Trendwatching.com’s 12 eco-trends to watch

Hey all – I wanted to share this interesting briefing on Trendwatching.com about eco trends that present exciting opportunities for marketers and entrepreneurs.

Trendwatching refers to these opportunities as an eco-bounty, and they provide the following definition: “ECO-BOUNTY refers to the numerous opportunities, both short and long term, for brands that participate in the epic quest for a sustainable society. Some of these opportunities exist despite the current recession, others are fueled by it, not in the least because of new rules and regulations. Downturn-obsessed brands who lose their eco-focus will find themselves left out in the cold when the global economy starts recovering.”

Have a great weekend!

Key findings from Direct Marketing Going Green panel

875191As I wrote before, I was on a panel titled “DM Going Green – Separating Fact and Fiction” on January 13.  The session, which was organized by the New England Direct Marketing Association, was interesting and the conversation was lively.

Floyd Kemske, who serves as Editor of NEDMA News and Creative Director at Amergent, wrote up a nice summary from the event.  As it is not online yet, I’m pleased to include select portions of the piece below:

****From NEDMA News****
The session, moderated by Mariah Hunt, Senior Production Manager at Digitas, featured four practitioners from the front lines of the campaign for industry sustainability.

Each panelist provided a unique perspective on sustainability, its achievability, and its benefits. Ben Grossman, Director, Green Marketing & Sustainability Practice, Grossman Marketing Group , for example, has been instrumental in developing a model program for his company, which offsets 100% of its energy use through an organization called Renewable Choice Energy. This allows Grossman Marketing’s customers to credibly claim they make their printed collateral with certified wind power. In addition, Grossman has replaced petroleum-based window material in its window envelopes with corn-based material, which is both compostable and recyclable. Although the corn-based windows cost more, Grossman said, the company absorbs the premium so its customers pay the same as if they’d bought the petroleum-based ones.

According to Grossman, the company’s sustainability practices confer benefits in terms of increased sales, reduced costs, and more productive recruitment. But he advised the audience that sustainability isn’t something you can just say you do. “Customers are smart,” he said, “and they are conversant with the issues. They can discern a real commitment.” Transparency is important, he said. “Give people a way to dig down and investigate.” If you work at it and you are sincere, he said, you can use sustainability as a competitive advantage.

Mary McCormick, Senior Account Manager, Neenah Paper Inc., said her company was committed to manufacturing products with high post-consumer waste content, FSC-certification, and reduced carbon footprint. Before delving into some of the technical aspects of sustainable paper manufacture, she may have confirmed Grossman’s assertion about competitive advantage when she noted that the invitation for President Obama’s inauguration was printed on Neenah paper, chosen because of the company’s sustainability practices.

FSC certification, which is the premier paper certification standard, guarantees a chain of custody for pulp products from the harvest site to the finished product. It doesn’t simply guarantee sustainability. It also addresses social issues (e.g., rights of indigenous peoples) and forest recovery as well. Neenah’s website offers a calculator you can use to find the environmental savings you will achieve by using FSC papers. Neenah has also developed no-new-tree papers, including one manufactured from sugar cane bagasse.

The panel presentations were followed by a lively discussion in which some members of the audience sought proof that sustainability practices could increase sales. None of the panelists could cite such proof, but Ben Grossman stepped up and said that if anyone in the room wanted to conduct a test to determine whether a legitimate green logo would boost response to a mailing, his company was willing to subsidize it. There’s a man who backs up his belief in sustainability!

EPA Revises Green Power Partnership Program Requirement

gpp_logo180I was glad to see that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised its Green Power Partnership program requirements last weekThe Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that encourages the use of renewable energy in the United States.

My firm was chosen to be a Green Power Partner in 2008 because we offset 100% of our energy with Green-e certified wind power – we have continued the initiative and have gotten a number of our suppliers to join our consortium (we work with Renewable Choice Energy).
Below are the notable changes:

  1. Minimum purchase percentages have risen for an organization to be able to be included in the program
  2. Program requires purchase of new renewable energy, rather than from existing sources.  As the announcement stated, “The Partnership’s primary objective is to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. power sector by increasing renewable energy supply.”
  3. Window for making an initial green power purchase has tightened – new partners will only have 6 months (rather than the previously-allowed 12) to make an initial purchase.  I like this change because companies won’t be able to market their involvement in the program without making the necessary investment in renewable energy…if it were up to me, I would shorten the window even further.

These are encouraging changes, as participating companies will now have to make more substantial investments in new energy sources in a shorter timeframe, helping to weed out the types of companies that join to make the minimum investment possible for the purposes of greenwashing.

News roundup – it’s about the wind

As I have written in the past, renewable energy is critical to our nation’s future – not only from a carbon emissions perspective but also for national security reasons.

My firm’s adoption of and support for renewable energy (we offset 100% of our energy with Green-e certified wind power through Renewable Choice, the firm that both Whole Foods and Burt’s Bees work with to offset their energy usage) has enabled us to offer products and services to our clients that have helped them support the environment, without adding any extra cost to their respective bottom lines.  Because my firm made the commitment more than two years ago to absorb the additional cost of these wind power credits, we have been able to grow our business in turbulent times and attract new and progressive clients.

I am pleased to share two exciting news pieces:

  1. A PDF of an article published last month by the American Marketing Association’s Marketing News magazine (a live link is not yet available).  The staff collected a range of good and bad marketing campaigns from 2008 and asked various marketing professionals to chime in.  They asked me to comment on the marketing of T. Boone Pickens’ wind power initiative (which is now on hold due to economic concerns) – the news brief is on page 1 of the attachment.
  2. An article in The Somerville News (a newspaper in my company’s home market) about recent successes my family firm has had as a result of our green initiatives (one correction I need to make is that the reporter spoke with my brother, David, but refers to him as Steve, who is my father and president of the company).

In this increasingly difficult business climate, I can certainly attest to the importance of corporate sustainability and social responsibility programs as a means of differentiation from one’s competition (not to mention the right thing to do!).  Although organizations are looking harder for lower prices than they have ever done before, they are also very much interested in working with a partner who they respect and can learn from.  If your company does not have sustainability initiatives in place now, I implore you to start thinking about them.  Not only can they help you generate interest from prospective clients, but they can also help you save money (on energy, water, etc) – which is now more important than ever.

Cape Wind one step closer to approval

logo_01Cape Wind, the nation’s first proposed offshore wind farm, moved one step closer to final approval on Friday, when the Minerals Management Service (MMS) issued a favorable final review of the project.

Please click here for a story in the Boston Globe.

Please click here for the full report from MMS.

Support for Cape Wind is broad in Massachusetts; in fact, the project has helped create awareness of, and demand for marketing materials made with renewable energy.  I hope this project moves to construction, as it would provide much-needed electricity to Massachusetts, and would serve as a shining example of renewable energy ingenuity for this region.

Forbes.com: “How To Go Green And Stay Cost-Competitive”

green_061

Courtesy of Forbes.com

Forbes ran a story Friday on how green practices can help businesses compete and succeed.  The reporter heard about our success with our wind power initiative, through which we’re able to help our clients produce their marketing communications materials with Green-e certified wind power at no extra cost, and included us in the article.  Below are 2 links.  The first one is to the article.  The second one is to the slideshow associated with the story (we’re slide 7).

  1. Link to article
  2. Link to slideshow (we’re on page 7)

Despite the recent drop in oil prices, people are still very much interested in renewable energy and the concept of weaning our country off foreign oil.  I have written before about what we believe are the five best ways to go green on a print project. Using renewable energy, especially wind power, is definitely at the top of the list, as it allows an organization to send a values-laden message to its constituents without adding any extra cost to their bottom line, which is especially important in these turbulent economic times.

Renewable energy and the economic slowdown

wind-turbine-abstract-080815Ever since the economy really began to weaken and gas prices approached $3/gallon and then $2/gallon, there has been much commentary on businesses making cutbacks and slowing their implementation of sustainability efforts.  I have written that this time of economic crisis will separate the companies that are truly committed to good environmental stewardship from those that were only interested in making green efforts while the economy was strong.

During the presidential campaign, both candidates made renewable energy investments central pieces of their legislative agendas, employing images of wind turbines and solar panels in their TV ads and stump speeches.  However, since the credit crisis exploded and energy prices plummeted, even a pioneer like T. Booke Pickens, who spent tens of millions of dollars over the last few months advocating for public support of wind power, has delayed his landmark project.  The New York Times ran a story on Tuesday, 11/24, about how the “economic slump and plunging prices of coal and oil are upending plans to wean businesses and consumers from fossil fuel.”

My hope is that the U.S. Government, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, does not give up on its efforts to wean our country off oil, most of which comes from foreign sources.  I was encouraged by a message that Obama recorded last week for the Governors’ Global Climate Summit.

In his message, Obama states, “Climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy and threaten our national security.”  He goes on to say that his goal is to reduce the United States’ emissions of greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050.  He also committed to investing $15b each year on alternative energy, which he said will not only help to reduce our use of oil, but will also help create up to 5 million new jobs.  Regardless of the accuracy of the jobs figure, I hope that the U.S. sticks to this plan, and does not use low gas prices and a difficult economy as an excuse for inaction.  We should look towards Brazil as an example of how a country makes energy independence a goal and sticks to that plan, regardless of the economic circumstances.  Here’s a great story from the Wall Street Journal in 2006 which summarizes Brazil’s sugar ethanol industry development.  I remember reading this in an airport almost three years ago and was able to find a free link on Yale’s website – I found the piece so interesting, and wanted to share it with you.

The moral of the story for me is that we have learned our lesson from our addiction to oil – from the recent price spikes, as well as the fact that it supports dangerous regimes that hate America (not to mention the negative environmental impact of fossil fuels), and we need to make a change.  It will cost a lot of money and require sacrifice, but it is one of the greatest issues of our time and must be addressed.

Grassroots is the way to go: a look at GoGreen Somerville

ggsom_web_header_resize_new1My firm has become involved over the last several months with GoGreen Somerville, a coalition of businesses and non-profit organizations that leverage relationships, knowledge, and resources to green the Somerville businesses community.  I wrote a bit about this organization in May when it got a positive write-up in the Boston Globe.

GoGreen Somerville, where my firm is headquartered, is run by Vanessa Rule, who is very impressive.  She is motivated, talented and knowledgeable, an excellent combination.  I was excited to get involved in this effort, especially because it is on the grassroots level.  By building a laboratory of sustainability in our home city, this organization can possibly create a scalable model for helping other markets become more environmentally responsible.

Also exciting is that it includes a broad coalition of businesses: including bakeries, food manufacturers (chocolate), as well as a cleantech engineering firm and a wind power specialist.  It is a testament to the depth and breadth of talent in a small city that such best-in-class organizations spanning a wide range of industries have volunteered their time and resources to help make our city a more sustainable one.  It’s important to note is that if Somerville can become a case study for good environmental stewardship, it will help attract investment, new businesses, and talent; not to mention make it a better place to live and work.

I’m sure I’ll write more about this effort down the line, but I wanted to share this today, as GoGreen Somerville just launched its new website.

A must read – Al Gore’s NYTimes column (11/9/2008)

green-wind-turbine-30-96-66-2Al Gore wrote an excellent column in the New York Times on Sunday, 11/9, in which he lays out a very clear and sensible five-part plan to get America to produce 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources within 10 years.  Although he has launched the We Campaign which has pushed this goal, this article is a quick and easy read, and as such, I highly recommend you take a look.

Without further ado, here’s a link to the piece.

Alternative energy: striking a balance between caution and execution

There has been increasing news coverage of alternative energy, most notably due to the explosion in energy prices over the last couple years.  I saw two interesting articles over the last day, one from the conservative editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal, and the other from The New York Times.

Please note – photo courtesy of The New York Times (photographer: Christinne Muschi).

The WSJ opinion piece points out that one of the key barriers to growth in alternative energy is infrastructure, most notably transmission lines connecting the sources of energy (wind and solar fields in rural and desert locations in the plains and Southwest) and the cities in which most people live.  The WSJ, in it’s characteristic fashion, blames this challenge on liberals, who they claim support alternative energy but oppose the construction of transmission lines, as they often have to go through protected lands.  Here’s a link to the piece.

The Times describes challenges and conflicts of interest that have arisen in upstate New York, where wind revenue has become critical for family farmers.  The article highlights instances when local town boards have voted on wind leases for firms when several of the individual members already had contracts in place for their own farms.  A key issue, the article goes on to discuss, is that there is no statewide (New York) law on wind power, so it is up to the individual towns to decide.  Here’s a link to the article.

If alternative energy is to become more widespread (according to the WSJ, wind only provides two-thirds of 1% of electricity generated in the U.S., and solar one-tenth of 1%), there will have to be better statewide and national legislation that fast tracks the development of wind farms, solar fields, and other energy sources.  At the same time, a balance has to be struck between speed and careful examination of the intricacies of development (impact on local environments, costs, etc).

Nevertheless, it is no longer debatable that these technologies are needed.  In fact, weaning our country off of foreign oil and developing better domestic, renewable (and clean) energy resources are key elements and ingredients to the future success of our country.  My sincere hope is that the right balance can happen in order to unlock this power and bring jobs to local markets with it.