Why I started EcoMajority

April 30, 2010

For the better part of last year, I’d been kicking around a website — a community really — that allows homeowners, architects and contractors to build greener, more sustainable homes.  When I left DDB at the beginning of the year, I decided it was time to build it.

It is essentially a forum where people can share their knowledge, research and experience around the sustainable building process. As I’ve said before, there is little that is black and white about making “green” choices — everything is a thousand shades of gray. Add to that the difficulty of finding information and perspective, it’s no wonder that precious few people make sustainable choices — opting instead for the “tried and true.”  I hope that by building this community, we can change that.

Originally I wanted to do product reviews. I could have done that and spent tens of thousands of dollars. Instead I chose a path that would cost much less (in the hundreds of dollars) by using the Ning Network.  I’ve chosen more of a forum format where discussions can take place, helpful links, pictures and experience can be shared.  While I believe this idea is filling an important information gap, I want to prove that there is, in fact, a community that will find this helpful. We shall see. It’s the contributions the community makes to it that will make it live or die.

As you may have guessed, after much exploration, I decided to call the site EcoMajority. I landed on this after thinking about Geoffrey Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm.” While it is more about technology adoption, the lessons certainly apply.  It looks like this:

As opposed to Geoffrey Moore, I’m not so concerned with the “chasm” present among early adopters, but the power of the majority — the masses — when they decide to adopt new ways of doing things. The reality is that this market will really begin to take off when the majority not just begins considering these options for their homes, but when they actually begin to implement those changes. When the majority does this — the EcoMajority — good things will begin to happen. More innovation will happen. Production will rise, competition will increase and there will be more options from which to choose.  With that, prices will come down and people will buy more. And a positive feedback loop will emerge. And that will be good for the environment.

But there’s a lot between where I am today and that reality in my mind. First, I need a community. An active, engaged, contributing community willing to share their knowledge and experience. That’s you. And your many friends.  My contributions are not enough. So please feel free to pass this message along to your friends and colleagues with your endorsement. Blog about it, Tweet about it, tell your friends about it on Facebook.


What is the future of Environmentalism?

September 24, 2007

I just got back from a  conference in Beijing — a place where the air quality is enough to strike fear into your heart about the future of this planet.  At this conference, I gave a brief talk on the Green movement seen through the lens of my own consuming patterns over the course of the past year or two.  I’ve made strides, no doubt.  But I’ve never really considered myself an environmentalist, per se.  At least not by the traditional measures of environmentalism.  Environmentalists are, after all, those people like Julia Butterfly Hill who sat in a Redwood tree in California for 738 days.

Julia Butterfly - web

I mean she was literally living for — and perhaps willing to die for — the environmental cause.

Not me.  I’ve got a couple of little kids at home, and a lovely wife.  I just want to do things a little better.  So I’ve made what I consider to be small changes.  We replace light bulbs with compact fluorescents, we recycle and we drive hybrid cars.

So, I found the cover story in the most recent issue of Fast Company to be particularly interesting.  It talks about whether Adam Werbach, formerly the youngest-ever head of the Sierra Club, had sold his soul to consult with Walmart on their Green initiatives.werbach2

His view, if I may encapsulate, is that the future is going to come from converting the masses, and getting them to make small choices in their  daily lives.  Small changes that, when taken together, can have a more profound impact than a tiny majority acting at the extremes.

I tend to agree, and I admire what he’s doing.  Read the article and judge for yourself.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Why is it so hard to be green?

August 7, 2007

My wife and I are contemplating building a new house.  One of the bigger allures for us is to try to build a green home.

Well, it turns out it’s not very simple.  Just like the age-old “paper or plastic” question, nothing seems very clear when it comes to being green.

There are competing certifications for just how green you go (LEED and, in Washington, Built Green).  You essentially earn points for the choices you make in materials and building methods.  For example, you get more points for using certain kinds of carpets over others.  But what do you get for not putting carpet in at all?  No points, as far as I can tell (how’s that for counter-intuitive?)  Should you install solar panels when it takes more than a decade to recoup the costs in your electricity bill?  Should you use a highly green siding material that needs to be shipped halfway around the world, or should you use a less sustainable material that is produced relatively locally?  Nothing is clear or an easy answer.  Some choices are more clear if you are wealthy enough to do things on principle without regard to the economics of the decision.

Which, I suppose, brings me to a point.  I think most people get that we must be more responsible to our planet.  But commercially, we’re not making it clear or simple for consumers or businesses.  Adweek ran a cover story about a year ago called “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”  In it they cited a study that said 64% of the general population can’t name a green brand.  That’s pretty stunning.  But even more worrisome, 51% of those who consider themselves to be “enviromentally conscious” couldn’t even name <strong>one</strong> green brand.

It shouldn’t be this hard.

There is a market out there and it’s growing rapidly.  As marketers, are we responding to that marketplace demand quickly and concisely enough?  I don’t think so. That’s a problem, for sure.  The time to act is now.  There’s great opportunity for those companies that make these dilemmas easier to navigate.