virtually invisible film that buffers air flow, keeping warm air in and frigid air out. Found at the Home Depot or any home improvement store. 
  • Update your home's insulation. Although this may seem common sense, many older homes do not have insulated ceilings, attics, and in between some walls. If you are a Georgia resident, contact Woodman Insulation and ask for Sandra Cummins.
  • Insulate pipes. Found at most hardware stores, you can get R-3 to R-7 adhesive insulation tape. Simply wrap around your pipes to reduce heat loss. 
  • The federal government will reimburse you for 30% of the cost, up to $1,500 for highly efficient insulation. Additionally, low-income households can qualify for an average of $6,500 worth of weatherization improvements to their homes through government programs administered by each state. Find out about your state's program by contacting contacting local agencies and utilities.
  • Be creative. Instead of always turning up the heat, bring the family around the fire to share stories together. Wear an extra sweater. Sleep with socks on. Anything you can do to save a little green this winter will go a long way for your wallets come spring. 

Doggie Sweaters are great.
Find some great options here.

And for multi-seasonal suggestions, here are a few.
  • First, test your home for air tightness. On a windy day, hold a lit incense stick next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other locations where there is a possible air path to the outside. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weatherstripping
  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
  • Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.
  • Install rubber gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls.
  • Look for dirty spots in your insulation, which often indicate holes where air leaks into and out of your house. You can seal the holes by stapling sheets of plastic over the holes and caulking the edges of the plastic.
  • Install storm windows over single-pane windows or replace them with double-pane windows. Storm windows as much as double the R-value of single-pane windows and they can help reduce drafts, water condensation, and frost formation. As a less costly and less permanent alternative, you can use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Remember, the plastic must be sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
  • When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed. A chimney is designed specifically for smoke to escape, so until you close it, warm air escapes—24 hours a day!
  • For new construction, reduce exterior wall leaks by either installing house wrap, taping the joints of exterior sheathing, or comprehensively caulking and sealing the exterior walls.

Have any tips of your own? Please share them with us by commenting below. Thanks.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Eco-Protective Products Opens Charleston Office

Today, Eco-Protective Products has announced the opening of a new branch office in Charleston, SC beginning November 15, 2010 in an effort to more attentively serve the Low Country residential and commercial real estate community.  Company management credits the decision to both its adherence to a long-term growth strategy of expanding market presence throughout the country and desire to a continued effort of promoting the social, economic, and environmental benefits of sustainable building practices.

Eco-Protective Products produces eco-friendly paint and coating technologies that deliver superior long-term value and outstanding performance for a wide array of architectural and industrial purposes. In recent years, the company has been involved with projects ranging from supplying Eco-Coat 1500, a ZERO VOC flooring product, to designer LEED certified Homes, installing its Energy Star Certified roofing product Eco-Cool Roof 5000 to large commercial, governmental, and military facilities, to aiding refrigerated logistics companies increase energy efficiency by up to 20%. 

CEO and President, Jim Burrell, underscores the importance of coming to Charleston by alluding to city’s Green Plan to reduce overall CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030. He adds that “buildings account for a very large percentage of energy consumption, and our products are designed to help alleviate that strain.” 

The company hopes to establish productive relationships within the real estate and building communities in Charleston and other coastal markets in the Carolinas in an effort to promote its eco-friendly, energy efficient, and superior performing paints and coatings. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More Than a Farmers' Market - A Community

I'm fairly sure I derive all
the sustenance I need for life
from my morning coffee
This past Saturday morning, I had the pleasure to spend a few hours at the Marion Square Farmers' Market in Downtown Charleston. Although I've been a resident in South Carolina's lowcountry for nearly 4 months and visiting the market has topped my To Do list, I've found convenient excuses (college football, weddings, vacation, etc) to not go.

Well by Saturday, my excuses had been fully depleted, so I poured up a cup of coffee and walked down to the market. While writing this column, I can honestly say I'm not sure what impressed me more, the array of wonderful locally grown produce, the proudly displayed crafts, the food vendors (check out this place below for delicious coffee and crawfish cheese grits), or the palpable sense of community.

Although I've had the pleasure in my life to peruse the handmade crafts and treats at markets in multiple states and on 3 continents, I was moved by the 100 booths set up in the shadows of the old Citadel more so than at all the others.

Nothing says southern cuisine like cheesy grits, crawfish,
and biscuits with red eye gravy.

My friend Sterling
& a cute puppy
Everywhere I looked, children ran about, dogs tugged at their owners’ leashes, grandparents mulled over the purchase of fresh caught fish, high school sweethearts shared homemade donuts and hot chocolate, and I could not help but stand back and absorb the moment to its fullest.  

After about an hour's worth of shuffling in and out of tents and among patrons & vendors, I found myself in the park’s center rotunda. Standing there chatting with friends, a man in his late 60's – by the looks of him – wearing a Vietnam Veteran’s baseball cap approached us. If the experience of growing up in an urban environment has taught me anything, it is to avoid these encounters, as he was likely a beggar and not a Vet. But today was different. Lightheartedness brought about by the market’s atmosphere and communal love consumed me, and so instead of avoiding him, we welcomed him into our circle.

We didn't speak of his service or of patriotism, and I could tell by his weathered face and saddened eyes that he was a man lost in this world but taking comfort in the camaraderie of the market. As my friends and I stood there with him and finished our breakfast, we listened to him speak of his children (clearly long grown up), his wife (recently passed away), and his love of Charleston and it's people.  Talk about perspective. Whether his story was story was true or not, he made me realize that despite the hardships that befall us in life, we can always find support in the communities we develop around us.  

Communities come in all sizes – large and small – and forms – intimate or purely social.  We have our immediate family, our co-workers, fellow worshipers, coffee shop acquaintances, customers, long-time friends or just our 'facebook' friends, and folks who are complete strangers with the exception of our shared interests.

And this is what I took away from the farmer's market Saturday: although I left empty handed, without a print to hang in my office, organic soaps to fill Christmas stockings, or local produce to cook up for this weekend’s progressive dinner in my building, I didn't leave empty hearted. I spent 4 hours mingling with people that had come together to celebrate our community and the simple pleasure of being around one another on a Saturday morning.

For both vendors and customers, the Marion Square farmers' market is more than locally grown food and handmade products. In a town that is already uniquely social, the market has created a greater sense of community. 

November is a month to celebrate the things for which we are thankful. Although I try to make my posts relevant to issues concerning sustainability and green construction, this post was my way of saying thanks to my community. Thank you for welcoming me so whole-heartedly. Sustainability may be a vehicle for a cleaner, healthier planet, but it is the people and communities that comprise Mother Earth that truly make her worth protecting. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Green Economy: Political Mandates or Free-Market Innovations

I think it's easy to dovetail from our last post – Overcoming Adversity – into this one. Adversity, which can come in a variety of forms and faces, although not easy, can be overcome by anyone, any organization willing to put forth the effort to persevere.
Monitoring the mood of many of my colleagues in the world of Sustainability, Green Building, and Environmentally Friendly products and solutions from a social media vantage point (product plug: TweetDeck is amazing - simplifies the whole social media process), it's abundantly clear that the election has deflated the hopes of many to see comprehensive climate legislation make it through Congress. Some view this as not only a hurdle for the global Environment but on a more personal level, they see the viability and future of their businesses facing a tougher road ahead.
However, I think quite the opposite. The GOP will stand against Cap and Trade and other government mandated climate regulations, but that doesn't have to stymie innovation and product implementation. Despite its best and sometimes misguided efforts, the Government has never led the way (in this and other Capitalist nations) in innovation; the free market has always risen to the challenge to meet the needs of society and the consumers who comprise it.
And this is my message to all businesses – traditional or “green”: if you're operating in a downward economy, a less favorable political climate, or with declining sales [etc.], use that adversity as an opportunity to either improve the value that your product or service provides the end-user, revamp your corporate image, retool your marketing strategy, etc.

The Statue of Liberty: Edward Moran
  1. Hyatt
  2. Burger King
  3. International House of Pancakes
  4. The Jim Henson Company
  5. LexisNexis
  6. FedEx
  7. Microsoft
  8. CNN
  9. MTV Networks
  10. Trader Joe's
  11. Wikipedia
  12. Sports Illustrated
  13. General Electric
  14. Hewlett Packard

Regardless the function of a product, if it can cost-effectively satisfy a need, and is clearly and intelligently marketed, then there is no need for Governmental interference and the free market will prevail.
On the other hand, if you find that you’ve have poured hours of R & D and marketing into a product without much Demand, don’t necessarily give up. A) use that experience to ensure that the same mistake[selling unwanted products] doesn’t happen again & b) table that project, for there may be a need for your product in the future.
In closing, I want to mention that regardless of political affiliation (hippies to tea-partiers), geographic location (Jacksonville to San Francisco) or generation (Sponge Bob to Jimmy Stewart), we are all embracing ways to help preserve our environment. Look how far we’ve progressed in the last decade – technology has brought us cars that produce water vapor as waste; the internet provides instant connectivity to all corners of the planet; and there are countless other innovations that would make this list exhaustive and boring to read. You get the picture, I hope. Imagine where we'll be 10 years from today. Here? McFly?
And although government has had a voice in the evolution of these technologies, it has been the brilliance of individuals and the freedom they are provided in a free-enterprise system to innovate and in turn receive value for that innovation.
Remember, as we used to quote William Johnson at camp growing up in North Georgia, “If it is to be, it is up to me”.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Adversity or Opportunity?

At Eco-Protective Products, we try to promote a corporate culture that encourages outdoor activity and time away from work to focus on the needs of the individuals that comprise our company. Not only do I feel great inspiration when out in nature, but I really believe wholeheartedly that our lives become exponentially more interconnected/wired-in each passing day, and it is nourishing for the mind, body, and soul to untether ourselves regularly from whatever network (Twitter, Facebook, work, kids, etc) that drain our energies. In today’s tough economic environment, it is especially important that we recharge our batteries in order to better handle and ultimately overcome the adverse conditions that are ever-present in our personal, professional, and social lives.

While on a run this weekend, I couldn’t help but contemplate times in my own life that I’ve had to endure adversity –sometimes so great that finding the will to go on was an arduous task in and of itself– but, as evidenced by my writing of this column, I was able to endure, survive, and prosper.

Adversity can come in many forms, many of which are relevant to at least someone you know and it can really effect your business, but here are some ways to turn adversity into opportunity to take your business, career, or personal life from good to great.

Ways to Overcome Adversity & Obstacles

1. Sell Your Vision –

According to Lyve Alexis Pleshette, a writer about small and women owned businesses it is imperative to go on the offensive in periods of downward economic times. In other words, those who are persistent, prevail.

“'A leader must be a dealer in hope,' Confucius wrote. Those who can illuminate the darkness are experts at restoring people’s faith in the future, especially the faith of talented people who have run into brick walls. Even if you’re the only person running your business, you have customers and clients, vendors and sub-contractors who need to see your vision. The golden core of leadership is the ability to raise aspirations. Transition is an ideal time to do so. Our intrepid adventurers are unflagging optimists. In many respects, this special species of leaders is 'delusional,' according to veteran executive coach Marshall Goldsmith. 'They are not as good as they think they are, but they have the confidence to pursue big things.' So tune out the cynics and second-guessers who say you can’t beat the odds. Don’t let pouting pessimists rob you from pursuing—and capturing—your dreams."

Read more: Strategies to Overcome Adversity

You don't have to be a modern day Shakespeare to blog.
Provide your readers/customers easy to follow information
relevant to their lives. It's a great informal way to make
a meaningful, personal connection. 
2. Blogging -

According to Lorna Li (an online marketer who specializes in green marketing and writes about green marketing, social enterprise, social media and personal branding in her own blog), green and sustainable business owners shouldn't "count on Obama's stimulus plan to help your green business survive the economic downturn. With a tough economy and increased online competition, your green business needs a blog to be competitive. Blogging is the least expensive way to market, as it is just a fraction of the cost of television or print advertising, and most importantly, in can drive lasting traffic, if done correctly.

3. Look inward

Although Eco-Protective Products’ business model may differ from other businesses, what makes us successful or unsuccessful is no different from the business of a lemonade stand to a multinational conglomerate. In this economy, there are many places to point a finger: the economy, the housing bubble, too much regulation or too little, green washing, poor financing, and so on and so forth.

Adversity allows us to peel back 
the fluff and get to the core 
of our business.
However bad the situation may be, some businesses will gain strength, market share, and brand power through these times, and others will shutter their doors. And I think we all should take this opportunity to look within ourselves and our organizations to make improvements, whether it be discovering new talents from our employees, returning to our core competencies, reaching out & listening to our clients, or encouraging an open dialogue with the stakeholders of our companies. Blaming situational conditions does  little more than afford us an excuse when we allow adversity to  precipitate failure instead recognizing it as the opportunity to lay the foundation for future success.

Share with us what inspires you to overcome adversity. Not a subscriber to our Newsletter, do so here.

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