WHEN IS ENOUGH TOO MUCH? Well, I’ve got a few recent media-oversaturation-gone-rampant examples, bete noires, if you will, in the Black Keys’ “Gold on the Ceiling” (a cool track, I readily admit) being used as outro theme music + imagery incessantly during NCAA March Madness college basketball coverage to the point where it’s now only infuriating noise to me (and really, truly, I like these guys!), and an annoying omnipresent promo bug (not Black Keys related) futzing up the stellar high-def images of Discovery Channel’s new Frozen Planet series about the arctic and antarctic—this lower-right-situated onscreen bug, complete with distracting motion, was for another one of the network’s shows they’re pushing, which I can’t even remember the name of and wouldn’t watch anyway as its promotion just about ruined the fantastic experience of Frozen Planet‘s two-hour premiere!

So yes, enough can quite often be too much and a downright counterproductive media buy or tool in a world where we are already overwhelmed with the ubiquity of advertising, from our can’t-be-without, continuing-to-multiply mobile devices to entertainment events where sideline billboards constantly morph to increase their shill factor, competing with the game, the very escapist nature of which we lose when Bud Light Platinum looms large again and again in cascading digital-display rotation as our proffered beverage of choice. More-is-better, beat-’em-to-submission media buyers, can we please please please just give it a rest, already?

The story collection from which "Sales Pitch" comes

In Philip K. Dick’s short story “Sales Pitch,” all the way back from the gray-flannel-suit era of 1954 but posited in the far-flung future, our weary, bettle-browed protagonist, Ed Morris, is assaulted by in-his-face advertising on his grueling commute home from Ganymede to Terra: “Ads waited on all sides,” Dick practically sneers, “he steered a careful course, dexterity born of animal desperation, but not all could be avoided. Despair seized him. The outline of a new audio-visual ad was already coming into being.”

Annoying ads and robot salesmen continue the onslaught once he’s at home, of course, and, you’d hope, where he’d finally be able to relax. Morris seeks an exit, literally out of our solar system, to a 100-years’-behind-the-present world: “We’ll have to get used to a simpler life,” he tells his wife. “The way our ancestors lived.” Lots more happens here, but suffice it to say, it does not end well and the story is a downer, depressing parable.

Back to the present. Yeah, there are real ways (as well as well-articulated movements) to “simplify” or avoid this aforementioned saturation bombing, but when you do want to imbibe, to interact with cultural “products” or artistically driven manifestations in the pop arena or learn something refreshingly new or even just chill out and watch some hoop (and who doesn’t, even if it’s not college basketball?), do you need to keep the remote, headphones or blinders handy?

Here’s where I think we, the end-users, tune things out (like talking aloud over those annoying in-movie-theater commercials—Hey, didn’t we just drop $12 apiece to be here for purely entertainment purposes?!*) and muck up the sought-after results, the ROI, if you will, of the media buyers and their clients’ sales pitches. Yep, enough is by far too much here, and unlike Dick’s character Ed Morris, there is no off-planet escape to Centaurus, no matter how doomed the move.

On the marketers’ side, it’s an appeal to think things thoroughly through, carefully consider the time and place for each buy, especially when pondering bunching things up to beat back the competition and win a war of attrition with the consumer. In the green space, where treading lightly is even more highly valued (or has the appearance to be), there’s even a greater danger of backfiring and really irking your intended target market.

Nevertheless, yes, I still enjoy the Black Keys (“Gold on the Ceiling” not so much, despite its killer organ plunking and all-around catchiness) and plan on continuing to watch Frozen Planet (but not whatever show they “bugged” it with). Careful, select navigation and the learned ability to “detune” come with the territory, and in direct regard to these sales pitches, we ultimately vote, that is, have our say, with our wallets and online clicks.

Allen

*Or as Geoff Dyer notes in his new book, Zona, on ADD-enabling, hyperbolic coming attractions, which, in essence, are Hollywood-industrial complex advertisements for its own (often dire) products: “[T]his has become some of the most debased wonder in the history of the earth. It means explosions, historical epics in which the outcome of the Battle of Hastings is reversed by the arcane CGI prowess of Merlin the Magician, it means five-year-old children turning suddenly into snarling devils, it means wrecking cars and reckless driving, it means lots of noise, it means that I have to time my arrival carefully (twenty minutes at least) after the advertised programme time if I am to avoid all this stuff which, if one were exposed to it for the full hour and a half, would cause one’s capacity for discernment to drop by fifty percent (or, conversely, one’s ability to tolerate stuff like this to increase a hundredfold). [...] It means that there are more and more things on the street, in shops, on-screen and on telly from which one has to avert one’s ears and eyes.” [Emphasis added]

LIKE AN AWE-INSPIRING EXPO OR WORLD’S FAIR DEPICTING A BRIGHTER, SMARTER FUTURE that’s here and now—that’s how the Green Festival first struck me upon attending last spring in Seattle: the buzz, the energy, the openness, the innovation, the people, the free trade of ideas and insights, and the contagious passion for wanting to actualize the world a cleaner, healthier, more-inclusive place. I like to think of it as an inspiring place where there are more yeasayers than naysayers. And now the annual two-day event, presented by Global Exchange and Green America, is back in Seattle this weekend (June 5 and 6 at the Washington State Convention Center), bigger and better than ever, with Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute just added as a featured speaker.

What else can you expect? Well, try immersion in a world already gone green in innumerable ways, and all on constant display and readily available for easy interaction, badinage and play. Not bad for $15, which gets you in both days and provides access to all speaker presentations and festival events (see the complete schedule for details). Seattle’s Green Festival will feature a Music, Arts & Culture Room, Community Action Pavilion, Green Living Pavilion, Fair Trade & Social Justice Pavilion, Local Food & Farming Pavilion, DIY Zone (featuring hands-on workshops), Green Kids’ Zone, Blue Corner (all things aquatic) and Exhibitor Marketplace. It’s a lot to take in, even spread across an entire weekend.

The not-to-miss Exhibitor Marketplace can be a bit overwhelming (there are more than 350 businesses spread throughout the exhibit hall), and my recommendation is to hit it early before it gets too crowded and difficult to maneuver in a timely manner. It’s a great opportunity to wander serendipitously and see the latest developments in green products and services, and to chat with the people either behind them or representing them. Talk about rapidly emerging markets in the new green economy—this is positive ground zero, where you’ll find everything from wind-energy-powered web host providers and sustainably grown herbs to electric bikes and green burials/home funerals (yep, you read that right, the ultimate in cradle-to-grave-and-back self-realization).

In addition to Lovins, the many speakers well worth seeing in Seattle include Amy Goodman, John Perkins, Thom Hartmann, David Korten and festival-cofounder Kevin Danaher. But this event—which also takes place at various dates in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Chicago—is about much more than merely listening to an informed quorum of speakers: it’s about the strong vibe, getting sweaty-palmed, heartbeat-aflutter caught up in a momentum-gaining movement that transcends social, political, commercial and religious/ethical/philosophical boundaries, and becoming part of something that’s attempting to affect true positive change in an era sadly being defined by financial scandals and hardships, environmental degradation and disaster, political stalemate and savagery, across-the-board apathy and, well, let me stop there—the Green Festival is for, lest we forget, yeasayers not naysayers.

I hope you can make the Seattle event this weekend, but if not, Washington and San Francisco Green Festivals take place this fall. All aboard the brighter, smarter future that’s here and now.

Allen

“Our challenge is to make radical, challenging green stuff that sets new standards normal (it is not enough to make normal stuff seem greener).”—John Grant, The Green Marketing Manifesto

GOING GREEN HITS ITS STRIDE with the bright and buoyant, fast and fabulous Brooks Green Silence racing flats—”racing flats” are performance/competition running shoes for all you non-Runner’s-World-subscribing-I-live-to-trim-seconds-from-my-miles normal folks out there. These foot rockets go a long way (potentially literally) in proving that cradle-to-cradle eco-conscious design doesn’t have to compromise one iota to deliver a championship-calibre performance. Waterproof/breathable/ultra-lightweight hats off to Brooks for bringing these kicks to the finicky (read, I readily admit, elitist) marketplace of outdoor/sports-geek gear.

So what did Brooks do and how did the Green Silence perform when it came to race time? Let me share.

It all started several years ago when Brooks announced it was going to create a truly eco-friendly shoe, utilizing more eco-conscious design, manufacturing processes and sustainable materials; this may not be the full-blown, cross-the-board commitment of, say, a Patagonia (see Patagonia’s “Footprint Chronicles,” for example), but it’s a sizable DfE (Design for Environment) stride in the right direction. In 2008 Brooks launched the BioMoGo midsole, “the world’s first biodegradable running shoe midsole that breaks down 50 times faster than traditional midsoles in an enclosed, active landfill.” That same year Brooks also debuted a new shoe box made of fully biodegradable, 100-percent recycled paperboard. The Green Silence soon followed.

You can take a quick interactive tour of the Green Silence on the Brooks website, but here are the salient facts:

  • Constructed with just 48 percent as many parts as comparable shoes
  • More than 75 percent of the shoe’s materials are post-consumer recycled
  • All dyes, colorants and adhesives are nontoxic, with VOCs lowered by 65 percent
  • Midsoles, collar foams and sock liners are completely biodegradable

What you end up with is a lightweight racing flat—it weighs just 6.9 oz.—that features a minimal 8 mm offset, or drop, from heel to toe: you’re not running barefoot, by any stretch, but you’re low to the ground, and thanks to the compression-molded BioMoGo midsole, I found, well-cushioned. Just add human accelerant and you feel propelled forward by warm jets of eco-conscious good will!

Which gets me to my trial-by-fire race: the annual mid-May Pole Pedal Paddle relay race in Bend, Oregon. This crazy, fun, challenging event features six legs, starting with a downhill skier on Mt. Bachelor who slaps happy with a cross-country skier who fist bumps a bicyclist who quick taps a runner who passes speedy karma to a kayaker/canoer who finally lends spiritual propulsion to a sprinter who then crosses the finish line at the Les Schwab Ampitheater in Bend’s Old Mill District. Sound fun? It is. This year, the PPP’s 34th, had the most participants in its history, 3,005. The best time was posted by Marshall Greene of Bend at 1:44:27.

I was part of one of three teams from Journeys, a highly recommended wine bar and pub in Portland’s Multnomah Village neighborhood, and took part in both running legs. My Green Silence were anything but (and if that vibrant, asymmetrical gold and red color scheme doesn’t work for you, Brooks has more colors in the works), and easily got me under 6-minute miles on a course that included road, sidewalk, some trail, a few small climbs—and all at an average elevation of around 3,625 feet. The Green Silence fit comfortably, provided quite adequate support, created no race issues and had a springiness to them that made running a total pleasure—they totally kicked it. I also tried a little trail run with them, but unless you’re on smooth dirt only, I definitely wouldn’t recommend them in this capacity—nor would Brooks, I’m sure.

Way to go, Brooks, in setting a new standard in radical, challenging green stuff and truly embracing the DfE ethic. It may be “Silent steps to a Greener future,” but I want to make a lot of noise about it now. Looking forward to my next race in the Green Silence.

Allen

I KIND OF LIKE TO THINK WE’RE ALL RECYCLED: recycled by our very nature of being—think genetics, heredity, nucleotides, Mendelian inheritance, those determinate X and Y chromosomes, perhaps toss in and simmer the second law of thermodynamics, etc., etc. Therefore recycling, or finding new life for existing things, is as right and natural as drawing breath. From there it’s a simple step from what we normally think of as recycling to consumer-oriented services like eBay and its Green Team “inspiring the world to buy, sell and think green every day.”

eBay’s Earth Day-conscious Green Team, not one to miss such an opportunity, has launched a “Green Team Challenge” now through Earth Day, April 22—in case you missed it, this year is Earth Day’s fortieth anniversary. So yep, we’re talking consumerism, albeit “reduced,” the buying and selling of used, refurbished or vintage merchandise (as eBay puts it, “the greenest product is often the one that already exists”).

This is internet-enabled activity, certainly, to generate profit, but it also encompasses the idea of recycling, of consuming less of what’s new, making do with what’s already out there and that, in turn, gets us in a nice low-impact “spin cycle.” Thrift stores of all varieties do it, craigslist does it and the one I’m most behind, Freecycle, does it with its heart clearly in the right place. Corporate green teams have been growing in popularity the last few years (eBay’s started in 2007), and it’s certainly a huge green positive to see such (often) grassroots ventures continue to gain footholds, spark employee and community involvement, and expand company initiatives and enterprisewide practices.

eBay’s Green Team Challenge is to get their customers “to reuse what exists in the world, and we’ll do our part to make your impact come to life.” eBay has joined with Team Earth to protect three rainforests in the Congo, Brazil and Mexico, promising to protect an acre in each customer’s name who takes the challenge (plus, there’s an added pecuniary incentive and prize drawings). Information and slideshows for each of the rainforests are on the Green Team Challenge website to aid in voting. The challenge, in essence then, is an acknowledgement of self-agreendisement, of Yeah, I want to do the right thing and make use of what’s already out there, and I want others to know about it and get involved, too.

“Selling green makes sense,” the eBay Green Team site says—absolutely true!—and necessary now more than ever—in so many ways. It’s like going to the head of the class and shouting, “Let’s make every day Earth Day!”—and if only it were so simple to share this sentiment globally. But hitting eBay’s 90-million-plus active users, via the Green Team Challenge, certainly doesn’t hurt. Recycle that thought next time you’re in search of, say, vintage Hamm’s or Schlitz barware or a sturdy babystroller with low miles and a tiny footprint.

Allen

SakamotoWHILE FAR FROM A HOUSEHOLD NAME ON OUR SHORES (and I should add—being an admirer, with chagrin—despite an Oscar, Grammy and two Golden Globe awards), Japanese composer-performer Ryuichi Sakamoto holds a globally prominent position when it comes to the mutually beneficial collision of art and ecology, having recently been honored with a UN Environment Programme Eco Award in 2009.

Sakamoto’s been involved with green pursuits since at least 1994, when he first moved away from plastic-jewel-case CD packaging to biodegradable paper sleeves. And he’s traversed some mighty terrain since then—as he puts it, “turning ego into eco”—which includes his latest release, Out of Noise, featuring two haunting tracks (“Ice” and “Glacier”) inspired by a Cape Farewell Project trip to Greenland viewing imperiled arctic glaciers.

Sakamoto—whose music encompasses classical, experimental, film scores, ambient, pop, jazz and electronica—is at the forefront of a larger movement that’s afoot. The vibrant relationship between the worlds of music and that of environmental concern has unquestionably gained momentum of late, and has seen genuine far-reaching and -ranging adoption (and not mere feel-good, get-on-the-bandwagon lip service to sell more tickets and product) by artists as diverse as Willie Nelson, Radiohead, Melissa Etheridge, the Roots, Pearl Jam, Moby, Bonnie Raitt, the Dave Matthews Band and Green Day. Good for the Earth? Absolutely! Good for your ears? Ditto that, and perhaps coming this summer, in a carbon-neutral manner, to a concert venue near you. Read More »

10greenmythsLET’S JUMP RIGHT IN—there’s no time to waste when you’re myth-busting in a tumultuous age of run-amuck uncertainty.

#1 You should never, ever, ever use the word “green” in your name, tag line, PR or marketing materials.
There is nothing wrong with using the word “green”—if you mean it. Sure, it’s particularly ubiquitous these days and already attached to a multitude of businesses, products, ideas, publications, groups, etc., but it still connotes a space and position and way of thinking that resonates with the public. Co-op America changed its name to Green America, and it’s working out just fine for them. If you attend a Green Festival, you kind of know what to expect—and attendance, and spirits, are high. Don’t make your usage bandwagonesque, tenuous, forced or misleading (let’s call this “fuzzy quasi-green”), resulting in reverse marketing that’ll bite you deservedly in the butt, whether you’re wearing green jeans or not. Read More »