Monday, August 30, 2010

Eco-Monday: Green Up Your Daily Habit

The simple act of drinking your daily cup of coffee or tea can remind us of the many daily steps we can take to green up our lives. Choose organic tea over conventionally grown crops, for instance. Or bring your own reusable mug to your favorite café for that de riguer cup on the way to the office.

There are even more ways to better your caffeine habit? You could, for instance, choose shade-grown, organic, Fair Trade, or Rainforest Alliance coffee, says Julie Craves, founder of, a comprehensive website on all things conservation and coffee. Some of the same options exist for tea. This quick primer will help you get a head start on your road to sustainable imbibing.

Shade-grown coffee: Coffee is grown on a large scale in clear-cut, sunny fields, but a clear-cut forest means far less habitat for birds that make rainforest canopies their home. Both the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Research Center and the Rainforest Alliance have put together a certification process that allows you to choose coffee grown in conditions that do better by the environment. You can take a look at the Smithsonian’s certification process here, and get a better look at the nuances of shade-grown coffee here.

Socially responsible coffee and tea: Choose Fair Trade. This model, which also ensures a fair price for farmers it partners with, is an international agreement that currently covers 20 existing Fair Trade marks. For more information about Fair Trade labels, check with the Fairtrade Labeling Organization. Or go local. We love our La Colombe coffee here at The Hub.

The Rainforest Alliance: Arguably one of the oldest organizations to step into monitoring the coffee and tea industries, RA also has one of its successes: they’ve paired with Unilever, makers of Lipton Tea, to certify all of its tea plantations worldwide by 2015. RA also certifies coffee—its label on a pound of your favorite brew covers both environmental and working considerations. You can learn more about RA’s certification process here.

To buy sustainable coffee and tea, look for any of the labels mentioned above. You can also look for tea and coffee at your local grocery store from Equal Exchange, a nationwide distributor that works with only organic farms on a fair-trade basis.

*Portions of this article were originally printed in A Fresh Squeeze. (c) Yi Shun Lai, 2007.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hub Day: Continuing Education Continues to Make You Smarter

We're serious fans of continuing education, whether it be degree-based or just because you want to be the best you can possibly be.
Towards that end, we're working with Penn State Great Valley to make it easy for working professionals to forward their careers with certification or continuing education in several different fields.
Our kickoff event, in June, was just the beginning of a great relationship that will bring great classes in project management, business writing, and presentation skills to busy professionals. All classes will be held at The Hub's Cira Centre location.

Stephanie Koch, The Hub's business development manager, says that a continuing education system is first on the list of our goals for the coming years. She notes that over 60,000 come through the Hub's doors every year. "These people might all be able to gain from continuing education. The idea is to create a Hub educational experience," she says.
That kind of vision is something we know we share with every higher education institution. Why not experience your higher education in style?
For more information on the Penn State Greater Valley continuing education classes, click here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hub Day: Superfoods!

...What's that, you say? What is that peculiar sound? It's you, falling asleep on your desk just before your two o'clock meeting.
We know. It happens to us a lot. We used to fix the problem with a steadily percolating pot of coffee.
But then we figured that standing around jittery all the time was probably just as bad as falling asleep in meetings, so we went for another option, one that we think visitors to The Hub like just as much as we do: Our Superfood Shelf.

(Norma Jean, one of our key salespeople, tests out our most recent addition)

What *is* that, you want to know? We like to think of it as a little afternoon rejuvenation, a little pep up for your taste buds, and a better way for you to maintain good energy through the day. We stock our Superfood Shelf with all kinds of goodies: dried nuts and fruit, dark chocolate, and some other goodies, like yogurt-covered berries, that make sure we're happy and energized for the afternoon slump.
What's on your Superfood Shelf? We think every office should have one, but then again, we're biased.
Web MD's terrific list of Superfoods is here: Go on, stock up!

Monday, August 16, 2010

EcoMonday: Wind Energy

The other day we told some friends of ours that The Hub's policy is to buy wind energy credits to offset our traditional energy usage.

There was an awkward joke about paying for hot air, and then we had to sit down and tell them exactly what wind energy credits are, and how we use them.

First, how does wind energy work? Most electricity is generated by turbines, which are powered by steam, which is created by burning fossil fuels, or nuclear energy. Wind energy eliminates the fossil fuel or nuclear part of that equation, substituting wind for fossil fuel or nuclear energy.

Second, how is the wind turned into energy? There are several wind farms around the world, which allows the production not only of electricity, which can be purchased outright by municipalities neighboring the wind farm.

Third, what does it mean that we purchase wind energy credits? The energy produced at the wind farm can also be purchased in the form of Renewable Energy Credits, or RECs. Each REC accounts for 1000 Kwh worth of energy. Essentially, The Hub offsets all of the electricity that we do use by putting our earnings and monies behind wind energy.

It's true. We are paying for a bunch of hot air. But in this case, it's a good thing.

(Other methods of clean energy include solar energy and wave energy.)

For measure, an average American residential customer consumes about 800 Kwh per month.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hub Day: A Light Bulb Goes Off Over Our Heads

Every once in awhile, we like to let you into our house. Today, we welcome you to the Edison Room, named for Thomas Edison, natch.
Bright colors! Nuts and bolts! Directional signs! (Some pointing in conflicting directions, but that's okay!) What does it all mean? And why did we go this route?
The answer is Edison himself. Nearly all of his inventions had to do with communication: The carbon microphone he invented was in use in telephones until the mid-1980s, and his phonograph put him on the map. His Kinetoscope allowed people to watch short films, and although he didn't invent the telegraph, his vast improvements to it made for far better communication, and allegedly netted Edison himself a $10,000 advance from Western Union. Edison is so ingrained in the public consciousness that everyone thinks he invented the lightbulb, when really, he just made vast improvements to it.

And the whole electricity thing? Well, Edison's invention, Direct Current, or DC, is much less efficient than Nikola Tesla's Alternating Current (AC), but that didn't stop Edison from waging full-out war on AC, painting its higher voltage capacity as a surefire method of accidents and death.
So why name a room after such a polarizing figure? We know that Edison's a risky choice, and we think that's the reason we chose him. Let's break it down:
  • Communications: As a young telegraph operator, Edison knew the value of human communications, and leveraged that.
  • Competition: Although Edison may not have always played fair, he kept well abreast of his competitors and businessfolk who might well be in need of his inventions. He and Henry Ford were friends to the end.
  • Sheer grit: Edison was rumored to have said that an experiment that failed 10,000 times it did not discourage him, because it brought him closer to a solution.
  • Controversy: You can't please everyone. Edison knew that.
  • Improvements as inventions: Edison didn't invent the lightbulb, but he made it so much better: as it was, the existing bulb may have petered out of existence if not for Edison's work.
We love our Edison room: It's colorful and efficient, and we like its urban aesthetics, a nod to the time and effort Edison put into modernizing some of the nation's most important cities. But we also love it for its contrast: opposite of the color and exposed piping in our Edison room, you'll also find a soothing view of Philadelphia, from high above the city.
Who are your role models? Tell us in the comments below.

Monday, August 9, 2010

EcoMonday: Water, water...nowhere?

We just heard a nasty report from the Natural Resources Defense Council that says that more than a third of all counties in the U.S. face higher risks of water shortage by the year 2050.
Well, that's really not good. But the good news is, 2050 is a little way away. And we can all do a little something to conserve.
At every Hub facility, we've installed water-conserving plumbing that allows us to save almost 100,000 gallons a year of water that would otherwise go down the drain.
We use things like variable-flush toilets that allow us to choose whether we want a big flush or a little flush.

The lowly toilet can be a noble ally when you're looking to save water.

Not all of us can re-install the plumbing in our homes to be more efficient, or even get all new toilets. You can be better about your water usage at home and in smaller offices by placing a brick or a gallon jug filled with water into the tank of your toilet: That will change the amount of water normally needed to flush the toilet, and your tank will be more efficient.

You can also get a low-flow showerhead. Traditional showerheads will fill a gallon container of water in about 10 seconds. You want a showerhead that delivers good pressure at the rate of 2.4 gallons per minute (it'll take about 25 seconds to fill a gallon container). With a good showerhead, you won't notice the difference.

In other areas of your home, you can make simple adjustments like not running the tap while you do the dishes, or decreasing your use of the in-sink erator. Outside in the garden, you can use rainwater to water your plants, and set out a container for collecting water that you can use to water your plants later.
What are your favorite tips for conserving water at home or in the office?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hub Day: The Power of Play

At The Hub, we love to play. Or maybe that should be, Wii love to play.
Okay, rotten puns aside, we just got a Wii installed in our Cira Centre location, and boy, are we thrilled.
It seems our clients, are too. Although The Hub is already a pretty friendly place to be, we knew that there's more to great ambiance than just cool music (we favor classic rock) and comfy chairs. There's a real sense of joy to our offices, and since we're all for creative solutions, well, we bought a Wii. And now, instead of just classic rock, you might hear the melodic bip-boop! of a Wii tennis ball being lobbed across the net, or the rattle of a bowling ball as it gutters.
What's the point? We bought it because we're firm believers in the value of play. Peter Chun, our director of operations, calls it our coffee replacement, and likens it to taking a quick walk during lunchtime, or any other time you might feel slow and slumped. It's true--a little brisk activity definitely gets the blood moving, and that's always a good thing.
We'd rather be playing WiiSports at The Hub.

The National Institute of Play has another take on it. On its web site, researchers cite a study in which enrichment (or play) greatly stimulated the area of the brain that serves the highest cognitive function. More obviously stated, it just means that the brain that gets the most play also performs the best, comes up with the most creative solutions, and gets the most exercise.
Other studies have looked at the fact that productivity and play are inextricably linked. They talk about how rough-and-tumble play helps develop a sense of fair play, and how physical play and movement help you to really know yourself and how you'll react to specific circumstances.
Finally, we know for a fact that a little playtime can defuse even the worst situations.
We're not claiming that our Wii will solve everyone's work problems, but we have noticed our clients walking out of their meetings looking crestfallen and tired, going two sets with the Wii, and looking as if they feel much better for it.
Pretty good results. We think we'll keep the Wii.
This article lists ten good reasons that we're going to keep our latest office tool. Go forth and read, and then come on over and play with our Wii.

Monday, August 2, 2010

EcoMonday: Lights, conservation, action!

We had a bright idea back when we first started. Let's dispense with the standard lightbulbs.

We did, too. We use energy-efficient CFL, or compact fluorescent lights at our Hub locations.

We do it for a couple of reasons.
  • CFLs use 30-60 percent of energy when compared to standard incandescent lights
  • The smaller amount of energy used means less heat output
  • The longer lifetime of these bulbs (8 to 15 times that of incandescent bulbs) means we'll be using fewer lightbulbs
  • Cost savings over the lifetime of a CFL bulb as compared to incandescent bulbs is significant. (The EPA estimates that an Energy Star bulb will pay for itself within about six months.)
So yeah, for all these reasons, we made the switch. But then we realized we could take it a step further. So we began to look at light in a more holistic fashion. Specifically, we built our facilities to make the best use possible of natural lighting. And then we took into account the way that natural light works: Too much of it during the summer, and conference and meeting rooms get hot, and your employees get sweaty--not good for productivity. Too little of it, and people get gloomy.
So in each of our meeting rooms, we have translucent shades that we lower or raise, to keep the temperature moderated and our clients and staff happy.
We also make sure to keep all of our light fixtures and lamps clean, so that each lamp and light works to its best.
Finally, each room has individually controlled lights. When we know a room is going to be out of use for more than 15 minutes, we turn off the lights. It's written into our policy to do so.
And all of our lights are dimmable, so that we can adjust according to how much natural light is needed--or is already coming into the room.
Every single one of these steps has contributed to a healthy office. What's the one thing you'd change about your office to make it a better place to work?