Clean Technologies

Social Media as Social Currency: Selling Through Social Influencing

Saturday, February 8, 2014 by

A 5 Step Guide to Inside – Out Influencer Social Media Marketing

Social influencing is the ability to influence behavior through your social & digital networks. A strong ability to influence your social network equals high social currency net worth, which doesn’t just translate into a high number of followers and engagements, rather it is of direct financial impact on your company’s bottom line and potential for long term success.  

Purchasing power is in the hands of people, and business is no longer B2B or B2C, rather business is S2S – soul to soul. Success in business is dependent on personal relationships. 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family*.

As the communication gab between brands and consumers have largely disappeared, and consumers can get access to any information about your company, and reviews on how other’s, whom they trust, experience shopping with you, your customers go social to find out about you, before they buy. And, they do not go to your website. They go to the key influencers talking about your business.

Social technologies offer effective & efficient ways to increase & engage your network both locally and globally, and it is of great value to most businesses to find the key to building social currency.  So, how do you crack this code to become a trustworthy social influencer?

Passion

Get beneath what you do & sell, and into the core of why you do what you do. Draw your audience towards you with your contagious passion for why you do what you do. If you are only focused on what you sell, the communication and connection with your audience will be too superficial to build social influencer standing.

If you grow and sell tea, then share all about why you are passionate about tea – perhaps it’s the fine flavor variations in tea from specific regions of the world; perhaps it’s the health benefits of herbal & green teas, or perhaps it’s the beauty of tea ceremony and the tradition of tea & slow living.  

Purpose

People are hungry for meaning & connection with other people, and purpose is a strong motivator in attracting a community of like-minded people, who share your values and can help bring your purpose-driven cause and business to life. Give your audience a way to connect and be part of your purpose. If you talk about a product on your company Facebook page, drive the context back to your purpose. Why is it that sharing this product with your followers is important. If the answer is ‘to sell more product’ you are not digging deep enough. Underneath the desire to sell more lies your true purpose.

Give

When you give from an authentic place - considering what the person in front of you needs or feels inspired about; because without a manipulating & self-serving hidden motive, we connect with people on a deeper level. If you keep this behavior consistent over time, you develop trust and loyalty with your audience & community. And, that’s what you need – people, who are loyal to you, who come back again and again, and, who also act as your ambassadors telling their friends about you. They will start doing this on their own, when you clear your attachment to a particular outcome and give to them from a clean place.

Trust

Trust is build over time, and is based on your consistent trustworthy behavior through all the touch-points between you and the people, who encounters your business – both internally & externally. This includes your website, all your social media profiles, any marketing materials, products, packaging, displays, written words, visual communication, how employees are treated – and most importantly, the behavior of everyone on your team, and how you and your team act in your local community and in the world at large. People buy from people they trust.

Evaluate your business on the below Trust Equation, so you can determine the current standing of your company’s trust building ability. From here you can create actionable efforts to increase the areas of weakness.

Credibility:  Your expertise as shared with your audiences. How knowledgeable are you in your field? Does your audiences see you as a credible expert? Do they listen to you?

Reliability:  Are you being consistent in frequency, tone of voice and visual feel in all touch-points? Do you follow through on delivering what you promise – every time?

Intimacy:  Your ability to make someone feel comfortable in opening up and being themselves with you.

Self-Orientation:  Where is your focus? The more you focus on the other, the more trustworthy you come across. If you are too self-oriented, you come across as low in trustworthiness.*

Plan

Random acts of social media do not work. If your goal is to increase your social influencer status, then you need to create a plan. But, before you plan, work through each of the above stages, and do your work. Observe yourself, your brand, your employees and all your communication touch-points thoroughly. Be honest with yourself. Identify your weaknesses, and create an action plan to improve these areas. Continue to observe, and fine tune behaviors again and over time. I recommend that you see this process of becoming better as a playful process of imperfection. There is no final perfection, but rather, this is a lifelong process of finetunement.

 

* Sources:

Nielsen: Global research study April 10, 2012

Jeff Bullas: The 10 Big Social Media Marketing Trends in 2014. Jan, 2014

Social Media Today: Is Self-Orientation Killing Your Trustworthiness by Charles Green

Top photo credit: marketingtango.com

 

 

Sandja Brügmann is founding partner & chief creative strategist at Refresh Agency, a specialized communications agency driving leadership transformation, international business, public relations and social media focused on the sustainable and social business lifestyle markets in the USA and Europe.

Refresh Agency service businesses on the leading edge of the sustainability and social-good areas globally including ITO EN, Matcha LOVE, Nisolo Shoes, Clementine Art, Sustainia, GoodBelly, Addis Creson (Better Place, Kashi), Chocolove, Neve Designs, Spier and TEDxCopenhagen spanning from Boulder, CO, New York, NY, Tokyo, Japan, Copenhagen, Denmark to Cape Town, South Africa.

Sandja was born and raised in sustainability-minded Denmark. A grounded island girl, who grew up on the beautiful island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. She is a certified yoga instructor, a Danish National Team Archery champion and former Olympic hopeful, a Dean’s Scholar at University of Colorado in Boulder, and she adores her daily lessons as a parent.

 

 

 

 

Six Reasons Why I Love the Green Festival

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 by

Green FestivalWhen the organizers of the Washington, DC Green Festival approached me this past spring about becoming their regional director,  I wondered if an event like this still resonated with consumers. Even though the event is widely recognized as the nation’s premier sustainability event, I asked myself if there was enough demand for an actual event in today’s age of virtual this, "there’s an app for that” and hash tags becoming part of our ever day lexicon.  Especially in a sector where green events have come and gone. Well, I found out that the resounding answer is YES! If my experience in September is any indication, while technology may have taken on a prominent place in our daily lives, there is absolutely a place in consumers’ lives for good, old fashioned face-to-face events.  We crave community and in-person interaction now more than ever. Technology hasn’t lessened the demand for this type of interaction. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  It has increased.  People want to talk with others, gather information and look someone in the eye while doing it.  They want to touch and try out products, taste samples and see for themselves what resources are available to them.  Most importantly they want to be part of a like-minded community and participate in that community.

As my colleagues working on the San Francisco Green Festival gear up for the last event of the year November 9 & 10 at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center, it seems like a good time to  reflect on some of my favorite elements of the Green Festival.

1.       At its core the Green Festival message is about celebrating what is working in the community and providing consumers easy-to-use, actionable solutions they can take home with them and implement right away. Whether it be delicious vegetarian recipes from  Washington Post Food Editor Joe Yonan’s new book ‘Eat Your Vegetables’  to DIY ways to repurpose furniture courtesy of Habitat for Humanity, to tips on bike commuting, composting, gardening, energy efficiency and so much more, there truly is something for everyone.  Kids too.

2.       The opportunity to connect with and learn from inspirational businesses, organizations, nonprofits and other like-minded individuals who believe in making a difference, leaving our planet in better shape then we inherited and finding ways to live an eco-friendly life.  The Festival routinely features well-known, national change agents like Ralph Nader or Amy Goodman, as well as locally-based leaders like Bernadine Prince, co-founder and co-executive director of FRESHFARM Markets, yoga teacher Faith Hunter of Embrace DC, who lead free yoga classes all weekend long in the Yoga Pavilion  and Fashion Fights Poverty, which curated a green fashion show .

3.       The event talks the talk and walks the walk.  Organizers actively encourage attendees to bike or take alternative transportation to reach the Green Festival. Anyone who bikes to the Festival receives free admittance.  Over 90% of waste generated by the Festival is diverted from landfills. There is even have a dedicated team of volunteers who sort through the trash making sure nothing is missed.

4.       As consumers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from, who prepared it and how it was made, that evolution has been reflected in the programming at the Festival. Food as a topic was addressed from every angle imaginable from the control of food production by a handful of large companies, to vegan baking tips from ‘Cupcake Wars’ veteran Doron Petersan, to growing gardens and food in small spaces, to leading area farmers markets and nonprofits showcasing how they are making it easier for consumers to have access to fresh, healthy and local foods.  Exhibitors offered healthful options for mom’s and mom’s to be, fair trade chocolates, juicing and smoothies, raw foods, and organic products just to name a few.  There were panels on how food creates opportunities for conversation about the environment and more.  Food is such an integral part in allowing us to live full lives, and there is so much going on behind the scenes that the average consumer has no idea about, so it’s important to provide opportunities to entertain, educate and inspire change all under one roof.

5.       The creativity and diversity of the exhibitors and sponsors.  They ranged from larger companies like Ford Motor Company test driving their fuel efficient vehicles and Equal Exchange Fair Trade Chocolates sampling and selling their tasty chocolates to small mom and pops like Karmlades selling environmental friendly cleaning products that smell wonderful and clean naturally without chemicals. I fell in love with one-of-kind scarves from a local clothing designer that were designed in the DC area and made with bamboo, an eco-friendly and super soft material.  Other exhibitors whose creativity caught my eye included a woman who used old scarves, jackets and other materials to make home goods, including a pillow made out of a World War II Army uniform, as well as the exhibitor who made bags, wallets and iPad covers out of old football and basketballs. Talk about reusing and recycling!

6.       Organizers are committed to reaching out to the community and making the event accessible to everyone. Complimentary tickets to the event are handed out at events throughout the area, can often be found online and through special social media promotions.

I think the most powerful take away for me was that there continues to be a thriving community, whether they be consumers, speakers, businesses or nonprofit organizations, who are devoted and committed to creating change.  To steal an oft quoted phrase from Ghandi, the Green Festival gives me hope that we will be the change we want to see in the world.

Hope to see you at the San Francisco Green Festival!

Sweden green rocks

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 by

One of my dreams has been to live in a sustainable self-sufficient house buried in pristine nature. A house with low energy consumption, low service costs, simple maintenance, no connection to municipal drains or district heating, gray water and human waste recycling. Simply, a house with a minimal impact on the environment - in its construction, running and end-life. Does that sound surreal?

Well, it is not. Sweden is where green dreams come true. When I saw their houses, I immediately fell in love with its simple design and complex environmental consciousness. 

EcoCycleDesign, however, goes beyond building new housing. They take the challenge of greening your current construction.

In Sweden, sustainability has a long history. Although dependent on heavy industry like forestry and metals, especially aluminum, Sweden was one of the first countries in the world to develop solutions that were environmentally friendly. Somewhere back in the fifties and sixties.

Lars Ling, the Chief Executive of CleanTech Region, who represents those progressive companies, would tell you that “since the early nineties, the nation has run an aggressive campaign to reduce the damage caused by climate change, and its adoption of green technologies is considered exemplary. Among others, Sweden can claim one of the largest ethanol-powered bus fleets in the world. It’s a world- leader in the conversion of waste into power – dozens of municipalities now produce biogas from sewage. And rather than wringing their hands over pollution from road vehicles, successive governments have set an example to ordinary motorists by mandating that nearly all publicly-owned vehicles are ‘flexible-fuelled’ and insisting that petrol stations offer at least one type of biofuel.”

If you look for some inspirations yourself, don't miss this crispy green online magazine - Green Solutions from Sweden

Ah, have I mentioned you can touch and feel the Swedish sustainable designs? There are trips organized to the CleanTech Region, so you may want to check those too.

 

From Growth Capitalism to Sustainable Capitalism: The Next 20 years of Sustainable Investing

Monday, December 3, 2012 by

By Joe Keefe, President and CEO, Pax World Management  (From the special 20th Anniversary issue of the GreenMoney Journal and www.GreenMoney.com )

Twenty years from now, we will have either successfully transitioned from our current economic growth paradigm to a new model of Sustainable Capitalism or we will be suffering the calamitous consequences of our failure to do so. Likewise, sustainable investing will either remain a niche strategy or it will have supplanted mainstream investing. This is the critical point we must embrace: sustainable investing can no longer simply present itself as an alternative to traditional investment approaches that ignore environmental, social and governance (ESG) imperatives; it cannot simply be for some people; it must actually triumph over and displace traditional investing.  

The current model of global capitalism - call it growth capitalism - is premised upon perpetual economic growth that must ultimately invade all accessible habitat and consume all available resources.[Footnote 1] Growth capitalism must eventually collapse, and is in fact collapsing, for the simple reason that a finite planet cannot sustain infinite growth. Moreover, the dislocations associated with this infinite growth paradigm and its incipient demise - climate change, rising inequality and extreme poverty, resource scarcity (including food and water shortages), habitat loss and species extinctions, ever more frequent financial crises, to name just a few - will increasingly bedevil global policy makers in the years ahead. The public sector is already experiencing a high degree of dysfunction associated with its inability to confront a defining feature of this system: the need for perpetual growth in consumption spurs a corresponding growth in public and private debt to fuel that consumption, which has roiled financial markets and sovereign finances across the globe. 

Meanwhile, the environmental fallout from this infinite growth paradigm is becoming acute. All of earth’s natural systems – air, water, minerals, oil, forests and rainforests, soil, wetlands, fisheries, coral reefs, the oceans themselves – are in serious decline. Climate change is just one symptom. “The problem is the delusion that we can have infinite quantitative economic growth, that we can keep having more and more stuff, on a finite planet.”[FN 2] The problem is an economic system that makes no distinction between capital investments that destroy the environment, or worsen public health, or exacerbate economic inequality, and those that are aligned with earth’s natural systems while promoting the general welfare. Under growth capitalism, a dollar of output is a dollar of output, regardless of its side effects; short-term profit is valued regardless of the long-term consequences or externalities. 

It is therefore discouraging that, in the U.S. at least, there is no serious discussion in mainstream policy circles about alternatives to the present system. Nor do I think there will be for some time given our current political/cultural drift. Political and economic elites, and the public itself, remain committed to growth capitalism, accustomed to “having more and more stuff,” for a host of economic, social and psychological reasons. As Jeremy Grantham has written, “[t]he problems of compounding growth in the face of finite resources are not easily understood by optimistic, short-term-oriented, and relatively innumerate humans (especially the political variety).”[FN 3] Our campaign finance system, wherein policy makers are essentially bought off by and incentivized to advance the very interests that stand to profit most from the current system, is no help. Making matters worse, large segments of the public do not even accept what science teaches us about climate change, or natural systems, or evolution, or a host of other pressing realities. The late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. Today, it seems that a growing number of people, aided and abetted by special interests that stand to benefit from public ignorance, are increasingly opting for their own “facts.”

So, neither the public sector nor corporate and economic elites, as a result of some newfound enlightenment, seem poised to consider alternatives to the current system. To the contrary, their first impulse will be to resist any such efforts. This is the critical problem at the moment: while there is an array of powerful forces aligned against the type of sweeping, systemic change that is needed, there is no organized constituency for it. There are individuals and groups who support this or that reform, or who are focused on critical pieces of the larger puzzle (e.g., climate change, sustainable food & agriculture, gender equality, sustainable investing), but there is no movement, no political party or leader, no policy agenda to connect the dots.

That is a shame because there is a clear alternative to growth capitalism that has been articulated in recent years by a diverse body of economists, ecologists, scientists and other leading thinkers - including leaders in the sustainable investment community.[FN 4]

Although there is as of yet no unified theory or common language, let alone any sort of organized movement to speak of, what has emerged is essentially a unified vision, and that vision might best be described as Sustainable Capitalism.[FN 5]

Sustainable Capitalism may be thought of as a market system where the quality of output replaces the quantity of output as the measure of economic well-being. Sustainable Capitalism “explicitly integrates environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into strategy, the measurement of outputs and the assessment of both risks and opportunities…. encourages us to generate financial returns in a long-term and responsible manner, and calls for internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing.”[FN 6] Essentially, business corporations and markets alter their focus from maximizing short-term profit to maximizing long-term value, and long-term value expressly includes the societal benefits associated with or derived from economic activity. The connections between economic output and ecological/societal health are no longer obscured but are expressly linked.[FN 7]

There is no question that growth capitalism must give way to Sustainable Capitalism. It’s as simple, and as urgent, as that. Over the next 20 years, the sustainable investing industry must play a pivotal leadership role in ushering in this historic transformation. We will need to connect the dots and catalyze the movement. Why us? For the simple reason that finance is where the battle must be joined. It is the financial system that determines how and where capital is invested, what is valued and not valued, priced and not priced. The sustainable investment community’s role is vital because the fundamental struggle is between a long-term perspective that fully integrates ESG factors into economic and investment decisions and our current paradigm which is increasingly organized around short-term trading gains as the primary driver of capital investment and economic growth regardless of consequences/externalities.

The notion that sustainable investing can simply keep to its current trajectory - a few more assets under management here, a few more successful shareholder resolutions there, a few more GRI reports issued, another UN conference, an occasional victory at the SEC - and achieve what needs to be achieved on the scale required is, frankly, untenable. We need to be more ambitious in our agenda.

We will also need to take a more critical stance, not only advocating for ESG integration but against economic and investment approaches that ignore ESG concerns. We will need to consistently critique the notion that externalities associated with economic output are somehow collateral, or that financial return is sufficient without beneficial societal returns, or that markets are inherently efficient and self-correcting. We will need to unabashedly offer sustainable investing not as an alternative approach but as a better approach - as the only sensible, responsible way to invest.

I believe the sustainable investing industry will also need to align itself with a more explicit public policy agenda - while remaining non-partisan - and work with like-minded reformers to advocate for that agenda. For example, sustainable investors should be sounding the alarm about resource scarcity and advocating for a massive public/private investment plan in clean energy, efficiency technologies and modernized infrastructure.[FN 8] The age of resource scarcity and the need for efficiency solutions is upon us.[FN 9] At Pax World, we offer a fund - the Global Environmental Markets Fund (formerly the Global Green Fund) - whose investment focus is precisely that. Our industry needs to fashion such investment solutions, and I believe there will be opportunities to do so collaboratively as well as competitively.

I also feel strongly that the greatest impediment to sustainable development across the globe is gender inequality. Advancing and empowering women and girls is not only a moral imperative but can unleash enormous potential that is now locked up in our patriarchal global economy. Sustainable investors need to press the case that gender equality needs to be a pillar of Sustainable Capitalism. At Pax World, we also have a fund - the Global Women’s Equality Fund - whose investment focus is exactly that.

In my view, the sustainable investing community should also be advocating for public funding of federal elections, either through a constitutional amendment or, absent an amendment, through a voluntary public funding system. The notion that we can tackle any major public policy issue, let alone undertake the epochal transition to Sustainable Capitalism, while politicians and regulators are captive to the very interests they are supposed to regulate, is beyond naïve. We will not be able to reform capitalism if we cannot reform Congress. 

Finally, asset management firms like my own will need to find ways to craft new, more persuasive messages, launch new products, form new partnerships, and fashion new distribution strategies and alliances that are focused on lifting the industry as a whole, because a rising tide will lift all boats. Pax World has taken a step in this direction in launching our ESG Managers Portfolios, where many ESG managers and strategies are now available under one roof in one set of asset allocation funds. There is more to be done - together, as an industry. 

The times call for leadership. The transition to Sustainable Capitalism is necessary and urgent, as is the triumph of sustainable investing over investment approaches that effectively prolong and exacerbate the current crisis. Twenty years from now, our industry will be judged by whether we have met this burden of leadership. Our impact either will be dramatic or inconsequential. We either will succeed or we will fail. We should resolve to succeed, and to work collaboratively toward that end. 

 

Article by Joe Keefe, President & CEO of Pax World Management, headquartered in Portsmouth, NH. Pax World manages approximately $2.5 billion in assets, including mutual funds, asset allocation funds and ETFs, all of which follow a sustainable investing approach. Prior to joining Pax World, Joe was President of NewCircle Communications (2000-2005), served as Senior Adviser for Strategic Social Policy at Calvert Group (2003 – 2005), and was Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Citizens Advisers (1997-2000). A former member of the board of US SIF (2000 - 2005), Joe was named by Ethisphere Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics” for 2007, 2008 and 2011, and in 2012 was recognized by Women’s eNews a one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century, where he was the sole male honoree. 

You should consider a fund's investment objectives, risks and charges and expenses carefully before investing. For this and other important information, please obtain a fund prospectus by calling 800.767.1729 or visiting www.paxworld.com . Please read it carefully before investing.

Equity investments are subject to market fluctuations, a fund’s share price can fall because of weakness in the broad market, a particular industry, or specific holdings. Emerging market and international investments involve risk of capital loss from unfavorable fluctuations in currency values, differences in generally accepted accounting principles, economic or political instability in other nations or increased volatility and lower trading volume.

Distributed by ALPS Distributors, Inc., Member: FINRA            PAX002590 08/13

Footnotes:

[1] See, William E. Rees, “Toward a Sustainable World Economy,” Paper delivered at Institute for New Economic Thinking Annual Conference, Bretton Woods, NH, April 2011, p. 4.

[2] Paul Gilding, The Great Disruption, Bloomsbury Press, 2011, p. 186.

[3] Jeremy Grantham, “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever,” April 2011 GMO Quarterly Letter.

[4] I am thinking of such writers and thinkers as Wendell Berry, Lester Brown, Paul Gilding, Herman Daly, Thomas Friedman, Paul Hawken, Richard Heinberg, Mark Hertsgaard, Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, Bill McKibben, Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers & Dennis Meadows, James Gustave Speth and, of course, E.F. Schumacher. Contributions from the sustainable investing community include Steven Lydenberg’s Corporations and The Public Interest, Robert Monks’s The New Global Investors, Marjorie Kelly’s The Divine Right of Capital, and The New Capitalists by Stephen Davis, Jon Lukomnik & David Pitt-Watson. See also the work of The Capital Institute, www.capitalinstitute.org

[5] Credit Al Gore, David Blood, Peter Wright and the folks at Generation Investment Management for putting a stake in the ground and endeavoring to define and popularize this concept.

[6] “Sustainable Capitalism,” Generation Investment Management LLP, 2012, p. 2.

[7] This notion of Sustainable Capitalism is not unlike the concept of “shared value” s advanced by Michael E. Porter and Mark E. Kramer. See, “Creating Shared Value,” Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2011.

[8] See Daniel Alpert, Robert Hockett & Nouriel Roubini, “The Way Forward: Moving From the Post-Bubble, Post-Bust Economy to Renewed Growth and Competitiveness,” © 2011, New America Foundation, www.newamerica.net

[9] See Jeremy Grantham, “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever,” supra; See also, “Resource Scarcity and The Efficiency Revolution,” Impax Asset Management, www.impaxam.com

 

For more information go to- www.GreenMoney.com

 

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Making Sense of the FTC Revised Green Guidelines

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 by

It only took them 20 years (The first Guides were issued in 1992), but then again, as the saying goes, every overnight sensation is twenty years in the making. Maybe the FTC Green Guide staff put in their 10,000 hours, but, at last, they nailed it. The revisions to the Green Guides, published on October 1, 2012, shows that the FTC is finally putting their foot down (both of them) about the term 'green', along with such related generalized environmental claims as 'eco-friendly' and 'Earth smart'.

While they are at it, they're advising against the use of any label, logo, seal or product name or image -- what I like to call 'daisies, babies or planets' --  that can imply any hint of environmental (or health) superiority without adequate scientific support. Because chances are such claims are nearly impossible to support, the risk-adverse will stay far away from suggesting same.

And just in time, too. Interest in green claims continues to swell despite tough economic times. As global population climbs to an unimaginable 9 billion by 2050, we'll no doubt find many more ways  for consumers to 'go green', with accompanying eco-language to boot (Will "Mars friendly" be next?) But for now, we're all still here. So hopefully there's still time to clean up the green marketing business so we can one day harvest the potential to lighten consumers' size-18 planetary footprint.

The lawyers at the FTC did what 'greening' requires everyone to do — to think holistically, acknowledging the need to back up environmental marketing claims with life cycle assessments. They obviously consulted with some smart ecologists and biologists because the revised Green Guides demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of sound science. The Guides don't explicitly state the science, but for us laymen, here's a quick crib sheet that can help you understand why they're saying what they're saying:

There's no such thing as a green product. Every product uses resources and energy and creates waste.
One attribute does not a green product make.  An Energy Star certified compact fluorescent light bulb has a tinge of mercury (and as such require a hazardous waste permit to landfill in quantities of five or more.) Organic strawberries grown in California and eaten in New York are responsible for creating so many greenhouse gases on the trip cross country we might as well eat berries conventionally grown in New Jersey. Paper made from sustainably-certified wood still needs to be bleached and / or otherwise processed with dangerous chemicals and shipped to Staples.

Should CFLs not be Energy Star qualified? Should strawberries destined to hit the road not be labeled organic? Should paper that's on its way to be bleached not be described as 'sustainable'? Definitely not! Let's simply be more specific, as FTC recommends, and not suggest they are totally 'green'. (More on this below.)

100% recycled content can be less 'green' than 10% recycled content.  Depending upon the nature of the recycled content and how far it must be shipped to a recycling center, environmental costs of shipping and other impacts can actually make a recycled product less 'green' than a virgin counterpart.
Natural is not necessarily green or more healthful. Arsenic is naturally occurring.

Sustainable is a moving target. Corn may be in plentiful supply today and able to be regrown year after year, but when water supplies wane, it may not be so 'sustainable' to continue to grow it, no matter how fast or how economically it can be converted into bio-plastics and biofuel.

So, green is a relative, rather than absolute, measure. The best way to determine relative greenness is a bona fide life cycle assessment covering all facets of a product's environmental impacts, from raw materials procurement straight through to disposal. This is duly acknowledged in the latest installment of the FTC Green Guides.

We are the next endangered species on the planet. The planet is not at risk, we are. (Yet another reason not to include images of planets in one's advertising or to make grandiose claims about saving it.) This is not a political issue, but an issue of our future, and particularly those of our kids' and their kids.

So it's incumbent upon every marketer, manufacturer, retailer, producer, and everyone else in the supply chain and their stakeholders to understand not just these Guidelines and ideally their scientific underpinnings, but to do what we can to make all green marketing work as it's supposed to.
We in industry -- and concerned consumers, too -- should get on the case of questionable green claims. In their infinite wisdom and thoroughness, the FTC provides lots of helpful information for marketers and to the public to make the process of reporting such claims easy. (The National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau can help too.)

Green marketing is just good marketing. As I've been saying for a while now -- and it is admittedly counter-intuitive, the best green marketing doesn't lead with a product's 'greenness'. The good news about many green(er) products these days is that, thanks to advances in design, materials and technology, they offer superior delivery on the primary benefits that consumers buy products for. So why not focus on those things instead of altruism and planets that don't need to be saved?

At a minimum, consider that environmental marketing, reflecting the planet itself, encompasses so many potential product-related attributes, organic, VOC, recycled, biodegradable, among them, as to render the term 'green' meaningless. Rather than confuse, even deceive, consumers intentionally or unintentionally with messages about 'eco-friendliness' and 'natural' (which in their infinite wisdom, the FTC refused to define) why not hone in on those green-oriented terms that a now mass market seeks via all its segmentary splendor: 'energy efficient', 'organically grown', 'water efficient', 'recyclable', among them, and render your marketing both relevant, targeted, and credible? (FTC would love you for being specific.)
Moreover, let's link those same 'green' attributes to the benefits they deliver to consumers. For instance, let's tout all things 'water efficient' as 'cost effective', and 'fuel efficient' as 'convenient (fewer fill-ups and the ability to drive in the HOV lane).

Does this mean we should not talk about 'the environment' at all?  Not in the least!  Consumers still want specific, well-documented and genuinely helpful environment-related information -- so let's include them in our marketing messages in its secondary or tertiary place in line with its importance on our customer's shopping list.

All of us environmental types like to talk about how, 'if we do our jobs right we'll put ourselves out of business'. Well, before we get run out of town for more greenwash and hogwash by a now enlightened FTC (and the Enforcement Division that stands ready to pounce) let's agree to put ourselves out of the 'save the planet' business and into the business of saving our customers some money, time, etc. in an environmentally sound way -- and make our marketing more legitimately green for our bottom lines, rather than our faces red with shame.

Jacquelyn Ottman is principal and founder of the New York City-based J. Ottman Consulting, expert advisers on green marketing to Fortune 500 sustainability leaders as well as several U.S. government labeling programs. The author of four books on the subject, her latest is The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, February 2011).

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com


 

Slipping Green Through the Back Door

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 by

Laguna Niguel, CA — America is going green, but not the way environmentalists had planned it. The unlikely hero is none other than Corporate America, which is giving consumers the green whether they realize it or not. Why? Because it’s good for the customer, it’s good business, and let’s face it, as MGM Senior Vice President of Environment and Energy Cindy Ortega articulates, “It is also good for employee morale and retention — people want to work for companies who care about the world around them.”

 

"Over 70 percent of the wood we now sell is certified. But you won't find us advertising or promoting that fact," said Ron Jarvis, senior vice president of Environmental Innovation for The Home Depot. Photo by Mathew Wilson (Courtesy of Flickr).

Here’s a great example of this sales strategy as employed by The Home Depot: “Over 70 percent of the wood we now sell is certified. But you won’t find us advertising or promoting that fact,” said Ron Jarvis, senior vice president of Environmental Innovation for The Home Depot at its Atlanta headquarters. Jarvis was in Laguna Niguel recently to attend “Fortune Brainstorm Green,” a high level conference attended by many prominent green industry corporate and NGO executives.

“Our data shows that most customers will not pay extra for sustainable wood, and in some cases, they consider “green” wood a negative. We believe that FSC wood is the best way to go for both quality and sustainability reasons, so, most of the wood we sell in developing countries is FSC certified. We do believe in educating our customers and employees about sustainability, but at the same time the voice of the customer is always our top priority. Thus including FSC wood without charging a price premium is the right thing to do, and thankfully, due to our enormous volume and purchasing power, we can make this equation work business-wise,” Jarvis explained.

Jarvis’ competitors at Lowe’s also have a couple examples of this same premise. “There are multiple variations of a “green” consumer. In fact, according to the 2011 US LOHAS Consumers Trends poll, 83 percent of consumers identify with “green” at some level. However, the greenness of consumers changes with multiple factors, including the economy and available income, as well as age and generations,” said Michael Chenard, Director of Corporate Sustainability for Lowe’s at its Mooresville, NC headquarters. “Today, 100 percent of the bathroom faucets Lowe’s carries are WaterSense (low flow) certified, and that’s been the case for more than three years. Lowe’s also has more in-stock Energy Star-qualified appliances and lighting fixtures than any other major home improvement retailer.”

 

According to the 2011 US LOHAS Consumers Trends poll, 83 percent of consumers identify with "green" at some level. Graph by Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), 2009 LOHAS Consumer Trends Database.

Keeping with the theme of “going green through the back door,” shipping giant UPS is using sophisticated software and data to develop the cheapest, most fuel efficient way to move packages from point A to point B. These savings are passed along to the consumer, according to Scott Wicker, UPS’ chief sustainability officer at its Atlanta headquarters. Also in attendance at Fortune Brainstorm Green, Wicker said UPS is testing all types of fuel efficient vehicles in its massive fleet, including full electric, hybrid, compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas, among others. Vehicles that operate out of central depots in large urban areas are the best prospect for going full greenfleet because of the range limitations of electric and other nascent technologies. “We also use telematics to monitor over 200 data points via satellite from our trucks, which helps us train the drivers in maximum fuel efficient driving techniques and ensure they are taking the shortest routes, not letting the engines idle excessively, among other factors,” Wicker said. Alas, out of over 100,000 vehicles, only about 2,600 are truly alt-fuel at this time. Wicker says that number will grow over time, but not surprisingly, cost will ultimately trump all other considerations.

 

 

UPS is testing all types of fuel efficient vehicles in its massive fleet, including full electric, hybrid, compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas, among others. Photo by Schnaars (Courtesy of Flickr).

How about the clothes we wear? Levi’s is also employing the “going green through the back door” technique. “We are committed to the Better Cotton Initiative because we believe it can change the way cotton is grown around the world, positively impacting the environment and supporting 300 million people engaged in cotton farming around the world — without creating higher prices for consumers,” said Brianna Wolf, Manager of Environmental Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co. “Last fall, we started blending the first Better Cotton harvest into Levi and Denizen products. To date, we’ve produced more than five million garments containing a Better Cotton blend.” However, you won’t find a label identifying clothing made with Better Cotton quite yet. “Participating brands are holding off on direct product labeling during this start-up phase, to allow supply to scale to meet demand. For now, we encourage consumers to learn more about Better Cotton and support brands who are integrating it into their product lines at bettercotton.org,” explained Wolf.

And what about that all-important cup of morning Joe? While many consumers are frustrated by Starbucks’ lack of recyclable cups, the company does take good care of its key suppliers — the coffee growers toiling in the fields of faraway places. “When someone buys a cup of our coffee, they probably don’t know that the beans are produced with social, environmental and economic best practices in mind. Our C.A.F.E. Practices coffee-buying program includes rigorous sourcing standards covering: fair wages and benefits; access to medical care and education; specific high standards for conservation and biodiversity; amongst other criteria.” said Kelly Goodejohn, Director of Ethical Sourcing for Starbucks. “For the past ten years we have partnered with Conservation International on C.A.F.E. Practices. Currently, 84% of our coffee is ethically sourced through this model. By 2015, 100% of our coffee will be third party verified or certified, ensuring that all the coffee we purchase has been grown and processed responsibly.”

 

 

By 2015, Starbucks vows to have 100% of their coffee be third party verified or certified, ensuring that all the coffee they purchase has been grown and processed responsibly. Photo Courtesy of Starbucks. 

Indeed, there are some case histories that bear out the thesis that mostly due to the economy, consumers simply have not embraced going green over the past several years. This is a bitter pill to swallow for green opinion leaders, but may explain why products like Clorox Green Works home cleaning products have gone straight up, then plunged back to earth with a resounding thud. Recall that Green Works was launched in 2008 with great fanfare, and zoomed to over $100 million in sales within two years. Inexplicably, sales started to drop off, and even a price reduction to parity with non-green competitive products could not revive Green Works. Adding insult to injury, general opinion of experts was that the Green Works products performed very well, and backed up the claims made by Clorox. This is worthy of mention because a number of green products have been rushed to market without proper testing, bringing a black eye to the movement when consumers felt snake bit by paying premium prices for products that did not live up to their hype.

“In the past, consumers have felt that purchasing green products would require some form of sacrifice — spending more money or an inferior design. Today, that has changed,” declared Joel Babbit, CEO and co-founder of online daily green news magazine Mother Nature Network (MNN). “Not only have prices become more comparable — but the associated savings in lower energy bills, water usage, and using lesser quantities that come with green products often result in a cost advantage. On the design side — as opposed to the clunky or boring approach so common just a few years ago — many of the most innovative and attractive products now entering the market are green.”

You can read more by Jennifer Schwab by following her blog, Inner Green.

 

 

4 Green Pinterest Boards Every Eco Conscious Person Should Follow

Monday, August 6, 2012 by

Pinterest may be the newest social media/bookmarking site that most college students are enamored with at the moment—after all it features tons of great fresh and trendy DIY crafts, recipes, and clothes—but the digital pin board can also be used for a greater purpose: teaching users how to live a greener lifestyle. Whether you're looking for inspiration to transform your home (or dorm room) into an eco-friendly haven or you're simply wondering what new clean technologies are in developments, Pinterest can help satisfy your curiosity. That said, below are some prime "green" Pinterest boards you should start following today.

Plants Anything Green Garden

One of the easiest ways to promote sustainability is to plant your own herb or vegetable garden in your backyard. But if you're unsure of where to start, what to plant, or how to construct beds for your plants, then this board can really help you out. With more than 78 fabulous pins that explain what perennial herbs are and how to construct a DIY self-watering planter for example, this particular board is loaded with tons of useful information for the eco-conscious. Just make sure to double click the images to re-direct you to the original location of the pin for step-by-step directions.

Green Buildings I Digg

Like the name suggests this board is filled with beautifully constructed sustainable buildings that the owner, Bidgette Meinhold, finds interesting. But we find her particular taste interesting too. If you're looking for some inspiration on how to design and construct your new eco-friendly home or you just want to know what some consumers in various parts of the world are doing to make their homes and businesses sustainable then become one of the 300 plus followers of this board.

Clean Tech

If you're interested to know what certain clean tech gadgets and tools universities are working on then this board would be essential to follow. While it allows users to get a better idea of what's in store for the future, it also has some great clean tech DIY tips that the average user can construct at home, such as how to turn your plants into a cell phone charger. Hopefully the owner Planet Forward continues to add to the 34 pins already featured on the board.

Green Lifestyle Consulting

Green Lifestyle Consulting, which like the name suggests is a board that is designed to help users live a greener lifestyle. The board is run by a wife-husband duo. There are so many different pins featured that they're organized into different categories, including: For the Home, Political Action and Ideas, Tips to go Green, and Raising Green Children.

LOHAS

And of course there is the LOHAS board that provides visuals of the various elements LOHAS embodies. For those who are visually inclined it may provide a clearer picture on how LOHAS sectors are connected and the best contexts to consider when explaining it to others or determining if one is LOHAS. Boards include personal develolpment, images of nature, food and energy efficiency to name a few.

An expert in the construction industry, freelance writer Kristie Lewis offers tips and advice on choosing the best construction management colleges. She also enjoys writing about green building practices for business and home owners. She welcomes any questions and comments you might have at Kristie.lewis81@gmail.com.

Innovating Up River

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 by

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Bigadventures

Unlike this lucky bloke,  green innovation is starting to feel pretty dam hard.

Many out there are struggling to develop new sustainable strategies, products, processes and implementing them all by pushing against the current flow.  Most are attempting to look at this world with green tinted glasses and reform almost all of the products and processes we live by.  The opportunity is certainly abounding and yet the reality can be sobering.  
Innovators are being asked to be more even more compelling, operate with less resources, and eek-out more value to each respective need.  A greater responsibility to improve current models, under the lens of sustainability, is falling on the brave and courageous few people to change the world.  The true goal may be to actually recruit "green" marines, the few and the proud… Hooo-Rah!


Pick any challenging real world issue and look closely… you can find just a handful of truly passionate social entrepreneurs working for change in that arena.  Whether the innovation is in food, agriculture, energy, technologies, products, or waste... we are being asked to redesign them all.  Only a few out there are truly developing system-wide changes to save time, resources and precious money, all in the greater name of sustainability.  When did the fate of so many lay in the hands of so few? But are we all trying to rebuild a ship after is has hit the iceberg and taking in water? Let's hope not.



At some point it all begins to feel like paddling upstream against the current while having "conventional" rocks appear in your path.  One can imagine the timeless innovators felt this great resistance… maybe we are no different now.  Oddly, most what we are transforming makes a product, service or process- simpler, easier, cheaper, with have less impact.  Consider clean technologies such as electric vehicles; simple to use (no gas), effective operations (gets you there) and easy to power (plug-in). Yet in today's ecological thinking, we must still prove the business case for them. Who is being asked to prove the business case for pollution, obvious waste with the harsh negative impacts we see daily... no one!



A collective grand vision for the green movement is to get all parties involved into the millions of innovations, as our evolution is seeking the best collaborative solutions to our varied modern problems. If we leave these crucial tasks only for a few to solve, making major inroads may simply take too long.  The conventional model is to work in a resource constrained systems that are functioning under old corporate cultures of; time equals money, bigger and better, and of course... not "my" problem.  


Our greatest task as innovators is now recruitment of conscious leaders... yes I do mean you! If you have made it this far, then you too could decide that now is the time to rally and gain momentum. Whether it be for noble ideals, lofty aspirations, personal gain or for the greater collective good of future generations... does it really matter anymore?  What matters now is what you do, how you live and what you support. We are all gifted with constant access to new communication channels, reliable information and available resources.  Even though there are few valid excuses left to claim… some certainly will.



If we wait, if we dilly-dally, if we decide not to give these bold efforts 110% now... where will it leave us all exactly?  Will we be able to move our own evolution forward fast enough to make real progress? Can we recruit others fast enough to the grand vision, so they can grasp it for themselves and realize this is our only way forward.  It may simply come down to values and a few questions to ask.



Trust- Do we have enough to move forward together?


Integrity- Similar to trust, can we commit to do what we say we will?


Responsibility- Can we find our own and help others see theirs?

Creativity- Can we look at the real issues with freedom and inspiration?


Motivation- Will what we are building move others to action?

Interested to hear your ideas, solutions and opinions?  Please share them here, it is a first step towards change. 

Jared Brick recently attained an MBA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School in SF.  He is developing the first ever reusables tracking platform, rewarding consumers everywhere in their retail experiences.  Follow the journey at traxactions.com or on twitter: traxactions

We Are All Green Consumers – Now and for the Future

Monday, April 30, 2012 by

Green Purchasing BehaviorGreen has gone mainstream. Not too long ago, just a small group of deep green consumers existed. Today, 83% of consumers (Source: Natural Marketing Institute, 2009) - representing four generations, Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen Ys and Gen Zs - are some shade of green. Each in their own way, these generations are quickly transforming what used to be a fringe market that appealed to a faction of eco-hippies is now a bona fide $290 billion industry ranging from organic foods to hybrid cars, ecotourism to green home furnishings. Teen daughters of yesterday’s activist moms search out Burt’s Bees lip balm made from beeswax while their “twenty-something” brothers opt to clean their new digs with Method ‘s cucumber-fragranced dish liquid. Today’s Dads boast of higher mileage, fewer fill-ups, and the peppy look of their new Mini Coopers or diesel-powered Jettas that get 50-plus miles to the gallon; expect their Gen X sons to be kicking the tires of Nissan’s electric Leaf, now heading towards showroom floors.
 
Thanks to advances in materials and technology, today’s “greener” products (defined as having a lighter impact on the planet than alternatives) and today’s more “sustainable” products (those that add a social dimension, e.g., fair trade) now not only work well, they likely work better and more efficiently than the “brown” counterparts they were designed to replace. Channels of distribution have changed have changed, too.  As I point out in my just released book, The New Rules of Green Marketing (Berrett-Koehler, February 2011)  today, sustainable products are readily available in conventional supermarkets such as Fred Meyer and Safeway, brightly lit emporiums such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market, while mighty Wal-Mart leads the charge towards lifecycle-based standards for products through its groundbreaking Sustainability Consortium
 
Once confined to open spaces and rooftops, solar power is now mobile, fueling a modern-day, on-the-go lifestyle embedded in cellphone chargers, backpacks, and even the latest fleet of powerboats. Or confined to the tissue boxes or wrappers of days gone by, recycled content is now good enough for Kimberly-Clark’s own Scott Naturals line of tissue products (with its new “coreless role”)  and Staples’ EcoEasy office paper, Patagonia’s Synchilla PCR (post-consumer recycled) T-shirts made from recycled soda bottles, and Aveda’s Uruku cosmetics packaging made from recycled newsprint, to name just a few.
 
A sure sign that caring for nature and the planet and the people who live here now and in the future is here to stay – “Sustainability” is a core value of every living generation, starting with the Baby Boomers, the nation’s primary household shoppers and societal leaders who led the green charge back in the mid to late-1960s, and extending right through to Internet-savvy Generations X, Y, and Z who promise to transform markets as future decades unfold.
 
Four Generations of Green
The consuming power of the four current generations is remarkable if marketers can target them by what appeals to them uniquely.
 
Boomers: The First Modern Green Generation
Now the heads of millions of U.S. households, the Baby Boomers and been influencing society since the 1960s when they planted the seeds of the modern day green movement when as idealistic youths, gathered to celebrate the first Earth Day, in 1970, followed by the first Solar Day in 1971. Their peaceful demonstrations of concern gave rise to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the founding of the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, the Clean Air and the Clean Water Acts that same year, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
 
The Middle East oil embargo, marking the beginning of the energy crisis of 1973-75, then focused the Baby Boomers on the need for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.  Witnesses to the 1979 the release of the fictional The China Syndrome, a movie about safety cover-ups at a nuclear power plant, serendipitously opened at theaters two weeks prior to the partial core meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear-generating station near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They learned first hand about the need for renewable energy.
 
Taking the values and attitudes they have instilled upon society and have imparted to their children and grandchildren to supermarket aisles, today, over half of Baby Boomers consider themselves socially conscious shoppers. That’s 40 million green boomers who, as illustrated in the chart below. choose to organize, pluck resource-conserving products from the shelves, boycott products of companies that pollute, and “pro-cott” the products of companies that give back to the community.
 
GenX: Eyes on the World
CNN brought global issues into the living room of this generation 24/7.  Counting among them actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz as two of the most outspoken environmentalists of their generation, Gen Xers see environmental concerns through a lens that aligns social, educational, and political issues. They witnessed the fire in the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal India, and the aftermath of the explosion in Chernobyl. In 1985, the Live Aid concert helped to instill in them the need for famine relief in developing nations to an unprecedented 400 million worldwide, and more pointedly, in 1989, Gen Xers saw the massive devastation wrought by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
 
Millennials: Digital Media at Their Command
This generation grew up in front of computers and unleashing the power of the Internet is second nature to them. Having lived through Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill, and with growing awareness of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the size of Texas), they tend to be distrustful of government and authority, and are quick to challenge greenwash and other marketing practices they deem to be unauthentic or untruthful. With their majority believing that humans cause climate change and the Millenials (aka Gen Y) are twice as likely to buy green products than those who believe climate change is occurring naturally.
 
Green is an integral part of this generation’s college experience. Legions of students now opt for newly created environmental studies courses (and majors) and are active in campus sustainability initiatives.
 
Reusable water bottles and coffee mugs are ubiquitous on college campuses where many savvy companies now reach out with sustainability messages to future householders with significant incomes. Not content to sacrifice all for the almighty dollar, Millennials seek to balance “quality of life” and the “quest for wealth”; they seek to work for socially conscious employers.
 
As the offspring of the Baby Boomers whose social and environmental values they share, Millennials are the likely new leaders of the modern-day green movement. With the ability to express their opinions through blogging, texting, and social networks, they are capable of mustering immediate responses from millions around the globe.
 
Generation Z: Green is a Natural Part of Their Lives
The first generation to be brought up entirely in an environmentally conscious world, green is part of their everyday life. This generation - currently under the age of 16 - think nothing of living in solar-powered homes with a hybrid car in the driveway. In school and at home the 3Rs of waste management, “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” are as common as the 3Rs of “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.”  Sorting paper and plastic for recycling is a normal part of “taking out the trash.”  As school kids, they likely viewed The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute animated video that divulges the environmental impact of our daily consumption. Environmentally sensitive cleaning aids, locally grown produce, and recycled-paper goods likely top their parents’ shopping lists; clothes made from organically grown cotton and biobased fibers are part of their own Gen Z uniform.
 

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Jacquelyn Ottman is the founder and principal of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., an expert advisers on green marketing to consumer product marketers and U.S. government labeling programs. She is the author of four books on green marketing, including the recently released The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, 2011).
Download a free chapter and get more information here. Excerpted from The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler 2011) by Jacquelyn A. Ottman. 

Sustainability Trends for 2012: energy, water and employee engagement

Friday, April 27, 2012 by

Energy EfficiencyA quick review of sustainability trends reported on the internet shows (not surprisingly) that energy will stay a high priority. The focus is on alternative energy, energy efficiency  and solar energy. Within the green building movement, retrofitting buildings for sustainability is gaining momentum.

This poses a huge market opportunity for businesses. However, it helps if (local) governments create the environment that is beneficial for investing in clean energy. For rapid introduction of new technologies a so called ‘innovation system’- the needs to be in place. Innovation systems are networks of organizations that work together on diffusing new technologies. They are facilitated through entrepreneurial activity, knowledge development through collaboration with educational institutions, and knowledge diffusion through networks such as accelerators and business platforms. Governments can play pivotal roles in facilitating innovation systems.

A more recent trend is concern over water issues. Many places in the world don’t have access to enough water to meet agricultural, urban and industrial water needs. Large areas deal with droughts, and disruptive weather patterns caused by climate change  aggravate these issues.

Though this is important for business, especially in the food industry, it is even more important to governments. Water supplies are directly related to energy and food needs. The repercussions of water shortages in combination with an exploding world population cannot be underestimated – and may lead to water wars. Meriting this issue to be dealt with from a diplomatic point of view. For example: it is for a good reason that China does not want to leave Tibet: the country is the source of all the rivers in the region.

Thirdly, employee engagement is finally on the corporate agenda. Which is great, because the social side of the triple bottom line often gets little attention.  I often wonder why we have so few very successful cases for sustainability. In my opinion, engagement is the missing link – you can’t just roll out policies, or change light bulbs. Sustainability becomes a part of the organization when employees are engaged in the subject. Luckily for us, there is a strong business case for engagement, and links to sustainability within a company

Focus On Consumer Self-Interest to Win Today's Green Customer

Sunday, April 22, 2012 by

Eco-labels are an excellent way to enhance credibility for green marketing claims, but they are not without risk. While 28% of consumers look to green certification seals or labels to confirm that a product adheres to claims, these labels can also confuse. Happily there’s enough method within the madness for marketers to pave a way forward.
 
Eco-labeling challenges
More than 400 different eco-labels or green certification systems are now on the market. Questions such as which label is better, which product is safer for the environment and what does a label even mean are common questions that well-intended green shoppers may find themselves asking when trying to make an environmentally responsible purchase.
 
Confusion can arise from labels that certify too much or too little information. Some eco-labels focus on a single product attribute (e.g., recycled content), which keeps things simple but can inadvertently mislead consumers into thinking the product is green overall. Other labels look at several characteristics of a product or even a product’s entire life cycle; such multi-attribute certifications may raise questions about the credibility of a single-attribute certified product while also preventing easy comparisons.
 
Some products, such as electrical appliances, have a number of labels and certifications, while others, such as mattresses or flatware, have none. Another common reason for confusion is the discrepancy in the levels of rigor applied to some eco-labeling—some require independent, third-party verifications while others allow self-certification.
 
Here are some important criteria to consider when seeking the labeling most relevant to your brand:
 
Single-attribute labels
 Single-attribute seals focus on one environmental issue, e.g., energy efficiency or sustainable-wood harvesting. Before certification, an independent third-party auditor is typically required to verify that the product meets a publicly available standard.
 
Many single-attribute labels are sponsored by industry associations looking to defend or capture new markets. Others are sponsored by environmental groups or NGOs that want to protect a natural resource or further a cause. Two single-attribute labels with a global presence are the Forest Stewardship Council (or FSC) label, ensuring the sustainable harvesting of wood and paper, and Fair Trade Certified, ensuring that strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of such agricultural products as coffee.
 
Voluntary U.S. government labels
Unlike in some countries, such as Canada, Japan and South Korea, the U.S. government has opted for voluntary single- rather than multi-attribute labels. (The private sector and not-for-profit groups hold sway in the area of multiattribute eco-labeling.) Outside of those associated with independent testing, the government-backed labels don’t involve fees. One of the most visible and influential labels is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR (for which we at J. Ottman Consulting were proud to advise over many years).
 
ENERGY STAR promotes energy efficiency in more than 60 product categories, and almost 3,000 manufactured products now feature the ENERGY STAR label. In fact, according to the Natural Marketing Institute, in 2009, 93% of the American public recognized the ENERGY STAR label and 73% said they would be more likely to purchase products that carried that label.
 
Other EPA labels include WaterSense, SmartWay (transportation) and Design for Environment (safer chemicals). The USDA stewards the USDA Organic and USDA Certified Biobased labels (another J. Ottman Consulting client).
 
Multi-attribute labels
As the name suggests, multi-attribute labels examine two or more environmental impacts. Founded in 1989, Green Seal is the granddaddy of them all. It provides a seal of approval for a variety of products that meet specific criteria on a category-by-category basis. Products are reviewed annually for a fee. A few of the organizations whose products now bear the Green Seal certification include Wausau Paper, Clorox, Kimberly-Clark and Hilton.

If your green ads showcase the now tiresome images of babies, daisies, and planets, your messages will likely be irrelevant to mainstream consumers. Eco-imagery may have tugged at the purse-strings of “deep green” consumers, but their lighter green counterparts, who make up the bulk of the market, want to know how even the greenest of products benefit them personally. While the environment may be the underlying reason a product was created or upgraded, it will likely not be the primary motivation for consumers to choose your brand over those of competitors.
 
Avoid green marketing myopia
In other words, don’t commit the fatal sin of “green marketing myopia”. As my colleagues, Ed Stafford and Cathy Hartman of the Huntsman Business School of Utah State, and I point out in our much-quoted article, “Avoiding Green Marketing Myopia,” remember that consumers buy products to meet basic needs - not altruism.
When consumers enter a store, they don their consumer, not citizen caps. They are looking to find the products that will get their clothes clean, that will taste great, that will save them money or that will make themselves appear attractive to others. Environmental and social benefits are best positioned as an important plus that can help sway purchase decisions, particularly between two otherwise comparable products.
 
Quiet Green Marketing
Underscoring the primary reasons why consumers purchase your brand - sometimes referred to as “quiet green” - can broaden the appeal of your greener products and services way beyond the niche of deepest green consumers. Quiet green might also help overcome a premium price hurdle. So, focus communication for greener products on how consumers can protect their health, save money, or keep their home and community safe and clean. Show busy consumers how some environmentally inclined behaviors can save time and effort.
 
To be clear, this does not mean focusing exclusively on such benefits - to do so would be to go back to conventional marketing altogether. But focusing too heavily on environmental benefits at the expense of primary benefits will put your product in the green graveyard, buried under good intentions. Happily, thanks to advances in technology, many greener products these days do provide added value in the form of enhanced benefits.

Does your green product improve health?
Keep in mind that the number one reason why consumers buy greener products is not to “save the planet” but to protect their own health. Categories most closely aligned with health are growing the fastest and tend to command the highest premiums. Health messages can apply to a wide variety of product categories. Consider, for instance, a print ad for AFM Safecoat (that ran here in the U.S.) featuring 16 buckets of paint; 15 of the buckets are painted red and bear labels such as “Gorgeous Paints,” “100% Pure,” “Low Odor,” and “Sustainable.” However, the last bucket stands out in green and announces “The Only Paint that is Doctor Recommended.”
 
Does your product appeal to the style-conscious?
American Apparel was created as a brand that provides excellent working conditions for its employees and uses organic cotton. But, in 2004, when its “sweatshop free” label did not bring in the numbers that CEO Dov Charney was hoping for, he switched to promoting a sexy, youthful image for his company - complete with racy, controversial ads with young women. Three years later, the company has 180 stores and revenue estimated at $380 million. Sounds heretical? Keep in mind that the same sustainably responsible clothing is still being sold to consumers, together with all the same benefits to society and the environment.
 
Does your product save consumers money?
Many brands find that their green benefits neatly translate into something direct and meaningful to the customer, such as energy savings translating into cost savings. Ads for Sears’ Kenmore’s HE5t steamwasher state that it uses 77% less water and 81% less energy than older models. The headline grabs readers with the compelling promise, “You pay for the washer. It pays for the dryer.” In New Jersey, Marcal’s Small Steps campaign positioned the use of 100% recycled household paper products as an easy measure to take for the environment and save money.
 
Today’s consumers want to know the back-story about products and packages, so focus on primary benefits in the context of a full story that incorporates the environment as a desirable extra benefit. Better yet, integrate relevant environmental and social benefits within your brand’s already established market positioning, and you’ve got the stuff for a meaningful sale.


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Jacquelyn Ottman is the founder and principal of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., an expert advisers on green marketing to consumer product marketers and U.S. government labeling programs. She is the author of four books on green marketing, including the recently released The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, 2011).
Download a free chapter and get more information here.

Excerpted from The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler 2011) by Jacquelyn A. Ottman.
 

Originally published in The Guardian, September 23, 2011.



LOHAS Wellness Trends

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 by

wellness trendsAfter scanning health and wellness trends for 2012 here are a few that caught my eye along with my own perspectices that are LOHAS related.

1. Yoga & Meditation as Mainstream Treatment: Interest in alternative treatments will experience a second surge. Even though interest in alternative treatments is already high, more people, practitioners and patients will be willing to experiment with new remedies, activities and lifestyle changes to avoid these kinds of medications. A study[10] finds that of the 41 million Americans that use mind-body therapies like yoga or tai chi, 6.4 million are now doing them because they were “prescribed” by their medical provider.  Yoga, tai chi, qigong, Feldenkrais, guided imagery, acupuncture and other practices will continue to gain attention due to their ability to calm, soothe and attend to medical situations such as chronic pain, hypertension, obesity and stress. With returning PTSD suffering Iraqi war veterans and stress brought upon with tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes there will be a greater interest in how trauma affects us both personally and in our institutions, including our workplaces and schools and how to respond in effective ways.

2. Awareness & Prevention Will Have a Renewed Focus: As chronic diseases account for many of our healthcare issues and costs there will be a revitalized focus on preventative medicine. Anticipate the integration of wellness programs into businesses by employers and provide resources programs to encourage better health and prevention. This was predicted in our 2011 wellness trends but anticipate stronger campaigns on all fronts as health becomes a larger issue for society.

3. The Empowered Consumer Continues to Rise: The DYI trend among consumers will continue in 2012. And technology plays a large role here. Research shows that 80% of U.S. Internet users claim to have used the web to search for health-related information and answers. And that is just search. Many platforms from interactive healthcare kiosks to social media to personalized health sites are allowing consumers to empower themselves. As consumers increasingly turn to self-service technologies and channels, the entire healthcare industry has a tremendous opportunity to reach, engage and interactive with today’s empowered consumer. And that will yield some powerful results from consumers to doctors to advertisers.

4. Family Wellness Travel: The boom in solo travellers continues to rise for wellness holidays but more families are now searching for these types of getaways. Parents want their children to be healthy on holiday and also keep busy with plenty of activities so they don’t get bored. More resorts are also introducing healthy children’s menus so they can learn good habits early. Parents also want to be able to enjoy holistic activities and spa treatments, whilst their children are staying active.

5. Retail Plays an Increased Role: In response to the DYI demand from consumers in-store clinics and healthcare kiosks will play vital roles to connect with consumers for better healthcare access, awareness and treatments. Consumers are still frequenting brick-n-mortar stores; connecting with them while they are there offers great opportunities for healthcare providers, advertisers and the retail locations.

6. Holidaying with Health Gurus: Top health and fitness experts now work at some of the leading resorts around the world. More people want to receive dedicated support and guidance from the best in the industry; wellness retreats are bringing in the top yoga teachers, nutritionists, doctors, personal trainers and more health gurus to raise their game. Clients want to be inspired and informed so that they can lead a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle when they return home. Expect more tailored programs to be developed such as ones provided at Tao Inspired Living or Rancho La Puerta.

7. Obesity Awareness: Losing weight will continue to be the primary reason consumers seek personal training support as the public responds to the expanded messaging concerning the dangers of physical inactivity and obesity. The recently released Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index report that showed a modest improvement in the nation’s obesity rates for the first time in more than three years is a very encouraging sign. However, the fact remains that three out of five Americans are still overweight or obese, requiring more work to be done. 

8. Whole-life training: Lifestyle/ Wellness coaching will become a bigger trend with more personal trainers, fitness centers and spas looking to holistically improve client lifestyle and expanding their education and training to include this skill set. There are efforts to clearly define the parameters of coaching and help distinguish coaching (which is future-focused) from other professional services like counseling (which delve into a person’s past). The medical industry and academic groups are examining the value of wellness coaching. Harvard Medical School (www.harvardcoaching.org) now underwrites an annual conference on coaching’s role in healthcare. One of the many research initiatives being analyzed by the International Coaching Research Forum (U.K.) is developing coaching as a global, academic profession. Companies like Wellpeople.com (U.S.) offer certified on-site or virtual wellness coaches for spas, hospitals and businesses. Anticipate fitness facilities to hire nutritionists and other allied healthcare professionals such as physical therapists and psychologists to serve the expanding needs of their health-conscious members including wellness, nutrition, and stress-management programs.

9. Community Collaboration: Access to fitness services and education will continue to expand in local communities including activities in gyms, parks, and recreation centers. Local leaders are taking a more active role to address health issues in their communities. This includes proactive measures through school-based education programs and engagement with low-income and at-risk families. The Canyon Ranch Institute provides Life Enhancement Programs in underserved communities of the South Bronx, Cleveland, and Tuscon to prevent, diagnose, and address chronic diseases.

10. Healthy Fast Food: There will be a greater push to keep students and employees healthy. This will mean a closer examination of cafeteria food in schools and on-site vending machines in work places, including information on how eating patterns create stress, obesity and health and behavior problems. As more people recognize the failings of fast food and food processing companies expect vendors to upgrade their product offerings to develop and market products that are not only healthy but actually promote health.

11. Clean Eating Focus: The food-health connection will be very important. As we learn more about "clean eating" -- consuming foods without preservatives, chemicals, sugars and other additives -- our habits will change as we read labels even more carefully and appreciate the rewards of more energy and fewer chronic illnesses. Along with clean eating, we will also become aware of the problems associated with GMO crops that have been over-hybridized by corporations for fast growth and easy harvest. The Non GMO projectThe Institute for Responsible Technology and others are working on raising awareness for consumers on the hazards of GMO foods on the environment and health.

12. Evidence based Spa Therapies: There has been a significant amount of efforts put forth by skincare companies and alternative therapy groups to provide research backing the results of treatments. SpaEvidence is a web resource that gives the world easy access to the “evidence-based medicine” databases that doctors use, so they can search thousands of studies evaluating which spa modalities are proven to work, and for which exact conditions.

Feel free to add any that I may have missed.

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com

Green Marketing Q&A with Seri McClendon, CLEAN Agency CEO

Thursday, July 28, 2011 by

The 2011 Green Brands Survey recently found that consumer interest in green products continues to increase and has expanded across categories – from personal care, food and household products to automotive, energy and technology goods. Companies across all sectors are rolling out new and or improved products touting eco-friendly attributes. With such a varied selection of products making green claims, how does one make an educated decision on the best products for their family and lifestyle? Seri McClendon, chief executive officer of CLEAN Agency, shares insight on this issue.

Seri McClendon

What are businesses doing to meet consumer demand for eco-friendly products and services?

Sustainability has become a key business issue for consumer product companies. They recognize that in order to remain competitive they must shift to meet the changing demands of consumers and of the environment. To do this, businesses are taking a critical look at their supply chains and determining how they can produce better products that have a reduced impact on the environment and can still deliver on their brand promise. Some of the ways this is being done include responsible raw material sourcing, more efficient manufacturing processes and reduced, reusable or recyclable packaging materials to cut waste to landfills. Companies are also beginning to highlight such innovations on their product packaging to promote their commitment to environmental stewardship and gain loyalty from like-minded consumers.

When shopping for green products, what should consumers know about “greenwashing” and how can they evaluate eco-friendly product claims?

Greenwashing has received a lot of attention lately as more and more businesses try to capitalize on the growing consumer interest in green products. Greenwashing refers to deceptive marketing used to promote a misleading statement or perception about a product, policy or service.  The first step in making smart purchase decisions is to educate yourself before heading to the store. GreenerChoices.org is an excellent resource for consumers that want to learn more about specific product claims and their meaning. The site provides independently researched, unbiased information on product safety, health and nutrition, updated label claims and other related topics.

Certification labels from reputable environmental organizations can also help consumers choose sustainable products. The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, provides Energy Star certification for energy efficient home appliances and the Design for the Environment label for high performance, cost effective and environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Responsible consumer product companies like Seventh Generation, Patagonia and Aveda also document and substantiate product claims on their web site.

How can consumers further drive sustainability efforts of their favorite brands?

Be vocal! Let the brands you patronize know how you feel about their products and their efforts towards becoming more sustainable. Share feedback on a company’s web site, comment on news stories written about sustainable innovations of your favorite brands and leverage the power of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to let companies know what you want from their products and services.

ABOUT SERI MCCLENDON

Seri McClendon is the CEO of CLEAN Agency. She is an industry veteran with more than 22 years of marketing experience. Seri formed CLEAN, an integrated agency serving the sustainable business sector, from her passion for environmental studies, policy and science. She holds a Masters degree in Geography with an emphasis in Industrial Ecology and a BA in marketing. Seri is a member of The USC Center for Sustainable Cities Advisory Board and was recently recognized as an Outstanding Woman in Environment and Energy Efficiency by the 2011 Women in Business Awards. 

10 Things That Make the LOHAS Forum Unique

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 by

1. Cross section of attendees is like no other event. Where else will you find Fortune 500 companies shoulder to start up entrepreneurs next to mainstream media and celebrity. It is a great networking event for those who want to stretch their comfort zone and meet new people.

2. Permission to drop the armor of image is granted and expected. Everyone at the event wants to know who each other is at heart first and then get to professional interests second. This makes the attendees really open to each other and sincerely attentive to each other’s needs.

3. On the cutting edge of what is next. Many events have large corporations as the core of their speakers where at LOHAS you see more of the larger corporations in the audience learning how to enter the LOHAS market.

4. Boulder City is the epicenter of LOHAS activity. Despite being just over 100K in population it is the hub of organics, clean tech, outdoor industry, spirituality, alternative medicine, technology, entrepreneurship and is beautiful place to be in June when the LOHAS Forum occurs.

5. St. Julien Hotel & Spa is the best hotel in Boulder and has a very accommodating staff and has fully embraced sustainability. They provide the measurements for landfill alleviation for the LOHAS forum and organic and locally sourced meal options. Last year we were able to recycle 87% of our waste from the event. We strive to do more this year. The spa is top notch as well. 

6. The LOHAS gift room is legendary. Rather than provide a pre stuffed conference bag of brochures that are typically dumped in the hotel room we provide a gift room of various items from LOHAS companies that attendees can pick and choose from. Attendees love this and the gift bags are usually quite stuffed when people leave the room!

7. Market data worth thousands of dollars is presented by a variety of green market trend specialists. Those that are interested on what is happening in the LOHAS space can collect a tremendous amount of insight from these highly sought presentations.

8. Program content transcends green business to include elements to connect with the human spirit and community in a way that is energetic and inspiring.

9. A paperless program for this year and digital signage. The program will be on an app that is also a mobile website. The app will be downloadable on iTunes and will allow those who are not attending to see what is happening by reading the social media feeds, text alerts and uploaded images by attendees. Conference signage are flatscreen monitors that double as media centers for video.

10. Not just a conference but a community celebration! We have a variety of ways built into the event ranging from morning yoga and meditation to musical entertainment to after parties to engage the senses for attendees.

If you are an attendee and have other elements I have forgotten I would love to hear them. Please share!

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com

A Gaijin's Perspective of the Japan Crisis

Friday, March 18, 2011 by

By Peter David of ESquare corresponding from Japan.

Tokyo Power OutageI am writing to you from a hotel along the shore of Biwa-ko, Japan's largest lake some 528 km west (and slightly south) of the Fukushima nuclear power station. Fresh snow is covering the landscape in what would, normally, be a very idyllic setting.

Right now, it feels absolutely surreal, as if all the earthquake destruction in Eastern Japan combined with the man-made specter of nuclear destruction were scenes out a Hollywood movie entitled "Twin Disasters." But this is no movie, and whether there will be any form of "happy" ending to the nuclear malaise remains entirely unpredictable.

The Japanese government "cannot" talk openly and honestly to the Japanese public about the potential dangers in a worst case scenario at Fukushima, primarily because of fears of panic in the 30 million population in the world's largest metropolitan area, Tokyo + Yokohama.

Personally, I have over the last 10 years or so repeatedly experienced the attempts of TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.) to control information on nuclear power in this country. For eighteen months, from 2000-2001, I anchored the main news program at MX TV, Tokyo's local TV station, and was told by the producer that "since TEPCO is a sponsor of our program, I would prefer if you do not openly criticize nuclear power."

On another occasion, I was writing a piece for a well-known publication for 5-6th grade school kids on the environment, this time being told by the chief editor that, "TEPCO is one of the sponsors of our magazine. While I would like you to write on the enviroment, please don't be critical of nuclear power."

On a third occasion, not directly related to TEPCO, I was interviewed by the Yomiuri Newspaper, one of Japan's top two newspapers in terms of circulation, about the 1978 demonstrations throughout Denmark against the possible introduction of nuclear power in which I participated as a child. When the interview appeared in the newspaper, my phrase "demonstrations against nuclear power" had been altered to "demonstrations for renewable energy." This was not what I had said, and when I called the journalist in charge, he sheepishly apologized, saying that "I did not dare to write anything negative about nuclear power lest I should invite the wrath of my editor (boss)."

Japan tsunamiI feel so very sorry for the people who are, right now, sacrificing their future health, and some of them their immediate lives, working to stop the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. They may be described as "heroes" - and surely their efforts as such are heroic - but in a wider perspective they are victims of an industry in which the brainwashing of contractors and workers to believe that what they work with is safe has been pervasive.

In its entirety, the present situation in Eastern Japan and the Tokyo Metropolitan area has revealed the amazing fragility of modern civilization. All lifelines - water, transport, electricity, food supplies - have been severed or disrupted in Eastern Japan, and one of the world's largest cities, Tokyo, was yesterday afternoon (March 17th), in danger of a large scale, sudden blackout as a cold spell of weather drove up electricity consumption close to the limit of maximum supply. A good friend of mine, working at Tohoku University not far from the epicenter of the earthquake, called to tell how he finally, after six days, managed to leave Sendai (a city of more than a million on Japan's (Honshu's) east coast), driving to Tokyo in a 16 hour ordeal. No gasoline being available anywhere on the route, he barely managed to reach Tokyo, his gas tank drying up. More frightening than the drive, though, was how food and water were virtually impossible to obtain in the city center of Sendai. "Emergency supplies have been distributed to the schools where tens of thousands of people take refuge, but nothing seemed to reach the city of Sendai and shelves in supermarkets were almost completely empty. For the first time, I had the feeling of a threat to my life because of an inability to buy food," he told me.
My friend made it, but older and weaker people are dying - or will die - as the crucial lifelines of a hypermodern society have been devastated.

The question, obviously, is what we can learn, not only in Japan, but in modern society as a whole, from this experience. It remains to be seen whether we will, truly, learn anything at all. To me, there seem to be at least three major lessons.

The first is the question of how or if lifestyles and values will change. The thing that the Japanese have been praised for throughout the first week of this terrible disaster, has not been "technology" or "financial strength"; it has been the strong spirit, the patience, the human qualities of the people here that has touched many around the world.  Money and shiny goods in temples of consumption have carried absolutely no value for the people here in the last week. Is there a chance that we may, now, see and act on the emptiness of useless consumerism? A chance there must be, I hope, although I do at the same time fear that once things settle down, Japan and the world will go on as if nothing had happened.

The second lesson is the danger of concentration of population into huge metropolises. Although the epicenter of the M9.0 earthquake was hundreds of kilometers northeast of Tokyo, the city was paralyzed, streets clogged, subways inoperational, phone lines dead. The staff at my office could not get home or get in touch with their family.

What if - and this could happen any day - the earthquake had hit Tokyo straight on? I have not the courage to think of the scale of disaster or the number of human lives that would have been lost. As urbanization continues at great speed in the world's population centers, the utter fragility of the 21st century megacity poses serious questions. Is there a way to answer this question in a more humane and sustainable manner than we are experiencing today?

There must be.

The third lesson is the folly of making ourselves dependent on energy production from large scale and extremely dangerous power stations, where no workable plans exist to control worst case scenarios.

Huge costs will be incurred in Japan over the next several decades to clean up Fukushima. Huge costs were incurred to build the plant in the first place. Surely, this money could have been used more wisely. Hopefully, the lesson taken from Fukushima will, finally, make the idea of non-violent, non-toxic, decentralized energy sources the mainstream policy and business choice around the world.

If we can learn the lessons, there is hope for the future.

If you want to assist with relief efforts here is a list of aid groups who are on the ground helping with putting things back together.

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com

Sundance Explores The Last Mountain

Thursday, March 3, 2011 by

PARK CITY, UTAH -- Sundance to the film industry is like the NCAA championship in collegiate basketball: the best of the best in what is designed to be a purist format. It's about the film makers and directors and actors, the writing and the plots, not unlike the two best amateur teams in the world playing on a neutral court, for all the marbles.

It's an ultimate experience for movie buffs. The vibe is so low key that you truly don't notice the famous Hollywood types since everyone wears jeans and a sweater. No paparazzi, no limos, no swanky parties with designer duds. The awards ceremony was held not at the super elite St. Regis or Montage hotels, but at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse at Kimball Junction. That pretty much says it all about the atmosphere at Sundance. It's about the movies, not the money or the glitz. Of course, commerce is still done, films are picked up for distribution, directors are scouted, and new stars are discovered. Robert Redford sightings are very rare so I didn't get to ask him in person, but he's got to be happy with what he has created: a full-on minor league development system for the film industry.

I came to Park City specifically to view environmental documentaries, as Sundance is well known for its role in premiering important films about social and environmental issues. One of this year's most important movies of this genre is The Last Mountain. This riveting film examines one of Sierra Club's least favorite subjects: coal mining (in this case, coal blasting, literally blowing off the top of a mountain to access its motherlode of coal) and its effect on the environment and the people who live near the mining site.

Here is the quick "official" synopsis of The Last Mountain: "Focusing on the devastating effects of mountaintop coal removal in West Virginia's Coal River Valley, filmmaker Bill Haney illustrates the way residents and activists are standing up to the industry and major employer that is so deeply embedded in the region. With strong support from Bobby Kennedy Jr. and grassroots organizations, awareness is rising in the battle over Appalachian mountaintop mining." You can view the trailer at TreeHugger.com.

Yes, The Last Mountain is another Fight The Power flick. But it's also much more than that. This film reminds us that we are all indirectly supporting the coal mining industry, every time we turn on the lights. It also shows us how important grassroots movements can be. And Robert Kennedy Jr.'s role as champion for the townspeople is depicted for what it is: a sincere, non-grandstanding example of pure volunteerism that lends some celebrity credibility to a legitimate cause.

Mountaintop coal removal is not only destructive, but until recently, it violated the Clean Water Act and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Unfortunately, industry-friendly federal and state agencies mostly looked the other way when it came to enforcing these laws. When the courts and local communities attempted to make the mining companies comply, the Bush administration changed the laws to allow mining companies to continue to dump rock and rubble into the valleys and streams below. Communities throughout Appalachia are fighting back against this blight on the earth that harms the environment, health and quality of life of local citizens. Bank of America even pledged to curtail commercial lending to companies that blow the tops off of mountains.
2011-02-04-MountaintopBlast.jpg

I'm no film reviewer, so you can search other sites if you'd like to know how the critics rated The Last Mountain. I do have some additional thoughts about this subject, no disrespect to the movie, that need to be brought out. First, it appears that the big bad coal company (none other than Massey Energy, yes the same guys who had the terrible explosion and fatalities last year, and just last week was acquired for $7 billion by Alpha Natural Resources) wins the battle and blows up the mountain anyway. Thanks a lot, George Bush. I say that because the film brings to light the fact that those regulating the coal industry were largely energy industry cronies of Mr. Bush, previously lobbyists and coal company executives hired by the Bush administration. And while the Obama administration has been sympathetic to the cause, they have yet to overturn any important legislation that will keep the mountains intact, prevent coal companies from dumping their waste, and protect the inhabitants of Appalachia. Not sure what they are waiting for?

The Last Mountain provided wake-up call for the general public and those of us who do not live in Appalachia. Actually, there has been a lot of activity in this area for many years. By the end of 2010, Sierra Club lobbying and legal efforts helped stop the construction of 149 coal mines throughout the country with its "Beyond Coal" campaign. NRDC and other leading environmental organizations have also made huge contributions toward stopping this incredibly damaging and dangerous activity. One nitpick I had was at the end of the film there is a call to action to visit The Last Mountain website, i.e. soliciting donations. I found several smaller organizations that need assistance to stop coal mining. Although I am a proponent of grassroots efforts, dollars will go much farther if given directly to existing programs such as Sierra Club or NRDC which have full legal staffs, specialized expertise and years of experience. Why create yet another non-profit to do the same thing when some of the best are already in place?

In case you are a coal mining supporter, right now asking, "so what will we use to turn on the lights if we don't have coal mining?" the answer is, renewable energy. Some combination of wind, solar, fuel cells, petro algae, natural gas and other technologies will ultimately take the place of foreign oil and domestic (and imported) coal to power our country. This will happen, it's just a matter of when. Stopping coal mining will help expedite this process, and anybody who sees The Last Mountain will most likely become a zealot for ending the madness that is mountaintop coal removal.

Photo obtained via a Creative Commons license

 

Follow Jennifer Schwab on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SCGreen_Home

The Detroit Auto Show: Sure Looks Green to Me

Friday, January 21, 2011 by
I'll bet many of you have heard rumblings from friends and relatives or colleagues at work about the premature death of the green movement, and how the economic recovery must first occur before we even address climate change.  This rhetoric is a groundswell among otherwise rational people, not just climate change deniers.

I just returned from the Detroit Auto Show (courtesy of Ford Motor Company, I should disclose) and there was one overwhelming, over-arching headline that was in your face, anywhere you looked:  the green movement in personal transportation is just beginning.  Virtually every automaker showcased green cars above all else.  Doubting Thomas's claim that electrics and hybrids combined won't amount to more than five percent of the total car market.  It's hard to fathom that almost all the car companies would devote this relentless effort to R&D and marketing launch publicity in return for only a token slice of sales.  Indeed, some analysts seriously question the numbers behind the auto industry going green.  Thankfully, the companies themselves seem rather committed at this point and there appears to be no turning back.

Now, skeptics might say that four or five years ago, when the green movement appeared to be The Next Big Thing times ten, the automakers had to decide to go green and we are just now seeing the real results of those decisions.  (It takes anywhere from two to five years for a new model to make it from concept to production.)  I would humbly submit that the incredible onslaught of hybrid, electric and other alternative fuel vehicles seen at the 2011 North American International Auto Show demonstrates that those who really know - the car makers themselves - believe Gen Y and Net Gen are being raised to be environmentally conscious as part of their DNA and will default to buying green vehicles.

Highlights of this commitment include everything from the new small car line from Ford (Fiesta, Focus and C-Max) to two new models of Prius from Toyota, to the best of show-winning Chevrolet Volt hybrid electric, the all electric Nissan Leaf, and unbelievable electric/hybrid race cars for the street from Mercedes Benz (the E-Cell, an electric version of the new SLS Gullwing which only come in a retina piercing electric yellow hue) and Porsche (the 918 hybrid street exotic and track version, both of which are absolutely stunning).  The only automakers who seemingly didn't have much to boast about green-wise were Ferrari and Maserati.  Even Bentley claims its new GT, all 5,000+ pounds and almost 600 horsepower's worth, is significantly lighter and more fuel-efficient than its predecessor. 


Ford Press Conference 2011

Critics claim that hybrids make great publicity and image, but consumers won't pay thousands more for them.  Even if that turns out to be true, there seems to be a trickle-down effect that benefits everyone.  That is, even good old fashioned gasoline automobiles now get anywhere from good to stunningly great fuel economy.  You don't have to go hybrid or electric to go fuel efficient.  For example, most gas models of the Fiesta, Focus and C-Max from Ford will get 30-45+ mpg.  Those are numbers that even three years ago were almost unachievable.  Clearly, the emphasis on going green has affected the designers and engineers, as has the Federal fuel economy fleet requirement to average 35 mpg by 2020.  They say you cannot mandate technology, and that the free enterprise system won't allow for products that consumers don't want to buy.  What's happening right now with fuel efficient vehicles may prove otherwise.  How great is that for the environment, and consumer pocketbooks?

Another example worthy of mention is why Ford invited me and several other green bloggers to the Detroit show in the first place.  Ford Digital Communications Director Scott Monty brought these greenies in mostly to show off its commitment to open communications with the environmental media.  Participants came from as far away as India, South Africa, Australia, China and Italy, all of which are important international markets for Ford and most major automakers.  Many of these writers were not car people, and for that matter, some didn't even have driver's licenses.  Ford wanted to show off its environmentally responsible activities such as the clean and green River Rouge plant, previously a classic "Allentown" style hot, dirty and polluting facility which now boasts a green roof, grey water systems, green packaging and recycling top to bottom, and cool, well lit working conditions.  For years I wondered about Executive Chairman Bill Ford's grandiose claims from the green soapbox.  The rebuilt Rouge plant is truly a great example of a Rust Belt industrial nightmare turned green showpiece.  Ford also demonstrated its in-car "Sync" system which is directed at Gen Y and Net Gen with everything from full voice activation to internet hot spot, inputs for all forms of digital music, state-of-the-art NAV systems, and more, all at a price point that younger drivers can afford.  All of these features will be offered in the lower priced car lines, not only the upscale models. 


Ford Factory Assembly Line

Most major automakers can point to many green product claims and internal practices that were just a pipedream a few short years ago.  For this, a green blogger such as I, one who admits to liking cars as part of Americana and the freedom of personal transportation, can feel a lot better about where this industry is headed and what it is doing to address climate change.  If the green movement is more hype than reality, this industry ain't buying it and for that we should be grateful.

Consumer Electronics Association Moving Towards Green

Thursday, January 13, 2011 by
CESThe Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, owner and producer of the International CES, donated $75,000 to Green Chips, a non-profit organization promoting carbon neutrality, to support sustainable energy in southern Nevada.
 
“This donation illustrates CEA’s commitment to sustainability in the Las Vegas area as we launch another successful International CES,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. “Green Chips is creating clean energy and showing the power of green innovation and ingenuity in southern Nevada, which mirrors CES’ dedication to being a green tradeshow and to implementing sustainable practices.”

Shapiro presented a check today to Oscar Goodman, chairman of Green Chips and Mayor of Las Vegas, in a ceremony at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the official site of this year’s CES from January 6-9.

The donation was made to Green Chips’ Non-Profit Energy Audit and Retrofit program, which typically covers the cost of a building’s energy efficiency audit and construction retrofit needs. The Shade Tree, a Las Vegas women’s shelter, has utilized this energy efficiency audit and solar retrofit program, along with installing solar panels, to cut energy costs by a projected 10 percent.

“This contribution will enable Green Chips to conduct more audits and prepare more buildings for clean solar energy,” Goodman said. “We applaud CEA’s contribution and welcome another year of the CES, the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow.”
In 2009, CEA was honored by Trade Show Executive Magazine with the “Leader in Green Initiatives” Gold Grand Award for the greening of the CES. At the 2010 International CES, CEA worked with the Las Vegas Convention Center to recycle 68 percent (372.2 tons) of the total solid waste generated by show attendees through diversion of cardboard, paper, metal, wood, carpet padding and plastic from landfills.

Last year at CES, CEA donated $50,000 to the Las Vegas Metro Police Department to purchase seven Vetrix electric motorcycles, which are on the streets of the tourist corridor every day helping to keeping Las Vegas both safe and green.

More details on the greening of CES are available here: www.cesweb.org/cesgreening.asp.

TEDx: Plastic Is the New Smoking

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 by


Think of the Gulf oil spill only a couple thousand miles longer.  A loosely formed mass of plastic paraphernalia stretches from the beaches of Santa Monica, all the way across the Pacific Ocean, the other end of this unwieldy but deadly man made monster reaching the eastern Chinese coast.  Thus the subject of a one-day conference at the Annenberg House entitled "The TED Great Pacific Garbage Patch" put on by the folks at the Plastic Pollution Coalition. 

You may have heard of the TED conference, as in, Technology Entertainment and Design.  This was an offshoot of the main TED event, limited to only 80 participants but available free online, as thousands of visitors watched at least part of the proceedings.

A variety of speakers and presentations were all geared around answering the critical question, "how can we live the same lives of convenience without plastics?"  Makes you think of the old joke from <em>The Graduate</em> when Mrs. Robinson's husband is counseling Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) about his future.  "Plastics my boy" was at the time a visionary recommendation.  And how the worldwide manufacturing industry has embraced those words:  over four decades of plastics addiction has caused a true unnatural disaster in our oceans.  That's what this conference tried to address. 

Suja Lowenthal, vice mayor of Long Beach, allocates millions of dollars annually to clear junk -- mostly plastic -- from the city's beaches.  She also documented the tens of millions that must be spent annually by Long Beach and Los Angeles to just pick up the plastic trash discarded by citizens.  Loventhal thinks plastics abuse is indicative of a deeper societal problem.   "We have convinced emerging societies that a sign of wealth, progress and their becoming truly middle class is usage of disposables, bottles, utensils and packaging."   We need to teach the masses to be eco-responsible, not just consumers.  Obvious perhaps, but a challenge that will probably take decades to achieve.

Monica Wilson wants to end the use of incinerators to dispose of trash.  When you think about it, incinerators seem on the surface to be a good idea as a huge pile of waste is reduced to a handful of ash.  Unfortunately, the process releases dioxins, PCBs and other chemicals into the air.  Just think about melting all that plastic, surely there are dangerous fumes released in the process.  Wilson's Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives is trying to spread the word about the dangers of incineration worldwide.

Ken Cook heads Environmental Working Group,  which believes that plastic pollution begins in the womb.  They found BPA in nine of ten newborns tested per year, among other birth defects they claim are affected by the plastics waste we passively ingest.

Andy Keller is otherwise known as The Plastic Bag Monster. His company, ChicoBag, creates sustainable bags you can carry in your pocket.  He also showed up in costume to spoof the pervasiveness of plastic bags in our daily life.  The point was made:  we can get by without, and the only way to do so will be to end single-use plastics.

<img alt="2010-11-10-BagMonsterTedx.jpg" src="http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2010-11-10-BagMonsterTedx.jpg" width="333" height="500" />
Photo taken by Nels Israelson November 4-7 2010

To that end, a sea change (if I may use a bad pun) will never happen without getting business on board.  Patrick McKenney has a plan for this:  bioplastics, which use biopolymers instead of polymers.  Industrial composting is another idea that needs critical mass to make an impact.  "Plastic product owners don't want to invest in R&D to retool their manufacturing," explained McKenney. The only way we can make this happen is consumer pull-through, which will occur only if end use customers complain about plastic packaging and products and vote with their pocketbooks.  Andy Behar is also encouraging business to move away from plastics through his "As You Sow" organization, which consults with corporations to increase their accountability.  They serve as a policing body to ensure companies are in compliance with water and toxins regulations.  They also use shareholder advocacy and the financial markets to catalyze positive change within publicly held companies.

To incentivize all this, TED XPrize honcho Ferris Thompson proposed a $10 million prize to the inventor who creates a commercial solution to cleaning up plastic polymer pollution and basically reinvents plastic as we know it.  Although the TED XPrize qualifications are extensive, this appears to be a working model to spur innovation.

Van Jones, former environmental adviser to the Obama administration, suggests this is more of a socio-economic problem than we'd like to admit.  "Higher income levels allow choices," he explained.  "Cheaper products are often the most dangerous.  Poor people suffer the most both in production and usage of plastic packaging and products."

<img alt="2010-11-10-VanJones.jpg" src="http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2010-11-10-VanJones.jpg" width="500" height="375" />
Photo taken by Nels Israelson November 4-7 2010

Indeed, one of the best goody bags ever included non-plastic lip balm from Organic Essence; a resuable bamboo utensils set that can replace plastic ones from To-Go Ware;  a reusable sandwich bag from Graze Organic, and a glass straw from Glass Dharma.  All packaged in a very handy lightweight fold-up shopping bag/backpack provided by ChicoBag.   I call out the names of these products for a reason:  we need to buy them to support the plastics reduction concept.  If we don't go out of our way to eliminate unnecessary plastics from our daily lives, we sure can't expect the general public to do so. Also noteworthy is a new juice vending kiosk machine by Ecowell.  I  guzzled some super healthy, stunningly tasty fruit juice from this totally sustainable, no-waste system.  Even Ecowell's press kit is made from all recycled material.

We heard from David de Rothschild, who built the Plastiki, an ocean-going boat made from plastic water bottles and spent four months sailing it across the Pacific.  He did this to raise awareness about the plastic pollution problem, quite effectively I might add.

Beth Terry is one of the most genuine "do not only as I say, but as I do" activists out there.  She is living a life without plastic, and going to extreme lengths to do so.  She literally laid out all of her plastics for the year on stage.   This included mostly items for her cat, packaging from a gift, and prescription bottles.    As an ex-accountant, when she mentioned she quantified her plastic consumption on a spreadsheet, it struck a chord.  If we all took these extreme measures, maybe we'd understand just how much plastic we go through annually.   Check out this all-important resource at <a href="http://www.fakeplasticfish.com" target="_hplink">www.fakeplasticfish.com</a> to gain insight on plastic alternatives.
 
Other important speakers too numerous to mention all gave moving accounts of their work to help save the Pacific Ocean.  Also noteworthy were performances by artists and musicians, tied into the subject matter.  Several photographers and mixed media artists have done great works including photography of sea debris entitled "Drifters" by Georgia State professor Pam Longobardi  -- dedicated to cleaning up the plastic waste in our oceans.
 
Any negatives about The TED Great Pacific Garbage Patch?  Only that sometimes I feel we are preaching to a large choir.  I have seen the pilgrims and they are us.  That's well and good, but somehow we have to sell the general public on what we are doing.  Otherwise, even if all of the participants in this conference never use a shred of plastic for the remainder of their lives, not much will be gained to clean up the Pacific Ocean.  We've got to get the trickle-down effect to make this all worthwhile.

 

The Cutting Edge in Green Home Power Is Here

Friday, December 17, 2010 by

I have been anxiously awaiting an alternative to conventional electric power and the economic benefits that follow. Of course solar comes to mind, and while I love solar power, it can be expensive and because of the space requirements for panel installation, it is not for everybody.

My prayers were finally answered, as ClearEdge Power of Portland, OR, has rolled out the first home fuel cell. Initially available only in California, the ClearEdge5 self-contained fuel cell was actually announced last year but that was somewhat of a well-kept secret. The availability of this product marks the first time in America that fuel cell technology has become available to individual consumers. The ClearEdge5 can create energy that can power, heat and cool your home, and swimming pool, without using electric power from the utility company. You'll reduce the power you pull from the grid while using natural gas - the cheapest power source available at least for now.

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"After significant private equity investment and seven years of research by our 50+ R & D team, ClearEdge Power is proud to be the first to offer this groundbreaking technology to California's homeowners," said Russell Ford, CEO of ClearEdge Power. "This is a major development in America's push to become energy independent. We hope to roll this product out to other states, beginning with New York in the early part of 2011. But California is the first, and homeowners can receive federal and local incentives up to $17,500 by installing a ClearEdge5 kilowatt fuel cell."

Fuel cells provide an alternative to solar, wind and other types of renewable energy. They can also work in concert with solar, wind and other renewable energy sources to power a home or commercial structure. Fuel cells were once considered the technology of the future, but have finally become a clean energy solution for today.

A fuel cell is an electrochemical device which converts a source fuel into electrical current. The electricity generated inside the cell is a reaction between the fuel and an oxidant. Fuel cells can operate indefinitely, so long as the necessary reactants and oxidants are replenished. A hydrogen fuel cell uses hydrogen as its fuel and oxygen as an oxidant. Fuel cells can also use hydrocarbons or alcohol as fuel and chlorine or chlorine dioxide as oxidants.

Unlike petroleum-based fossil fuels, fuel cells are a clean energy source creating virtually no toxins or pollutants. The main byproducts are water, heat, and carbon dioxide. The CO2 emissions are substantially less than those produced by conventional power systems.

I contacted a real-world customer of ClearEdge Power to find out more about how the home fuel cell actually works. Gary Dillabough, of Atherton, CA, is a green industry professional who wanted to find an energy alternative with a smaller footprint than solar panels. "The payback is just over three years," Dillabough explained. "I think several of my friends will also adopt this technology after seeing how well it works." Admittedly, Dillabough is a sophisticated investor and early adopter of advanced technology, and the ClearEdge5 penciled nicely for his larger home. As should be the case for a pioneer, he is among the first people in the country, if not the world, to try a home fuel cell. But hopefully his favorable experience is a precursor to much more volume, and lower prices as the technology progresses.

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You may have heard of the other significant fuel cell provider, Bloom Energy. Unlike ClearEdge Power, Bloom has received tons of publicity. While Bloom focuses on commercial applications - their initial deliveries to corporate headquarters buildings for Google, E-Bay and FedEx among others, attracted lots of attention - I think ClearEdge Power can potentially be even a bigger player in this space because of its suitability for single family homes and small commercial applications. The hype surrounding Bloom has yet to be proven, as the cost to install and run those commercial applications still exceeds the savings by a significant margin. (I should disclose here that I personally have a small investment in Bloom Energy).

Billions of dollars have been invested in alternative and renewable energy technologies. Bloom is rumored to have spent over $450 million to date, and its product is still in the developmental stages. ClearEdge Power is a true pioneer in America's vision to create energy independence. You can now power your home while reducing your energy bills by as much as 50% and reducing your carbon footprint by as much as 40%.

I should note that initially, the ClearEdge5 makes most sense for homes with a larger footprint and power needs, but as the technology is further developed and power costs continue to rise, future CEP models will become accessible to homeowners with smaller homes. We urge you to visit the Sierra Club Green Home website to learn more about this stunning new technology.

 

Follow Jennifer Schwab on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SCGreen_Home