Yesterday, I tuned in to a brief conference call with Gina McCarthy, the EPA Administrator. She spoke about the soon-to-be-released rules governing carbon emissions from power plants. “Rules” sound stodgy, but as a green business owner, I welcome them.
Addressing the biggest part of the problem
The call was hosted by the American Sustainable Business Council, of which I am a member. (As a green business, I feel more “at home” with the ASBC than I do with, say, the the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.)
Ms. McCarthy spoke briefly about the intensive process used to craft the rules, and the flexibility with which they can be implemented.
I can’t wait. Really. About 40% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2012 came from power plants. A huge chunk of that comes from coal. It makes sense to go after the biggest part of the emissions problem first.
Still waiting for renewables here…
As a green business person, I would like to run my home and business on renewable energy like wind or solar. Sadly, my latest electric bill shows that Tampa Electric derives 58% of its fuel from coal, and 37% from natural gas and oil. Ugh. No matter how I try to conserve energy, whatever I do use creates more greenhouse gas emissions. And I can’t choose a different power company.
TECO ran its annual lottery for solar panels on April 25, 2014. It sold out within minutes. With 700,000 customers, allotting just $1.5 million per year to solar systems doesn’t make sense. It’s like pouring a teaspoon of water on a forest fire.
So I hope the new carbon rules will – ahem – “motivate” utilities like TECO to change – and quickly.
I was in Denver, CO last week, attending the first-ever live event from the Copyblogger.com folks. Their “Authority Intensive 2014” was sold out. It may be the best conference I’ve attended on copywriting and content marketing.
The conference had 4 tracks:
My brain was exploding (in a good way) by the end of the first day. As an online writer (primarily), it’s good to remember that content fits into a larger “content ecosystem.” Here are 4 key takeaways for how any business – especially those building green(er) practices into their operations – can use content effectively to reach business goals.
- Know your readers/customers – This goes without saying, but it’s easier said than done. Inspired by the conference, I’d love to know more about your business – at whatever stage of “green” it is. What is your biggest content problem as either a green business or as a business working to become greener? Tell me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll keep it confidential, and I’ll send you a $5 Starbucks gift card for your trouble.
- Tell true stories well – This is particularly relevant to businesses that are “green” or becoming greener in their operations. Stories about how your business is going green moves those actions out of the realm of “scammy” or “scary” or “confusing,” into something understandable and doable. Become a trusted source of updates on what your are doing to become more sustainable, and people will both pay attention and emulate you.
- Re-purpose your content – I’ve said this before, but it’s nice to hear the experts say it too. If you’re a big guy, your Corporate Sustainability Report is a treasure trove of potential content. If your business is medium or small, your green actions – however modest – can be the basis for an infographic, a blog post, or a separate web page about your company’s sustainability actions.
- Focus on “useful” – Green businesses and those going greener have an advantage. Contrary to popular belief, many “green actions” – from installing LED lights to conserving water – save energy, emissions, and money. I don’t know a business that doesn’t care about saving money. Share your useful knowledge of greener practices with other businesses or consumers. It enables them to act. And since a business’s journey to green usually takes time, you will always have new green actions to talk about.
I can’t resist sharing 2 other bits of wisdom from the conference:
- “There are no shortcuts – you have to do the work.” (Seth Godin)
- “Act more than think – action breeds confidence and courage.” (Darren Rowse)
More than ever, original content is foundational to your green business success. By telling true stories about your green actions and how your customers benefit, you extend your reach and build trust in your brand. Over time, that trust becomes money.
Ready to let my green business help yours? Contact me at 813-968-1292 or email at email@example.com.
Last month, I ran into a business that doesn’t bill itself as “green” but really is – through and through.
It’s Simple Green Smoothies. The word “green” here doesn’t mean “eco-friendly.” It means that all the smoothies contain spinach or kale – 2 green veggie powerhouses. And the smoothies taste fantastic.
When I found their website, I saw something very deft – a green business that doesn’t preach “greenness.” Instead, they focus on health and feeling great and getting your kids to “drink their veggies.” They made me a convert.
This website does a lot of things right. It has:
- a sense of fun. When you see the pictures of Jen and Jadah holding green “mustaches” to their faces, you can’t help but smile.
- a focus on health, something most people want, rather than on “being green.”
- a friendly vibe. When you read that Jen and Jadah are “two friends on a mission to spread the love of green smoothies,” you understand that right away. It’s simple and authentic.
- lots of lovely images. A picture of a green smoothie looks – to the uninitiated – like “green sludge” (Jadah’s words, not mine). So instead, they photographed the ingredients. Berries, bananas, mangoes – beautifully arranged – look colorful and healthy and enticing.
- lots of “how to” information. Everything from how to blend a smoothie, to what ingredients you can substitute, to where to find the right kind of blender. They make it easy for people like me –a former non-smoothie person – to try this.
The site promotes “green behaviors” without calling them that
Instead, they describe them as:
- Ways to save money. For example, in the FAQ, there’s a section on how to do smoothies on a budget. Every tip that follows could be lifted from a page titled “How to Grocery Shop in a More Eco-friendly Way.” But instead they focus on another customer value – saving money – that has both broader appeal and matters to their audience.
- Friendly suggestions. A second place they sneak in “green” behaviors is on the “Essentials” page. They suggest using mason jars, stainless steel straws, and re-usable travel cups. These are all wildly eco-friendly tips. They are simply suggested as the best way to drink your smoothie – as Jen and Jadah do.
A successful, profitable green business
Simple Green Smoothies is a profitable, successful business. More than 500,000 people have taken their green smoothie challenge. They focus on health, feeling great, and losing weight through the power of green smoothies. But they also model and encourage “greener” behaviors in their business and among their fans, without calling them that. And that’s OK.
In more ways than one, their site helps people adopt “greener” behaviors in a “smooth” and enjoyable way (sorry – bad pun.) It’s a model many other businesses can emulate.
Fortune magazine’s cover story this week is titled “How Whole Foods is Taking Over America.”
While I think that’s a stretch, I am a fan of this company. (And no, they’re not paying me to say that.)
Whole Foods does several things that a green business – food-related or not – can emulate:
- They aren’t afraid to charge higher prices. But they also carry a mix of price levels. Their in-house “365 Every Day Value” brand is a relative bargain. While “greener” may mean more expensive for some items, Whole Foods is flexible where they can be.
- They are a niche, but the niche is getting bigger, and that is due to the efforts of Whole Foods itself. If customers consider your green business a niche, that need not limit you. When I shop Target or Publix, I see more organic foods than ever. They are responding to the pressure of having a Whole Foods in the neighborhood.
- They re-imagine what a grocery store can be. Whole Foods is focused on food and customers – not just logistics and warehouses. According to co-CEO John Mackey, “Grocery shopping used to be a chore people did – like laundry or taking out the garbage… That’s completely the opposite of what food is.” So Whole Foods is about food and people, and the simple pleasures that can arise from that.
They are good neighbors. When they came to my neighborhood, they didn’t just open a store. They put in bike racks to encourage customers to ride over. They put in electric car charging stations with primo parking spots by the door. And they contributed to the local YMCA, which was a few doors down.
- They’re patient. The first Whole Foods opened in 1980 in Austin, Texas. That’s 34 years ago. Today’s emphasis on speedy returns would get Whole Foods laughed out of an investors meeting. But we would all be the poorer for it.
Last, and not least
Oh – and Whole Foods is scary profitable. Revenue has doubled and profits have tripled since 2007. Now that’s the kind of sustainable, green business I’m talking about.
Phew! What I think of as “Earth Week” is coming to a close.
As I reflect on this, a great blue heron is sitting on my pool cage, cleaning his feathers. His presence feels like a good omen to me.
Since I can’t do justice to all the Earth Day happenings, I’ll just mention 3 happy highlights:
Globally, the good folks at Earthday.org report that over a billion people in 192 countries participated in everything from coastal cleanups to peaceful protests calling for cleaner energy. That’s a lotta people.
Locally, the Sustany’s Foundation helped celebrate the 10 new “Green Business” designees in the City of Tampa, Florida. The 10 restaurants participated together in a program, tailored to their business, that tackled everything from food waste to recycling. Go Tampa!
Individually – I felt privileged to present a webinar on “Green Tips for the Home” to a client. Raising awareness about what a carbon footprint is – and how to reduce it while saving money – is a treat for me.
Keep the Earth Day Spirit Every Day
While Earth Day is officially over, for me and every other business that is transitioning to greener operations, it really isn’t over. It won’t be over until our economy – from our buildings to our transportation to our energy grid – is on a sustainable footing.
And because I want to hurry the arrival of that day, tomorrow – and all the days after – will be Earth Day too.
What did you do for Earth Day? I’d love to hear in the comments!