« November 2006 | Main | January 2007 »

8 posts from December 2006

December 31, 2006

It's not easy being REALLY green, i.e. sustainable

Welcome to 2007 - the year of marketing everything that is "green."

Are you as confused as I am when it comes to buying the right products. It seems that everyone under the global warming sun is "green" these days, but are they? Would we be in this ever hotter mess if we were all doing the right things, right now?

That's the problem - there are so many "right things" - what is green and what is being greenwashed just to get you to buy it? And what's the difference between being green and being sustainable?

For a quick explanation - Water is green. Water in a plastic bottle - isn't green. Water in plastic bottles where 100% of the plastic bottles are recycled is green, but not necessarily sustainable. Water in a refillable bottles is green and more easily sustainable depending on how the bottle is made, what it's made out of and how it can be recycled after it's useful life. It takes both products and consumer action to make things sustainable.

So what do can we do? First and last for the next five years focus on whatever is putting C02 in the air and change our ways. If we focus on that, everything else will fall in line... or at least buy us more time to take care of other things, like saving polar bears from extinction. That's no small job and it will take both sides of the buyer/seller equation to bring it around quickly. Consumers want to do the right thing and the more they voice that opinion, the faster large corporations who control 90% of the CO2 output will become sustainable and carbon neutral.

The BIGGEST CONTRIBUTOR of C02 might surprise you. It isn't cars - it's buildings. Yep, the making, building, heating, cooling, lighting, decorating of our homes and offices puts the majority of CO2 into our atmosphere and thus increases global warming. Transportation comes in second in the making, marketing and finally burning of fossil fuels to run them. The trick is to bring both in line to achieve a neutral carbon footprint ASAP.

Thanks to new sustainable standards that industry has agreed on, that is now possible.

Standards are the rules of the manufacturing game, leading into the making of a product and to the disposing of it. With standards, companies know what is expected of them and they can "compete" not only on marketing, but on manufacturing.

Mtslogo Sustainable Products has become a clearing house of these standards. This non-profit has spent the last 7 years getting standards in place for over 1000 industries. Not only did it create missing standards and amass the rest, but it is playing the role of hand holder between industry, Wall Street, Cities and consumers. It's going to take all of us working together to bring global warming down.

If you are a concerned consumer or a marketer hoping not to make a faux pas in the new "green" market, bookmark this page with the standards and the labels. It's a lot to take in, but I have faith that with knowledge comes power and that both companies and consumers will use their power in a unified way to reverse global warming. Luckily, the 100 companies that contribute to 90% of the problem are global and what they do affects the whole world. Let's help them do the "right things."

December 26, 2006

S.A.R.A.H finding common ground

I had the pleasure of speaking with the women of SARAH this week. SARAH was formed in reaction to 9/11 by women who wanted to learn why religions couldn't get along and to discover what they had in common.

"Because the original members came from the three Abrahamic religions, it made sense to call the group SARAH, the wife of Abraham. The name is also an acronym for Spiritual And Religious Alliance for Hope. The women of SARAH come together to learn about one anothers religious traditions and cultural customs, to promote peace and understanding." said Sande Hart, one of its organizers.

We broke the ice in the kitchen (of course) sharing food is the first step at any women's gathering. Over soup I learned their histories and projects and wishes for a safer world. Missing from the mix was alcohol as that isn't part of some religions and would be a sign of disrespect. Instead we had our choice of Trader Joe's best sparkling fruit juices. It turns out that Trader Joe's was almost a religious experience for most of them and Trader Joe's is also spiritually sensitive. Go here for their tips on kosher foods. Who knew? Not me.

I was at SARAH to speak on our biggest common ground and "other" religion - shopping - how shopping patterns change the way we think and literally change the world by determining which companies get our money and which ones don't. I focused on the biggest picture, global warming, and our role as the world's largest group of consumers to help bring down CO2 and reverse global warming. Talk about finding a common ground, or more accurately, common air. Think about it, cars, homes, food... almost anything we buy has an impact on our environment.

Ok, it wasn't exactly Fa La La stuff, but it wasn't all doom and gloom - as key consumers, women are are best hope for change. We don't have to give up light, just swap out our high energy blubs for low energy bulbs. We don't have to give up transportation, only swap cars from gas guzzlers to hybrids, electrics or one of the other alternatives literally coming down the pike. We can also buy our food seasonally and locally, just like we did when I was growing up. When the tomatoes came in you ate lots of them and canned the rest. I know, I know, no one is going to go back to canning their own food, but plenty of people make their own pasta, so perhaps it isn't that far of a reach to make our own gourmet sauces.

SARAH is taking on a very hard mission, to improve relations between religions that are thousands of years old. I applaud Sande and her friend's efforts. Keep up the very good work, ladies. And keep finding that common ground, the world needs your healing ways.

December 15, 2006

Guiltless Shoes

Greenlanding Still stuck for what to buy for Christmas? Here's a quick pic that everyone appreciates comfortable shoes. Simple Shoes is a wonderful little site to tour. I dare you not to want to buy a pair for yourself and a friend. They come guilt free, too. Check out their ingredients and their committment to low-impact on the planet. It's all part of adding more footprint-free products to my life.

I'm one of those women who have pointy-toe-shoe syndrome. After years of wearing office shoes around factory floors and trade shows, my feet gave out. I was told, "get orthodics, get cortisone shots and if that doesn't work we'll do surgery to fix the pain." And I mean PAIN. It was like walking on a nail sticking into the ball of my foot.

Well, I left the office job and was able to wear shoes that let my toes take their natural shape and guess what? No more pain unless I wear the pointy-toe shoes again... and here I was convinced that I was maimed for life. Try Simple Shoes and set your toes free.

December 12, 2006

The GoGreenGift, a bright idea in gift bags

Bulb What do concerned women want to give and get for Christmas? Thanks to Al Gore, an end to global warming is certainly high on their list.  (If you haven’t seen An Inconvenient Truth yet, buy it, rent it or go to one of MoveOn.org’s Inconvenient Truth parties on Dec. 16th.)

So… what to do, what to do… how do I give a gift that will reduce global warming?

I love the spirit of the holidays and don’t want to be a Grinch, but also don’t want to give more “stuff” for stuff’s sake. Out of control consumerism is at the root of many of our environmental problems today. With that in mind I went surfing for products that were earth friendly and found www.gogreengift.com.

The gift has everything a call-me-Al person would want and actually need. The organic cotton sampler bag contains everyday products that address each environmental issue we face as well as magazines and ideas for turning New Year’s Resolutions into New Life Resolutions.

The $45 Go Green Gift Bag contains:
- For Saving Energy: 2 Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs, which cut energy up to 75% of standard light bulbs.
- For Saving Water: A low-flow Showerhead
- For Pesticide Free and Free Trade treats:
    o Sweetwater Organic Fair Trade Coffee
    o Prince of Peace Organic Green Tea
    o Stretch Island Organic Raspberry Fruit Leather
- For Safe Body Care:
    o Jason’s Lavender Shampoo
    o Jason’s Lavender Conditioner
    o Eco Lips Organic Lip balm
    o Mama’s Magic Myrrh Salve
- For the Newly Enlightened Brain
    o Mother Earth’s EcoGuide, “WHY and HOW to Go Green,” by Trish Riley
    o E / The Environmental Magazine
    o Coupons and Resource literature from Organic Valley Cooperative
- For a Petroleum Free Net (well, less petroleum anyway)
    o “Think Host Earth” a Web hosting powered by the wind and sun!

AND, it comes in an organic cotton grocery bag. Reusable bags are the first step in eliminating the tons of plastic bags that accumulate in our kitchen closets, in our landfills and our ocean. In the ocean they don't degrade and kill more than 100,000 wild sea creatures each year. [One cotton bag isn’t enough. Keep 5 of them in your trunk and use them every time you shop.]

Trish Riley is behind this earth-friendly and friend-friendly idea. She is an award winning eco-journalist who has been writing about environmental issues for the past 15 years. Two years ago she put the gift bags together for her family at Christmas and they liked them so much, that she decided to offer them to everyone. Trish thinks it’s a great way to introduce friends and loved ones to the importance of saving our environment for the children of the future. By choosing items that represent each area of the main environmental issues (power, water, food) she hopes to educate the public well beyond the holidays.

Go Green! Go Trish!

December 11, 2006

Alternative Cars: If it has to be, it's up to me and you and you and you...

Saturday at the Santa Monica Alternative Car and Transportation Expo, I was truly ga-ga over the go-go aspects of the new cars and their under-the-hood/seat/trunk technologies. Cool! We are finally on the right road and it was nice to see lots of women like me also enjoying the new options. Then I was asked to sign a petition...

"It's a petition to send a message to the auto companies saying that you would buy an electric car if they made it,"  says the petitioner.(I couldn't sign it fast enough) And, why do we need this? I'm thinking, hasn't the Prius proven that we are past this conversation of whether customer's will buy cars that use alternative fuels? Reading my mind she continued,"Because even though 80% of the California voters wanted to lower emissions, the car companies and dealers are trying to block the state law. The trial starts on January 30, 2007."

Across the hanger, the Union of Concerned Scientists had their own petition aimed directly at the California dealers who were supporting the lawsuit. They claim that by forcing lower emissions it will A) make vehicles too expensive and B) limit consumer choice. What?!? Too expensive? That never stopped anyone from buying a BMW, Lexus or Mercedes. Limit consumer choice? They don't have a choice now and besides, do consumers really care about choice when their wallets and air is at stake? Drive across Orange County and you'd think that Honda Civic's and Toyota Prius' were the only choice. Apparently, not only do customers not care if they look alike, it's becoming a driving badge of honor.

In yet another corner, Plug In America was selling "Who Killed the Electric Car" (the DVD) as well as the book, "Plug-in Hybrids - Cars that will recharge America." A downer and an upper in the same space.

Wait a minute... I thought this was an auto show as part of the LA auto show... WRONG. My marketing side kicked in and I looked for who was sponsoring it. Not a BIG car company to be found. Instead, it was instigated by the City of Santa Monica along with Platia Productions. I Googled Platia and found an article with the quote,

"Our show is more than a car show. It's about not being in cars," said Christine Dzilvelis, owner of Platia Productions, which is putting on the Santa Monica exhibit. "We are offering a genuine and passionate challenge to the status quo."

...Beyond displaying and selling the alternative cars, some of which are from Ventura County-based companies, the fair is a venue for discussing the future of cars and the urban planning that currently relies on them so heavily...

Well - there you have it Mr. and Ms. Status Quo, the real reason this show was so earthshakening. Every day people were funding the R&D and marketing of this concept.

We need more venues to discuss ideas (and actions) as it's very apparent that time is running out and those at the top don't have the chops to make the really hard decisions and do what's right. It will be up to consumers, with women leading that sector, to put their money where their heart is and get big business back on track without disrupting the economy.

What can you do? Start here http://pluginamerica.com/action.shtml. Or contact me if you have ideas that might work faster.

December 10, 2006

40 MPG is LOW at the Alt Car Show

Mm_car Dang! Just when I was feeling smug by getting 40 mpg with my Honda Civic (that isn't a hybrid) I go to the Santa Monica ALT Car Show and meet cars that get 100 mpg or don't use gas at all.

This little red bomber of a car called the NmG for No More Gas, comes from Myers Motors. It looks like it slid out of cartoon, but actually it's shaped to mimic a bike helmet for optimal speed. On top of that, the all-electric car can go 70 mph and can be insured for just $400 a year. Why so cheap? Legally, it's rated the same as a motor cycle. What's the "yeah, but...?"  Yeah, but it only has a 35 mile range... Yeah, it's cute, but at $23,000 it's a lot for a toy that holds one person and a suit case.... Yeah, but it's drier than a bike in rain...

My husband loved it. He had his checkbook out and was ready to buy because it was non-polluting and "It looks like an airplane with it's wings torn off." Hardly a reason to buy a car. (although he had a point...) Actually for him, he saw it as the perfect commuter car to and from work which is 6 miles away. Besides, if we ever go anywhere together we always take the Civic.

That said, the wallet stopper was that they are basically hand built with a long waiting list. Still, can you imagine your "brand name" riding down the highway on this? It's hard not to get noticed.

That was one of the lessons I learned at the show. Practicality and global warming aside, when it comes to cars, styling becomes everything once the jump to electric is made. The Prius and Honda were just starting points.

Spyder The Electrum Spyder answered all the ego questions missing from the NmG. If you buy it, however, you'll also be missing $69,000 out of your bank account. That's reasonable compared to other current attention getters at twice the cost. There is a big problem - Zoom, Zoom, Zoom is replaced with Whisper, Whisper, Whisper. If you like the roar of an engine, you're out of luck, but if you like the idea of living next to a soundless highway, start supporting the new "plug and play" market regardless of the cost.

The show also featured other sorts of hybrid combos and fuels and all are being embraced and nurtured. I personally like the all electric option the best.

1. Unlike hydrogen or Bio-diesel, the infra-structure for electric cars is available now. Everyone has a 110 plug in their garage and it's easier to plug in your car than waste time at a gas station or waste time putting a nationwide pump structure or distribution market into place. You can buy an electric car and run it tomorrow, or buy a hydrogen car and wait until you can fuel it. It's a girl thing.

2. Electricity can be stored in a car battery. It can't be stored otherwise. Most scientists will like that. It's a usability thing.

3. Out here in California, wind and solar generators help create electricity. Both provide sustainable, non-polluting, non-petroleum based solutions. It gives officials one more reason to develop better alternative power sources. All citizens will like that.

What didn't I like? That was lesson two from the show... Stay tuned.

December 07, 2006

No, It's not all in our heads...

By now many guys think that customer inequality no longer exists. That women and men get the same treatment as long as the card clears. WRONG! It happens even to successful and tech smart women like Elizabeth Albrycht. Elizabeth runs her Corporate PR biz from France and recently reviewed In Women We Trust (thank you!) starting it off with a personal testimony and punch line...

The book is full of examples that I am sure most of my female readers can relate to:  shopping for electronic equipment or cars are two iconic ones.  I still seethe when I think about how I was treated at a major electronics chain a few years ago when I went there to buy a digital camera.  Standing at the outside of the square counter, with the (male) clerk behind it, I was ignored completely while he waited on at least four other men (some of whom arrived after me), then when he finally asked me if he could help with a sigh, I launched into my questions, which he really didn't listen to (he barely looked at me) and then, when he was interrupted by another man with a “quick question” that turned into a lecture on the benefits of pixels, I simply walked away, left the store, and vowed never to buy anything from them again.  And I spread the word among my female friends.  I bought the $600 camera at another store.

A) She walked away from the moment and the person and the store never knew why they lost the $600 sale. B) She "still seethes" thinking about it. C) She was kind and didn't mention the store's name in her well read blog, but she did tell her friends.

Is that what you want ? A seething customer who talks to her friends? I know, I know, it's customer service 101 and oh well... can't win them all... But that's the point. You CAN win them all, if you treat all customers with the same level of respect and acknowledgment. She didn't walk because the sales rep was busy, she walked because of his attitude towards her.

By the way, check out her full write up for the top tips that resonated with her.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for the wonderful review and also for letting other's know what's in your head.

December 04, 2006

Trendwatching for Consumers

Consumers are always ahead of the trends - they ARE the trends. As a consumer, wouldn't it be nice to know what marketers are slicing and dicing these days?  It won't change the world, but it'll make the playing field a little more level and certainly more interesting.

Consumer beware, some things you may not want to know.

Check out www.Trendwatcher.com which summarizes lifestyle patterns and presents them back to marketers for idea generation. (It's a fantastic site on many, MANY levels and not just for marketers.) One such "trend" is Counter Googling, instead of you doing a search on a company, THEY are doing a Google search on you. Your blog, press release, association announcement, country club bulletin... anything that might have your name on it and posted on the web could pop up.

Those under 40 know how easy this is to do and are comfortable with the process, but those over 40 may find this a huge invasion of privacy. You're right, it is, but like phones and the Internet it isn't going away. Unlike the phone, however, you can't request to be unlisted on the Internet. The answer? Be forewarned, then live an exemplary life and smile confidently knowing that if someone Google's your name, nothing but good will show up.

Got an hour to burn and want to see what the other trends are - here's the list. (the links below aren't live) WARNING, it's addicting and you may learn more than you want to know about the changes in society and how business views them and you.

My thanks to Trendwatcher for watching over all of us...