The UrbanBound Blog

Business Owners: It's Easy Being Green

Posted by Aria Solar on Sep 1, 2014 8:44:38 AM

Guest blog from Social Monsters

Kermit the Frog might say it isn't easy being green, but businesses of all sizes will find that it's easy for them nowadays—and it also makes good business sense. Some eco-friendly practices such as recycling and adopting green building standards are mainstream and cost very little. Many even provide savings, particularly those that focus on saving electricity and reducing costs for office supplies like paper.

Employees Support Business' Green Efforts

Employees like it when employers embrace environmentally-friendly efforts such as recycling and programs that reward them for carpooling, using public transportation, or walking or biking to work.

Green-friendly efforts strike a chord with Millennial employees (those who reached adulthood around the year 2000) in particular, according a 2014 Deloitte survey of workforce expectations. The Millennial Survey found that well over 50 percent of this generation, which dominates today's workforce, expect employers to take proactive steps such as addressing resource scarcity and global warming.

Low-Cost, No-Brainer Ways to Go Green

There are three proven environmentally-friendly strategies businesses should engage. shutterstock_118716496

     
  1. Recycling: It's hard to imagine a company that doesn't recycle but if yours is one of these, it's time for a change. Cities and counties are eager to help put recycling programs in place for paper, plastics, and aluminum cans. Companies can also turn to building management for help; those who use private firms like Waste Management will find excellent recycling programs.
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  3. Transportation subsidies: Businesses can consult with city or county transportation and/or environmental departments to get information on ride sharing, public transportation vouchers, and other programs to encourage carpooling and commuting alternatives. Some programs will even sponsor employee rewards through gift cards.
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  5. Telecommuting: If the fallout from Yahoo's decision to end telecommuting is any evidence, it's a particularly cherished benefit to many employees who value spending less time in traffic and money on gas, and having less wear and tear on their personal vehicles. In return, they work smarter and more efficiently. An August 2014 study from Stanford University measured a 13 percent increase in work quality and 25 percent increase in productivity in one telecommuting program. Corporate savings were about $2,000 per year, per employee.

Leasing or Buying Corporate Hybrid or Electric Vehicles

The ultimate step in making a green statement from a corporate point of view is using hybrid or electric cars for business purposes. Companies can check out prices for any vehicle make, model, and year through sites like Kelley Blue Book, which narrows down costs to the zip code.

Savings often come from tax credits offered by the Federal government and many states. According to Fueleconomy.gov, any new electric vehicle purchased after 2010 is eligible for a tax credit up to $7,500. Plug-in hybrids are also eligible for the same credit. Leases are a little different; businesses, but not individual consumers, can claim the tax credit. If the leasing company insists on keeping the credit, consider this a negotiation point.

Fueleconomy.gov offers a gas mileage savings calculator which can be helpful in projecting annual savings. If corporate vehicles are used for short-hauls such as to and from an airport, leasing an electric or hybrid plug-in might be a smart choice, according to AutoTrader.com, which points out that since plug-in cars are still new, their resale value is uncertain. Their gas savings, though, may be well worth the cost of the lease.

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Topics: Technology, Budgeting

Chicago Tech Scene: What You May Have Missed This Week

Posted by Kinga Skowronek on Aug 29, 2014 3:12:55 PM

Its seems like every single week Chicago is over-flowing with thrilling news on the tech scene front. This week was no different! We had everything from exciting partnerships to more tech inspired spaces and programs popping up all over town. Read on to find out what you may have missed this week in the Chicago tech scene.   

Innovation Focused Space in Fulton Market

Marc Bushala, owner of Untitled restaurant, and Morgan Manufacturing are in the process of opening a 32,000-square-foot event, meeting, and work facility geared towards Chicago startups and nurturing innovation. shutterstock_84639565(1)The space will provide a home for The Innovators Connection, a Chicago Innovation Awards program recently started to help connect large businesses with smaller, thriving startups.

“We don't consider ourselves either event space or co-working space,” said Bushala, owner of Untitled, “Our goal is to form alliances with several such organizations and to also curate our own programs that will allow NFPs, entrepreneurs, early-stage companies and capital to connect in a dynamic environment.”

Shreyas Shah, the Innovation’s Lab Chief Brand Officer, told Chicago Tribune that the Innovation lab will feature state-of-the-art audio visual equipment for tenants to use.

The space is set to open late September, and in addition will also offer 25,000-square-feet of creative and tech space. Read more in Chicago Tribune’s article “Open Soon For Business : An Innovation Focused Space in Fulton Market.”

 

Chicago’s Mobile Makers Academy Helps Chicago High Schools to Add Coding to Curriculum

This week Ronald Barba from Tech Cocktail covered the partnering between Mobile Makers Academy and two Chicago suburbs school districts in an attempt to bring software development and coding to the curricula. In his article, “Mobile Makers Academy is Putting Coding on the Curriculum in These Chicago High Schools.” he explains Barrington 220 School District and High School District 214 have joined with Mobile Makers Academy to plan programs that will allow students to take classes on coding instruction.

“Mobile Makers wanted to find a way to close the digital learning gap for students and to demystify coding…Coding is a skill that can be applied to many other parts of a student’s life. It ultimately teaches people how to solve complex problems and how to debug a solution. It’s a great creative outlet any student can immerse themselves in, and it has a great potential for real-world exposure into a booming tech industry.”

This is a fantastic opportunity for students to nurture their talents and expand their knowledge from a young age. Hopefully the program is successful and continues to spread throughout all high schools.

 

Twitter is Helping Chicago Find Food Poisoning Cases

Chicago health officials turned to Twitter to find cases of local food poisoning. In today’s day and age, the general public, especially Millennials, are more likely to complain on Twitter about ailments than make an appointment to see a doctor.

“We know that the majority of cases of foodborne outbreaks really never end up getting reported to the local health department anywhere in the country,” said Dr. Bechara Choucair told Reuters Health, “we realize the people might not pick up the phone and call the doctor, but they might go to Twitter and complain to the world that they got food poisoning from eating out.”

In Reuter’s Health article “Twitter Helps Chicago Find Sources of Food Poisoning” Choucair and his colleagues in the Chicago Health Department wondered if there was an innovative way to track food poisoning outbreaks in Chicago and that is when they came up with the idea to follow the food poisoning trail through tweets. This way they were able to determine which restaurants were causing the problem and reach out to the restaurants in question with a violations.

This is just another example of how using innovation and technology can help solve problems. Tweet your food poisoning cases to @foodbronechi.

 

Chicago-based Platform Partners With 7-Eleven

Belly, a Chicago-based customer loyalty network, that makes it easy for customers like you to earn points for rewards on repeat purchases, has announced their partnership with 7-Eleven in an effort to expand its reach. Belly announced that this partnership will put them into more than 2,000 new locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, and Vancouver

According to the Chicago Tribune article, “Belly Announces Partnership With 7-Eleven, 2,000 New Locations” the loyalty app has been downloaded by more than 3 million consumers. Belly is funded by Lightbank, a Chicago-based financial organization that specializes in venture capital.

Congrats to Belly! Another Chicago success story!

 

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Topics: Technology, Chicago

How Long Will $100 Last in Your City?

Posted by Aria Solar on Aug 28, 2014 3:13:04 PM

Imagine one day you get handed a crisp and shiny 100 dollar bill. You look at your brand new Benjamin with joy, brainstorming all the different ways you are going spend your new inheritance. You look outside your window overlooking the beautiful Utah mountain range and decide you are going to to buy a brand new skateboard (just go with it). 

It just so happens, in the name of serendipity, the exact same situation is happening over in New York City. A person is handed the exact same amount of $100, and they are also going to buy a skateboard!

Houston, we have a problem. 

The person in Utah's $100, based on national average, is actually worth $103.31. They get to buy a skateboard and a pack of gum! However, the person's $100 in New York City is actually only worth $86.66

It's a sad day for our fellow New Yorker. 

Unfortunately, this story is no longer fiction and is actually a reality. We all know that cost of living changes based on what state you are in, but it can be easy to overlook the states that are not on either end of the spectrum.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis posted data (broken down a little easier here) outlining how much $100 was really worth, depending on what state you lived in. The results are eye-opening. 

Below are a few of the results we found to be the most surprising:

Maine: $101.73 

North Dakota: $110.62USA-Illustration

South Dakota: $113.38

Alabama: $113.51

California: $88.57

Texas: 103.63

Pennsylvania: $101.32

Tennessee: $110.25

Missouri: $113.51

Oregon: $101.21

New Jersey: $87.64

(See the article referenced above for the full results)

These results prove that there is a real need to educate your transferees on what they are walking into - generalizations simply will not be accurate enough. For example, if you generalize that the coasts are generally more expensive than the Midwest, you would be wrong. Oregon, which is nested between Washington and California which both have very high costs of living, has a lower cost of living than most. 

North Dakota and South Dakota have nearly a $3 difference in cost of living, something that most people would not expect.

Minnesota, which is smack dab in the middle of a conglomerate of states where $100 has a value averaging around $110, has a value of only $102.56. 

Pennsylvania, which is considered an East Coast state and thus has the reputation of being more expensive, actually offers a higher bang for your buck, coming in at 1 dollar and 32 cents above average.  

It is important to take this into consideration when not only relocating, but when calculating salary, raises, and any monetary compensation for your employees. $100 simply does not have the same value across the United States, and this needs to be properly accommodated for!

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Topics: Relocation, Budgeting

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