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9 posts from January 2007

January 30, 2007

Blog like Bob Seger sings...

Other_seger I've always admired rock stars; not because they get to work up a sweat in front of thousands, but because they're brave enough to put themselves out there and sing what's in their heart. The songs connect and hang around for a very long time... like a rock... working on their night moves... as they run against the wind... too far from home.

The music may propel, but the lyrics give them staying power. No kid who grew up near Detroit (myself included) went through their teens and twenties without a Seger song as a personal anthem. Even today when I catch an earful of Bob clipped to an ad or a movie moment, I end up finishing the song in my head.

Seger songs are one part timeless and one part time capsule. He captures the angst or gladness of confused people and places. There's honesty in that, and power. Dale Carnegie based his whole speech giving system on it - speak from your point of view and others will believe and trust what you have to say.

Rock stars know how to do that. Their best songs, reflect themselves and end up resonating with their audience. So why is it so hard to be honest on a blog? What are we all so afraid of? Of being human?

I've had to deal with that myself after so many years in marketing. What if I say something that offends a potential client? What if how I feel isn't mainstream? I decided to stop having sheep for brains and break out of "flock" thinking.

A good artist, scientist or blogger doesn't care what others think. I don't think Dylan was concerned about the top ten when he wrote "Blowing in the Wind." I just can't visualize him watching the Viet Nam war protests and thinking, "My next song needs to capture this trend and I'll make millions." That's not Dylan's style, and we love him for his style.

They say not to die with your song still in you, apparently Seger has a few left to get out. His latest album has a song that may not go to the top of the charts, but it's on the top of my mind for taking a stand on climate change.  "Between" speaks to where he is "living" now, still in the Detroit area, but with grave concern for global warming and the role both consumer's and companies play.

"...everybody sells something
everybody's got game
we all keep believing
no one is to blame
the world keeps getting hotter
ice falls in the sea
we buy a bigger engine
and say it isn't me..."
(Bob Seger Album: Face The Promise, Song: Between 2006)

"Between" is brave work for Seger. He's made a nice living off of hard-driving men, women and the companies who love his brand of rock. That was then, this is now. Even Seger recognizes that those hard-driving days of self indulgence need to be over and soon. Maybe it's because he took time off to be a stay at home dad and now feels the connection to kids and earth like so many women do. The point is, Seger still has lots to say and is willing to stand up a stage and sing it over and over and over.

We bloggers have been given our own stage to perform on. Let's not waste the gift. Our lyrics are recorded on the Internet cave wall where our audience can read them over and over. That's where real social change lies, in the voices of individuals not in third party politics.

Bob's taking a stand on global warming, in his own hometown no less. Way to go Bob! What are we willing to do personally and professionally to bring down global warming? Be brave. Post your thoughts here or on your own blog. Rock and Roll never forgets and neither does the Internet.

January 26, 2007

Ankya Klay's video captures "Round Love"

Time for some "what goes around" love.

Last fall I met Kathe Schaaf, one of the founders of Gather the Women. GTW is a group representing "groups" of women all sharing one heart and mind that the world needs more feminine spirit. GTW  groups are all over the world.

Ankyaphoto Well, what goes around, comes around... This week a friend introduced me to Ankya Klay from Sydney, Australia who is part of the GTW movement. Ankya became exposed to it, not in Sydney, however, but at festival in Glastonbury, UK. She was wondering if I knew about a gathering in Orange County?

Things lead to things and she shared her latest creative effort with me that she posted on YouTube. It's called "Round Love." If you want to know what a GTW gathering feels like, this is it.

It also captures two of the environmental message points from the Eco-America post, if you want to reach women, know that they are "inspired by nature" and looking for "balance." Ankya_design_jpeg Her tagline, Start something New, Feel the World in You is expressed throughout. By it's end, you DO want to start something new - and maybe gather up a few new friends to do it with.

January 25, 2007

Women are greener than men according to Eco-America

Would you be stunned to learn that women care more about environmental issues than men? Back in October, inside a 16 page report by Eco-America, lies a nugget on how women and men view the subject. Go ahead and download the free PDF and turn to page 10.

"As a cultural idea, the environment is gendered, and the gap between male and female perspectives on the subject is large. It is 'macho' to view environmentalists as self-righteous and feminine to view them as practical."

It's chart indicates that women bias towards:
- Education Imperative
- Inspired by Nature
- Polluted Resources
- Invisible Dangers
- Destruction of Planet
- Balancing Act.

Men bias towards:
- Environmental Cynicism
- Anti-environmentalism
- Anti-intellectual
- No Good Taxes

If you're in marketing, I suggest you read the whole report that surveyed over 600 people. If you're a consumer, (and we all are) you'll find it interesting to see where you fall in the mix of opinions.

For me, the conclusions, while generalized, are no surprise. Anyone who has been affiliated with garden clubs knows that women make up most of the memberships. Garden clubs and women go together like Mother and Nature.

The paper was written to shed light on how to better tailor environmental messages to reach both male and female citizens. While the male traits look negative, according to the paper, they are reflective of men seeing themselves as more self-sufficient. Consequently, if you want to get their attention speak more in terms of self-reliance, for example: give them tips on how to live off the grid.

However, since most consumer products are influenced by women, then using the feminine elements or the practical side of things could be most effective to sell your eco-friendly product or message.

Whether you are trying to reach men or women, we have some serious work ahead of us in the next ten years, and we can't let communication issues stand in our way. My thanks to Eco-America for helping to define the environmental mindset of women, men, liberals, conservatives and more.

January 18, 2007

INSIDE: Livingreen with Ellen Strickland

Iconfurniture Today we’re talking to Ellen Strickland, the owner of Livingreen a store that merges the two worlds of “living” and “green” together so tightly that we no longer have to choose a political leaning to take part. 

Ellen is a member of ASID in Los Angeles, the Sustainable Business Council, the LA chapter of AIA and continues to maintain membership in many local and national educational and environmental organizations. Her stores have successfully captured all market trends – they’re woman friendly, climate friendly, AND socially conscious (not to mention cool – it is LA after all) She believes in leaving no "footprint" first as a business, and working only with those who do the same. Big and small businesses, take note, profits are possible in a green world.

MARY: Ellen, I really like the fact that you dropped the second “g” from Livingreen, was that intentional?

ELLEN: I come from a graphic background and thought about cooperation and how things needed to work together. It felt right and I immediately trademarked it.

MARY: From a graphics background to shopkeeper of green products – how’d that happen?

Iconbedding ELLEN: I was involved in energy fairs in Massachusetts and Vermont and
have always been interested in solar energy and environmental issues… I use to run energy fairs in Connecticut back in the 70s. Later, as a designer I developed exhibits for museums, educational organizations and zoos, which had an emphasis on bio-diversity in the habitat.  Many times the materials had to be environmentally sound before I could use them and I thought that other display designers would need a resource for these supplies. On top of this, I was going through my own health challenges, with MS and chemical sensitivities. I knew if I had problems, others did too.

I started working on the store concept in 1998-99 and opened the Santa Barbara store in 2000. The LA store followed in 2005.

MARY: Did you have any early lessons?

Paint ELLEN: I learned that so many of the people we help need to deal with toxicity first. For me and some customers, living green or healthy is no longer a commodity - we must make these changes. Also, each solution is very personal… we have a “shades of green” concept for the store. We start with what products the customer can really live next to on a day-to-day basis and then add more sustainable elements to the mix.

MARY: When I first met you at the ALT Car Show, it was your signage on “sustainability” that drew me in. How do you determine what’s sustainable and what isn’t?

ELLEN: This is where I’ve done a big turnaround as a supporter of global outsourcing. At first I wanted to provide products that support global cultures, but once you add the “energy” cost of transporting it here, it doesn’t always made sense. Today I look for regional suppliers as much as possible. The same goes for someone who might find us online, we help them find sources that are closer to them and bring down the transportation “energy” cost. It’s the emissions that we’re counting, along with shipping cost. Consequently, we also are constantly looking for companies that not only have sustainable products in regional areas, but also are reliable in their environmental quality and reliability. If you had to put a test to the process of fitting our customers it would be toxicity first, green materials next, sustainable practices after that, followed by low transportation miles and reliability as a company. These are all equally important and we  look for companies that address these issues as a whole. We give preference to ”made in Southern California” because that’s where we are located.

MARY:You have a lot of fixed architectural materials - flooring, ceilings, paint… Do you cater to homeowners? Designers? Architects?

ELLEN: Over 60% are motivated homeowners who already come into the store pre-educated and ready to remodel using green materials. It usually starts with a couple, and then we end up with the wife or a maybe a single woman who then directs their contractor to come here for products. Usually designers and architects come in to get ideas

MARY: Since my blog is about women buyers and sellers, what portion are women?

ELLEN: Of the foot traffic, the majority is made up of women. We’re also getting more and more female contractors which is really exciting and they are really educated on the market. The designers and architects are split as you’d expect… more women in design and more men as architects.

MARY: Does it cost a lot to go green?

ELLEN: It used to be 10-20% more to go green, now it’s more price competitive up to 5% and some projects even save the homeowner money. The quicker you add living green concepts into the design phase, the more money you can save. Since we’re in the LA area, some of our customers are high end and can experiment with green ideas… but most are middle income and start by buying low VOC toxic-free paint, we specialize in interior finishes. Later they may come back for home furnishings like for bedding or area rugs. Many use the store to find gifts for friends.

MARY: How do you conduct the business – from the store or online?

ELLEN: Mostly in the store where we have a little of everything and people can touch it. We have lots of examples and vignettes. For those who aren’t near our store, they can order many things online like cleaners and smaller items. Most of our work is done face-to-face, however.

MARY: Any new plans for 2007? 

ELLEN: We want to make our website as “accessible” as possible with paint color lines and lots and LOTS of information on how to live green. We want to be a clearinghouse for the best ideas, services and products for a healthy interior environment. We count on our customers and friends to keep us in the loop so that we can evaluate it for true sustainability and add it to our mix.

MARY: Where would you like information sent?

ELLEN: We’re going to be adding an interactive element to our website in the near future. Until then they can send it to info@livingreen.com We love getting mail.

MARY: Thanks Ellen, you give us all hope that we can live and work in a sustainable fashion.

January 16, 2007

Duct Tape Envy

Purses When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When the life of the party gives you duct tape - make a purse!

It's time to lighten up this blog with a contribution from my gal pal Kate, a lifelong environmentalist and Collections Galley Manager at the Science Museum of Minnesota. 

She was at a party last weekend where the party-ers were given colored duct tape, foam, plywood, electric knives (probably a chain saw or two... it was Minnesota after all) and told to make something. Her husband referred to it as, "an Andy Warhol party, only without drugs and sex." (I miss Minnesota...)

Kate went for something useful. Voila! a 9" x 11" purse that's both decorative and waterproof. She quickly dubbed it her new lunch bag. It sure won't get mixed up with anyone else's.

Kate has set a new, creative high (or low) in handmade purses. Which got me thinking, who else is making purses of questionable material? If you have such an item, send me a picture along with note answering the question, "What on earth made you do it?"

January 14, 2007

Toyota's brand bait and switch

Hey Toyota - I Want My MPG in EVERYTHING YOU MAKE! What's up with the brand bait and switch?

Tundra_1 Car companies wonder why we don't trust them. We're facing global warming everywhere and Toyota, our icon of corporate sanity, decides to undo it's good will by joining Detroit in the mud with their 15/18 mpg Tundra truck. It's BIG, about 7,200 pounds, and based on "the wants and needs of American consumers."

Guess what? They're right on the "wants" part.

Put something big and shiny in front of children and they'll pick it up and play with it every time. Make no mistake about it, we're children in our buying habits, with very little self restraint. We were SO hoping that Toyota was going to be the one to establish parental control. Alas...

When did making a living turn into making a killing - and the sad part is, it's killing all of us as the planet gets warmer and warmer. One monster truck was one truck too many. The message that Toyota sent was, "We were just kidding about caring."

Ultimately it's up to the consumer. The thing is, we're just not very good at making decisions while under the influence of millions of dollars in marketing. Cigarettes may kill us off, but they won't kill off the planet, we have time to fix that faux pas. When it comes to CO2 emissions, however, time is short. We have maybe a decade at most to set a corrective course of action that will have global impact for generations to come.

We don't "needs" them.

Cars last for 10 years. What Toyota and Detroit put out this year, will be with us for a long time. It's obscene when you think about it. I'm hoping that Toyota and the rest of the automakers will put restrictions on how many of the monster trucks they'll make, maybe restrict them further to only those who can prove their business need for that kind of muscle power.

Xebra_pk_home_1 Until they do, we'll have to restrict ourselves. Consumers are left to make the hard decisions. Please make it on the side of good sense. Buy a high MPG car or go really wild and be the first to get an electric vehicle. At $10,000 you'll save cash buying it and save about $1000 a year driving it and more insuring it.

You'll be the coolest kid on the block.

January 11, 2007

Is bottled water worth $500 to a family of four?

The things you learn while reading other's posts. Andrea Learned was commenting on the difference between what kids in 1970 wanted and what they want in 2005, i.e. 1970/developing a meaningful philosophy of life vs. 2005/ 75% kids want to be well off financially. (she was quoting from a US Census report)

That was disheartening, but on the up side the same report also said that organic growers were on the rise. Perhaps today's kids want to be well off financially, but they'll do it through a better business outlet. Nothing wrong with that.

Duvel_glassOn the down side - the report also noted that "Americans drank 23.2 gallons of bottled water per capita in 2004. Consumption was only 2.7 gallons of bottled water in 1980. (Table 201) " No doubt that number has gone up since 2004.

As a 70s kid who grew up with a glass on the bathroom sink for everyone in the family of 6 to use, I found that startling. It's still hard for me to pay (again) for something that I already paid for via my city taxes and quarterly water bill. It sets off my "how stupid and lazy can I be" radar.

What's 23.2 gallons mean per family of four? A gallon = about 5.3 12 oz. bottles of water. At $1/bottle average that's $5/gallon X 23.2 = $123 per person X 4 = about $500 per family. DANG! Let's say it together.... how stupid and lazy can WE be?

On top of this, we are contributing to the waste stream. Not good. Sure we can recycle, but that adds one more thing to the To-Do list. This is a no-brainer... pay for plastic AND water AND recycling AND your time to recycle OR tap a cold one from the faucet?

I know there are all sorts of pro/con arguments. You have to decide if bottled water is really more "clean" than city water, but it's certainly more expensive. At $500 per family, is it really worth it? If I lived in a zone with contaminated water, yes it be, but I don't so I won't be buying the bottled stuff. 

A friend gave me glass beer goblets for Christmas. I try not to drink and blog, so during the week I keep one filled to the brim with tap water. Maybe it's the smug factor, or maybe it's the glass, but free water does taste better.

January 05, 2007

BlogHer offers 30 FREE minutes of Blog Training

Blogher250 Many of you know that I've been on a tear to get more women trained on how to use/read/comment on blogs. Today BlogHer is helping women get over that first friction point of learning. Not only do you get help from a seasoned blogger, but one who has interests the same as yours. Unlike phones, many blog platforms are free, such as Blogger and Vox so go for it.

Go here and read Britt Bravo's summary.

Why Blog? It's the Queen of Communication Tools.

In our emerging world where anyone can question everything that’s said, those who are not afraid of putting their personalities forward will be the ones most trusted. Who do you trust more, the neighbor locked inside their house or the one in the front yard chatting with you?

A blog is a phone, fax, answering machine, letter – AND news column, brochure, book, newspaper, AND broadcast email, website, focus group, AND permanent address, self help tool, social organizer plus public voice. A blog’s inherent transparency puts a new level of trust back into a world that would use more. And if someone gets out of line, peer pressure will bring them back. Today's feeds offer a Golden Rule of Blogging... which comes down to Play Nice or other's won't want to play with you.

To put it another way:
1. Robert’s Rules of Order are out  -  Rules of Social Interaction are in.
2. Waiting for permission to be heard is out - Self publishing is in.
3. Putting up a front is out  - Putting up yourself is in.

On a personal level blogging is a way:
-  To exchange “the dailies” with friends and family, just like you would if you still lived close by.
- To be creative and write that book you always wanted to write, using blog platform to help you structure it.
- To be proactive and “vote” by ranting or raving about politics between elections (what’s said on a blog is compiled and tallied every minute…Technorati and Neilson-BuzzMetrics is checking to see what’s on the population’s mind.
- To be part of a group of like minded people for hobbies or support.
- To learn what you stand for after being franchised into what your boss, spouse, kids, job description… wants you to think.

On a professional level blogging is a way:
-  To introduce yourself, so that others are comfortable doing business with you.
-  To keep publication expenses down.
- To use as an alternative to a website
-  To use as a way to keep your website highly ranked on search engines.

On a corporate level blogging is a way:
-  To do all of the above, but as a corporate personality.
-  To keep communication open between clients, customers, and the company.
-  To answer questions quickly and publicly.
-  To be transparent and open all the time and encourage investors.

On an organizational level blogging is a way:
-  To do all of the above, PLUS
   o  Act as an organizational tool to bring virtual groups together.
   o  Friends = committees
   o  Friends and Family = larger groups
   o  Neighbors = the whole organization

We have a lot of serious work to do in the next few years and it will need everyone's voice and everyone's talents. The more you know how the tools work, the more you can bring your experience to the solutions.

January 03, 2007

Coming face-to-face with myself

Jill Konrath at Selling to Big Companies tagged me for the ongoing game of "Five things you don't know about me." A version of this game has been around on email for a long time, but now it's circulating on Blogs. What the heck... blogs are about being transparent aren't they?

1. I'm a Master Gardener. That means I took classes with Michigan State University for free and in exchange gave the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan 50 hours of free gardening service back. To be honest, I've always gone back and forth between science and business. Forestry was my first choice in college. Marketing won as it provided a better chance for employment. Later, I did post grad work in biology hoping to add a teaching certificate, but money ran out before the degree kicked in - so... back to business.

2. I volunteer once a week to plant/harvest/cook organic vegetables at Mary's Shelter for teen moms. Admittedly, the girls don't hold my interest for all things green, but then I didn't either at their age. Turnover is high which limits any relationship building, but just about the time I think no one cares, I hear how one girl shared her her new cooking skills with another. I'm relearning that raising girls and gardens is a study in patience, short lessons and consistency.

3. I instigated the UpFront Gardener program for the Minnesota Horticultural Society. About 15 years ago, I moved to Minneapolis where the only place with enough sun for a garden was next to the street. One day my 80-year-old neighbor ambled over and said, "I don't know who you are, but you have a garden so you must be OK." I thought to myself, if that's the message that front yard gardens send, then we need more of them. The program was designed to encourage conversation between neighbors and neighborhoods. What started out as an idea on my street is now a statewide program.

4. I brokered biodegradable corn starch bags until I found out that they don't really degrade. One of my clients manufactured plastic bags and was experimenting with bags made out of corn starch. I was looking for something earth-friendly to support and was thrilled to launch a marketing campaign until I found out that the bags never broke down unless they were under ideal conditions. It was an early lesson in what is earth-friendly and what is "a nice try."

5. I rarely shop. Too many years as in the retail ad agency biz I suppose, coupled with a low need for things I have to clean or recycle. Less stuff is less stuff to worry about, is my motto, except when it comes to gardens and then it's ok if the plot thickens.

Hummm.... I'm seeing a pattern here, less stuff, more green, less fluff, more real... no wonder I love this movement towards sustainable living.

Now, it's my turn to tag... and I choose... Yikes! I need to widen my blogosphere. Everyone who comes to mind has already been tagged. Well, I'll have to tag another day. Right now it's time to wrap up the day and grab a Duval... oops, now that's 6 things you know about me.