« July 2007 | Main | September 2007 »

9 posts from August 2007

August 30, 2007

Ecolutionary Selling: Taking the confusion out of Sustainable Furniture Marketing

Ecolutionary_selling_2Warning: Shameless plug ahead...  Marketers pay attention. Citizens-at-large, pay attention too as ultimately this affects all of us.

I've been working with Channel Logic for the past few months which brought me in contact with the Sustainable Furniture Council. During that time it became very clear that no one had a handle on what Sustainability means - not the manufacturers, distributors, retailers, sales people or customers.

The result was Ecolutionary Selling. It's a simple little E-Book primer on Sustainability for the Furniture industry, although 80% of it applies to all products. We're facing an Ecolution for ECOnomics and for ECOlogy, both must evolve together and FAST. Without ECOnomics of sales, the green market and society won't make the turn. Without making the turn with REAL Sustainability at its foundation, we're in deep trouble. Up until now, sales were made at any cost including the cost of the planet's water, air, earth and now atmosphere. Those wasteful ways are over.

For the first time we HAVE to have truth in green advertising and be able to converse with others in the same new language. To say that you're sustainable or make claims that you can't prove is unlawful in the U.S. at best and horrible when taken to the court of public opinion.

That's what just happened to Woolsworth in Australia. The sin? Their toilet paper claimed to be eco-friendly and it wasn't. In fact it was made from illegally harvested wood. No big deal except that illegally harvested wood and the industries it feeds accounts for 30% of the CO2 going into the air. The same issues are true for furniture which is largely made of wood. ( Ecolutionary Selling has a freebie paper on LCAs and Sustainable Standards.)

The other part of the story? IT HAPPENED IN AUSTRALIA and that story is whipping around the marketing world. Lesson learned? Get certified as Sustainable and stay certified. There is no where to hide from bad press and now the Woolsworth toilet paper story is etched into the Internet cave wall as well. I know I'll use it again as an example, how about you?

By the way, I did a little secret shopping as part of the research for the E-Book, this is one of the conversations I had at a major furniture chain store. (I swear I'm not making this up.)

ME: Do you have any green or sustainable furniture?
SALES PERSON: We have some chairs covered in micro-fiber. They're pretty durable.
ME: No, I mean green, eco-friendly stuff.
SALES PERSON: Nope. The only only one that comes close to green is this teal chair.

ME: We aren't communicating. I meant environmentally friendly and something that isn't going to harm the planet if I buy it.
SALES PERSON: Oh, we don't have anything like that, but maybe the store across the parking lot would.

I'm working for the day when:
A) they can show me samples without hesitation.
B) the day when Sustainable Products will be so ingrained that we won't have to ask for them, everything will be Sustainable.

Until then, go to www.biggreenpurse.com and sign up for the $1000 pledge to swap brown buying for green buying. That means you too, marketers. You're citizens of this planet as well.

August 27, 2007

Clean Up your Cleaners - August 30th

Household_hazardsI wish I could be in Missoula, Montana on Thursday. They are hosting a Wipe Out Household Hazards night. What a great idea, you can come and learn about what's bad under your sink and skin and make new, safe products to take home. That's a nice alternative to the usual book club.

Since I can't make it, I downloaded the VERY comprehensive summary found here.

I've been slowly replacing my habitual cleaners, my practical self won't let me toss them even if they are 4 years old. (ok, so I'm not lover of housework) After reading this summary, however, consider them all GONE. I'm not serving myself, my home or my planet. My grandmother had a spotless house long before any of today's "new and improved" arrived on shelves. It's not the product that can work miracles, it's the elbow grease.

My thanks to the Women Voices of the Earth for providing this terrific summary and guide. I look forward to developing a new habit and a better way of buying products.

August 26, 2007

The Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability

Part 2 of 2

Last week I was honored to be one of the presenters at the annual meeting for The Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability. The program was graciously hosted by Bob Congel, the developer and visionary behind DestinyUSA the fossil fuel free building complex. (see previous post)


MTS, is the non-profit that brought the SMART Sustainable Product Standard to the market. Getting a well standard that makes everyone is happy with isn’t easy. It took five years of balanced, consensus voting to get SMART adopted, consequently, Capital, Commercial and Consumer markets are beinging to use it.


The MST meeting had representatives from all green touch points in our life - building development, personal and business loans and insurance, retail products, industrial products, Realtors, trade associations and consumer interests. [I was there representing the consumer interest.]


To put it in perspective as to how everything fits together, Destiny would like to have “green-backed” discounted loans and insurance. They can’t get either if they can’t prove that the buildings they are building are LEED Certified Green Buildings. LEED can’t prove that the products going into the building are sustainable, unless they too are certified as such using approved sustainable standards.


Once the mega complex is up, it isn’t enough that the structure is green if the products for sale inside aren’t. Woolworth in Australia, just got busted for saying their toilet paper was “green” when they couldn’t prove it. Expect to see more products getting busted for calling themselves green with no proof.


The SMART Sustainable Standard provides that proof. It's sort of a one-standard-fits all and covers 60% of the current products, mall to mall and wall to wall. The Standard is tough, but fair, it works on a point system whereby 28 points gets a product into the sustainable game and 114 points proves to the world that the company is taking sustainability very seriously. Proof is the operative word for banks and consumers.


These are serious times.


If you believe that Climate Change is real and man/woman made, then we can’t be messing around with half-way standards that don’t measure every bit of CO2 and hold companies accountable. As one of the board members said, “If the standard doesn’t make companies complain, then it isn’t tough enough.”


This is where consumer step come in.


As consumers we can ask for products that are certified as sustainable. Don’t be surprised if no one knows what you’re talking about, just keep asking. If you don’t understand Sustainable Standards and how to make sense of them, ask me or go to www.ecolutionaryselling.com and download the free paper that gives you the snap shot.

August 23, 2007

Destiny USA - the Mega, MEGA Mall with a Sustainable Soul

Part 1 of 2 (This is for all the green women who want to be climate change agents. Your continuing education starts here.)

Destiny I just returned from a Sustainable Standard meeting/brainstorming session sponsored by The Market Transformation to Sustainability. (more on that in the next post) The meeting was hosted by Bob Congel in his fabulous (green) Savannah Dhu conference center. He's the developer behind Destiny USA, a mega complex in Syracuse, NY. Before you say "Mary, you've sold out like Adam Werbach did to Wal-Mart," think again.

Those of you who know my past as the marketing agency for The Crossroads Mall in Kalamazoo, MI, know that I'm pretty burnt out on malls. I was in Minneapolis for a year before I set foot into Mall of America. So when I say I've had a change of heart, it's a big change. If Destiny can sway my  pragmatic, sustainable self, there is a very good reason. Check out the press page videos and see if you don't feel the same way. (sorry, I can't link directly to them)

What's the big deal? 

This mall/conference center/research park "complex" is being constructed and run ENTIRELY FREE OF FOSSIL FUELS.  That's right, from the first bio-diesel bulldozer to later running the AC/heat/lights/electricity with renewable energy via solar, wind or waste energy conversion.

It also is being constructed to adhere to the LEED Green Building rating point system. That's where MTS and the SMART Sustainable Standard come in. Everything that is made, has to be certified as sustainable first to be part of the LEED point system. SMART Certified Products and endorsed and supported by LEED. SMART is the only standard out there that provides quantified proof that it meets the demands of the standard.

That's a very big deal.

Without proof, Sustainable Backed Securities don't happen. [they were called "green" backed, but that's changing] That means if you want a discount on your loan because you think you have a green/sustainable building, you must be able to prove it. With proof, the developer gets their loan, the bank gets their cash and the insurance on the place ends up lower. The best part? As the cost of energy rises, the cost to run it remains the same or goes down, making it more profitable to the developer.

Everyone wins, all because they started with Sustainable Products build to work within the LEED Standards. Take that same scenario and move it into residential land. Homeowners can do the same thing.

That sustainable building/product scenario is something I can back. Buildings contribute over 70% of the CO2 emissions, The whole biz world is watching carefully. When Congel pulls this off, all the excuses as to why we can't build green or sell green will go away. This one complex in Syracuse, NY can change the world in buildings and products. It's already changing the conversation as traditional business models in all sectors of industry are being questioned.

That's just the beginning.

Wal-Mart hired Adam Werbach to green up the store(s). If he does, he'll pull off the second thing that's harder than getting me to walk into a mall, he might get me to walk into Wal-Mart.

Walls and malls are only a tiny part of the Sustainable story, however. What about all the things are sold inside the walls and malls?  Once products start getting certified like Forbo's Marmoleum, or Miliken's Carpet then consumers won't have to figure out if a product is green or all "sheen." If it carries a Sustainable Standard logo, like SMART of California Gold, consumers will have proof that what they are buying has been through a Life Cycle Assessment and can pass Sustainable Standards.*

To put it into perspective, if Mattel was held to SMART Sustainable Standards, not only would the lead be out of their toys, but the CO2 as well. Standards with third party audits are the key.

Start looking for and asking for Sustainable Products. The more you do, the faster they'll become certified and available to the public. Until then, be sure to blog about them. That too sends a message that gets picked up on trend watchers.

NEXT… who was at the Sustainable Brainstorming Table

August 18, 2007

Gather the Women Bloggers

Did you catch Toby Bloomberg's post on the top women bloggers last Thursday? Be sure to read it for an idea of how fast women can self organize.I understand that "the list" is being passed around the globe and names are being added as fast as it can be forwarded.

I'm honored to have "In Women We Trust" included, but more excited for the women who are adding their voice to the list without hesitation. What goes around, comes around. I can't wait to see how many have come around by the time this list finds a home.

I try to teach one woman a month how to get a blog up and running. It's fun to see them go from apprehensive to gutsy to opinionated. It doesn't take long. That's the beauty of blogging, the more you write, the more you remember what you stand for and what you're willing to let go.

It wasn't that long ago when the Internet wasn't available to the masses. I can't imagine going back to those days. How stifling to have all those ideas and voices (men and women) penned up waiting for permission to speak.

What's your passion? Get a Blog and tell the world. And if "the list" is forwarded to you, be sure to add your name.

August 16, 2007

What will change China? Consumers! (that be YOU, Ms. Tipping Point America)

Laws may be overlooked, but market pressure is never ignored. Want to change China? Use the  Power of the Purse and the Power of the Post. I'm going to use the later right now and carve my remarks into the Internet cave wall of measurable consumer sentiment.

We can change these following conversations through the power of our Purse/Posts.

  • "We can't compete with China, price drives  everything."
  • "We can't control China, they don't have to follow the laws."
  • "Why should we become sustainable, China will undo it in another 10 years?"                          (the answer to that last one is because we're world leaders, not world followers, but that's another subject.)

China may not be following legal laws but, it is reacting to the latest onslaught of bad press in pet food, people food and now toys. There lies change - in the law of free markets and very public opinion.


This morning on NPR's Morning Edition, Louisa Lim reported on the "Made-in-China brand" -  how it's beginning to mean  cheap, but unsafe for children or pets or the world economy for that matter. Ok, she didn't say that, but that was the bottom line. Read it and see if you don't come to the same conclusion.


When I opened my  email,  Big Green Purse holder, Diane MacEachern was flagging the same concern. She wants to get the word out on China's practices before the next holiday. Price isn't her concern, safety is.


A  4 year old boy died from eating the lead-filled charm which came on a box made in China.   According to the Lim's  report, 20% of the jewelry made in China has lead in it or the paint. Want to be sure that your next gift is lead-free? Buy Made INSIDE America until China  gets their act in order, at least for this holiday season.


NPR notes that China makes 70% of the world's toys. (other reports have it at 85%) To capture that low-price-toy market, they slide on quality.  Who pays? The children of the world. Who wins? The middleman.


In the NPR transcript Ahmed Abu-Nafal, an Iranian importer says, "The toys [are] not dangerous for me, not dangerous in our country. It's no problem, because our country… needs  a  cheaper price, and [the toys are] good quality here." Thank you for not caring Ahmed. 


Do our children really need more things that may possibly kill them while undermining economic and environmental futures? That "price" isn't factored into the middleman's business plan. Only consumers buying the toys or chairs or cars can make that call.


I'm not advocating that we boycott everything made in China. What I am advocating is that we boycott companies who don't uphold Sustainable Standards that build in safety for kids and the planet. They cover over 1000 pollutants and much, MUCH more. Companies are listening and responding to public opinion much faster than any law levied by any country. The recent recalls demonstrate that. 


I'm also advocating that you POST your opinion just like I did here. Using the Power of Your Purse, sends a VERY strong signal to manufacturers. Using the Power of your POST, gives companies a warning shot of what's to come and time to adjust their practices before "the purse" hits them across the spread sheet.


With millions of toys on the market, what's the big deal if one or ten get recalled? The big deal is that it sets off a tipping point for media attention and that makes corporations stay awake at night watching their Google Alerts. No one wants to have that  "search" light put on them for the rest of their marketing days. The Internet cave wall is very long , very accessible and what's put up there, will be read for decades.


If you want safer toys next season and the rest of your child's life, do two things that take about 1 minute:

  1. POST about what standard you want to see enforced, either the safety standard or a sustainable one. Put an example with it and use the NAME of the product.
  2. PAY only for toys made INSIDE America this holiday season, and toys that are eco-friendly if you can.

And, why not have some fun for yourself. Set your own Google Alerts and see how often your remarks get picked up. It's really interesting to see how your "vote" is registering. Freedom is nice, but freedom without built in safety nets for world commerce takes it away. Help China, help itself.

August 06, 2007

In Jet Blue and Women We Trust

Longbeach_2Between BlogHer 07 and Vegas, this has been a long week made longer at the very beginning with a Long Beach Airport bomb threat. No big deal, it turned out to be a suspicious looking computer game with questionable wiring. The bigger story was how the airport, Jet Blue and other passengers reacted. What could have been a nightmare (and I'm sure it was for some) felt more like a 7th grade fire drill.

It helped that the Long Beach Airport is very small. It only took minutes before everyone was chatting three parking lots from the terminal. It also was a cool day with a light breeze which made standing for hours less stressful.

Jet Blue immediately brought out water and kept it coming even later on as we were all cramming into the breezeway to board. A Jet Blue employee, projected his clear voice over the grumbling masses. He kept the constantly reforming group informed and moving towards our missed, now rebooked flights. I overhead someone compliment him on his crowd control ways and he said, "Oh I don't do this, I'm a computer programmer for Jet Blue." Now THAT'S stepping up to the plate and that's why Jet Blue has the reputation is does, regardless of its Valentine's Day snafu.

Earlier in the parking lot, women started doing what women do - connecting. The gal standing to my right started talking to me lamented how this will mess up their room in NY City. I gave her my cell phone to call the hotel. The women on the other side offered to get me some bottled water as it was coming around.

Later on, as the crowd reformed edging towards the terminal, new friend #1 searched through the crowd to find me and tell me where the one port-a-potty was should the need arise. About then I was checking out the haircut on a gal next to me. The person who cuts it is too far away from my home, but she let me take a front/side/back shot to take back to my hairdresser. Another gal passed the time discussing books and another that I met standing in the boarding line shared her water. Hair_cut_2

I'm pretty social and certainly not afraid to engage guys in conversation, but it has to be a two-way street. The guys that were in the same 10 square feet let the women to do the talking and connecting.

When people wonder why women trust women, this is one of the reasons. When things get crazy, we group and connect and help each other out. It's that simple, spontaneous and wonderful. .

August 04, 2007

Back to BlogHer 07 and VERY Social Media

Liz_sabotar Unlike Vegas, what goes on at a BlogHer never stays at BlogHer, it only begins.

What happens at these little gatherings some men may ask? TALK! Lots and lots of talk filled with ideas and inspiration or just being goofy. I was amazed at how fast conversation went from "Hi" to "Deep." These are women with backbone and opinions - some long held, others just formed over cocktails. One thing is for sure, they aren't waiting for anyone to give them permission to speak freely. Pier_review_2

I didn't set out to be a card collector, but as I look over this stack I'm stunned at how many insightful women I intersected with. No wonder I came away so energized. The pile doesn't begin to cover it all because there were many like Yvonne and Susan that I already knew and therefore don't have their cards. And, there were many, MANY more that I never asked for because we were having too good of a time wining and dining.Wining

Men reading this might be a bit shocked to see this list. After all, it was only a two day conference with a few side events. On top of it, this wasn't for business networking, just to visit other people who have blogging as core means of communicating.

Just for fun, I thought I'd list every card in my collection of serendipitous meetings. Before I do, however, I'd like to thank all the women of BlogHer for putting on a spectacular event that was women friendly at every touch point. Business could learn a lot from you. Special praise goes to Kristy who has mastered the art of heading cats and keeping the logistics in order.

And now - the list. I just grabbed off the URLs given. Each of you gave me so much more to take home besides a card. Thank you for your energy and contributions to a more open society. Kristy

























































August 03, 2007

A World of Difference from BlogHer 07 to Vegas

Blogher_cars_2 TGIF and that I'm back at my desk! Last Friday I was at BlogHer's "World of Difference" conference on the Navy Pier. Four days later, I hit OC in time to drive to Vegas for a Sustainable Furniture Show. Talk about a world of difference. Vegas_strip

I have about 150 business cards and 1000 ideas to unpack on how to join these two worlds together (the Sustainable part, not Vegas)

The common denominator is the World of Difference theme. At BlogHer I met so many interesting, opininated women - diversity was expected not challenged. The more diverse (or niched) their blog, the more often they found an audience of people just like them. I loved the new cards. Often I was handed both a "biz" card and a personality card. The first revealed their role in work and the second their role in the world. Liz Henry's was one of those people. I know I have her little purple headed card around here somewhere. It didn't make it into the shot above that I took at the airport.   

At the Sustainable Furniture Show I saw diversity at work again in design and options and ways of thinking that can help combat Climate Change. I was there as part of Channel Logic's crew who put on the show. Like in any big shift of thinking, it's the smaller companies who are moving the fastest and offer the freshest ideas. Eurasia

Henri Philippe is an example of this new movement. His beach-flavored furniture is made of recycled lumber from old Brazilian homes and barns. The rainbowed colors are reformed and made into patio or sand or garden furniture that quietly say, "Beer me."  He smartly made a "bar" part of his booth, offering coffee in the morning and cocktails in the afternoon (my kind of guy).

Henri is a colorful as his furniture. He's an expat from France, who now lives in Brazil and also grows boutique organic, free trade coffee that he hires locals to harvest and hand roast. (had to take a bag of that home) Next time you need coffee to start your day or a chair to end it in, consider buying something from Henri that is Sustainable and comes with a samba inside.

It's exciting to be a part of both worlds and SO refreshing to have individual expression taking a front seat again. I'll have many more of my opinions later after I collect my thoughts.

It was great putting faces on all the people I've emailed or talked to in the last 6 months. Virtual is good, but nothing beats a face-to-face.