Category Archives: Green Technology

Sustaining Momentum

As I get ever so closer to vacation next week, my thoughts have started to migrate towards recharging and renewal.  In that spirit, I wanted to share some interesting pieces I’ve been reading this week that span across that spectrum.

* Martin LaMonica of CNet has a short but very in-depth series on the current state of electricity, the role technology is playing in changing our consumption and how we sustain our ever-growing electronic lifestyles.  He takes a look at both sides of the coin: home and generation.  Highly recommended and especially timely in Massachusetts where there is a growing debate on National Grid’s planned rate hikes.

* Working off of a piece by Matt Richtel in the New York Times that discusses how our brains are changing due to our (some would say over) exposure to computers, blogger Marc Gunther explores the idea further in his post earlier this week on Sustainability and Your Brain.  Marc makes an excellent point in conclusion:

“Being “always” on is ultimately unsustainable. More than that, the idea of resting and restoring (the earth, your workforce) are part of a sustainable business practice.”

As a society we are moving ever faster in the electronic/information revolution age.  It brings to the forefront a great deal of questions:

* How much is too much information?  And where will we get all the energy to sustain the information flow?

* How will we sort this information to make better and more sustainable business decisions?  There is a great recent TED conference session online about data visualization’s potential role here, fascinating and well spent 18 minutes with David McCandless.

* How can/will this information be used to avoid another BP-style disaster in the future?

We’re heading off to Cape Cod to enjoy some of the national seashore and reconnect.  I hope everyone has a chance to do something similar as we wind down the summer.

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The Power of Sustainable Choices – Making Marketing Local?

The media brings to light sustainability stories in a variety of ways.  Most times it is national stories like BP that highlight larger issues of the  environmental impact of business, the cost of our dependence on oil, national regulations and standards, etc.  These are all worthy of debate and discussion, however it reminds me that the good stories, the positive stories many times are left on the sidelines.

This isn’t just an issue regarding sustainability and environmental issues – this is a complaint I hear regularly regarding the nightly news.  It’s a sad reality that the public does tend to gravitate towards that which is dramatic.

Which is why I was drawn to a recent video post from Yahoo in their Second Act series.  The particular piece focused on Jay Shafer, who made a lifestyle choice to downsize to an 89 square foot house of his own design and handiwork.  You can check out the video here.

Trathen Heckman, a sustainability educator, is quoted stating that Jay’s house is less than a 10th of the size of a “traditional” US home.  I found it interesting that by turning away from the standard approach to happiness and success (aka home ownership, status, etc.) that Jay has enriched his life while:

* Reducing his utilities to less than $100 per year

* Carrying no mortgage

Although not for everyone, those are powerful motivators that could lead many people to explore their own version of Jay’s lifestyle choice.

The US economy is based largely on services, the consumer index and individuals making the choice over and over again to buy new items, be it clothing, homes or the latest gadget from Apple.  As the economy continues to struggle, I wonder if more people will make similar choices as Jay, and how will the market respond?  Jay grew a business of creating small buildings out of his own experience.  Local farmers are seeing the continued growth of CSAs across the nation.  More and more individuals are making lifestyle choices that don’t blend with traditional purchase patterns.

This is heady stuff for marketers.  A mass media national approach won’t reach these folks.  Marketing is going to have to adjust to being more targeted, more local.  To me, this means social media will increase its importance as more businesses look to connect to those buyers right in their own backyards.

They say all politics are local.  The combination of economy and choice may mean business needs to returns to those roots as well, and marketers need to take notice.

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Caveat Emptor – The Cloud is Not Green

If you are an enterprise there are a number of ways you can go about getting sustainable credibility and avoid “greenwashing” and the backlash that companies like BP have been receiving.

* Put your money where your…. – Cut back on your waste and CO2 emissions and forget the cap a trade. Real dollars spent because it is the right thing is credible and measurable.

* Support local sustainable businesses through employee programs. Have the cafeteria use produce from a local CSA. Insist on sourcing supplies from within a 50 mile radius. Its tangible, again its real and you get the benefit of improving your employee’s lives and the local economy. Who knows, maybe you can even leverage it to negotiate a lower health care premium.

These are just two ideas amongst a large variety that are immediate and have real impact. One idea I’ve seen floated around is the idea that going to a cloud technology strategy is “going green.” I’m here to tell you that’s likely not the case. And if you see brands trying to claim that, its in my opinion the tech version of polluters buying carbon credits and saying its ok.

Let’s think about it – everything is going digital and on a worldwide scale.  New device adoption is growing, and new launches like the iPad are just adding to the data growth.  This data has to live somewhere, and the energy and data center space required to manage this growth has a cost.

So organizations think “I’ll just go the cloud, reduce my footprint and electric bill and I’m green.”  Not so fast…Jason Mark does a nice job here detailing the folly of that idea, and the most startling statistic he highlights is this:  “In just 10 years, internet technologies could be eating up more than 50 percent of the electricity we now use in the United States.”

I was talking to a large enterprise prospect last week and they hold sustainability as one of the key internal programs, which is commendable and I was thrilled to see.  However, as we explored it as a possible PR strategy, we collectively realized that in order to claim sustainability as a core cultural differentiators, we had to showcase implemented programs that were measured and maintained over a period of time.  We had to be accountable, and that didn’t mean shuffling responsibility to partners or customers.

I applauded them, and I encourage other brands to hold themselves to the same standard.  Cloud Computing is an IT revolution and well worth the effort, but let’s avoid calling it green….

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