Blog Action Day 2010: Water

Just got the email invite from change.org about this year’s Blog Action Day topic. This year, it’s water. I have to say, I like this year’s topic. Every time I turn on the tap I think about how ridiculously simple and easy this is for so many of us. So easy to get, so easy to drink, so easy to waste. And so NOT easy for so many throughout the world.

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to write about. Yes, water is an important topic, and we often think first about those in undeveloped countries who do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. And I don’t want to say that this is not important, but there are many other important aspects of water; some that touch our lives every day and many that don’t.

One aspect I’ve written about several times on this blog includes my disdain for bottled water. There’s even an interesting info-graphic I posted here. But I also think often about how, where I live, the preservation of wild waterways is important for our local ecosystem. And how that is perceived as a threat by those downstream of us who count on, nay, have rights to the water that flows through the Jackson Hole valley. Is this as important as children dying of dysentery? I don’t know, but it has implications that span from clean local drinking water to agricultural food production to the viability of Northwest salmon runs. Each of these being important in their own right, and perhaps more approachable and identifiable than something occurring in Africa.

Like I said, I haven’t figured out what I’m going to write about, but Blog Action Day is October 15. If you have ideas, please post them in the comments below. And thanks for reading!

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Megabranding Hurts Triple Bottom Line

An article in yesterday’s New York Times prompted me to write this post that I’ve been meaning to write all week. M&Ms, that tried and true candy (and one of my mother’ favorites) that stayed the same for so many years began spinning off new iterations several years back. Today, the candy that outraged so many by simply pulling a color out of the line-up for health reasons, barely receives a raised eyebrow when introducing a new formulation. Among other variations, you can get M&Ms in Easter and Christmas colors, with almonds inside, and in dark chocolate, mint and other flavors, and even with your own message on the outside. But now, according to yesterday’s Times article, one of America’s favorite candies has made what is being called a radical departure from its traditional specs.

“The candies themselves are fatter and less uniform than traditional M&M’s. More radically, these M&M’s have no candy shell — just a shiny topcoat with a marbleized, almost metallic-looking finish in bright colors.”

It’s not a new phenomenon, but it is a sign of times. The marketing times, that is. There is such fierce competition for our brutally truncated attention spans that marketers feel they need to create new products, or new iterations of products, out of nothing just to keep our attention—and our dollars.

I’ve long wondered why we need so many different types of toilet paper, air fresheners, under-arm deoderant, toothpaste, what-have-you, and I try to keep my buying choices simple when faced with so many. I really don’t need all that stuff, and as someone who realizes their impact is already more than it should be, I am very conscious of what I buy. For not only is pretty much anything we buy making an impact, but the manufacture of this dearth of products simply to provide all potato chips to all people is certainly making an impact.

I’m not going to go into the depth of products available the the ridiculousness of it because Advertising Age’s Al Ries already wrote that article. It’s called “The Pitfalls of Megabranding” and I couldn’t say it any better myself. However, his point is a bit different. Mr. Ries states that megabranding really harms manufacturers and their brands because by offering so many choices retailers end up buying less of any single offering in exchange for a broad spectrum of product “flavors” (my quotes, not his). This means that there are often fewer of the flagship product that consumers rely on, and when they run out, they buy the competition’s product.

His point is that of harming your brand, but my point is that all this selection not only harms your brand, it harms the environment because of all the extra resources those new options gobble up. New flavors require extra ingredients and new packaging; more products require more shipping, more shelf space, and ultimately larger stores. And when it doesn’t all sell, the unpurchased merchandise has to go somewhere: to the dump or the Dollar Store (one in the same, I say) or who knows where.

But Ries’ best and final point is that megabrands may be threatened not by their own excess but by the brands who’s strength is in providing the one best product and dominating the market. Apple Computers and Illy Coffee, as he points out, provide a very limited selection of the best product possible. I learned a lot of great stuff at the last company I worked for before I struck out on my own, but perhaps the most important thing I learned is that you’ll never be the best at what you do if you try to do too much. Focusing on producing the best single product or service you can benefits your company in many ways. It keeps your people focused and saves resources—time and money being two of the most important in the business world. Because while environmentalists will preach until their blue in the face about what must be done to save the environment, most businesses and people won’t do what’s really necessary until it affects their bottom line.

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Cruise Ships Provide Tremendous View of Southeast Alaska, But At What Cost?

Johns Hopkins Glacier and Fairweather MountainsBack from a week or so of vacation and I’m feeling a little dirty, if not guilty, about what I’ve just experienced. Now, before I get into cruise ship bashing, let me first say that this trip allowed for several positive experiences that might not have been possible (or at least easy) given the circumstances.

For my wife’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, it was decided that a cruise would be the easiest and most economical way for 30 people to all get together, celebrate, have fun, and not become an undue burden on any one family. So, after nearly two years of planning, we set sail for Southeast Alaska from Vancouver, BC. We could have gone on any number of cruises, but for a diverse family who appreciates the mountains and didn’t want to be in the tropics in mid-July, this was the best option.

It was a fantastic way to see a part of the world that none of us had seen before, and it allowed everyone to take things at their own pace. The kids—there are 14 of them, ranging from 3 to 20 years old—had an incredible time. And while you can fly into Ketchikan and Juneau, and drive to Skagway, they’re all difficult to get to. In addition, cruising allows you to see some of the world’s largest glaciers—in Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord—which you cannot get to without a boat or airplane. These glaciers and the surrounding landscape really are incredible, and I’m grateful to have seen them close up in this way.

All that said, the act of cruising on a large ship is about as far from an ecological vacation as I can imagine. (more…)

Some Good News for Energy Savings

All those cfl\'s are making a dent!

A couple of interesting things in the news this morning as regards to energy use.

Energy conservation is making headway
First, it seems we may actually be making headway when it comes to conserving energy. Now, exactly who “we” are remains to be clarified, but according to a report on Marketplace this morning, “Strides to save energy are working.” Marketplace’s Dan Gretch says that:

The report found it takes half as much energy today to create one dollar of economic output as it did in the 1970′s. The energy savings in 2004 alone were enough to run 40 mid-sized coal or nuclear power plants.

That’s a lot of juice! So don’t think you can’t help make a difference by changing out lightbulbs and cutting back on power usage.

Energy efficiency is the key here, and their source from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez, suggest we begin changing our focus from increasing our energy supply to increasing our energy efficiency.

From a small business standpoint, that makes a lot of sense. And in most cases its something small businesses interested in cutting costs and saving energy are already doing, because it’s much easier to save energy and be influential in that realm than to make more energy.

General Electric shedding some pounds
Again, as heard on Marketplace this morning (but you can find it in a variety of places like BusinessWeek, and as far away as The Australian, or you can just Google it) General Electric has hired Goldman Sachs to auction off their lagging appliance sector.

According to the BusinessWeek story, GE is in the middle of the most active portfolio shake-up in that company’s history. I have to wonder if this is part of a larger effort to remake the company and move toward better energy efficiency. That said, one would think there could be a real opportunity to make a dent in the energy efficiency department by making the most energy efficient appliances they can. And the numbers seem to tell this story for them: The appliance division brought in only 4% of the $173 billion GE raked in last year.

You could pick up their appliance division for a cool $5 – $8 billion. Let’s just hope whoever does pick it up takes the opportunity to further build energy efficiency into the plethora of appliances in the portfolio.

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We Are All Corn People

Rarely do I receive unsolicited email so compelling that not only do I not hit the “junk” button instantly, but I actually post it here. Such an email arrived this afternoon in the form of a message from Zaproot. It’s a short-form Web video from the “green video network” ViroPOP. I watched a couple of them. The quick-cut format and edgy commentary on environmental subjects makes the videos very watchable. One could easily consume a dozen in a sitting.

But the one that caught my attention was this video featuring a short interview with the director of the new documentary from Mosaic Films titled “King Corn.” Having just started Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” I knew right away that the premise was the scarily too-close-to-home reality that we’re all “corn people.” Watch the video. Check out the trailer. Go see the movie. Read Michael’s book if you so desire. And then think very, very hard about the decisions you make about what you and your family eat.


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April Fools Day As Marketing Springboard

Happy Belated April Fools Day!Rather than jump directly on the bandwagon and post something about April Fools day actually on April Fools Day (‘cause that would be too on-top-of-it for this blogger. I’d hate to get a heart attack or something…), I figured I’d wait a week and see what the fallout was and how the blogosphere reacted to it.

I caught a few things right off the bat on Tuesday morning, but most of the April Tom-Foolery on the Internet seems to be in the form of jokes, such as the new-to-me but obviously not new concept of “Rick-rolling.”

But what I’ve been looking more for is which companies are successfully using April first as a way to promote their product, tongue-in-cheek style.
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State of Green Business Report Offers Mixed Reviews

gr_biz_cover.jpgUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year, you’ve likely been exposed to a veritable deluge of green marketing. Ever wonder what’s really going on within this so-called greening of the business world? Now you can get a pretty good picture through GreenBiz.com’s State of Green Business Report. Joel Makower’s team has taken a hard look at what’s out there; the answers aren’t as simple—or as rosy—as you may think.

As Makower states in the introduction to the State of Green Business report,

“If one were to rely strictly on the headlines—from the mainstream media, the business press, the blogosphere, and all the rest—it would be easy to conclude that the greening of business practices has reached a tipping point.”

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SeaWorld Missing The Boat On Every-Day Environmentalism

SeaWorld logoWhen it comes to amusement parks (excuse me, “Adventure Parks”), I’ve always felt that SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, with their focus on wildlife, have the best and most obvious opportunity to make an impact on the environment. Indeed, they have a large non-profit organization committed to wildlife conservation. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund was created to support habitat and wildlife conservation, research, education and animal rescue. And many of the animals at Sea World have been rescued from the wild, or in the case of one of their non-oceanic shows, “Pets Rule,” from shelters around the country.

However, while visiting SeaWorld yesterday (I’m in San Diego for a couple of days on a family trip), I was struck by the juxtaposition between this commitment to animals and the almost blatant (to one who is tuned in to it, anyway) disregard for anything else in the name of the environment and/or sustainable business practices. Sure, there were the obligatory recycling bins near trash cans throughout the park, but very few outward

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Let's Get This Blog Rolling!

I’m excited and proud to get my first post up on MarketGreener. It’s taken a little over a month to get this blog launched, but I’m sad to say that I missed my initial goal of launching on Blog Action Day. So let me take a moment to reflect on their success and what I hope will be an even greater success (of which I plan to play a part in) next year.

For now, here are some stats from this year:

Monday, October 15, 2007
first annual Blog Action Day

20,603
number of blogs that participated in Blog Action Day

23,327
total environmental posts for the day

14,631,038
number of RSS subscribers who read Blog Action Day posts that day

But as their site declares,

“The real reach of Blog Action Day is far greater than the numbers.”

As I read through some of the top posts for the day, a theme recurs that can’t be denied. We all can and do have an impact on our planet every day. Whether we drive to the corner store rather than ride the bike or recycle that beer bottle instead of throwing it in the trash, we are each faced with impactful yet sometimes seemingly insignificant choices every day. Many of them are simple choices that come down to doing what’s right over what’s just easy. Sometimes they’re harder, more life-changing choices, but what’s clear is that we each have the capability to make the right choice. Sometimes we just need to be shown what’s possible and what its effect can be. And given good information—and sometimes a little pressure—habitual, often uninformed choices can become habitual good choices.

The goal of MarketGreener is to help point out some of the choices that businesses and individuals have when making decisions associated with the way business is conducted and marketed and to help those businesses and individuals make the right choice for their customers, themselves and the planet. You’ll see posts ranging from green marketing tactics to what businesses are doing on a local, regional, national and global scale—both good and bad. (If you’d like to know a little more about MarketGreener, check out the “what is?” page.)

One last thing: this is a conversation. I don’t claim to be an expert in this field, just an enthused observer and reporter. I thrive on your feedback. Let me know what you think about what I have to say and about this blog. After all, one person can have an impact, but impact is only achieved when that person interacts with those around him.