The Sustainability Movement Needs More Than Gorilla Marketing

CCA LiveE | Sunday December 28th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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by Kathryn Hautanen
As a person new to the sustainability conversation, it is somewhat difficult for me to understand the dialogue. Terms like green, sustainable, organic and greenwashing are being tossed around as if everyone is in agreement as to what these terms mean.
Last year I was at the West Coast Green Conference in San Francisco especially to see Michelle Kaufmann’s mkLotus™ house. As I was leaving, a guy in a gorilla suit engaged me in a conversation and he was very animated by PG&E’s “greenwashing.” He was clearly upset and all I could think was – what is “greenwashing” and is it good or bad? The only thing that was coming to mind was Tom Sawyer and the whitewashing of a fence – not exactly evil. He was frustrated that I wasn’t hearing him and getting outraged at PG&E, and I was frustrated that I couldn’t understand him.

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Communication: The Business-end of Design Innovation

CCA LiveE | Sunday December 28th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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communi-splotto.gifby Erik Ehrke
It pretty much goes without saying that “communication is important in business.” Right? And if we are talking about an innovative, design-based business, good communication is regarded as an imperative. We implicitly understand that communication is essential for collaboration. But while this is a plain fact on its surface, its deeper implications within the design process might not be so apparent. I hope to contribute some thoughts about the role of communication in business – specifically businesses that rely on collaborative design to create competitive, sustainable alternatives to the status quo.
As a student in California College of the Arts’ new Design Strategy MBA program, I have been studying the interactions of Design, Business and Communication with increasing appreciation for how intimately these three disciplines can ally with one another. Almost any business could benefit from applied design innovation. Innovation is the single most effective means of creating product or service differentiation. But there are differing degrees of innovation – at its far reaches, innovative thinking can disrupt established markets, define entirely new market segments and create extraordinary market-power. Think iPod. It is precisely this type disruptive innovation – but focused on the triple bottom line (TBL) – that will be necessary across a wide variety of industries if we wish to grow a sustainable “green economy.” The desire for change may ultimately be driven by deep values and existing needs, but it will be effected through designed solutions that competitively meet these criteria within our existing market economy. Here, design can function as a critical tool in this process. Similar to the combined roles of mutation and selection in evolutionary theory, design innovation acts as a type of “change factor” that can replace prior solutions by virtue of unquestionable competitive advantage.

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A Company’s Most Sustainable Advantage

CCA LiveE | Saturday December 27th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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siebel-sauce.jpgBy Adam Dole
Many of today’s top companies are so fixated on what their competition is doing, that they often forget to focus on their single most important competitive advantage; their strengths! In the current economic climate, companies need to stop focusing on the competition and start getting back to what they do better than anyone else. Using their strengths to create a competitive advantage might sound obvious, but focusing on the internal measures of excellence that come naturally is surprisingly too often the first thing that gets overlooked or brushed aside.
Natural strengths tend to hang around and show up whether you like it or not. As a result, spending any time trying to suppress them, or believing that your weaknesses will ever out-perform your strengths will rarely provide the same value or return on investment that spending that same time playing to your strengths will. So why fight it? Knowing how to play to your strengths might just be the one way out of this economic crisis.

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Wyoming, Western Ranchers Form Wind Energy Associations

| Saturday December 27th, 2008 | 0 Comments

GEwindturbine.jpg There’s a growing movement out west as ranchers and property owners in high, steady wind areas of Wyoming and neighboring western states turn to wind energy associations as a means of better understanding and coming to terms with the growing number of wind energy project developers and agents interested in leasing rights to their land.
Cattle ranchers in areas such as Wyoming’s Laramie Valley are having a tough time of it: though they’ve come down sharply of late, the cost of diesel and gasoline, as well as fertilizers, hay and other inputs, have shot up sharply over a period of years. This year’s calf prices, meanwhile, are the lowest since 2002 putting pressure on the many smaller, family run cow/calf operations spread across the Mountain West.
While demand for their calves and beef may be weak and margins tightening, ranchers in places like Laramie Valley are finding that they have another increasingly valuable natural resource: wind. In order to come to grips with the deals being put before them and cut better ones, typically fiercely independent ranchers and other property owners are forming wind energy associations, according to a report run by NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

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Others Have Succeeded in Building a Better Water Bottle But What About the Fountain?

CCA LiveE | Friday December 26th, 2008 | 1 Comment

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fountain33.jpgby Sara Kozlowski
This fall, I joined the inaugural cohort of CCA’s DMBA program as a fifteen-year veteran of the fashion industry. In Innovation Studio, I joined forces with four other DMBA pioneers and embarked on a semester long journey to develop solution areas for our chosen domain of “packaging”. We tenderly christened ourselves as Team Swill and went straight to the business of seeking to build a better water bottle. Our research quickly evolved into the study of urban potable, drinking water. Humbly, I’ll share a few glimpses at the evolution of our journey and a particular “aha” moment.
Access: Others have succeeded in building a better water bottle but what about the fountain?
Early on in our quest to build a better water bottle we learned that it already exists, in fact several of them do. The real problem is access. In an urban sprawling city like SF blessed with good free clean drinking water, one would think this resource would be exploited. Sadly, one could walk from The Haight to SOMA and still not find a drinking fountain. Enter a public building, school, museum, or shopping mall and you might get lucky. Once you find it, filling your Camelbak can be a hassle as most fountains are designed for direct mouth to fountain access. Try to fill your vessel from a fountain that wants to be drunk directly from and you end up with a bottle that is at best half full.

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If You Want To Run Your Business in the Black, Make Sure You’re Marketing in the Green

| Friday December 26th, 2008 | 1 Comment

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green%20business.jpgMost ecopreneurs are familiar with the tenets of running a sustainable business — People, Planet, Profit, and, most importantly, in equal priority. Building a sustainable and eco-focused business is based upon a commitment to the welfare of society — and the environment — with the same emphasis as earning a profit. This turns traditional business on its axis by making the betterment of the planet as important as the bottom line. But some of the greatest returns can be generated by also doing a 180 on traditional marketing efforts.
‘Green Marketing,’ however, is still very much a gray area lacking in clearly defined guidelines around what it means to be a green product — or even a green company, for that matter. Everything from sustainable packaging to ecolabeling to green advertising falls under the umbrella, making it an opportunity, as well as a challenge, to engage in activities designed to enhance your positioning and elevate your value proposition in a memorable, scalable — and socially responsible — way. But, if harnessed effectively, it can yield significant brand equity and enough social capital to ignite growth and spark change.
Apart from no brainer solutions like using soy-based printing alternatives for marketing materials and reducing waste around the water cooler, let’s take a look at some strategically sound– and environmentally efficient — tactics for greening your marketing. And you don’t necessarily need to have a green product to demonstrate an actionable commitment to green business through your branding and communications initiatives.

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First U.S. Offshore Wind Project Gains DEP Approval

Sarah Lozanova | Friday December 26th, 2008 | 13 Comments

cape%20wind%20nantucket.jpgThe U.S. wind industry has been a world leader, installing an impressive 5,244 megawatts in 2007. The U.S. offshore wind industry is another story, with no offshore wind farms yet developed. The tides may be changing however 4.7 miles off the coast of Cape Cod in Nantucket Bay.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) helped moved this proposed wind farm forward by approving the undersea cable that would transmit the generated power from 130 turbines to land.
In a letter notifying Cape Wind of their decision, a DEP official wrote, “the Department determines that the proposed project serves a proper public interest which provides greater public benefit than detriment to the public’s rights in said tidelands”.

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Team or Collaborative Player?

CCA LiveE | Friday December 26th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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apples-oranges.jpgby Ingrid Dragotta:
To many, the words “teamwork” and “collaboration” seem to be synonyms but, in my experience, these formations play out differently in several meaningful ways.
Let’s start with how a team functions or dysfunctions. The Webster definition of “teamwork” is “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.” That may be what teamwork is supposed to be, but it rarely works out that way.

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What Can Brainstorming Do for Your Team?

CCA LiveE | Thursday December 25th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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the-a-team.jpgbu Jason Hui
I once took a class that began every day with a 15 minute brainstorming session. We used two different methodologies. The first was object oriented brainstorming: take any random object, like a spoon, and come up with as many different uses in three minutes as possible…a signaling mirror, a disciplinary tool, a shovel for gnomes. The second was word oriented brainstorming: take any word, like “cop,” and come up with as many different words as possible…like copy, cope, Copernicus, copa cabana.
Brainstorming is well known as a technique for generating creative ideas.* However, through the DMBA program at CCA, I’ve realized that brainstorming is not only a creative process but is also a tool that can be used to reinforce effective communication techniques in any team. The rules of brainstorming require participants to suspend judgment and separate the critical process from the creative. The true power of teams does not revolve around varied skill sets, but rather in effective communication and the ability to share ideas openly. Beyond ideation, the brainstorming process builds trust, the foundation of good teamwork.

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One Way to Kick-Start the Economy

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday December 25th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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Green jobs were dead last on Common Current’s Top Ten Sustainability Stories of 2008, but it is certainly not least in its potential to give the economy the boost it so desperately needs.
The United States Conference of Mayors released a study in October that detailed the economic advantages of a “green economy.” The advantages listed include “investments in new technologies, greater productivity, improvements in the US balance of trade, increased real disposable income across the nation…lower costs of doing business, and reduced household energy expenditures.” The advantages result in job and income growth.

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Obama’s Energy Plan Must Not Be A Sound Bite

Jeff Siegel | Thursday December 25th, 2008 | 8 Comments

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So it looks like a copy of Barack Obama’s inauguration speech has been leaked.
Here’s an excerpt…

“Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. It’s a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation.
The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.”

Now for the truth…

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The Functional and Empathic Voices: The Battle in My Head

CCA LiveE | Wednesday December 24th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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by Nicole Chen
I discovered this semester that a two-headed monster lives within me. I always thought that only one did – the one that has pushed me to become a great executer and project manager, and has led me to relative success in my career. After all, I studied at a prestigious private university, worked at a now successful startup right out of school, lived overseas for several years and managed projects with high-profile clients. But a second one is starting to make itself heard, and seems to be increasing in volume lately.
The first voice is the one that says to me, “Ok, so what do I need to do today? We’ve got two weeks left before the due date, so let’s set an agenda, outline the goals, and end each meeting with clear next steps. Let’s make it happen!” This voice is quite loud and in a constant state of activity and brain whirl. This new emerging voice, however, is a little softer, more and is constantly trying to interject among the business of the first. It says to me, “Let’s sit back, take a breath and feel. Stop and look around. Does everyone in the team seem engaged and vested into this project? Are we all happy?” But then the first voice pipes back up and says, “Hey, back to work! We’ve got to get this done!” So back and forth the two voices went.

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How to raise VC funding: Tips from a professional VC negotiator

| Wednesday December 24th, 2008 | 2 Comments

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Venture capital funding is capable of super-charging innovation, financing high-potential start-ups at their most risky stage. Of course there are clear pros and cons to seeking venture funding. How do you know if the venture capital (VC) route is the right one? What does it take to raise VC funding for your start-up? Especially today, raising money is not an easy feat, nor is venture funding always the best answer. I had lunch with J-F Gauthier, founder and managing partner of VC Negotiators to get answers to these and related questions. In 1995, at the start of his successful career, Gauthier ranked #1 negotiator out of 810 in his Harvard Negotiation program. Since then he has worked many angles of the business world, as CEO, consultant, banker and more. Today, he works with entrepreneurs to raise money and negotiate favorable terms with VCs. Gauthier contends that unless you are an experienced financier and negotiator, all entrepreneurs can benefit from guidance when seeking funding. He shared with me some guidelines that can ease the process.
Echoing a sentiment I’ve heard from many, including Wired’s Daniel Roth, Gauthier posits that while there are very tough times ahead for all businesses, now can be a good time for a business to get started and for innovation to happen. Start-ups who “make it through (the recession) will be rewarded with reduced competition. Starting a business now is smart if you can survive through the recession as there will be funding available in a year and a half or so and little competition.”

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A Brilliantly Simple Green Business Idea

| Wednesday December 24th, 2008 | 6 Comments

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As a green business blogger on three sites, I hear about a lot of green business ideas. Today I heard about a near perfect one. Green Any Site. The idea is simple: Before you make a purchase online, you hit the “Green This!” button, and then make your purchase as usual, coupon codes and all. A portion of that sale will go to Green Any Site, 100% of which will be donated to a green nonprofit organization. End of story.
There is, of course, more. And Green Any Site does a great job explaining it, complete with rollover text popping up on the FAQs on the front page, getting all the big questions answered quickly, without fuss.
Basically, merchants have what they call affiliate programs – you send me business, I send you a percentage for having done so. Miro, an arts non profit, has done this, with purchases on Amazon. Green Any Site, as the name says, does (or will soon) with any shopping site. They’re working within an existing system that merchants are familiar with, so no need to convince sites to “go green.” They just get the green, and give some to Green My Site.
So how does Green Any Site make money, since they give 100% of affiliate money away, in an auditable trail?

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Alternative Fuel Development Depends On Government Investment

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday December 24th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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The lowest (relative) gas and oil prices ever made the number four spot on Common Current’s “Top Ten 2008 Sustainability Stories.” In 2008 the prices at the pump jumped to the highest on record, and then during the past month dipped to below $2 a gallon. Even with the low prices the global demand for oil has decreased due to the economy.
According to a December 15 New York Times piece, oil, and gas projects have been either canceled or suspended recently. If prices stay low, invest in alternative fuels could decrease.

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