Tag Archives: green business

Topic DrillDown: How to Become a Green Business in Austin

Image Credit: City of Austin

If you live in the City of Austin, Texas and you want to run a green business—you’re in luck. Not only does the City support and encourage its hometown organizations (over 80% of which are micro-businesses; having 20 employees or less) to embed sustainability into their values and operations, but it provides coordinated programs to make the process easier, faster and the results more impactful. At this year’s GoGreen Austin event, the City will be hosting a special session called How to Become a Green Business:  An A – Z Guide. This session, in particular, will be a great opportunity to pair the strategic and tactical advice learned throughout the day at GoGreen with concrete information about the real-world resources available in the Austin area. Austin’s own Chief Sustainability Officer, Lucia Athens, will moderate a panel of local business leaders who have worked with the City to lead their companies through the adoption of greener values and programs. The session will focus on the following aspects of greening your organization:

  • Energy Efficiency (and available upgrade incentives)
  • Water Management
  • Zero Waste Strategies
  • Commuting Solutions
  • Carbon Footprint Reduction

This session will also speak to a new understanding of what sustainability means for the Austin Community. The City’s Office of Sustainability has outlined a definition  that shows the integrated nature of how it applies to all aspects of doing business and building a thriving, prosperous community.

Sustainability means finding a balance among three sets of goals: 1) Prosperity and jobs, 2) conservation and the environment, and 3) community health, equity and cultural vitality. It means taking positive, proactive steps to protect quality of life now, and for future generations. — Office of Sustainability, City of Austin

Image Credit: Office of Sustainability, City of Austin

Learn more about the City of Austin’s Green Business Leaders program at their website. To view all GoGreen ’12 Austin sessions and register for the event, Wednesday, April 4, visit austin.gogreenconference.net.

GoGreen ’11 Portland Green Line Series: Nike’s Hannah Jones on the Importance of Collaboration

Nike, being a global company, has the advantage of throwing a lot of weight behind its core values. But that same size and reach also pose a challenge when it comes to aligning every single factory, product line and aspect of your supply chain with the company’s “North Star” goal: A 100 percent sustainable, closed loop system. The folks at Nike just use this as fuel to fire their collective drive—going so far as to collaborate with their competition in order to achieve goals necessary to success for all. In this edition of the Green Line Series, Nike Vice-President of Sustainable Business & Innovation, Hannah Jones, tells us why working together is the best and fastest way for us all to win.

GoGreen Conference: Sustainability is a complex undertaking at any size business—especially at one as large as Nike. What are your priorities? How do you ensure you’ve accounted for all known aspects that affect your goals on sustainability?
Hannah Jones
: We have been on a journey to build a more sustainable company ever since Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight started the company. Bowerman was always interested in creating a lighter shoe which translates into less waste.

NIKE, Inc.’s long-term vision is to create products and business models that are decoupled from constrained resources. Nike has made progress, we’ve learned a lot from being in this space and we’ve applied these learnings to address key industry issues around labor, environment and our supply chain. But there’s still more work to be done.

We’ve taken on challenging issues and invested significant resources in new ways to make products and share what we’ve learned. However, in order to accelerate the industry’s progress to a sustainable future, it’s imperative that the industry works together and collaborates in order to create lasting, scalable, systemic change.

We cannot do this work alone, and so collaboration is key.

GG: What has been more difficult to enact—operational change at the corporate level, behavior change at the consumer level, or controlling a global production supply chain? What solutions have you developed to make progress within this biggest challenge/opportunity area?
HJ: Nike’s global supply chain is large and complex. It has taken years to address certain issues, but as our business continues to become more complex, we see the need to create new solutions. In the absence of industry standards, the challenge is working together as an industry to reshape the system and how we all approach supply chain processes.

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GoGreen ’11 Portland Green Line Series: Intel’s Lorie Wigle on Empowering People To Make Sustainable Choices

Intel’s General Manager for Eco-Technology and GoGreen ’11 Portland Keynote Speaker, Lorie Wigle, has her eye fixed on the business opportunities in sustainability. Using Intel technology, she and her team are tackling our biggest environmental problems by increasing efficiency, driving systemic integration and empowering people with the tools to make smarter choices about their energy and resource consumption.

GoGreen Conference: Tell us about the connections between Intel’s penchant for chasing invention, ingenuity and discovery as a technology company, and sustainability. How does a greener mindset fit into that picture?

Lorie Wigle: It’s interesting because that question causes us to ask: What does sustainability mean? There’s a writer and proprietor at Greenbiz.com, Joel Makower, who has formed a framework to describe it in the context of business. His theory is that companies go through three stages of evolution in sustainability.

The first one is to do no harm. For Intel that’s very germane to the way we run our factories. Our factories use energy and water. If we want to do no harm, we have to figure out how to minimize our impact. Intel has actually been reporting our environmental footprint since 1994. We make goals well in advance of necessity and we look closely at our environmental footprint in order to ensure we’re meeting them across the board.

The second stage, as Joel puts it, is to do well by doing good. A great example of that at Intel is how we look at our microprocessors. Microprocessors are used in servers, data centers and the notebook computers and smartphones we all carry around with us. Energy efficiency has become a prime basis for competition with the microprocessor—so the more energy efficient we make our products, the better we do in the marketplace and by the environment.

We did an analysis for our CEO recently, looking at the overall energy consumption of the first one billion connected PCs. There were approximately one billion connected PCs in 2007 and together they consumed about 320 terawatt hours of energy per year. Now, we’re forecasting there will be two billion connected PCs globally by the end of 2014—but the amazing thing is that those two billion PCs will use half the energy that the first billion used, and they’ll do seventeen times as much work. The reason for that is that we’ve been able to capitalize on Moore’s Law—which is the doubling of transistors every 18 to 24 months—to drive better energy efficiency and form factors. Through things like this, we do well by doing good.

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GoGreen ’11 Phoenix: Park Howell on Incorporating Sustainability Into Your Brand

Park Howell HeadshotPark&Co founder and CEO, Park Howell, knows a thing or two about branding and marketing. Lucky for us, he’s also got an award-winning perspective on how to successfully incorporate sustainability into your brand. We sat down with Park to talk shop on building a sustainable brand, avoiding greenwashing and putting your green initiatives into context your audience can relate to. Park will also be leading our Green Branding & Marketing panel at GoGreen ’11 Phoenix on November 15—so if you like what you read, consider joining us for our first event in Arizona!

GoGreen Conference: Park & Co. focuses on the storytelling aspect. It seems like a lot of companies sometimes get nervous because they think, “Well our story is not perfect. In one aspect of my business we are working on sustainability, but in others we might be falling short.” How do you think businesses should handle talking about sustainability while they are still early on in their journey?
Park Howell: It’s a great question. You always hear that you want to be completely transparent and accountable—and all of those buzz words. That’s all true, but I think where some companies miss the mark is they think that they have to be perfect to tell the story. There is no such thing as a perfect story and, if you think about it, any great hero has to go through something really tough, otherwise they don’t have what it takes to be a hero. It’s the same with a company.

Even throughout the process of “greening themselves” or becoming more sustainable, companies need to be talking about the journey—answering the questions of what’s working for them and what’s not working for them. Second thing to consider is: Are you sharing best practices? Because that helps educate everyone else on a couple of different levels. First, it tells the consumer they are dealing with an honest company and that your company is not only trying to do better, but its also bringing people along for the journey. Most people like that. There’s a humanness about that kind of behavior from a company that people can relate to.

Number two, it shows leadership by example. People and other companies can learn from their experience—especially from where someone has blown it and it’s not quite working for them. I can apply those lessons to my own life—whether it’s personally or professionally through my company.

There’s also something really endearing about a company that admits it isn’t perfect, but can show the steps it’s taking to improve. I think Patagonia does a really nice job with that. It earns trust. I’ve seen immense distrust lately in large corporations, specifically because of their role in bringing on the worldwide recession. Wearing your greenness on your shirtsleeves in an ethical way—both the successes and the things you’re working on—is going to help win over consumers and earn back their trust. You’ll also likely find evangelists and experts willing to help your brand take sustainability initiatives further.

GG: What are you looking for in potential clients at Park&Co? How do you determine if a company is far enough along in their sustainability journey for you to work with them?
PH: We work on a case-by-case basis, but we can start from the very beginning—at the zygote stage, if you will. Even if a company is just thinking about embarking on this kind of journey, and figuring out how to start enacting green practices within their business, we can help them build a brand story around those values.

A good example of a company where we did that is Adelante Healthcare. The whole case study is up on my blog (www.parkhowell.com). What they were, and still are, is a 30-year-old community healthcare center here in Arizona. Their roots literally started in the fields working with migrant workers and those who didn’t have a lot of healthcare insurance, or those with no healthcare insurance whatsoever. Well, times have changed since they were founded, especially in Arizona with our immigration laws and the decline of farming in favor of development and so forth. The result of this is that their market completely changed. Despite that, Adelante still wanted to maintain their mission—which is to make healthcare available to everyone insured or not.

In order to maintain relevancy for the next 30 years, we had to change their brand and their approach to healthcare through the development a brand of sustainable healthcare. For Adelante that goes well beyond just saving the planet. There’s really three legs to their particular sustainability stool.

1. Sustaining the health of their individual patience through world class, comprehensive care.
2. Sustaining the availability of healthcare for everyone by pursuing their original mission of treating all patients regardless of their ability to pay.
3. Sustaining health in the home, neighborhood, community and planet by advocating for healthier consumer habits.

In developing the sustainable platform for Adelante, one of the first tasks was to quickly start assessing how their operations needed to become more sustainable and making changes for things like handling bio-waste and recycling. They took a really comprehensive viewpoint of things when switching over their brand.

For instance, instead of just completely gutting all of their clinics and rebuilding them, they saved as much of the leftover materials as possible for reuse. And if they couldn’t reuse something in the redesign of the building, then Adelante made the materials available to local non-profits or contractors. We helped them create a new vision for themselves and discover new relevancy in their market based on core values that had always been in place. And we helped them tell this evolution of their story in a way that resonated with their audience.

GG: You mentioned that Adelante was taking a “balanced approach” to sustainability. In general, should brands lead with their green credentials or is sustainability something that plays more of a supporting role for the most part?
PH: Sure, if sustainability really is your primary brand attribute, then certainly lead with it. But I think for the vast majority of companies, their primary brand attributes are something other than being green. Take Adelante, for instance, their main brand attribute is to provide the best, most efficient, highest quality healthcare for their patients. Sustainability supports that, but it’s a secondary brand attribute. I think that’s pretty true with about every brand.

Consider, GreenWorks from Clorox. Do you buy it solely because it’s a greener cleaning option? Or do you buy it because it works well—oh and by-the-way it’s green as well? I think most companies should first lead with their primary benefit and then secondarily they can benefit from building and sharing brand attributes around being sustainable.

GG: What are a few examples of things you see in the marketplace that make you cringe? Anything that makes you roll your eyes, because it’s so overused?
PH: Ha! Well, I’ve gotten to the point finally where I am so tired of leaves—green leaves on logos are starting to make me cringe. It’s such a visual cliché at this point.

The word is green is also getting overused. It’s not just about saying, “I’m green.” It’s also about how you’re going about being green. What are the actions and operations of what you’re doing to back up your “greenness”? The use of the word ‘green’ in company names products and services is getting old. And there are others too. I just did a post on 10 big green clichés that you want to avoid—and one of them is to avoid calling yourself green unless you’ve got the kahones of Greenpeace to back it up.

GG: How do you approach incorporating hard data in more compelling ways in order to avoid both greenwashing AND going over people’s heads?
PH: I see companies doing that more through their corporate social responsibility reports. And they’re doing a better job of getting consumers involved. Gamification of reports and information—where you are rewarding the consumer going through information and at the same time making it fun for them to take in the data—is an interesting new trend you’re starting to see sparks of life in.

It’s difficult, and you have to find and cater to a very motivated consumer that’s going to take the time to dig into what your product is about. But, it goes beyond offering simply offering a product benefit. You’re also asking the consumer to be accountable in their purchases.

I was just talking to Jacquie Ottman, who wrote a really terrific book called, The New Rules of Green Marketing. She’s been doing this a long time, and what she and I were talking about is that it goes beyond the basic consumer and product relationship. Consumers have to be engaged and pay attention to how they will use, repurpose and recycle that particular product. And even more so, Jacquie will go as far as saying there is no such thing as a truly green product because you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet—and that’s true in every green or non-green product’s case.

There’s always something. Diapers are a good example of this concept. Maybe you want to use cloth diapers and keep waste out of the landfills. But then you have to account for the energy and water that it takes to wash those diapers. So consumers have to get involved and be accountable if they are really interested. And for brands, it’s most likely going to be a secondary thing, because what consumers want to know first is: Does the product work? Is it convenient for me to get? Is it an affordable price? Is it healthy for me? And after they’ve gone through all of that—then they start digging into the numbers.

GG: What ways do you see people most connecting to sustainable stories? Is it on things that relate human health or perhaps on locally relevant issues?
PH: Geography and health are certainly going to factor into it. But I still get the sense that consumers are being bombarded with so many things in their lives—from the recession, to regular advertising, to getting their families though the day—that the green industry is a bit of a blur to them. They don’t know where to turn. It may come down to product placement—when they walk into a store and see a Seventh Generation product and roll with it because it’s right there, on sale and buying it makes them feel good.

Another area that’s interesting is the automotive industry. Rising and fluctuating gas prices are forcing auto companies to develop greener cars very quickly. But they’re also building gamification into their product. The gamification response mechanisms are built right into the dashboards, so that people can see just how effectively they are driving in terms of fuel savings and efficiency. That sort of education plays really well in the operation of that product, but it also gets ingrained in people’s minds and transfers to other activities in their lives. They may start to think, “Well, how can I apply this to my dishwasher, my swimming pool and my electrical use?”

GG: What message are you bringing to GoGreen attendees? What are you hoping they will learn from your session?
PH: What I want to do in that session is based on your first question: Is it OK, if you’re company is not beautifully green or perfectly green, to still talk about your journey into sustainability with the world and see if you can get them to come along with you? I want to show and talk about ways to do that through real world examples. And we’ll talk about inspiring consumers to change their behavior. Not just the behavior of purchasing a greener product or service, but the behavior that transcends these things and makes people more responsive participants of the planet Earth.

GG: Real quick coming out of your last response—why do you think sustainability is important? What is your particular entry point to perusing a lifestyle that places sustainability and social responsibility in the forefront?
PH: It’s really simple—I’m in it to protect this planet for my kids and grandkids. We have three kids, and humanity has absolutely ravaged this planet. We’ve got to get global warming in check and do something about conserving our resources. The amount of waste we produce is mind-boggling. Now, I am not a perfect green individual and I think that’s one of my strengths—I talk to consumers from a relatable standpoint. I advocate doing your part in incremental ways, which can not only save you a lot of money and avoid stress, but it can also save the planet. We can all be a part of the solution for saving the planet.

Park Howell is Co-founder and President of Park&Co, a full-service advertising agency based in Phoenix, AZ. He’s also the moderator for the Green Branding + Marketing panel session at GoGreen ’11 Phoenix, November 15, 2011. For more information about GoGreen ’11 Phoenix, please visit: phoenix.gogreenconference.net. Follow us on Twitter (@GoGreenConf) and Facebook.

GoGreen ’11 Portland: Dick Roy on Culture Change and the Sustainability Movement

Dick Roy, Center For Earth Leadership

Dick Roy and his wife, Jeanne (co-founders of Northwest Earth Institute, the Oregon Natural Step Network and the Center for Earth Leadership), have been full-time champions for the environment for nearly two decades. In that time, Dick has amassed a wealth of experience on driving systemic cultural change and made valuable observations on how to use our past and human nature to help shape our future. In today’s post, we talk with Dick about how things have changed since he began “working for the Earth” and what we need to do to achieve much needed results on the sustainability front.

GoGreen Conference: What was the impetus to change career directions after a very successful run as an attorney at Stoel Rives? Did you have an epiphany or did the motivation to work full-time for the environment evolve over time?
Dick Roy: It was something that evolved over time. Jeanne (my wife) and I were influenced by the culture of the 1960s when there was a lot of idealism floating around. That was the time when President Kennedy made his famous statement: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

By the time I graduated from law school in 1970, we were becoming aware that the Earth was in trouble. And when we came back to Oregon from Boston, we had Governor McCall in place. It was a great time because the legislature was doing a lot of interesting things to address these issues. We got involved right away in the “environmental movement”—I was on the board of 1000 Friends of Oregon, Quiet Trails and the Oregon Environmental Council, and Jeanne was involved in some interesting programs on food, waste reduction and recycling.

In 1987, we took three months off and went down to the Oregon Coast. By then, the context had changed. When I worked with Quiet Trails, I was trying to do local things like keep off-road vehicles off of public land. By 1987 it was clear that global warming and broader issues were making impact, and that the ecological systems of the Earth were in great danger. We decided we’d like to work as full-time volunteers and then in 1991 we took another four months off to develop the programs to do that.

It was not a single epiphany of any sort, but rather a progressive understanding of the condition of the earth and coming to the conclusion that our highest purpose would be to try and fix some of the bad things happening.

GG: Have you experienced any daunting challenges that were particularly rewarding to conquer?
DR: If you look at the ultimate challenges we face as people—which permeate everything we do—there is one I call the double disconnect that is pretty daunting. The first disconnect is that on the economic side. We have capital markets and investors of the world driving the system, but there is no connection between their goals and the goal of a sustainable future. Additionally, on the individual level, we haven’t evolved well to respond to threats that are remote in time and space. That’s the second fundamental disconnect we are trying to address. We view those as our fundamental obstacles to overcome.

In a personal sense, I’ve gone through some pretty intense changes. One day I was in a corner office as senior partner at a law firm, and the next day I was in an empty room at the Galleria. The challenges at that level were daunting as well. A big one was losing a technical support system. Another was moving from a situation where what you do is the highest priority of anyone you’re interfacing with to something that is much lower on the priority scale.

In terms of the greatest triumphs, it’s rewarding is to see how the culture in Portland is so vastly different than it was in 1993. It’s exciting to see change occur. Some of it is very visible—for instance with all the bikes you see on the road today, it’s practically dangerous to drive a car around now. But we also work towards ideas that will spread like wildfire. If you can start the process of a culture change, then all sorts of innovative things will start to bubble up. And that’s occurring as well. There seems to be no end to the interesting programs and initiatives going on here.

GG: Portland lives in a bit of a early adopter bubble when it comes to sustainability. How would you say the mainstream environmental movement has changed since you started working in this field full-time?
DR: There are two big things that have happened. In the beginning of the movement, in the 1960s, things were principally about advocacy. The major activities were filing lawsuits, holding protests and legislative lobbying. Those things peaked in the mid-1970s and then Reagan went into office in the 1980s. That, coupled with the economic downturn, created a bit of a dark time. But parallel to that in the late 1980s and early 1990s were all sorts of interesting ideas perking up. The Natural Step process was one. With that burst of energy in 1990, what came to pass was the birth of the sustainability movement.

The sustainability movement is about voluntary efforts, as opposed to advocacy. You can still see the two threads working in conjunction, but independently of one another. Columbia Riverkeeper is a straight up environmental group. They protect the river through advocacy. Then you have a number of groups working in the sustainability movement, like Northwest Earth Institute, Sustainable Northwest and Ecotrust.

Of course anything that hits the mainstream and becomes popular becomes co-opted at some point, so there is a lot of greenwashing going on—people trying to find and exploit business opportunities in this authentic interest that the public has developed in a different way of living.

GG: After disappointments over the results of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009, people’s optimism seemed to fall from the earlier spike leading up to the event. Would you say you are more or less optimistic about meeting sustainability goals than when you began this work in 1993?
DR: We promote the practice of hope. We remain hopeful, despite feeling optimism and pessimism at any given time. We treat them both as distractions. If you talk about probabilities—which we don’t spend all that much time on—looking at the science now, the data is certainly far more negative than it was 20 years ago and we’ve lost a lot of time.

Paul Hawken summed up the situation in his recent talk at the University of Portland very nicely—if you look at the science and aren’t pessimistic, then you’re probably looking at the wrong data. But if you meet the kind of people who are working to restore the Earth and you aren’t optimistic, then you haven’t got a pulse. That’s how he described it and that’s how we see it too. We don’t focus on probabilities. We focus on having a vision of the highest possible achievements possible and then aligning our conduct to that reach that standard.

The other part of the answer is that we clearly have not gotten ourselves ahead of the curve. You can see in the current economic and political climate that in terms of priorities, jobs are first, social needs are second and the environment doesn’t even come into the equation until much further down the list. And as long as that’s the case, the natural systems of the world will continue to decline. That being said, we still prefer to think in terms of hope instead of optimism and pessimism.

GG: Does that hope come from meeting and working with the people rather than viewing the solution as a technical one? Is that why your organizations have focused on education?
DR: When we decided we wanted to work on changing culture, we figured we could work in public policy, advocacy, motivation or public education. And although the work we’ve done is educational, its primary focus is on motivation. The reason for that is because when you are highly motivated, you can generally get all the information you need to make decisions that align with your values.

On the other hand, many highly educated people are not motivated. We believe that’s because of this disconnect we have with issues that happen over time. It’s difficult to feel a sense of urgency when tomorrow life will still be good in Oregon. In the immediate sense, life is great, but in an ultimate sense, there is an incredible urgency not being addressed. That’s why we focus on motivation. We always work with small groups of people and we always work with groups of people who share their ideas, because we believe that people own things with more intensity through self-discovery as opposed to a traditional teacher-student model. That’s why everything, including materials for the Center for Earth Leadership, is organized around motivation.

GG: Making excuses seems to be a part of human nature. In working with groups and people, have you observed any common “crutch” excuses people use to avoid adopting a more sustainable life practice?
DR: We all have crutches as individuals and in organizations, but our goal is to get people to understand more deeply within a context where they are motivated to do something about it. We attempt to pull people together and create a sense of purpose. For instance, in our Agent of Change course, we get people to consider the possibilities they have in affecting change themselves and then help them get motivated to get the information they need to take action.

GG: What do you see as the private sector’s role in helping to drive culture change?
DR: If you look at business organizations, there is kind of a line in their situation—is the company privately held or publically traded? Once a company becomes publically traded, then at one level it is really beholden to financial analysts, because it has to increase sales and profits, so that its value of stock goes up. But whether a company is privately held—which creates an environment where you have a lot more latitude—or publically traded, there are still so many things that can be done.

In Portland, we’ve had some very progressive business leaders in our history and a lot of those folks formed a progressive business association, the Oregon Business Association. Now there are many associations that have been formed around similar issues. And there are also many companies that have staked their interests in a issue by joining alliances for various aspects of conservation, like trees/forests and renewable energy.

You have others that have simply set a very high bar—InterfaceFlor for example—and are creating models for how companies should operate with these ideals in mind. They sponsor and support non-profit initiatives, and some have engaged in what I call authentic certifications. These are the companies that were the first to have organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council certify a forest.

Another big thing that many of these companies are doing is educating their employees, not only about internal practices, but also about lifestyle choices. My wife, Jeanne, has done over 40 presentations for businesses about moving to Zero Waste. And she focuses on your lifestyle in addition to ways management can encourage innovation and support progressive legislation.

Here in Oregon, if we go all the back to the original bottle bill, Fred Meyer was a champion of that legislation when the other major grocery chains were opposed to it. His support helped enact that legislation. So you can see that it’s very helpful for businesses to support progressive legislation. There is a vast array of things that can be done so long as the internal climate of the business is conducive to it.

GG: How can we, as individuals, help create internal climates that are supportive of green initiatives at our companies?
DR: “Earth leadership” is what we can do to promote sustainability. There are four quadrants of that concept. The first is what we do in our paid work. The second is how we shape our lifestyle—including our buying habits. The third is advocacy and the fourth is creating change in a circle of influence.

If you take those four areas and look at what it means to drive systemic change, one obvious problem is that as buyers—I don’t like to call us consumers—you can’t go out and regiment people en masse. Most of us can’t tell everyone to buy these products as opposed to those products. There is too much independence built into our culture. But when working with individuals, we can talk to people about the fact that every time we spend a dollar, we are voting for a particular culture. And if enough people start using their dollars to vote differently, then that activity will drive systemic change.

One rule of thumb for your home life or business life could be to shop local. Another is to simply realize that our dollars are very powerful cultural drivers. Understanding that helps us bridge the disconnect between ideals and action. Someone might say they really don’t like big box store, but on the other hand, things are often less expensive there so they shop at them anyway.

To give you an example of a cultural disconnect, back in the 1990s, Coke and Pepsi were systematically going into schools and developing exclusive contracts. The school or school district could only sell Coke or Pepsi—depending on which provider they chose. And they would get a bonus, depending on how much product they sold to the children at their schools. So there was an actual financial incentive to get kids to drink more sugar water, which we already knew was unhealthy for them.

We weren’t paying attention, so we couldn’t solve the issue. It’s important to be alert throughout your day, so that if you see something that’s not right, you can protest in some way. If you go into a store and have to get this hard, plastic shell around a few screws, you can complain or go somewhere you can buy screws without packaging. Stepping it up a level, you could join an advocacy group. It’s difficult to regiment individuals, and yet it’s incredible how much we can do when we align forces. When we act collectively, we can drive very broad cultural change.

Dick Roy is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at the Center for Earth Leadership. He is also a speaker at GoGreen ’11 Portland. You can see Dick and over 50 additional leaders in green business live in Portland, Tuesday, October 4, 2011. Register at: http://portland.gogreenconference.net/registration.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest green news and event updates at @GoGreenConf. Our official hashtag for GoGreen Portland is #GoGreenPDX.

GoGreen Seattle 2011—Photos Du Jour

Our second year in Seattle was a blast and we think the “photos du jour” showcase the optimism and hope, as well as the magnitude of our challenge to create a sustainable economy and greener culture. Thanks to all who came out for the big day—enjoy!

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GoGreen Austin 2011 In Pictures!

Photos from GoGreen Austin 2011 are in! Many thanks to the incredible crew from Charlotte Bell Photography—you make us all look good + captured the spirit of the day. We hope these snapshots bring back as many great memories for you as they did for us.

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GoGreen Seattle 2011 Green Line Series: Nau’s Jamie Bainbridge Talks Sustainable Scalability + Product Design

As many have discovered, the deeper you attempt to go back into a supply chain, the murkier it gets. For a product-based company like Nau, Inc. that holds a deep committment to the sustainable roots of its offering, that creates all kinds of challenges. Or, if you’re Jamie Bainbridge, you could choose to see opportunity. Opportunity to prove that well-designed, high-performing apparel and outerwear can also be sustainably made and cycled back into the system once they’ve been worn through. In this edition of the Green Line Series, Jamie takes us through the solutions Nau has discovered in its journey as a sustainable business.

GoGreen Conference: Let’s start broad. What was the inspiration behind creating a sustainable, responsible line of active wear? Was it market demand or some sort of entrepreneurial vision?
Jamie Bainbridge: I would say it’s a combination of the two. We were definitely inspired by experiences that many of us had, but it also felt like the time was right concerning the marketplace—people were listening and ready.

GG: Were you at Nau from the very beginning? A founding mother, so-to-speak?
JB: Oh yes. I’m a survivor.

GG: What was that moment in time like? What kind of feeling did you have when you started this venture?
JB: It seems like it was a very different time—before 2008. A bunch of us had come together from companies that were making small strides into the area of sustainability and were trying to incorporate those concepts into product lines, but everywhere we worked, the view being taken wasn’t purist. There were always escape valves built in. There was always a next time.

When we started Nau, we felt there were many ideas coming together and that we could form a company around them. If we formed this kind of company that was responsible and had a responsibility beyond the bottom line, we felt the world was ready for that. We could build product for that and avoid always saying that we’d do something next season. And if you start out with that standard, there’s no place to go. You have to stay true to it.

That, of course, was also the interesting challenge of it, because there weren’t materials available to build product like that. A lot of the things we were trying hadn’t been tried.

GG: If all the companies the Nau founders came from weren’t able to make these ideas a reality, how were you able to accomplish the feat?
JB: That’s what we said we were about. Three things: Beauty, Performance and Sustainability. Those have been our pillars since day one and they still are. That hasn’t changed in all the time we’ve been in business, even with a bankruptcy mixed in and starting up a second time. We had to figure out a way to make it work.

It’s somewhat difficult to speak to, because there are two eras of our company. The before and after of bankruptcy. And they’re very different times in terms of business models, but the product itself and the ideals are the same.

If you look at the materials that were out there when we started and the business model we needed to institute to create the product, we had to work backwards and build the model around what we were going to do. Yes, it involves some extra cost, but we haven’t found that the extra cost is a barrier to our product. Logistics are the main stumbling block. We’re working through a supply chain that is still very constrained and not terribly healthy in terms of building apparel product.

GG: Is scale an issue? So many things seem to hinge on that component. Can you get the quality of items you want at the quantities you need?
JB: It’s definitely an issue. And it’s one of the reasons we felt strongly about being open source with what we were doing. We needed people to come along with us. If other brands want to know where we’re buying a sustainable material, we’re happy to tell them. We need other people in this space to help strengthen the supply chain—especially companies that can add substantial volume to the demand for the materials. That’s the only way for the segment to grow and the product to become less special and more everyday.

GG: How has Nau been able to navigate those supply channels with success? Is it conditional on relationships?
JB: Yes, it’s very relationship-based. When I hear companies say it’s really hard to get into their supply chain, usually it’s because they haven’t asked. They haven’t dug down to the origins of their product. That’s been one of the undertakings we’ve committed to that is a very different approach from the one most apparel companies take.

We can tell you where most everything that is natural fiber is grown. We can tell you where the polymer is sourced. We can tell you who does every single step of the process. And we’ve formed relationships with all of those parties. That’s how you learn. That’s how you clean things up. That’s how you get what you say you’re going to get.

GG: What about your take-back program. I love that I can return my Nau jacket at the end of its useful life for me and know it’s getting cycled out responsibly. How do you make that program work?
JB: That’s one of the big challenges with this endeavor. So the jackets you’re talking about, with the tags indicating they can be returned, are made by a company that makes polyester through a chemical recycling system. They can take that jacket and completely recycle it into a new jacket, of the same fiber and intrinsic value held by the original fiber. It’s a very unusual example of a product that can be totally recycled and not down-cycled.

But that is a very limited supply chain. We have to limit it to our outerwear. We hope you will use it to the end of its useful life and then pass it on to another person to use even further until it’s got a big ol’ hole it in, and then it would be brought back to us. Logistically that’s still very hard to make happen.

GG: Are other companies moving towards having options like this available?
JB: It’s still fairly rare. It’s not easy to do and the recycling systems are not in place to take a lot of the consumer products we have back into some mostly pure recycling chain. We’re working with a lot of other businesses in the outdoor industry to build more recycling systems that can take a wider variety product and recycle it into something with as high of use as possible.

GG: How does your team approach talking about these things responsibly without greenwashing? Does it require educating your audience?
JB: It definitely requires educating your audience. It’s a very fine line to educate people and not sound like your greenwashing or actually be greenwashing them. We have always been of the mind that it is better to err on the side of being conservative in how we talk about things. We don’t claim that we’re the best at anything or that we’ve got it all figured out. We know sustainability is an ever-evolving endeavor. We’re learning as we go and every year we find ways where we can do better. It is something that we are always conscious of how we communicate.

It’s also very easy for companies talking about the sustainability of their product to sound preachy to their customers—and we don’t ever want to sound that way either. We hope that you buy our product because of ALL three pillars—beauty, performance and sustainability—not just because it’s sustainable. You’re probably not going to buy something unless it’s beautiful to you. You won’t buy it if it doesn’t work. And if you have a value system that puts sustainability up there too, you can hit all three areas with us.

GG: You mentioned that there is always more to do. What are some of the things on your to-do list?
JB: One thing we’re always after is more transparency. We have one wool supply chain that we are very transparent about and know exactly where it goes back to. And then we have other wool supply chains that we can’t do the same for, because of the type of product they are and the untraceability beyond where we’re at right now (at least so far). I would love to have the volume to pull the wool for those products from a supply chain we can better control.

We’re also on a quest—one that we’ve been on for a long time—to get the harmful chemistry out of water-repellent goods. There is one product on the market right now that does that, but it doesn’t give the consumer the kind of performance they’re used to. You’re stuck with a trade-off. You can either have jacket with good chemistry that repels water—but not for very long—or you can have a jacket with harmful chemistry and water repellency that never wears out. Those are the kinds of things we come up against.

GG: The outerwear industry is fiercely competitive. How do you balance being transparent and open source, with maintaining an edge on your technology?
JB: We just don’t really play that game. We’re more than glad to talk about where our technology comes from. We take a different approach, because we need other people to come along with us to be successful in our mission. Design becomes our competitive edge in the marketplace. We’re marketing into the classic outdoor industry, but we’re also marketing into the fashion industry. That’s an entirely different realm to play in. They have different priorities around the technical aspects of the product.

Jamie Bainbridge is the Director of Textile Development + Sustainability at Nau, Inc. She is also a board member of the Outdoor Eco-Index and a speaker at GoGreen Seattle 2011, leading our session on that subject. You can see Jamie and over 50 additional leaders in green business live in Seattle Wednesday, April 20, 2011. Register at: http://seattle.gogreenconference.net/registration

Follow us on Twitter for all the latest green news and event updates at @GoGreenConf. Our official hashtag for GoGreen Seattle is #GoGreenSEA

GoGreen Austin 2011: Recap + Resources

Our crew has a great love for the Pacific Northwest, but we have to say that Austin blew us away. We are so inspired by the ideas, the passion and incredible commitment to sustainability and the triple bottom line we witnessed in your fine city. We hope that everyone who attended left as excited as we were and armed with actionable practices to take back to your businesses and organizations.

We want to kick this post off by saying a humble and heartfelt thank you to everyone who attended the conference, and all the speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and community partners that made GoGreen Austin 2011 a smashing success. We absolutely could not have done it without your participation and support! Our special thanks to the City of Austin and all involved departments for the warm welcome and commitment to the mission of GoGreen. We are also incredibly appreciative of support from Lucia Athens, Jessica King, the Austin Convention Center, Texas Gas Service and the Austin Business Journal.

In case you missed out on GoGreen Austin 2011 or just want to relive the fun, we’ve put together a recap with session highlights from three of our favorite talks and resources to explore. We also hope you’ll add your insights, takeaways, links we missed and links to your own recap blog posts in the comment section. Sustainability is a conversation and we want to hear your take on it!

Keynote (Lucia Athens, City of Austin)
Austin’s Chief of Sustainability, Lucia Athens, certainly came armed with inspiration and new resources from the City. Her talk on changing operations to create viable solutions was both practical and visionary—taking into account human behavioral psychology to form the foundation of creating sustainable change. Her approach centered on 4 New Operating Principles to use:

1. Try a new operating system
2. Keep up with the Jonses
3. Backyard Pride
4. Pay it forward

Lucia also announced several new initiatives the City of Austin is starting to enhance green business and provide additional resources for those committed to sustainable practices.

Greenwashing (Valerie Davis, Enviromedia)
Enviromedia CEO and co-founder Valerie Davis (fellow co-founder Kevin Tuerff spoke on the Green Branding and Marketing panel) gave us a lot to think about with her session on what constitutes greenwashing and how to avoid it. We watched several commercials that showed what a wide spectrum there is between intentionally misleading people outright and inadvertently playing up your sustainable efforts a little too much.

The key, said Valerie, is to be transparent, authentic and prepared to prove your claims. How you deal with challenge says as much about your brand’s commitment to sustainability as the initiative you are promoting. An example of a company getting it right is Patagonia, which breaks down their products and reveals all of their sustainable and not-so-sustainable components in a compelling way through the Footprint Chronicles.

If you want to learn more on greenwashing (and how NOT to do it), visit the Greenwashing Index, which is an interactive website designed by Enviromedia and the University of Oregon to give the public tools to vet advertisements and render judgment on the level of greenwashing each employs. It’s a great resource.

Equity + The Triple Bottom Line (Sheryl Cole, Austin City Council; Armando Rayo, Cultural Strategies; Brandi Clark, EcoNetwork; and Susan Roothaan, A Nurtured World)
An increasingly important issue on the sustainability front is the “people” aspect of the triple bottom line (i.e. taking care of people and planet, in addition to profits). The GoGreen Austin panel on equity brought a robust conversation on fair access to information, resources and jobs in the green economy to the forefront of the conference agenda.

Bringing to light that sustainable living is a something to be enjoyed by all people, our panel made a convincing argument for realigning our goals and priorities to be more inclusive of groups historically left out of the sustainability movement—including people of color and low-income populations. One of our favorite takeaways was that we, as a culture and a civilization, have to get beyond the idea that a sustainable citizen is a middle-class, white, hybrid-driving, yoga-practicing American—because most of the world and an increasing portion of America does not fit that stereotype. We need to broaden the definition by bringing more people to the table, recognizing the vast array of cultural contributions to the green movement, creating solutions that fit a wider set of needs, and fostering participation in sustainable living by all.

Cultural Strategies’ Armando Rayo wrote a great follow-up post on this topic as regards bringing the Latino community further into the “sustainability” fold and recognizing their cultural approach to being stewards of the earth. Read that here.

Another group that is actively broadening the reach of green practices is the Sustainable Food Center (this is pulling in a resource from the Austin Business Journal Going Green Award Winner Session, but their work is extremely relevant on this front). SFC is finding ways to provide sustainable, farm-sourced produce to a wider spectrum of Austintonians. Visit their site here.

So what was your favorite session? What did you take away from GoGreen Austin that’s stuck with you over the past 10 days? Our comment section is ready and waiting for your insights!

P.S. Pictures from the day are on their way—so check back for those. We’ll also be releasing select video of the main stage sessions throughout the spring.
And remember, you can get the latest green news and information on GoGreen Austin hot off the press year-round at @GoGreenConf and #GoGreenAUS. We’ll see you on Twitter!

GoGreen Seattle Green Line Series: McKinstry’s David Allen Argues For Bringing Business + Environmentalists Together

GoGreen Seattle speaker David Allen is a businessman—and a pretty good one at that—but he and his company, McKinstry, aren’t afraid to fight for the environment too. For those with an eye fixed on the bottom line, it might sound like a conflict of interest, but Allen assures us that what’s good for McKinstry’s clients also just so happens to be good for the Earth as well. And that’s the point he’s been tirelessly working to drive home—going green is good business. But results at scale won’t happen unless environmental advocates, government and business all work together to innovate effective solutions. Don’t know about ya’ll, but we hear David loud and clear!

GoGreen Conference: McKinstry singles out innovation as a key component of your success in sustainability—how does that concept manifest itself throughout the company?
David Allen: We became a part of the clean technology and energy movement as a result of the complexity of buildings. We’re a 50-year-old company that is engineering driven in infrastructure, mechanical, electrical, water, etc. In the 1990s computers showed up in homes and the watts per square foot demand increased. The mechanical and electrical systems that consume and use energy became more complicated and interconnected. So as a company that services clients of all types in the built environment, we had to come up with solutions to help them navigate their way through all of these changes. It was the perfect storm to instigate action—the cost of energy rising, mechanical and technology systems improving, changes in how and when people want to work and how they want their work environment to act—all of those things came down on building developers and owners at the same time.

Our goal is to have legacy customers. We design, operate, maintain and reengineer for them for the life of their building. In sustainability’s case, innovation simply became a mandate. Though we didn’t start off saying, “let’s save the planet,” we quickly found out how great an impact the built environment was having on CO2 and electricity use consumed.

From that standpoint we got hit with a double whammy. We needed to innovate for our clients in order to lower their utility usage—and thus their carbon footprint—and we need to innovate better ways of supplying heat, water and power while also maintaining and monitoring the use over time to lower costs. For us, stopping climate change and helping our clients ended up being the same thing. It’s a perfect segway into the conversation that GoGreen champions on the idea that environmentalism and corporate innovation go hand in hand. Businesses need to get involved with environmentalists and vice versa. We need to go arm in arm to attack these problems.

GG: Can you expand on this idea of continuity—that sustainability is not just renewable, but continuing. With green buildings, if you build something to the high standards of LEED Platinum, can you stop there? Will the building maintain its efficiency forever or do you have to keep with it?
DA: The US Green Building Council did a wonderful job of creating the LEED standards. They led on that initiative and it worked. People aspire to it and it’s well known in the mainstream as an important benchmark. The big issue that they run up against is that once a building is done, it’s the operational things that keep it sustainable. You can have a perfectly energy efficient structure with gray water systems, rain water collection, outdoor air mix and the right electrical lighting systems. You can incorporate all those things in a building model, but if it’s not operated correctly, it’s not sustainable.

For example, there’s a city that built a LEED Certified city hall. When they got done building it, they powered it up and it actually consumed more power than the old one. So we came in and found the operations weren’t being run well. All of the “integrated” systems were being run in completely non-integrated ways. Sustainability is all about optimization. And it applies to everything—not just buildings. It’s how we get to work, what we buy, where it came from, how do we get rid of it and where things up.

With buildings, we have to look at whether they are being run efficiently. Are people coming to work in the winter with a t-shirt on, when they should be wearing a sweater so you don’t have to crank the heat and consume mass amounts of extra electricity?

So much of this is behavioral. The green movement and clean energy movements need to adjust and get into innovative behavioral models. We’re doing some of that too. We’ve got a software program that we’re selling in mid-western schools called PowerED, which is a proprietary overlay to the energy education we do with schools, teachers and kids. With this program they can take things into the interactive realm and actually watch the BTU and watt usage. They can even compete with other schools on energy and water use. The result is that kids learn how to optimize their resource consumption. A lot of people say this is the first generation of kids who will be the ones telling their parents to turn the lights out.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the whole notion of a “negawatt.” This is the watt that doesn’t get used, but rather conserved as saved energy. And it’s a renewable energy source. Many experts are now saying that the largest, most accessible pool of renewable energy available in the US is the negawatt.

For example, Seattle City Light is obligated to give the University of Washington a certain amount of electricity. There’s a baseline. The University turned around and decided they were going to be 20 percent more efficient in terms of their needs. That’s a huge amount of returned electricity Seattle City Light essentially gets back in the budget and doesn’t have to generate from coal. They can sell that somewhere else if they want. The opportunity is huge and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Amory Lovins from the Rocky Mountain Institute wrote a white paper in 1990 about the negawatt and predicted in would be a $1.2 Trillion industry–and he was right.

GG: You work with a broad spectrum of clients across the business world. How do you work with clients whose budgets don’t always support doing everything they want to in terms of green construction or retrofits? Is it all or nothing?
DA: Here’s how you have to go about it. First, people need to understand that the building they have or are building needs to get specked out, so that when it operates efficiently to begin with. We are showing people that their business model actually has too much money allocated to run their building and pay for power. We’re trying to innovate and rethink the entire system of real estate and built environments along these lines, so that it becomes a financial opportunity to be sustainable, optimal and energy efficient.

Right now, a high-rise developer in Oregon isn’t very motivated to lower their utility bills, because they just pass the cost on to a third party called a tenant, right? That’s just wrong. We’ve been in Washington D.C. lobbying to get legislation passed that creates incentives for private building owners to spend low-interest money to amortize energy work over a longer period of time so that it fits into their model. That’s why all the public agencies are doing it, but not the private. Because they ARE the tenant. If people stay connected to the power rates, we’ll be a lot better off. Because if I own a building and there are 190 tenants, all paying 20 percent too much for power, that’s a lot of room for improvement.

The thing I ask politicians—and it applies to the people who say they can’t afford sustainable buildings too—is whether they want to lower carbon or not? If the elected officials in a community don’t want to do it, then there’s no discussion on sustainability, right? But if they do, they have to get down to it. You can’t just do the cute stuff. You have to do the things that are meaningful.

GG: What are the key areas you see needing to be addressed in order to get that meaningful change?
DA: Water conservation is also huge. We are all over people about water now, because it’s quickly becoming a bigger issue than energy in terms of being a scarce resource. We can solve the energy crisis, but water is not so easy. So if you’re talking to someone with a building who is asking whether or not they should put in a gray water system, we need to educate them. We need to be honest about the fact that water is going to triple in price. That’s just a reality.

And the engagement between business people and environmentalists on these issues is paramount. The GoGreen Conference is right smack dab in the middle of that conversation. We’re positioning ourselves in the middle too, because the two sides have to be brought together to get any results. We need a different strategy than what has always been billed as some battle between the greedy capitalists and the wacko greenies.

These issues are not wacko. There is a shortage of water. Our energy is dirty and there’s a groundswell of desire to clean things up and not live so large. So back to your original question—we are being more upfront and confrontational with our clients about the things we believe are important to push innovation in. That’s why we pour our resources into this. It’s a belief issue, but it’s smart business too.

I spoke at the Sierra Club a while back and while I was there I told them I was proud that they brought in a businessperson like me to speak to them. The environmentalists have done a great job at getting us to a tipping point on climate change and global warming. That’s pushed young people to adopt these things into their lifestyle and politicians to start running on a sustainable platform when they craft legislation. That’s all well and good, but if you don’t get business to come in and execute on the innovation we need in a way that lets us make money and create jobs for everyone—it just won’t happen.

It’s imperative that environmentalists and businesspeople to work on these issues. We work with a lot of non-profits and organizations like the GoGreen Conference to make this happen because we think it’s so important. McKinstry isn’t afraid to say that we’re a for-profit company and our partners say that’s OK too. So we’ve taken a step in the right direction knowing that “for-profit” and “good for the environment” and “socially responsible” can all exist together. We’ve just got to step it up even more to get to where we want to go.

David Allen is Principle and Executive Vice-President of McKinstry, a Seattle based construction, engineering and facility services firm. He’s also a featured speaker on the GoGreen Seattle 2011 roster. To hear David speak, along with 50+ of Puget Sound’s top sustainability professionals, join us April 20th for GoGreen Seattle 2011 at the LEED certified Conference Center. You can get more details or register at: http://seattle.gogreenconference.net.

Follow us on Twitter (@gogreenconf) and Facebook (facebook.com/gogreenconference) for all the latest event updates and sustainability news from the region!