Why Chestnut Hill United Church is Supporting ChoosePAWind by Joy Bergey

Choose Pennsylvania wind to power your home. What a wonderful idea. It’s no-brainer to me to choose electricity whose generation doesn’t exacerbate climate change, pollute the air and water, or generate nuclear waste that will last for thousands of years and society hasn’t a clue how to store safely (PECO’s “regular” electricity comes largely from fossil fuels and nuclear plants, with these attendant woes).  Choosing wind power that’s “home grown” right here in state also means that you’re helping to create sustainable, well-paid jobs for our fellow Pennsylvanians.

It’s my contention that choosing to use clean electricity in our homes, workplaces, and schools is likely the biggest thing we can do to slow down global warming. Can most of us give up our cars? No. Or afford an electric car powered entirely by solar panels? No again.

To that point of solar panels: The price of solar technology has come way down in recent years, and continues to fall. And yet, a homeowner in Pennsylvania would still have to lay out thousands of dollars up front to put PV panels on her or his roof. (In my case, I’d be willing to do that, but my property is “treed out,” meaning that I’d have to take down several large trees to expose the roof to adequate sun to make the PV panels work. And since I live quite close to the Wissahickon Creek, those large trees of mine are providing other valuable eco-services, like helping to sop up storm water and prevent flooding.)

So, if you don’t have the roof, spare capital, and/or time to investigate, purchase, and install solar panels, do something that’s actually much easier, and every bit as effective: Buy electricity generated by the wind. Buy Pennsylvania wind, specifically. (If you’re reading this, you probably know that “buying local” offers all kinds of benefits, both economically and environmentally. The “buy local” benefits extend to energy as well.)

I’m delighted that the congregation that I’ve belonged to for two decades, Chestnut  Hill United Church (in northwest Philadelphia) is participating in the ChoosePaWind campaign. We’ve already designated that the income from this campaign will be used to further our social justice work. It’s a win-win-wind situation.


On Brand, Climate, and Thoughts on Moving Forward

Extreme climate change is coming, perhaps already causing havoc in some areas of the world, yet we as society can’t seem to agree on whether to take any action to stop it. There are feel good personal and community actions that help, but won’t by themselves solve the problem. There are a few states and cities adopting laws and regulations to help fight the problem. But the kind of economy wide, national and international action we must adopt now to avert the worst outcomes is beyond our reach. It has been for decades. We need to try something new. Perhaps one approach would be to reconsider how we environmental advocates brand climate change and our call to action. In other words, if we were to be selling this product, as environmental advocates, what category does it even fall into and what are the primary drivers or assumptions of that category?  Who are our competitors in this category?

I don’t think there’s agreement about what category our product is in. There are some who put it in the political issue category, in which case it is competing with other political issues for priority and voter attention. Others put it in a consumer product kind of category, in which it’s competing with other products or services in the sustainability realm. Still others think of it as a part of the protest category, part of a suite of issues that generate non-violent direct actions, protests, and marches. I’m sure there are others, but these examples suffice to make the point that the actions we take, and the messages we create can vary greatly depending on the category we think extreme climate change belongs to.

The products or services that we sell as part of our campaign depends on the category as well. Our call to action could be an email to a legislator, a vote, or participation in a rally. Or our call of action could be the purchase of green electricity or certain kinds of climate friendly products. Frequently, our call to action is a donation to an environmental NGO.

The competitors in our category also depend on our definition of the category. Our competitors could be issues vying for political action or they could be other services or products aimed at the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) market. Our macro competition is inertia, but that’s the case with almost every product out there.

So now that we have some ideas on category and competition, we may be able to better “market” our product and the consequent call to action. This means we’ll have to decide on just a few approaches rather than dilute our brand with too many competing messages.

What do you think our category is? Our brand position? Our competitors?

Authentic Marketing Through Community Engagement Part Three

 This is part three of a three part series. Please visit deepergreenblog.wordpress.com to access the first two parts. 

There are many example of great CLM campaigns.

One personal example is the Green Neighborhood Challenge (GNEC) I created and directed at Clean Currents.  GNEC was fairly simple early on, evolving over time as we learned how to perfect this particular form of CLM. We found the deep green, environmentally focused activist and worked with them to sign up their community to GNEC. The fact that the pitch for the campaign came from a community volunteer was huge. The premise of the campaign was that for every clean energy enrollment we got, we would donate money to a green project the group was working on. In the campaign execution, we would provide material and speakers to talk about the threat of climate change. We also would send out an eNewsletter highlighting positive actions of GNECs and providing additional educational information. The GNEC leaders had open access to our staff and were brought into the office on a few occasions for food and drinks. If they ever had any problems, I would personally get involved. We created unique presentations for GNECs to use, such as a fun wind power “demonstration” for elementary school students. In one of our later iterations, we had a summer picnic where the entire company came and we recognized the efforts of the best GNEC leaders, with everybody in the company personally thanking them. GNEC cemented Clean Currents firmly in the communities where we operated it. The credibility of the campaign rested on the brand’s credibility as a company that was environmentally and socially conscious, plus we didn’t pay the GNEC leaders anything. The donations never financially benefited the volunteer leaders, but rather went directly to the community project.

Another campaign that looks like CLM is the SweetGreen Passport program. In this initiative, SweetGreen (a restaurant chain focusing on healthy and local salads) partners with health and fitness providers that are local to their restaurants. These partners provide free classes (yoga, dance, etc.) that are exclusive to SweetGreen Passport participants. When the classes happen, participants often share the experience via social media. In addition, and perhaps the part that really makes this “community,” is the connections people make with each other at these events based on their shared interest in health and wellness (or anything else!).

CLM is a leading edge marketing strategy that is still evolving, but fits a powerful need in our society – the need to belong to something. By creating a community where likeminded people can come together and feel “at home,” CLM is addressing this need directly. At the end of the day, you will not only have new customers, brand ambassadors, and high morale among your staff, but you’ll be using your organization to make society a little bit of a better place.

Authentic Marketing through Community Engagement Part Two

Clean Currents Cycling Team

Part Two of a three part series on Community Level Marketing (CLM)

Click here for Part One

Community Level Marketing (CLM) may require a shift in the mindset of your organization. Frankly, CLM may not result in immediate sales or a short-term favorable ROI. Rather, it represents a long-term commitment from your organization to the community it is targeting or serving. Think of it as a three step process starting with CLM, then moving to more traditional outbound marketing, followed by direct sales. CLM doesn’t have to be costly, but it does require a commitment of staff time and organizational support, especially at the upper management level. The community will see leadership’s involvement as further evidence that this is not just some sales or marketing ploy, but rather a real part of the organization’s brand identity. Of course, having leadership’s support is also vital to keep other stakeholders patient while the campaign gradually materializes.

The four spokes of the wheel of CLM are:

  • Education
  • Credibility
  • Action
  • Reward

Here’s a brief description of each spoke as I see them:

  • Education

When you engage in CLM, a big part of the value proposition you as an organization bring to the table are the resources and expertise you have. Your community leaders will likely rely on you to provide them a “tool kit” to use for outreach. A good CLM plan should have a simple, easy-to-use set of materials, including templates, talking points, background information, and other collateral. The material you provide should not be overtly trying to sell your product, though should brand the material, for sure.  Also, your community leader may volunteer for the campaign because s/he has a related cause s/he wants to push. As long as there is open communication and the cause aligns with your campaign, this can be a big benefit to your organization. The expertise you provide can go beyond the outreach materials. Your organization may have staff that can speak to certain issues important to the community leader, or you may have access to other experts that the community leader cannot reach. The bottom line with education is that it forms the foundation of your pitch to the community leaders because it’s your biggest value add.

  • Credibility

Your CLM efforts will be for naught if your brand doesn’t have credibility. This credibility comes in two forms. First, the obvious thing is that you need credibility in the space where you are operating the CLM campaign. Don’t over reach by branching into areas that don’t make sense. That’s not to say you can’t address a broader category than your possibly narrow organizational focus. For example, a company like Clean Currents, which fought climate change by selling clean energy, could have credibility in other environmental areas such as recycling or energy conservation. Maintaining credibility also means being true to the immediate purpose of the CLM campaign. The campaign rationale has to have a purpose that creates positive results for the community.  The campaign cannot be a sales-by-other-means approach. If you want a sales campaign, try something else.

  • Action

This may seem self-apparent, but a good CLM campaign should incorporate an action component for the members of the community. It is not simply an educational or awareness campaign.  The thing that separates CLM from other kinds of marketing is the action the campaign inspires. The action can be an actual physical project in the community, such as building a community garden or it can be a digital action, such as a social media campaign. It depends on what community you are targeting. Action can also involve advocating for an issue or legislation related to that issue. The point is that the action is the center around which the entire CLM campaign revolves. It’s the glue that holds it together.

  • Reward

The CLM campaign needs to have a reward component at the end and/or as an incentive for actions people take in the midst of it. These rewards serve as a both an individual and a group incentive. It’s important to note that the incentives do not need to be financial, as many may think. Rather, incentives that are a better fit with CLM are ones that carry social capital. The star performers and community leaders should see visible benefits if the campaign goes well. The community should see group benefits as well. Examples of good benefits are public recognition, access to exclusive information, or a meeting with your CEO or Board members.

Stay tuned for Part Three next week for specific examples of CLM in action.

Building Authentic Brand Credibility: It Takes a Community

The Clean Currents Energize Responsibly Campaign Reached New Consumers

The Clean Currents Energize Responsibly Campaign Reached New Consumers

Much has been written and said about the loss of trust in brands and institutions. Not surprisingly, when consumers are asked about how they make their buying decisions, far more say they rely on the opinion of people they know then a branded message/ad. If your brand is competing in a relevant category, chances are high there are many competitors there as well. Fortunately, getting through the white noise of the digital era, the holy grail of marketing, is simply a matter of building the right community for your brand, or as I call it, “Community Level Marketing” (CLM).

How do you do CLM? The first thing you have to do is identify your community. This may not be the consumers who buy your products. At Clean Currents, for example, we sold green energy, yet we identified people who love outdoor activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, etc. as the target community for our “Energize Responsibly” campaign. We enlisted our commercial customers, as well as local relevant organizations, in the campaign. So we tabled at Charm City Run, a Baltimore area chain that serves the running community and we partnered with a local parks organization. To find the right community, think of the places, ideas, hobbies or interests that unite a segment of your core consumer group. It could be their faith institutions, schools, neighborhoods, or just love of the outdoors that unites them.

Once you have your target community identified, the next step is to build a campaign. There are four components to a good CLM campaign:

  • Education
  • Credibility
  • Action
  • Reward

Before we get started, be sure you’re in the right frame of mind. As Polina Pinchevsky (@PolinaPeg) from socially-conscious marketing firm, RoundPeg Communications recently pointed out in a presentation on CLM, it’s not for the short-sighted or for those seeking immediate rewards for their brand. It requires a long-term commitment from all levels of your organization and the understanding that CLM is not just about selling a product or service. It’s about building a strong, credible, well-known brand whose messages will be trusted by the consumers it seeks. Ready to try it out? See Part 2 of this series as we delve into the four components of CLM.

Time to Focus on Food

Turns out we should be focusing more on clean eating than clean energy. That’s the finding of a new documentary based on stats about greenhouse gas emissions. “Cowspiracy” shows convincingly that our industrial food system, especially the part that involves livestock, does more harm to the planet than possibly anything else. As far as greenhouse gases go, this sector produces more of them than the entire transportation sector. Maybe when we spent so much time lobbying for CAFÉ standards in DC, we should have focused on café food sourcing standards. Hopefully it’s not too late to turn our focus to food.

Despite inaction in Washington, we’ve made amazing strides in growing clean energy across the nation. The solar industry is growing by leaps and bounds while energy efficiency is becoming mainstream. In DC, we even got an increase in CAFÉ (fuel economy) standards under President Obama. Meanwhile, we appear to be floundering as a nation when it comes to deciding what we do about food. By food I mean the broad category that includes farming, livestock, delivery, sourcing, nutrition, advertising, and government subsidies. Because of this disarray, we have an increase in obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, the fish are disappearing, the Amazon is being chopped down, our water and air are being polluted, and yes, the ice caps are melting.

We need to elevate the dialogue on food policy just as we did for clean energy. There are so many amazing non-profits and food businesses that are already creating a buzz, as well as effecting real change. But to me, it seems that there is no unifying frame to convey the various food related messages – organic, local, plant-based, grass-fed, non-GMO, fair trade, etc. As authors Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador and Olivier Schutter point out in their article, “How a National Food Policy Could Save Millions of American Lives,” the Federal government has a role to play in shaping the agenda. The business community, local and state governments, farmers and other stakeholders all have a large role to play. The first step is to start the conversation – there’s no time to waste.

Running on Junk?

Runners should be at the forefront of healthy eating and a commitment to a healthy planet. After all, running is all about improving your body’s health, and eating and breathing obviously have a big impact on that. So you can picture my shock when I participated in my first 10K race as part of the Marine Corps Marathon the other day and saw the vendors/sponsors at both the fitness expo before the race and the finish-line celebration after the race. There was barely a smidgen of anything resembling eco-friendly products or services, while there was a plentiful amount of junk food offered.

“Protein” is apparently the buzz word in good eating for athletes. Nearly every product I saw advertised high protein content. That’s all well and good, but the other ingredients in many of these products included refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals, milk (?!), artificial ingredients, and some things I could not even pronounce. I was expecting a corn-a-copia of vegan health bars, great unsweetened, dairy free drinks, organic protein boosters, and smoothies with loads of dark green leafy vegetables and fruit. There was none of that, with the exception of Clif Bar. You can get protein from good sources.  I eat a health bar almost daily called “Ever Bar,” which comes packed with 11 grams of protein and a simple list of healthy ingredients, all of which I can pronounce.

There were no environmental groups, or clean air groups present. At Clean Currents, we ran a campaign called “Energize Responsibly” targeted to runners and other outdoor athletes. The idea was that these folks care a great deal about clean air and parks because they are outside exercising all the time. It was a big hit when we ran it as the audience really seemed to understand the message. Yet, at this event, there was not a single table talking about clean air and water, or the need for more open space and parks. The only advocacy group I saw was, believe it or not, the Beef Council. They were passing out beef jerky (“protein”) and literature extolling the sustainability of beef. That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I was thinking some “sustainability” groups should be at this event.

When I finished the race, thankfully the marines gave me a bottle of water and a banana. Good start. But the next marine give-away was a bottle of something that I believe is called a protein shake. It’s a bottled drink with like 18 grams of protein. I almost drank some until I read the label and it looked like a shopping list for a chemistry lab. To top it all off, the drink was milk based. I’m not a nutritionist, but I’m pretty sure drinking milk after a big run is a huge no-no.

There are so many great, earth-friendly, body-friendly products for runners and other athletes to consume before or after exercising. Our friends in the natural food industry should be providing these alternatives to runners, so the junk food guys don’t own the field all to themselves. A running event is one of the best places to help people make the connection between food that has a low impact on the planet and a high positive impact on health. As for the environmental groups, they can’t be a no-show in this world and expect to grow their community. Runners may not think they’re environmentalists, but their choice of exercise forces them to be in the green camp.  After all, dirty air and junky food are to runners what gusty winds and alcohol are to a high-wire act.

Some samples of junk food for runners.

Some samples of junk food for runners.