Hopenhagen: Marketing for a Real Cause

November 18, 2009

Recently, I saw Freya Williams, co-founder of OglivyEarth speak at the Opportunity Green conference in Los Angeles on their recent campaign.  Based on Cop15, the climate change summit being held with world leaders in Copenhagen on December 7, Hopenhagen was created to drive awareness towards the very important summit.  More importantly, Williams said it was formed to create a community of hope around climate change and the direction we as global citizens want to take.  Ogilvy Earth is an international sustainable marketing firm with big clients like DuPont and the Environmental Defense Fund – and using their large scale influence in the space, launched an international campaign to drive one thing: hope.

As Williams pointed out, “We don’t need to create a movement– the people already have their passion. We set out to create an umbrella under which people can gather.”

Cop15 is one of the most controversial global meetings in recent years, with some arguing it is one of the last changes to develop a concrete and realistic plan to mitigate climate change and reverse the devastating effects of global warming.  Others believe that there is no real chance for actual action but are still using the event as a symbol for the level of engagement needed from the global community.

From the Hopenhagen website:

Success at COP15 is far from a given. 192 countries are represented, and that means 192 points of view. Much discussion will be around the exact emissions targets and who will pay to see they’re met. Given that developed regions like North America and Western Europe are responsible for most emissions, developing countries argue that those nations should invest disproportionately in the solutions. There is also the question of how to assist smaller nations that are already suffering the effects of climate change.

If you haven’t watched any of the footage or seen this campaign, it is worth checking out and signing up.  Kudos to Williams and her team for a brilliantly executed message.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

 

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Being Green + Being Profitable: Opportunity Green 2009

November 11, 2009

Having read all of the exciting press coming off last year’s Opportunity Green conference, I was looking forward to attending this year’s event, held in sunny Los Angeles, CA.  Heralded as one of the top green business conferences in the industry, OG09 promised to be a forum to gather with leaders of the business world to discuss not just our shared idealism towards a more sustainable planet but our determination to succeed in a green economy.

My excitement on the front end was met with some disappointment the day of the actual conference and I’m sad to say that for the most part, I was underwhelmed.  The opening keynote included a talk by Chris Jordan, an artist famous for his portraits of waste in mass culture.  While I admire Chris’ work and passion for revealing the consequences of our modern world, I tend to get more annoyed than inspired during those types of lectures.  He showed photographs depicting our daily use of plastic cups and the tragic death of albatross on Midway Island due to significant plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean.  In fact, he played a 6 minute long video showing carcass after carcass of albatross that had mistaken plastic for food and died with massive quantities of it in their bellies.

Sad, right?  Of course.  It’s horrible.   But did I travel across the country to be shown pictures (that I’ve seen many, many times – it’s a popular image for green conferences) accompanied with severely depressing violin music?  Not really.  I’m in this room because I am all too aware this is a problem.  I’m in this room because I am afraid of what the future looks like for my children and their children and I want to solve this problem, or at least try.  I’m too motivated and there’s too little time to sit around and grieve, which is what Chris suggested we need to do for our planet.

We don’t need to grieve.  We absolutely need to acknowledge what we have done to this planet.  But like any problem in life, dwelling on how wrong it all is begins to sound like broken record.  Yes! It’s wrong.  How do we make it right?  Grief will not heal us.  I am sure of this.

At any rate, the conference had its moments of redemption for sure.  My favorite panel was Modern Storytelling with Annie Leonard of Story of Stuff and Jonah Sachs of Free Range Studios.  If you haven’t seen Story of Stuff, you should go watch it right now.  Annie is a brilliant storyteller who spent 2 decades researching the materials economy and uncovering what happens to all of our stuff throughout its lifecycle. Jonah and his team at Free Range helped Annie turn her research into a smart, witty and informative 20 minute documentary with an attempt to illuminate some of the issues within the materials economy including massive waste and overconsumption.

Working in communications, I appreciate Annie’s no BS approach to tackling a problem and presenting information to people who have predisposed conceptions about the world.  As she advises, “talk to people where they’re at – not where you’re at.”  The discussion centered around the concept of authentic communication, opening up dialogues and not trying to control the conversation once it’s out.

She closed the session with this piece – “Change is inevitable, the question is whether it will be by design or by default.”  It is the perfect summary of the choices we have now, the decisions we make towards a more sustainable world and what we need to keep at front of mind when we approach this revolution.

While I met some very interesting people at OG09 and was thrilled to see Annie Leonard speak live, I left with an overall feeling that has accompanied me at the end of many green centric conferences or expos – concerned at our ability talk about the problem in depth but our inability to provide comprehensive, deep solutions.  Right now, green conferences tend to include those of us who are dark green – we believe it, we know we’ve got to change, we’ve dedicated parts of our lives to so.  While seeing and hearing stories about the breadth of the problem can be inspiring, too much of it becomes time consuming and ineffective.  We need an active campaign, not a passive one.  I want to attend a conference that starts that campaign.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter


Will unplugging things really save money? According to National Grid it will!

November 3, 2009

National Electric has a new campaign asking everyone to try and cut down their electrical usage by 3%. This seems like a wise challenge for everyone being that we are still in the middle of an economic crisis!  Every other commercial advertisement on T.V. is in relation to this new campaign, so I wanted to see what the hype was about.  Their goal is to inform people of efficiency and conservation through energy usage.   For some of us this task may be easy, for some it’s a slight change of lifestyle and for me it’s nearly impossible, I don’t know what else I could cut down on!  I am the kind of person who yells at you if all the lights are on, or if you use the dryer to “get the wrinkles out” of one lonely shirt.    Should have taken it out and hung it up to begin with! You would have saved time and money.   I am told I skipped acting like my mother and turned into my grandmother a little too quickly.  The National Grid website gives people many suggestions to lowering their electricity usage.

I have to say this idiosyncrasy that I have developed over the last few years was really the polar opposite of how I viewed electricity usage and recycling habits in the past.  I was still living at home; never saw that white envelope with the blue letters that read National Grid.  I wasn’t responsible for the environment or the cost of living because I was still letting mom and dad cover the cost.  After moving out a few years ago, having a job that paid zilch and realizing how much everything cost and making it my sole responsibility to take care of myself financially, I learned some really easy and simple ways to save money for a rainy day.  I unplugged almost EVERYTHING.  The reason I say almost everything opposed to absolutely everything is because, well you can’t.  My fridge stays plugged in as well as the oven.  I learned very quickly unplugging your cell phone charger isn’t an option, it will go dead and you will miss your alarm going off which will result in being late for the job that pays you zilch.  Plugging the phone into the charger does not work the same if you forgot to plug it into the wall.

Even though I think it’s impossible I am taking the challenge.  National Grid has an energy evaluation available on their website and as you click the appropriate answers that reflect your style of living it allows you to see how much money and electricity you could be saving by lowering your energy usage.  I am personally starting by putting in motion censored lights outside, because this is one light I leave on regularly.  I encourage all of you to take the challenge as well.  See what impact you can make on the earth and on your wallet.  It takes some getting used to but eating dinner by candlelight is more romantic and more cost-effective than keeping that 8 bulb chandelier on!

Posted by Kate Kiselka


My Personal Tech

October 20, 2009

When I started at Caster, I was not a techie.  I mean, I liked my gadgets (my iPod, my cell phone, my cute little 12″ Mac iBook, RIP) but I didn’t really have a vested interest in technology.  Once I started, I was sort of overwhelmed with the level of technical information thrown my way on a daily basis but I can say comfortably that I have evolved from just a general consumer with some interest in consumer electronics into someone who really loves the advancements technology has brought us.

Personally, my life isn’t as high tech as it could be.  My computer is a newer Sony Vaio and I will tell you that I’m not terribly impressed with it.  It is just ok and I’m sort of wishing I had taken my client’s advice and invested in a Dell XPS.  Add it to the Christmas list!  Speaking of Christmas, I upgraded to a new iPod Nano last season and so far it has been nothing but awesome.  The graphics are great, I can watch videos and play games and its motion sensor technology is very cool.  That said, I still drool over the iPod Touch.  Sigh.

My TV…well, my TV is still in box form.  I’m almost ashamed to admit I don’t have a flat panel as some of the first accounts I cut my teeth on were display manufacturers, but alas, I am still living with a Phillips 27″ box.  Sniffle.   I hope to change this soon as well – any ideas for a good 37″-42″ LCD, preferably ENERGY STAR rated with decent built in speakers?

Speakers are another story as I haven’t had a good system in….well, ever.  I’ve become more atuned over the past few years to just how incredible music can sound when played over the right speakers as opposed to my iPod or car stereo.  But I just haven’t upgraded yet.  I’m thinking my friends at Paradigm can help me with this eventually.  <winky face emoticon>

More recently, I’ve been more interested with how technology has become the conductor for really pushing the clean energy movement forward.  While the green movement isn’t a new phenomenon, I think the idea that we need to utilize our advancements to help us solve so many of the problems that they created for us in the first place is brilliant.  Sustainability can be an accomplishment if we embrace technology to take us there.  I am inspired on a daily basis by clean and renewable energy innovation and developments in moving towards a smarter grid.

I might not have been when I started, but today, I can proudly say it: I am a techie.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter


What’s Wrong With Obama’s Green Team?

October 14, 2009

(reposted from GreenBiz.com)

by Marc Gunther

It’s hard not to be impressed by the people working for the Obama administration on the environment. For the most part, they’re smart, well-intentioned, dedicated. Let’s hope they can deliver meaningful results soon on the issue that matters most: climate change.

Today, I’m at the Society of Environmental Journalists convention in Madison, Wisconsin. It has attracted a parade of administration officials: Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, marine biologist Jane Lubchenko, who leads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Gina McCarthy, an EPA administrator in charge of air quality, and others. Al Gore keynoted, and we heard from economists, scientists and a CEO or two during a very full day.

The Obama people came to sell cap-and-trade, hard. One version of a carbon regulation bill has passed the House, another’s pending in the Senate and the UN meetings in Copenhagen where a global agreement is supposed to be negotiated to replace the Kyoto treaty is just two months away.

Chances are, though, that, the U.S. won’t have legislation by then, which will make it difficult to get a global accord.

That’s because, for all the brainpower and commitment of Obama’s green team, the president has made climate change, at best, his No. 4 priority, behind the economy, health care and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Republicans haven’t helped on the climate issue, either.

To be sure, Obama & Co. have spent a fortune subsidizing clean energy through the economic stimulus bill. But that won’t be as much help as a cap-and-trade bill with strong targets.

Here are a few highlights from today’s event:

Climate legislation will be good for farmers, even though it could raise the cost of fertilizer and fuel, Vilsack argued.

“It’s one of the best things that can happen to rural America,” he said.

That’s because the carbon offsets in the House and Senate climate bills will generate revenues for farmers. Offsets are a way that regulated industries, like the utilities that own coal plants, can comply with the “caps” on global warming pollutants by paying unregulated entities — in this case, farmers — to reduce their emissions. (Just trying to explain this makes me dizzy.) So, while the costs of fuel and fertilizer will grow because they are made from fossil fuels, the potential value of offsets to farmers could reach as much as $15 billion a year, Vilsack said. To put that in context, he said, net income to all farmers is about $55 billion a year.

In theory, farmers could be paid for a variety of environmentally friendly practices that would reduce their carbon emissions. Among them: no-till agriculture, better conservation practices, applying fertilizer in different ways, capturing methane from pigs, cows or chickens or planting trees on underutilized land.

Vilsack said a “yogurt company in New Hampshire” — presumably Stonyfield Farm — could be paid for developing new feed for cows that reduces their emissions, a polite way of saying their burps and farts would be composed of less methane.

Speaking of cows, EPA doesn’t want to regulate them, says Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

When asked if EPA will try to regulate carbon emissions from every Dunkin’ Donuts and dairy farm, McCarthy joked: “I am personally going to do that, yes, And I want to make that announcement here in Wisconsin.”

McCarthy, the former head of Connecticut’s department of environmental protection, knows her stuff and talks like a real person, not a like a politician or federal bureaucrat. She said EPA has no desire to regulate global warming pollutants on its own, even though it has been granted the right to do so by the Supreme Court. Of course, that wouldn’t prevent further court challenges. EPA, she said, would prefer to enforce a cap-and-trade system because it’s more flexible, market friendly and likely to drive innovation.

She admitted, however, that managing offsets will be tough, particularly since the legislation is sure to permit international as well as domestic offsets, and allow offsets for both reforestation (planting trees) and avoided deforestation (not cutting down trees).

“Offsets are going to be one of the trickiest pieces of any cap-and-trade program,” McCarthy said. “If they’re not sound and they’re not verified and they’re not credible and they’re not permanent, then you don’t have a cap.”

So how, she was asked, would EPA monitor offsets in such places as Indonesia and Brazil? “It’s my new retirement package,” she quipped. The real answer, she added, is that the government will have to rely on third-party auditors.

Gore bored.

Funny thing about Al Gore. I’ve probably heard him speak a half dozen times, and once spent a couple of hours at his home in Nashville while reporting a story (Al Gore’s Next Act: Planet-Saving VC) for Fortune. I always look forward to hearing him because I so admire his commitment to the climate issue. He’s really smart, too, as well as knowledgeable. And, I sense, he’s fundamentally a good guy.

Invariably, I’m disappointed because he simply cannot talk without pontificating. Today was no exception. Aargh! (If you doubt me, listen here. [MP3 link])

Gore did sound an optimistic note about the potential for a Washington breakthrough over climate, even hinting at one point that the Republicans could become supporters of a bill:

The political system of the U.S. and the world share one thing in common with the climate system — both are nonlinear. The potential for change can build up without noticeable effect until that potential reaches a critical mass capable of breaking through whatever barrier has been holding us back.

We’re very close to a political tipping point.

Was that one Nobel laureate talking to another? I hope so. It’s time for President Obama to move climate to the top of his to-do list, so his green team can have a real impact.


Which Utilties are Leading Smart Grid Development?

September 30, 2009

Rick Nicholson and H. Christine Richards of IDC Energy Insights published an article in the July/August edition of Intelligent Utility detailing their assessment of which utilities are leading the pack towards a Smart Grid.

 Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), Austin Energy, Edison International (NYSE: EIX), Oncor, PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG) and CenterPoint Energy (NYSE: CNP), all of whom are based in either California or Texas, top the list of utilitites leading the way. I personally thinked they missed Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative (who is working with Caster client Control4)who aren’t just at the forefront of grid transformation but also leading the charge in consumer Smart Grid education.

Locally, National Grid (LSE:NG;NYSE:NGG), the nation’s second-largest utility, has applied to the U.S. Department of Energy for $200 million in stimulus funding to develop an “end-to-end” smart grid deployment that will include approximately 200,000 customers in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to National Grid, the project will demonstrate the benefits of combining “smart” and “green” technologies from end-to-end (transmission to consumer) including demonstrations of clean energy technologies such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and solar and wind power as well as energy storage technology. The result will be one of the most technologically advanced smart grid deployments in the U.S. This initiative will provide an increased understanding of the interface between the next generation of green energy supply and the smart grid to pave the way for the broader roll out of these technologies in the states where National Grid operates.

Regardless of whether they get the grant money or not, I hope National Grid stays in the game; they have a chance to lead this initiative and really make a difference.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster


Control4 Showcases Energy Management System at Autovation

September 24, 2009

Control4 demoed the Control4 Energy Management System (EMS) 100 at Autovation 2009. The EMS 100 combines the functionality of a home area network controller with demand response support, with a wireless thermostat and energy management software to provide utilities a cost effective, flexible, home area network solution for their smart grid deployments.   Leveraging award winning Control4® Home Automation product technology, the EMS 100 is the only home energy management solution that delivers customer usage data via the smart meter and a standard’s based, secure platform that can control virtually every device in the home.

“Our products support today’s regulatory requirements to proactively engage the residential consumer by delivering data via the smart grid to facilitate energy efficiency.  But the ability to control devices in the home, particularly during peak load and demand response events, is the key component to energy management that only Control4 provides, ” said Will West, Control4’s CEO. “By providing an easy-to-use, engaging consumer experience that’s coupled with automated device control, utilities can help their customers play a far more active role in managing energy use, which will contribute to generation and distribution efficiencies.”

The system aggregates energy usage data from various loads and presents the information in an intuitive display so that customers can make changes in their home to reduce energy usage or set up their in-home device to automatically do it for them. The EMS 100 serves as a valuable communications tool, providing utilities an efficient means to alert customers of demand response events and send signals directly to devices in the home during peak times.

The EMS 100 solution features the following:

  • The Control4® Energy Controller EC-100 5-inch color touch screen display – The EC-100 delivers usage data and energy costs for the home and the ability for the customer to take such actions as powering down lights or adjusting shades to reduce energy use.
  • The WT-100 Thermostat – A simple, elegant, ZigBee-based programmable wireless thermostat that connects directly to the EC-100 for total control of heating and cooling throughout the home.  Programming the WT-100 thermostat is managed through the EC-100 display.
  • Control4® Network Management Software – Control4® Network Management Software enables the monitoring, optimization and reporting of all deployed energy controllers.  The network management tools provide cost effective Tier 1 technical support and remote diagnostic capabilities.
  • Control4® ECO Software – Control4® Energy Consumption Optimizer (ECO) Software collects, analyzes and compresses energy use and behavior data on the EC-100, then communicates with the utility’s load management software to treat demand response events as a dispatchable resource.  
  • Control4® platform – The standards-based, secure Control4® software platform is based on industry standards of embedded Linux and Adobe Flash Lite.  The platform is secured through ZigBee SE, SSL, and OpenSSH technology.  The platform is extensible, allowing third parties to develop new applications, providing enhanced functionality to the system over time. For example, utilities can develop their own applications such as the monitoring of gas and water or a home’s carbon dioxide output.
  • Control4 Automation & Control — Using ZigBee, Wi-Fi and Ethernet standards, Control4’s solutions give homeowners the ability to control and automate their thermostats, lights, spa or pool, sprinklers and more, to manage power usage with one easy to use interface.