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Stealing the Future

Here’s something to think about:

“We have an economy, where we steal the future, sell it in the present, and call it G.D.P.” -Paul Hawken

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How To Get Yourself Thrown off a Plane

It was finally time for our third plastic cup of water and white napkin garnish. Hours ago I started keeping track. I was sitting on a plane with 489 spent plastic cups. Cups whose lifespan had climaxed in the mile high club. When offered my third cup of the flight I decided to take a stand. I politely requested that it be poured, sans ice, into my aluminum coffee mug. The stewardess, completely perplexed, allowed me to hold the cup across two people mid air for a moment before asking, “Is it Clean?” Hmm… I wasn’t sure how to gauge this question but confidently responded “yes.” She hesitantly took the mug, explained that she cannot fill it all the way, and returned it to me 1/3 full. That’s when she reached for the garnish… When I delicately tried to refuse that little absorbent accessory it was all over- “It’s for your own safety!” she snarled, slamming in front of me, and moved on down the line. It was a triumphant moment for me, sitting in the air, the sweet hum of burning jet fuel, and I was safe.

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Method concentrating on innovations in detergents

Laundry detergent may be an odd area to be talking about exponential innovation. But Method, a  is doing just that, with their latest 8x concentrated laundry detergent. The competition, such as Unilever’s All Small and Mighty, with a concentration of 3X, seem neither small nor mighty in comparison.  The savings in water, energy and packaging with higher concentrations are clear.  But Method is challenging more than just the size of the bottle with this produce.

Picture your typical detergent cap with a line to fill up the product.  Method’s bottle has a pump that squirts out a specific amount of detergent.  Not only is this less wasteful, but it is probably easier to use as well.   However more detergent used means less detergent sold.  Whether the rest of the industry is ready to lower sales to follow innovation remains to be seen.  In the meantime, Method is fighting the good fight against overdosing on detergent.

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Blog mania or real business value?

Are blogs all “a buzz”, or do they creating real value for a business? We are in a society of information overload, I don’t even make the time to keep up with reading industry publications, let alone follow bloggers, tweets and opinion leaders in the industry. Blog management takes time, persistence, and does anyone even read them? What do I have to say that adds value and keeps readers coming back?

This is a question I have grappled with the last year as I took over social media marketing at my last job. I attended webinars, learned all about tags and google analytics, and even set up a schedule for employees to blog 2-3 times per week. Where did I land, you ask? Somewhere in between. There is definitely an art to blogging. The first things you must decide before embarking on this journey is who is your audience, and how will you measure its success? Setting a target for number of readers, increasing traffic to specific website pages, getting readers to take an action are all metrics that you should consider before starting a blog. Blogging just to blog because everyone else in your industry is doing it, I would argue is not effective, even if it does add a human voice to your company

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Top ten ways to make the Biz case for Sustainability

1) Ask Hunter Lovins to do it for you.

2) Compute the SROI and communicate it.

3) Think in Systems

4) Think long-term

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Are Motorhomes Trashing Golden Gate Park?

Having Golden Gate Park as my front yard is a unique San Francisco perk. Running, biking, museums, gardens, wind mills are within easy reach. And if I were inclined, so is the motorhome park. What? – you might be asking yourself … there’s no place to park a motorhome in the park!? Look closer and you’ll see the park ringed with motorhomes of all shapes, sizes, and states of repair parked around its perimeter.

Now I’m not entirely comfortable about going all NIMBY and suggesting that the owners of these vehicles don’t have a right to legally park in our city and enjoy he park and surrounding neighborhoods like everyone else – their sometimes quirkiness adds to the diversity and texture of our city. What I would like to through out there for consideration is how to prevent the inhabitants of these vehicles from trashing the park and surrounding neighborhoods. Lately, every walk and bike in the park leads to the discovery of a another pile of household trash, bagged and unbagged, and some distinctly unsavory “deposits” that detract from the park’s social purpose of allowing city dwellers a natural experience to unwind and recharge from the stress of urban living. In one stretch of the panhandle from Stanyon to Broderick streets I counted 11 motorhomes while walking.

So what are you other friends of the park seeing? Are there any solutions to this problem that respect the motorhome drivers AND maintain the serenity of the park and keep the area free, well at least more free, of trash? Should the city make parking vehicles over a certain size illegal in residential neighborhoods?

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Is Consumerism Good?

Herman Miller Celle Chair

Often times the motto of the green revolution is “kill consumerism”. The idea is that buying products destroys the planet, therefore we should limit what we buy. If you dig deeply, someone may point you to this equation:

Total Impact = Unit Impact x Quantity

That is, the total impact that a product will have is equal to the impact of each unit sold multiplied by the quantity that is sold. By showing this equation you can quickly show that to limit the impacts of environmental degradation you must reduce the quantity of things sold. There are two major problems with this frame of thought:

1) We will never reduce the quantity of things sold to zero, therefore if Unit Impact is negative there is no way to be a “green” consumer, and

2) It relies on the assumption that Unit Impact is always negative!

What if you flip things around and Unit Impact becomes positive, does that mean consumerism is good? The equation will now show that the more you buy of something the better impact you are having. We could thing of the examples of critical medications. What about music lessons or wood burning stoves that can improve lives in Africa?

The idea of good consumerism can be seen in the ideas of Cradle to Cradle (C2C). The C2C methodology shows that if we make waste equal to food, and use the its precepts of eco-effectiveness, we can transform our current paradigm of bad consumerism to good consumerism. Of course, not all products are good, so we should be aware of the products we buy. But, maybe one day we will be able change the way we create products to move to a good consumerism society.

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