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10 posts from February 2008

February 29, 2008

Everyday Women at LivingOprah.com

Blogging is such a riot. Yesterday a blog buddy told me about www.livingoprah.com; I included the blog in yesterday's post and questioned whether it was real or not. The author of LivingOprah (who prefers to remain anonymous and be representative of "everyday women") saw my post and sent me an email confirming that she has nothing to do with Oprah or Harpo Productions and doesn't want to. She chose Oprah for her experiment only because Oprah is holistic in scope and covering all topics and not just food or entertainment or politics.

Intrigued, I asked Ms. Everyday if she would agree to an interview and she said yes, only if I continue to keep her name/number out of it.

Here's the scoop - without giving too much of her background away, years ago she worked in an ad agency as a graphic designer. One day the agency wanted her to work on a Philip Morris account, that's when her values kicked it and she quit.  Since then, she's been self-employed, making a 1/4 of what she earned before and is wildly happy.

At one time, she was also part of a performance art group which explored the roles of "Social Gurus." She played the role of the modern day guru providing answers for the masses. In this latest incarnation, she decided to explore the "masses" side of the guru equation. (I was getting flashbacks of "Illusions" by Richard Bach.)

"To be clear," she said, "the purpose isn't to say what's right or wrong about Oprah, it's about exploring the mindset of those, including myself, who look to others for answers. I was curious to see what it would be like to give 100% of myself over to one program, per se, and see what happens."

She started on Dec. 31, 2007 and wants to go until to Dec. 31, 2008. With a nod to Dr. Phil I had to ask, "How's that working for you"?

"I'm finding it exhausting, I thought I could compartmentalize it more, but I can't do it. She is everywhere in my world... there is always something Oprah going on". [then Ms. Everyday commented that the library lobby she was sitting in had a copy of Red Eye with Oprah's picture on the front] "Sometimes I feel resentful, but I remind myself that it's my choice. I'll admit I do feel more self-conscious than I have before. I'm constantly judging myself and think about what I'm wearing or eating or am I truly taking the moment and being as happy as I should be. The self-centerness is exhausting. I have to say, only two months in... I felt more relaxed before doing it, more at ease. It's hard work."

We discussed that last statement and decided that maybe it was hard work because it wasn't yet ingrained into a lifestyle. It's like cooking with or without a recipe. It's harder to follow directions than it is to chop and cook. Ms. Everyday also acknowledged that there was a strange freedom in being told what to do. "like the book club, I don't have to read reviews, she makes some choices for me."

Ms. Everyday admits she has been in Oprah's audience before. She lives in Chicago and admires what Oprah does and how she is a self-made woman."I'm just trying to be as open about it as possible without trying to offend anyone," she told me, "It's not about Oprah, it's about us."

February 28, 2008

What Will Oprah Do to NOT Blow her Brand?

What will Oprah do when the consumption lights fully light up and she has to take a stand and promote only Sustainable products or blow her brand? What's her brand? Oprah Cares. Why might she blow it? Because you can't do right by the world and promote billions of dollars of non-sustainable stuff in the same space - at the same time.

On yesterday's show, Oprah covered the art of Freegan Living with Lisa Ling. (love Lisa's reporting style) Freegan Living takes dumpster diving to a new level - those who can afford to buy anything, yet choose to obtain most of their day-to-day stuff from dumpsters.

It was an important show for many iconic reasons:

  1. It demonstrated how wasteful we are as a society.
  2. Oprah acknowledged the irony of hosting this topic and then cutting to a commercial where someone was going to sell you something.
  3. It introduced the concept that LESS (much less) is "more living" for the society. That concept is being amplified through all the other Green sites.

Then this morning, I'm exchanging emails with Jason from Scream to be Green, and he tells me about LivingOprah. (thanks Jason) Turns out it's a performing artist in Chicago. She decided to try to live the Oprah life at it is featured each week because the culture is Oprah and Oprah is the culture. It's a brilliant concept, kudos for the idea. There is no way to contact the "artist" however, so for all I know it could be one, big setup by Harpo Productions to glean information. There's a survey on the site that asks if you subscribe to Oprah's magazines or not. (hey, I'm a born again skeptic) [Correction: the artist saw this post and assured me, that Harpo has nothing to do with it, and she put up a way to contact her.]

GarbageTwo minutes later, I'm skyping my husband who is working in Naples, Italy and he's describing the ever-present trash in the city. "There is smoke in my hotel room everyday with the smell of burning trash... smells mostly of plastic." Then he described his weekend boat trip to a nearby island. "the boat went through layers of junk, mostly plastic, you could hear it scraping on the side of the boat."

Wow, so much for the amore of Italy. Pretty disgusting. You hear that and it sure doesn't make you want to run to the mall and buy more junk and carry it home in a plastic bag. It doesn't even make me want to be on Oprah's Favorite Things show, the hottest ticket of the year and a show that can make or break an emerging business.

Which brings me to my final point...

I have a big favor to ask you Oprah, since you are culture and culture is you, could you do us all a favor and have a show dedicated to Sustainable Standards? We need a big name consumer champion to keep Wal Mart and other big box stores on track. Educate your world of women and you can single handedly set off a market transformation. Don't talk about green, talk about products and processes that can prove they don't put dioxins in our air, or chemicals into our children and most of all CO2 in the atmosphere. The White House doesn't control the world of consumer consumption - YOU DO.

Here's my wish list line up:

  • EcoMom Alliance (they are probably already on Oprah's radar after the NY Times article)
  • Big Green Purse (Diane MacEachern's scientific and pragmatic approach to shifting buying dollars from pollution to solution - the book and the site)
  • Annie Leonard (her Story of Stuff explains the problem in everyday language)
  • Mike Italiano (SMaRT the solution)  (Sustainable Material Rating Technology, it takes away the problem by providing a standard that is ethical, accountable and greenwash free. Consumers want truth and investors need quanitfied proof.

That's a show in itself right there. Will Oprah do it? It's a VERY scary move for  her economically if she did. She's in the same place the big chains are in, she's a promoter of goods and has to make a living while promoting the very things that cause her female viewers problems. That's not good, but I believe in Oprah. More than not wanting to break her brand, she understands that you either "stand for something or stand for nothing." She keeps saying how she doesn't need the money. This one move would prove that beyond a doubt and set off a tipping point for social change like the world has never seen.

February 26, 2008

Eco-Women Circles, Bringing Balance to Business

Eco_momLast week the NY Times did an article on EcoMoms, a group that uses a party like format to discuss how they can become greener, more responsible citizens. Think book club, but with a purpose. They are doing exactly what women do under stress, we don't flight or fight, we gather. In this case they/we are reacting to the stress of feeling powerless and alone when faced with the task of cleaning up the planet.

WecaiI recently reviewed Big Green Purse. If Eco Moms is the "book club" then Big Green Purse is the book that they should be talking about. Big Green Purse also offers a gathering spot on line with it's Million Woman Pledge. Add BlogHer into the mix and NOW and WECAI and NAFE and NAWBO and Millionth Circle... you get the picture. There are thousands of women's groups that have formed in that last 5 years alone. Some are forming for green purposes, others for women's issues or fun, but all of them are where business would love to live.

Millionth_circle If you think that companies wouldn't want their latest green product in the middle of all that chatter, you would be sadly mistaken. Women buy the majority of the food/clothing/shelter items and as such, product placement is huge. Word of Mouth Marketing is the most genuine and effective marketing there is - especially among women and business knows this. (If you have a product that can stand up to the scrutiny of a women's group, you have a winner.)

In scrutiny we'll find balance.

Some companies are JUST figuring out that if they make a product that's good for the planet, then they'll also have a product that the women's market will endorse. And if they market that product in a way that's appealing to women, they'll have a better chance of selling it.

Ladies as you gather in your clubs, schools, churches, temples, lunch this week remember to talk loudly about what you want in the world. Ask for better marketing. Demand better products that don't harm the planet and be sure to use your power wisely, business is listening.

Oh, and be sure to toast the women who started the whole idea of at-home-parties - Brownie Wise. Without Brownie, you would not have known about Tupperware.

February 25, 2008

GM’s Bob Lutz: Global Warming Is A ‘Crock Of S***’

That was the headline jumping out of Environmental Leader last week. A gal pal sent it to me. She was flabbergasted at the stupidity of a "leader" of the free-enterprise world. 

Bob Lutz is General Motors' vice chairman. He said the following to a group of reporters:

"Global warming is a “total crock of ****.” Then he added: “I’m a skeptic, not a denier. Having said that, my opinion doesn’t matter. (With the battery-driven Volt), “I’m motivated more by the desire to replace imported oil than by the CO2 (argument).”

Has Bob learned nothing from the presidential campaigns? You can't insult those who would champion your (Volt) cause, and YES, your opinion matters. Why would I support a company with such an idiot at the top of it? Especially when he goes on to say "I'm motivated more by the desire to replace implorted oil than by the CO2..." Wait a minute, isn't this the same company that killed the electric car?

What about word of mouth? Did he think this wasn't going to go around? Certainly not in a positive way. It's another reason why I won't buy their cars,and now I have a reason not to buy their stock as well.

Bob, get a clue about branding. There's a reason that when Umbria scanned 160,000 blogs for content around the word "sustainability" and found that GM's comments (6% of the 160,000) were all negative to neutral and Toyota (17% of 160,000) that were positive for the Pruis. Umbria also noted that 26% of the group were flat out activists for green thinking.

What's really wild is that Bob has his own blog. He SHOULD know better. It proves that you can't rewire, poor wiring, it should be replaced.

What's next Bob? Never mind, I don't care.

February 23, 2008

BIG GREEN PURSE, the most important book your book club will read this year

It was 4 am and I opened Big Green Purse and read, Big_green_purse_book_2 "Did you make a cup of tea or throw in a load of laundry before starting to read this book"? I laughed out loud, that's exactly what I had done. How did she know? Perhaps that's why women like listening to Diane, she knows how women work.

"She" is Diane MacEachern the author of Big Green Purse who I met for the first time last month. I already knew her from our virtual connections and was impressed with her ability to synthesize the scientific with the pragmatic when it comes to making our lives more green. Her book, Big Green Purse brilliantly blends the two, providing the HOW TO's that you don't see anywhere else with stories that burn a visual into your brain.

Take Chapter 1 where she asks, "If it can happen to an alligator, can it happen to your son"? The alligator has survived 80 million years and yet pesticides are messing with his personal parts making mating "out of reach" per se.  This is happening because of pesticides in the alligator's water.

The same exposure is there for babies, she explains how babies can accumulate these dangerous chemicals quickly. "When corrected for body weight, it's as if an adult were to drink seven liters of water or thirty-five cans of soda daily." She then she lists off off the chemicals found in breast milk.The Mom's over at MomsRising, and BlogHer know that last issue well.

So what do we do? Go after the government? Diane's lived in DC the majority of her adult life and has been an environmental advocate for 40 years. She outlines why policies to protect us have failed or never were initiated. That leaves it up to us to make the changes that force the issues back on the companies causing our system breakdowns in the first place, and to do it quickly.

Maceachern_torso Like many "tip books" this one is packed, but it comes with context and real life experiences - that's the motivating difference for me. Before a product or service was given a thumb's up, it had to pass the "Diane test" which is harder than anything the EPA could dish out. The test is a combination of what is scientific fact with personal use with the bigger environmental impact. Products get a thumbs up or down and the reader gets to learn why Diane made that decision and often times get an inside look at Diane's own test site - her home.

Products will evolve, but knowing how to evaluate them won't. This book is an entertaining way to rewire your personal spending habits while educating yourself on the bigger issues. Big Green Purse is a "must read, save, refer to" book that will get us through the next critical decision making years. It's filled with links and ideas for gardeners, nutritionists, designers and business alike.

Bgp_circlePerhaps the #1 link that Diane offers, however, is linking to each other. If Big Green Purse is the "Green Bible for Individuals" then Big Green Purse the website is the church where we can join together and commit to a greener lifestyle and planet. The Million Women Pledge to swap $1000 of everyday buying habits to green buying habits, will have a Billion dollar impact. When buyers tell sellers what they want on such an open forum, that's all we need to create a tipping point for change.

If you are in a book club or are starting a group like Eco Moms, this is one book that you'll be discussing for a long time.

February 16, 2008

Telling the Good You Wish to See in the World

"One of our board members, who lives in Nepal, always does a little spin on Gandhi's famous quote, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." She says, "Create the media you wish to see in the world."

Press_institute Britt Bravo comes through again with an inspiring interview with Cristi Hegranes, the President and Founder of The Press Institute for Women in the Developing WorldCristi founded the Press Institute in order to train women in developing countries to become investigative reporters and to report their own news.

Cristi says, "The goals of the organization are three-fold. We use journalism because it is a very empowering profession, enabling people to become the "question askers" in their societies. It is a really exciting and empowering position, especially for women in developing countries. Our primary goal is to provide that empowering employment."

I encourage all women to read it and then think about putting your own "citizen journalism" to work in a personal or business blog.

Good_tube Meanwhile, stay tuned to GoodTube.org, which will be launching soon. Non-profits like Cristi's can post videos of their work and share them with the world. Kimberly Klintworth is behind Good Tube. It's an extension of Profiles in Caring, a syndicated TV show that reaches millions and already has over 140 shows dedicated to distributing the good work of non-profits around the world. While the website is getting ready to launch you can go register your favorite non-profit now and start mixing your own video for it.

Ode_2 In the mail this week I received Ode Magazine (to people, to passion, to possibilities) it takes the same path of focusing on the good. It's run mainly by men who value a "just and sustainable world" and see themselves as "intelligent optimists." It's based out of Rotterdam, Netherlands. A look down the list of blogging contributors, however, shows a balanced mix of male and female voices and also a cross section of nations.

Is this a great time to live or what? 

We have individual blogs, highlighting Non-profits, which GoodTube joins/shares with the world, mixed with international magazines jumping international lines... It's enough to give us all hope regardless of who is elected. The people of the planet are rising and no one president, party, nation or even terrorist will ever take away their collective voice or soul again.

What to you think? Is it a good time to live or what?

February 12, 2008

Barbie, the Goddess of Perpetual Consumption

Barbie_valentine Happy Valentine's Day Barbie.

Now here's something you won't find in Starbucks, the shrine to Barbie, the Goddess of Perpetual Consumption. Those worthy enough to quaff coffee at her feet can do so at the E-Street Cafe in Encinatas, CA. This month, she's dressed to do chocolate and Ken in lovely red raincoat.

Robert Nanninga can be blamed for her ascension. He's one of E-Street's owners and writes "Observations from the Edge" a column for the North County Times.  It was his contribution to a contest for a new diety in 2001, that started her up the stairway to heaven. Today her likeness appears in new garb each month at E-Street. I think she needs to be a regular on In Women We Trust, don't ya think? As for Bob, well, what's not to like about a guy who knows how to accessorize?

Here's his nomination paper. 

Robert T. Nanninga, Observations from the Edge, North County Times 04/17/01

"Recently the editors of an earthwise spirituality magazine asked readers to create a new deity to be added to the world pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. Now here is a contest that I could get behind. Granted it’s not the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, but it doesn’t hurt to try writing for a different audience. Besides, it’s not often one gets to create a deity?

In my book humans create Gods, so that limited my choice of candidates to nominate for ascension to Mount Olympus to mingle with Zeus and Hera. Gods and Goddesses in turn help create culture, which shape individuals buying into the tenets of faith. The deity must also inspire believers through ascribed scripture, and or ritual. And if they are to survive, the God or Goddess must possess the ability to transcend generational boundaries. That’s when it hit me, Barbie deserves to be worshiped as the Goddess of Perpetual Consumption.

Created in 1959, Barbie Millicent Roberts was born from the mind of a woman here to be known as Mother Ruth. Possessing supra-natural powers, Barbie quickly became all things, to all people. Reflecting all nationalities in their pursuit of plastic perfection, Barbie is astronaut and angel, doctor and dancer. Eternally young Barbie shows no sign of aging, is chaste and forthright, while providing for the sick and unfashionable, where ever they maybe. Ken, her male counterpoint, is equally virtuous representing the best of what the market has to offer.

Barbie is already worshiped by females of all ages, seeing her as the ultimate achievement in femininity. Some devotees sacrifice their health to resemble Barbie, their suffering seen as pious penance. Males of our culture seek women who strive to be all things Barbie hoping to achieve hegemonic harmony. Thankfully, Barbie has recreated consumer culture in her own image, promising Malibu townhouses and Corvettes to all who would believe. I myself have several fetish dolls around the house, to remind me that Barbie is but a wish and credit card away.

There are many ways to worship at Barbie’s temple of holy consumption. Pagan Barbie accompanies me when I spend time in the wilderness. She is also makes an appearance at most holiday gatherings. Dressed for the occasion, as only she can, Barbie brings joy to all she touches. She also reminds us that there was no life before the mall, and without unlimited shopping the world would be thrown into to the deepest hell of want, despair, and a serious a lack of accessories. Girls in my family receive a Barbie on their third Christmas, an important ritual, which prepares them for a life among the recreationally impaired. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

Considering consumption has become the American way of life, it is vital that consumers be given someone to pray to when they need more stuff. Need a ski outfit to match the color of your hair extensions? Pray to Barbie. Tired of your mundane job, and seek adventure as a big-breasted lifeguard? Pray to Barbie. Who better than Barbie to fulfill the dreams of consumers everywhere? Where Christianity speaks of sin and salvation, and Hinduism of karmic balance, The Church of Barbie promises joyful abandon in a world of unending abundance.

Americans deserve to have a Goddess in step with their commitment to perpetual consumption. No guilt, only glitter, Barbie is the Goddess of the new millennium and should be recognized as such.

February 11, 2008

February is Clear Your Space and Mind Month

Michele_skaly_doilneyCollected, calm, centered... that's what struck me about Michelle when I met her at the Sundance Film Festival. How did she do it? She was off the charts cool in the middle of cameras flashing and everyone being a bit crazed, including myself.

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"When the student is ready the teacher will appear"

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In her packet (and on her site) were 9 Feng Shui Projects. Before you roll your eyes, go to her site and read the list. Maybe I was ready and master showed herself, whatever the reason, as I implement her clutter free ideas, I feel better. Try it. Let me know if it's also working for you.

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I could stop here, but I wanted you all to meet Michelle as well and learn how she arrived at this place.

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MARY: Were you always a neat freak or did Feng Shui transform you?

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MICHELLE: As a small girl, I lost my favorite Babar the Elephant book in a pile of toys as tall as me. Since then, I’ve been aware of how my environment can make my day a good or challenging one! Feng Shui has given me the language and tools to understand and use my environment to mindfully create a better day, and a better life. Feng Shui is the art and science of designing or adjusting an environment both indoors and outdoors for optimum comfort, balance, and use, given the purpose and occupants.

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Feng_shuiMARY: Is it hard to keep it up?

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MICHELLE: As Goethe said, “Begin”! We all have days of clutter and chaos – including me, and those of us who look organized on the surface but have the junk drawer, the “keep it closed” closet or hidden mystery boxes in the garage. I find that it is harder to let things go, let papers pile up, laundry multiply and the junk drawer to spread to the whole cabinet than it is to finish each use by putting things back where they belong. This plan starts with having a place for each thing, something you can start NOW.

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How many of us keep buying rolls of tape because the last 10 rolls disappeared? Saving money from avoiding duplicates is just another bonus to being moderately organized. On a deeper level, Feng Shui is not just about being organized, but about keeping only that which you love or use. And, Feng Shui is about using your space wisely and comfortably and fitting your space to your needs and likes. This part is not hard to keep up at all, once you feel the difference between dreading your home and looking forward to being at home at the end of a long day.

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MARY: What's the biggest thing you've noticed that's changed in your life now that you apply the principles?

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MICHELLE: I have more clarity and peace in my daily life as I interact with others or think about what needs to be done. It is true – clutter in environment creates clutter in our minds…

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MARY: We talked about the LEED project when we met. Do you see Feng Shui and integration with LEED or no connection?

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MICHELLE: Feng Shui and LEED standards, as well as other “green” standards, are ‘naturally’ connected. Both LEED and Feng Shui teach us that our environment impacts our daily life and the lives of those people, neighborhoods, plants, and animals around us. Rather than home, work place, shops, and leisure as separate places, ideally these places collectively form our neighborhood.

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Place organization using LEED-ND standards is like space organization in a home with Feng Shui effort. And... Feng Shui can be used hand-in-hand with LEED-ND standards in designing neighborhoods. We need to see how everything in life is intertwined and affects everything else. We have a choice – the choice to make a better life for us, for others and for the future based on how we see and plan our different environments now. Both LEED and Feng Shui are about mindfulness in our environment, and how we can make the best choices for us and others.

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More information about Practical Feng Shui and about Newpark Hotel/the Newpark Development (LEED-ND is in process) are on Michelle's website:

www.practicalenvironments.com.

February 09, 2008

Self Affirmative Action

Ladies - do have a business or a website/blog that you want seen and heard? We Magazine for Women is gathering names for their directory. My thanks to Yvonne for flagging this one. You must be around for at least a year and the list will be vetted. To sign up go here.

Heidi Richards, the founder of WE and her rapidly growing circle of friends is beind it.

About the Who’s Who Directory of Women in eCommerce:

The Who’s Who Directory is a brand new directory resource that will list women who have an online presence either in the form of a website or blog and who either promote a product or service via one of those vehicles (or  make money through affiliate sales).  The woman’s site does not have to have a shopping cart to qualify, just be one of the ways your customers and clients can find you. The information will be published online and promoted via our websites, media releases, WE Magazine for Women and our global network of women’s organizations.   

February 05, 2008

Seeking Balance

BalanceLast weekend  at UCI, I attended a "trans-partisan dialog" organized by women who represented the local leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as representatives of universities, State and local governments and a Global Matrix of women's groups. The point was to find a way talk about something that wasn't politics, or structure as usual.

They started by taking a council approach whereby everyone around the table was required to speak and more importantly, be listened to.

We had two questions to tackle. The first - "What would it take to have balance in the world"? By that they meant a balance of female and male decision making viewpoints. Now considering that this was a group of highly mainlined and successful women, you wouldn't think that wouldn't be an issue still and yet... there it was on the table, 30 years after Title IX.

At my table sat a former District Attorney, a UCI professor, a woman helping to put on the UN's International Women's Day, a founder of Gather the Women and a college student. After ideas were gathered, shared and posted, then the second question came out, "How could we make that happen"?

Lots of ideas emerged, but none supplanted a blog for getting a woman's voice heard, recorded and recognized as valid or equal.

Virginia Woolf wrote about having a room of her own, a place to create thoughts and write them down. Blogs are that room. She also noted (wrongly) that until women were allowed to go further than the garden gate, that they didn't have a lot to share and discuss. The plethora of blogs that cover just the Mommy Blogger experience alone sure rules that one out. Their "gated" community reaches around the globe and back and you don't see them parking their brains at the mall.

I explained to the non-bloggers that unless they put their thoughts in writing, that few will hear the first thought and no one will hear it 5 years years from now. I compared it to reading the history books for the American Indian.... oh, that's right there aren't any books because Indians had an oral history and didn't write anything down. It's also said that history is written by the winners. With blogs we ALL are winners and both genders can add as much of themselves to the history pages as possible.   

4 days later...

I caught the Umbria webinar on "Blogosphere: Greenfield or Minefield"? [It was excellent.] Umbria does blog analysis. They scanned and found 160,000 blogs talking about Sustainability/Climate Change issues based on "green" type words in the content. What was really interesting is that they could loosely tell who was talking, i.e. men, women, Gen X, Y or Boomers based on language use. That was a first for me. I've asked Neilson Buzz Metrics if they could do that and they said, no. (maybe they just no to me)

From this exercise they were able to determine who cared more about green (which was women) and who were more socially active (again, women) and therefore more likely to act sustainably. In other words, what happens on the ground was being duplicated on the web. No surprise there. The difference is that on the Internet, what's said is being captured and analyzed for intent and purpose.

[Go to http://www.umbrialistens.com/ and download the copy of the presentation. It's quite the eye opener for novices and professionals alike.]

So there you have it. If you want to equal the estrogen/testosterone ratio of thinking, post your thoughts on a blog. Make your words part of the conversation that business and politicians are paying to measure and react to. If things aren't changing fast enough for you, get MORE people to write it down. The blogosphere is democracy at it's collective best.