Sustainable Business Spotlight: Keeper Sacks


Company: Keeper Sacks | Products: Reusable food bags and covers

Keeper Sacks is the creation of Kristine Lebow, the mother of two children, who found a fashionable and sustainable solution to an everyday problem.

Keeper Sacks is the creation of Kristine Lebow.

The idea is elegant as it is simple – design attractive replacements to green our habit of using plastic to cover food. The result is a colorful snack bag that’s processed and shipped with recycled materials.

Kristine has a love of the environment and runs her company looking for ways to make it more sustainable. Keeper Sacks reuses boxes from neighboring businesses, keeps paperless records, and is constantly looking for new ways to reduce waste and consumption.

A large aspect of her company’s sustainability is that all of her products are made in the U.S. She also insists on using U.S. made materials because, as she puts it –

“Being a sustainable business is only possible if the materials used and the people making them come from close to where you live.”

After forming in October 2009, her company has developed four operating guidelines that are integral to her core sustainable business practices:

  • Design layouts must use 95 – 98 % of fabric to optimize material usage
  • Use 100% domestic materials and labor
  • Reuse existing shipping cartons whenever possible
  • Ship products efficiently to reduce materials and cost

Focusing on the problem of plastics in the environment is a big concern. Globally we generate 300 million tons of plastic waste each year. American used an estimated 380 billion sandwich bags in 2008 alone.

According to Lisa Kaas Boyle, co-founder and Director of Legal Policy for the Plastic Pollution Coalition, disposable plastics compose the largest percentage of all ocean pollution.

Keeper Sacks bowl cover.

After being laid off, Ms. Lebow, a former swimsuit designer at Jantzen Inc. and Reebok Swimwear took her daughter’s advice to start her own business. Having seen a similar product on the shelves, she thought her mommy could do better. And she did.

Keeper Sacks’ line of reusable bowl and plate covers are made of ripstop nylon and are machine and dishwasher safe.  One sustainable aspect of all Keeper Sacks products is that they are well made and use a minimum of resources and energy to produce. When the consumer gets hundreds or thousands of uses out of it, as opposed to just one, their environmental impact is greatly minimized.

Ms. Lebow cleverly pursued New Seasons Market, a local health food store in her hometown of Portland, Oregon to carry her Keeper Sacks. They had similar products as hers, but were open to carrying another brand and were impressed by her designs and commitment to sustainability. Sales took off and they have been a huge supporter ever since.

By building her brand locally, she has cultivated strong sales from people living in her community and from neighboring cities.

Her current efforts are focused on expanding distribution to stores beyond the Pacific Northwest. If you would like to see Keeper Sacks sold where you live, make your suggestion to a supermarket or kitchen supply store near you today.

Suggested Reading:

Plastic Waste: More Dangerous than Global Warming
Plastic Bags – Whole Foods Pledges to Stop Using Plastic Bags

Reusable Bags – Why do you choose to carry, or not carry, reusable shopping…

What’s in a Shopping Bag? – The Environment for Kids

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Soil Composting – Sustainable Means Local


Compost Bin

What does it take to build your own rich, organic soil and do it sustainably?

Many of you have heard of composting or may even have a bin out in the garden. But, is this system meeting your needs or do you find yourself making runs to the local garden store for a few bags of soil? Chances are that these bags came from many hundreds of miles away. A more sustainable system would be to make use of a local composting facility. That is, if there is one near you.

If you live in or near Sonoma, than consider yourself lucky. Sonoma Compost operates the Organic Recycling Program on behalf of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency. They accept yard trimmings and vegetative food discards that are placed in curbside containers by local residents. Yard trimmings are also delivered directly to their site by landscapers, tree trimmers and the public.

Sonoma Compost’s program has already reduced 1,200,000 tons of yard and wood debris, then converted it into organic compost, mulch, recycled lumber, firewood and bio-fuel.Compost Bins

If you don’t have a composting facility in your area, here’s what can individuals do to produce sustainable, organic soil in their backyards or community gardens.

Backyard Compost Bins: Composting is nature’s own way of recycling and helps to keep the high volume of organic material out of landfills and turns it into a useful product. On-site composting reduces the cost of hauling materials and is generally exempted from solid waste regulations. Large scale facilities can handle more material and potentially produce a more consistent product.

Bokashi: This system relies on fermentation to decompose the matter rather than putrefaction, so no offensive odor is produced. In about 10 days, you can bury the nutrient-rich matter in the garden or empty the Bokashi kitchen compost bucket into your compost pile to help improve physical, chemical and biological environments in the soil.

Worm Bins: Vermiculture, or worm composting, allows you to compost your food waste rapidly, while producing high quality compost and fertilizing liquid. Best of all, it’s self-contained and nearly odorless.

The concept of a city run composting facility may not seem sustainable; especially if you consider that trucks burn fossil fuel to haul their loads through neighborhoods, causing air pollution, traffic and more wear and tear on the roads. Then, individuals make separate trips from the suburbs to the local composting center transporting soil back to their homes. The inefficiency of this system is obvious but, may be a means to an end.

I believe that the benefits to having a city-run composing program would outweigh the downside of having none at all. Once a program is up and running, people can utilize the service to enrich their backyard gardens, urban farmers would benefit greatly and there’s the benefit of a reduction in the volume of organic waste going to the landfill.

The following improvements could make this centralized composting system more sustainable:

1. Upgrade the trucks to bio-diesel or other renewables,
2. Encourage community involvement in home composting systems,
3. Run composting workshops,
4. Work with local entrepreneurs to start small, community-based composting stations in their neighborhoods.

To some, it might not seem that difficult to divert your organic waste to a compost bucket to your backyard, but many perceive it to be too time-consuming. There’s also a cultural barrier connected with the formation of soil: some perceive it to be dirty and smelly. Strangely though, many people also view composting as a socially-responsible effort rather than a common sense one, since they do not use the resulting soil in a garden.

With a little effort and a change in behavior, you could be producing many cubic feet of rich, organic compost in your very back yard. The qualitative benefits include a more abundant and productive garden for you and your family. This equates to better health and nutrition. Quantitatively, you are helping to divert from landfill, more than 25 percent your household’s waste and food scraps. In 1996, The Composting Council analyzed backyard composting programs and concluded that the average household in the study composted an average of 646 pounds per year, which amounted to more than 12 pounds every week.

Your family, your community and your tomatoes will thank you for it.

Can Bottled Water Be Sustainable?


If a bottled water could be sustainable, what would it look like? How would it’s production, distribution and disposal be any different from the bottled water industry’s vulgar plundering practices of today?

To investigate these questions one must look at the four areas water companies would need to change in order for their products to be considered sustainable. Let’s start with the health impacts of bottled water.

Claims of Purity

Eco Island bottles claim to generate 45% less energy, 49% less fossil fuels and emits 75% less greenhouse gases than other brands.

The misconception, evidenced by enormously expensive media advertising budgets, is that today’s bottled water is natural and healthy to drink. Nothing could be further from the truth. See, Tapped: The Movie.

According to a four-year scientific study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, over a third of the tested brands contain contaminants such as arsenic and carcinogenic compounds. This study of 103 different brands encompassing over 1,000 bottles showed that one-third of the water in these bottles exceeded state or industry safety standards.

Let’s take a closer look at Bisphenol-A (BPA), the actual stuff that is used to make all those hard, clear plastic bottles. This molecule acts at very low doses as an estrogen. But, when the human body gets to very high dosages, BPA blocks the male sex hormone, testosterone.

BPA is everywhere. Americans are likely to be exposed to BPA at higher levels than previously thought. Studies show the chemical is found in more than 90 percent of people in the United States. The chemical compound mimics hormones important to human development, according to new research. Hormones are essential during development and can determine, among other things, a child’s gender. BPA, since it mimics estrogen, is an “endocrine disruptor.”

So, if BPA is all around us than how much is too much?

The EPA shows that taking up to 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight each day is acceptable. However, a new study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, suggests that we are exposed to at least eight times that amount every day.

If bottled water were to be sustainable, it certainly could not cause harm to those who drink, produce, distribute or manufacture it.

Water “Footprinting”

Your water footprint calculator by http://www.waterfootprint.org

The idea of water footprinting came from the concept of carbon footprinting. Water Footprinting is used as an impact indicator based on the total volume of direct and indirect freshwater used in producing a good or service. The difference is, that unlike carbon in the atmosphere, fresh water resources are localized, not global.

The water footprint has become a growing issue worldwide.  Numerous organizations and initiatives addressing it include the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Water Footprint Network, and the Life Cycle Initiative jointly led by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

With all the interest in water footprinting, the Beverage Industry has taken action. In 2010, they formed the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER), a working group to evaluate and address the increasing global efforts to develop water footprinting methodologies, particularly as they apply to the beverage sector.

Of course, when 518 liters of freshwater are required to produce just one liter of Minute Maid orange juice, and 35 liters are needed to produce a half liter of Coca-Cola, the beverage industry has become a target of environmental repudiation.

The folks over at Treehugger did a sustainability calculation on the water impact to produce a bottle of Fiji mineral water. Sustainability Engineer and MBA Pablo Päster’s research shows that the water needed to make the bottle is more than it actually holds.

To mitigate the unsustainable water usage that has become standard practice, the water industry must employ state-of-the-art water reduction strategies, if they are to produce bottled water sustainably.

Achieving Transportation Efficiencies Through Co-Location

A large portion of the energy used in the production of water bottles is used in transportation. Because of the industry’s practice of using large, centralized distribution centers, enormous quantities of fossil fuels are used to transport bottled water to the end consumer.

One solution to this distribution model is to create a system of smaller, localized, co-location facilities. These facilities represent a shift in thinking for business as usual decision makers. As the costs of transportation increase, driven in large part by the rising cost of oil, pressure on the transportation side of the equation will force a change in the bottled water industry.

The savings in transportation costs, from establishing smaller, community-based facilities don’t tell the whole story. The opportunities for community involvement, such as donating their product to local charities, could also improve the consumer’s perception of the company and the product. Public visibility, combined with community involvement, is often rewarded with ‘sticky’ customers – ones that remain loyal to a brand.

Regardless of the measures taken to reduce the transportation costs for bottled water, there will always be a less expensive distribution method – plain old filtered tap water.

Recycling and Light-Weighting Bottles

Upcycled plastic water bottles become incredible art bowls.

For years the difficulty of recycling used water bottles has been a central argument against the use of bottled water. The volume-to-weight ratio is very high, making the cost of transportation more than the recyclable material is worth.

The inherent inefficiencies and environmental impacts of producing single-use containers, made entirely from a non-renewable resource plagues the bottled water industry. Even when more efficient bottle design accounts for reductions in the material used per container, the ultimate solution is still out of reach.

Keeping this in mind, is sustainable bottled water even possible? We sure hope it is.

Sales of bottled water have tripled in the past 10 years, with Americans drinking $4 billion worth a year. An astounding third of the public consumes it on a regularly basis. And this trend shows no signs of letting up.

The demand from consumers for portable water containers is driving this market ever higher. Bottled water represents the brightest sector of the beverage industry’s selection of products, hands down. Year-over-year, the bottled water sector continues to grow at a whopping 12% a year, even during our current recession.

The conclusion is unavoidable and somewhat counter intuitive. In order to achieve lower environmental impacts related to bottled water, an innovative and sustainable approach is needed. The opportunity for entrepreneurs to enter this field is enormous. Possible solutions could include bottling from local water sources, in reusable and non-toxic containers, and then transported to consumers in their own watershed.

However the market for bottled water evolves, the consumer demand is strong and so is the need for a brand new, sustainable solution.

Related Articles:

Sustainability 2.0


Not so long ago, all corporations needed do to be considered sustainable, was to recycle, print documents double-sided and replace some old lights with energy efficient bulbs. This is simply not true anymore. Many of the large corporations have realized the potential for streamlining their operations by implementing best sustainable practices. Systems of production are being viewed not only as what can be done to conserve resources but, also how that equates to a more profitable business model.

This shift in thinking marks a new era in sustainability or what some are calling, Sustainability 2.0. Just as we saw the Internet evolve in the the beginning of the last decade toward e-commerce, social networking and exponential growth in mobile devices like the iPhone and the iPad, we are seeing sustainability evolve in the business world – the second generation of sustainability.

What’s driving this new interpretation is a better understanding in the business community of how sustainability can give them a competitive advantage. Corporations are concerned with how their businesses will function in a future where energy prices will undoubtedly rise, resources will be scarce and climate change will favor those who prepare in advance. They must compete effectively in this new business environment or risk being outdone by their competitors.

Ecomagination initiative by General Electric.

How is this new concept of sustainability different from the previous one? First, there is a deeper understanding of what sustainability means. Whereas the first iteration was quickly deemed, “green-washing” by the media (and for good reason), this iteration is about conceptualizing the larger picture. Corporations are now using sustainability strategies to strengthen their business’s future prospects while also having a positive impact on society.

The initial efforts by corporations were meager and the goal was to publicize their actions in the hope of being seen as a “green” company. DuPont (DU), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Exxon are among those that jumped on the opportunity to cloak themselves in an eco-disguise. In May of 2005 General Electric announced its $90 million “Ecomagination” advertising campaign, only to be deemed by many as a green-washing campaign.

But, by 2009 GE had embraced authentic sustainable practices with their signature programs, healthymagination, Developing Health Globally™ and Developing Futures™. They each represent a $130-million commitment to making a lasting impact in the communities where employees work and live.

A key component of Sustainability 2.0 is viewing employees as a “secret weapon”. Giving employees a way to be part of these strategies and goals gets them involved with a vision of the future. Employees know their jobs and their products better than anyone else, so they’re ideally suited to recognizing ways to make them more sustainable. Good examples of companies that are harnessing the hidden power of their employees are eBay’s green team and 3M’s Pollution Prevention Pays Program.

Companies today are also reaching out to their customers in a brand new way. They are creating two-way conversations between the company and its stakeholders by leveraging the power of the Internet and social networking platforms like Yelp, Twitter and FaceBook, not possible even 10 years ago. This conversation opens up the decision making process to include the consumer in how their products are created, and even the process by which they are created.

By involving customers in their sustainability strategies the consumer becomes empowered. They feel that they are being heard and can affect change at the corporate level. It also gives the executives better information on what is important to the people who buy their products – a win-win-win.

For some American corporations, sustainability has even become “business as usual”. With no hint of greenwahsing, L’Oréal has set ambitious goals for 2015: a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emission, waste and water consumption per finished product. Their fair trade policy and commitment to local communities has been fully integrated into their business decision making process. L’Oréal exemplifies what it means for a company to embrace sustainability throughout it’s business model.

Take a look at the major corporations today and you’ll see that they have a new breed of executive in their ranks – the Corporate Sustainability Officer or CSO. The core function of this individual is to see that sustainability is fully integrated with every aspect of how a business operates. They implement cost cutting strategies on operations that can include the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for offices and production facilities.

Gone are the days where only the vanguards of corporate environmentalism such as Patagonia, REI and the like are embracing

Patagonia top made with 80% merino wool from farmers in Australia who practice sustainable land management and 20% chlorine-free, recycled polyester.

sustainable business practices. Even the mega corporations are getting  involved, because they have more to loose and even more to gain.

Wal-Mart, the undisputed king of all mega corporations, has tipped the playing field by introducing the “sustainability index“. According to Wal-Mart’s own website, this initiative hopes to “create a more transparent supply chain, accelerate the adoption of best practices and drive product innovation and ultimately provide their customers with information they need to assess products’ sustainability.”

This, from a company that buys nearly all of its products from China and has single-handedly wiped out mom and pop shops since its inception? In fact, a closer look reveals that Wal-Mart compels their suppliers to jump on the sustainability bandwagon long before they do. Wal-Mart has also helped establish the Sustainability Consortium to drive metrics for measuring the environmental impacts of consumer products across their life-cycle. Kudos, right?

That’s the question; now that the very corporations environmentalists have loved to hate for so many years, have begun greening themselves, are they all bad?

The answer remains to be seen, but the future is certain. Corporations will need to compete with one another in an uncertain future of diminishing resources, rising energy prices and increasing environmental regulation. The truly sustainable organizations will undoubtedly have the upper hand.

Stand by as Sustainability 2.0 takes hold and corporations either embrace it and thrive or greenwash and perish.

Biodiesel Saves Money and Environment


VW Beetle powered by biodiesel. http://www.bio-beetle.com

If you want to drive more sustainably you’re probably thinking hybrid, right? Think again.

Biodiesels give a big bang to your green buck, when compared to the hybrids now on the market. Just compare today’s price of regular gas to that of waste vegetable oil, which is nearly free.

Should you choose to go the biodiesel route running on pure vegetable oil, here are some basics to get you on your way to a fossil fuel-free lifestyle.

Benefits to Biodiesel

The benefits to Biodiesel, according to the Department of Energy’s renewable energy office;

  • Inexpensive to run
  • Nontoxic and biodegradable
  • Reduces dependence on foreign oil
  • Cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions
  • Oxygenated fuel (burns more completely than other fossil-based products)

If you are still on board with converting to a biodiesel/SVO lifestyle then you’ll want to follow these 5 steps;

Step 1 – Diesel vs. Biodiesel vs. Vegetable Oil

The term ‘biodiesel’ refers to a mix of two fuels; commercially produced petrodiesel and biodiesel. The combination is referred to as the “B factor”, which is used to denote the percentage of biodiesel contained within a petrol/bio mix. For example, biodiesel rated “B5,” “B20,” or “B100” contains 5 percent, 20 percent, and 100 percent biodiesel respectively. While many diesel cars and trucks can run on any blend of biodiesel, these percentages are important because some newer diesel engines have problems running on pure biodiesel (B100) for extended periods of time.

Used vegetable oil from french fryer is cleaner source of WVO.

A lot of people are running diesels on straight vegetable oil (SVO) right now, today, with no problems. In fact, as fuel prices rise, many people have been buying bulk veggie oil right off the shelves, for about a third less than diesel fuel cost at the pumps.

Tip: look for used fry oil from french fries.
It tends to be cleaner and easier to filter than other types.

Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) is just that, vegetable oil that has been used and is on its way to the waste stream. Your local restaurant is a good source for acquiring WVO. One suggestion is to create arrangements with a few businesses in your area to secure a rotating supply. Don’t panic if you can’t secure a solid source right off though. Unless you want to run on pure SVO, you can still use petrodiesel or even biodiesel in the meantime.

Step 2: Get a Diesel Car

The first challenge on your path will be finding the car you want to convert.  Diesel vehicles fell out of vogue for automakers during the 90’s despite their potential for higher efficiency than petroleum-based combustion engines. Finding a newer used car may take you some time and effort, if you want to go the conversion kit route. The good news is that major automakers are beginning to add diesel models to their offerings.

Waste Vegetable Oil Sanitary Filtration System

Biodiesel conversions kits are not necessary unless you are situated in a place with extreme cold weather or your car is a pre-1994 model.

If you fall into one of these two categories, like any other large purchase, it’s advisable to hit up online biodiesel communities before rushing out to make a purchase. You will want to shop around and talk to existing owners of converted cars. This is crucial for two reasons: First, prices for equipment and labor can vary greatly. Second, it’s likely there’s a specific kit that works best with the make and model car you’ve chosen.

I highly recommend that you connect with your local biodiesel community for this step. Good sources for conversion kit info can be found at greasecar.com and frybrid.com.

Step 4: Choose Your Install Method

You can perform the conversion yourself if you’re the mechanically inclined type.

In this case you’ll basically be modifying your car with three components;

  1. SVO Fuel Tank – a separate tank to hold your veggie oil;
  2. Hose/Seal Overhaul – older cars are notorious for breaking down after prolonged exposure to heated SVO;
  3. Fuel System and Heating System – SVO must be preheated before pumping it into the fuel system

If you want to hire a mechanic then you’ll will want to refer to your local biodiesel community for recommendations.

Step 5: Filter The Used SVO and Fill the Tank

Simple waste vegetable oil filtering system

With a WVO supply and a converted vehicle, you just need to purify your vegetable oil before filling the tank. The simplest of the many filtration methods is to heat the oil in a large metal container and then pour it through a series of cheap household filters. The ultimate goal is to remove any visible leftover food particles and debris before fueling your tank.

For more information on conversion kits and running a SVO biodiesel vehicle see:

http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Convert_a_Car_to_Biodiesel
http://www.solarliving.org/visit-us/biodiesel/
http://biodieselconversion.net/biodieselconversion

Enjoy your new fossil fuel free lifestyle!

Is $4 Per Gallon Gas Here To Stay?


One link swept past my Twitter account recently, “What High Gas Prices Mean for Renewable Energy“. After reading, I got to thinking about why this latest spike in gasoline prices at the pump feels different.

As Christopher Steiner states in his book, $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better, we, as a society will adapt to this inevitable rise in the price of gas with modifications in our behavior and technological innovations. It won’t be all doom and gloom as some predict. Mostly, the change will benefit us in the long run.

So, what is different this time around? Have we adapted to the recent spikes in gas prices or are we changing our belief system of our vision for an oil-dependent world?

Some adapt by buying a hybrid, like a Prius, to take the sting out of higher prices at the pump. Recently, in Mill Valley, California I saw a staggering 5 Priuses (Prii?) converging into one intersection!

For most of the population, buying a new, high-priced hybrid is out of reach. Americans are keeping their old cars running longer and holding off on new car purchases. This trend puts downward pressure on gas efficiency in the aggregate as older cars stay on the roads longer.

American’s Adapt By Driving Less – A Lot Less

The result of multiple factors such as the slow economy, unemployment and increased telecommuting mean that we are driving far less than anyone had predicted.

In January, 2011, according to statistics compiled by the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove a collective 222 billion miles or 727 miles traveled for every man, woman, and child in the country. But, in 2008, Americans averaged 757 miles per person.

We are seeing a steady decline in how much people are driving. January 2009 marked the fifteenth consecutive month in which the average American drove less than they had a year earlier.

Much of this trend in lower miles driven is due to the recession, lowered economic activity and high unemployment. But, the question of whether this trend will continue when the economy recovers still remains.

Will This Trend Continue?

There’s reason to believe that the average American will continue to drive less than they have historically (Paul Volcker, among others, endorses this idea.)

Have we adapted our lifestyle initially to save money, only to realize that we are happier spending less time in our cars? There could be many reasons contributing to our decreased time behind the wheel including more people telecommuting for one.

Whatever the reasons, the net effect points to our ability to adapt our lifestyles to meet changing societal conditions. This ability bodes well for us as the price of oil is sure to rise (as predicted by Steiner, et al).

Ways To Decrease Gas Usage and Save Money

  • Check your tire air pressure weekly and keep at recommended levels
  • Plan your errands before you leave the house. Combine together and make a loop for efficiency
  • Drive more efficiently by employing Hypermiling techniques, i.e. avoid fast breaking and accelerating
  • Turn off air conditioning when possible
  • Reduce weight by taking unnecessary items out of your car
  • Leave early – this gives you more time so you can drive slower and more efficiently
  • Begin carpooling or join a ride-share
  • Bike instead of drive to get where you’re going

This is only a short list of ways to save on your gas bill. Buying a more fuel efficient automobile is obviously a great idea if you have the funds. Some people make life changing decisions like moving closer to their work or vice versa.

If the average miles driven per person/per week is 240, at $4.00 per gallon, getting 30 miles to the gallon, the average amount spent on gas would be $96/month. If you have more than one driver in your household, get worse gas mileage or drive more than the average, your bill could be much higher. Now imagine gas at $6, $8 or even $12 a gallon! Think of how your driving habits might shift or change completely.

Gas prices are thought by many experts to be going higher in the near future. Based on my findings, I agree. Employing these tips can save you significant cash over the course of the year, while improving the environment.

Let It Bee: Raising Honey Bees for Fun and Profit


   Raising Honey Bees For Fun And Profit

Beekeeping can be a fun hobby or even a thriving small business for those with little or no knowledge of bees. The startup costs are low – the average hive is approximately $300 and you only need one to get started.

Once you have purchased a hive it can be kept in a remote corner of your back yard. Nowadays we commonly see suburban homes with a bee hives compared to just 10 years ago. Some like to have a consistent source of local honey for themselves and for trade. Others see a potential revenue stream that is local, sustainable and fun to do.

“Egyptians called honey a “gift from the gods”.

Your local Cooperative Extension office will tell you if the area you live has any beekeeping restrictions. You will also get contact numbers of your states beekeeping organization where you can register as a beekeeper.

Bee Keeping Basics

Choosing the location for your hive is an important step. This may be on your property in a unused portion of your garden or with a local farmer or land owner. Note: Always ask permission before setting up your bee hive. See Your Home’s Most Underused Resource – The Roof.

Once you have selected a site for your beehive you will need to go about acquiring the equipment needed to successfully maintain a beehive. Some of the equipment you will need can be purchased used on EBay. If you are unable to find the equipment you need on EBay there are several on-line sites where you can purchase equipment. If you need further assistance finding and purchasing a beehive and other beekeeping equipment call your local Cooperative Extension office or the Federation of American Beekeepers.

Before acquiring bees for your hive it’s important to make sure about your protection – this means you have to purchase beekeepers gear.

Bee Keeping Gear

So once your bee hive is already in place and you are confident that everything is in working order it’s time to order your honey bees. An established Apiary is one of the places to order honey bees. Your order should be placed in winter, the average beekeeper orders their bees in January and February. March and April is the usual time of shipment Most Apiary’s ship their bees through the U.S. postal service. Once the bees have arrived you will be called by your carrier and ask that you pick up the bees. Many mail carriers are not comfortable driving all over the county with a car full of young angry bees in their car and most bees are healthier if they don’t have to spend several hours in a hot car.

When you pick up your bees they should have been packaged in a special carrying case that is designed just for bees. This package will be a wooden framed “house” that has a screen covering the outside. This packaging allows air to circulate to the traveling bees and keeps handlers, such as post office employees, from getting stung.

When you get your bees, you’ll probably find a few dead bees laying in the bottom of the package. This is a normal part of shipping and is no reason for concern.

You will notice that one bee in the container has been separated from the rest of the hive. This is your queen bee. The rest of the bees in the container will make up the rest of your bee hives hierarchy. Some apiaries ship the queen with a couple of nurse bees. The top of the queen’s container will be covered with piece of sugar candy.

You should also see a container that is filled with a sugar solution. The bees feed on the sugar solution while they are traveling. You should then offer your bees a drink. You do this by taking a spray bottle and covering the container with a very fine misting of water.

Honey is a food source for bees where they store the excess in anticipation of days when outside food sources are scarce. This excess honey can be collected by the beekeeper for personal or business use.

Keep in mind that when outside nectar sources are scarce, bees will require more honey to survive, limiting the amount beekeepers are able to harvest. If beekeepers are interested in collecting consistently bigger quantities of honey they will need to do one of two things. Either increase the size of and number of colonies or provide a bee food supplement during seasonal changes or difficult periods in the local climate or ecology.

Liquid and Comb Honey

There are two types of honey that for-profit beekeepers can sell; liquid honey and comb honey.

The liquid form is extracted from the hive by utilizing a centrifuge with little physical effort. Selling pieces of the comb is also a profitable means of earning income from beekeeping. Many individuals prefer this kind of honey’s natural flavor in spite of its less convenient form.

Honey comes in a variety of colors and flavors. The flavor of honey is significantly influenced by the nectar bees collect. Other factors such as the soil composition, varieties of floral plans, and the general weather conditions in your geographical region will all influence the flavor of the honey produced by the hive.

The color of the honey is also affected by the plants honey bees obtain nectar from. For instance, alfalfa nectar produces honey ranging from clear to white, while honey resulting from the bee’s harvesting nectar from buckwheat tends to be significantly darker. Honey can be found in clear, white, gold, brown, red and even greenish hues. The quality of the honey combs constructed by bees can also affect both the color and flavor of the honey.

If you would like to distinguish your honey, you can influence the flavor, color and sugar content by planting specific varieties of flowers and plants nearby. To see a complete list of various honey types, go to www.honeyo.com/.

If beekeepers are processing and packaging honey for profit, it is important to research, learn and follow all state and federal regulations associated with food. Beekeeping for profit is a business like any other and local governmental guidelines can vary so you will need to do your homework and ensure that you are meeting all of the appropriate general business and food specific laws and regulations.

Beekeeping is an activity that anyone can undertake as it requires minimal land. Men, women, elderly and youth can participate!

Benefits to Bee Keeping

  • It takes minimal time and effort in a season, therefore allowing for normal work-a-day activities to carry on. It has relatively low technology requirements!
  • It is a low investment activity which requires only bee hives, bee suits and a few simple tools. Beekeeping basics are easy to master!
  • Bees pollinate the indigenous flora, adding value to wild harvested fruits, nuts and economic trees and plants as well as 1/3rd to any food production through targeted pollination!
  • Beekeeping projects can be linked with many other production projects to bolster participant numbers and income generation!
  • Beekeeping provides employment and self-esteem, there is opportunity for quick return on investment, and minimal land requirements!
  • Honey is a valuable non-wood forest product thus contributing to the preservation of forests around the world!
  • Honey is a commodity that can be traded internationally as well as locally or regionally without special consideration as to storage or loss!
  • Honey is a high value product with a stable and lucrative supply versus demand economy. Honey is very portable as well!
  • Honey and its by-products have many healthy benefits for the consumer and are lucrative trade commodities in value addition form!
  • Most honeybee products can be consumed as food, dietary supplements or used as medicine. And bee products have a long shelf life and are a valuable food source!


See this short video on the Principals of Beekeeping : Beekeeping Equipment to get started today.

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