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Phil Gutis’s Blog

Turning Buzz into Reality

Phil Gutis

Posted June 16, 2008

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Has corporate America suddenly seen the “green” light? It’s a question I’ve raised frequently in this space, noting that everywhere you turn, another company is announcing a new green initiative. No matter what their motivation -- whether it’s saving money, earning good publicity, or a genuine interest in running a sustainable, profitable enterprise -- these companies seem interested in changing.

Of course, the clamor from all those announcements can seem deafening. The New York Times Style Section made just that point on Sunday in an article titled: “That Buzz in Your Ear May Be Green Noise.” The thesis of the article by Times reporter Alex Williams is boiled down by a quote from Mary Burnham of San Francisco: “Heck, I’ll come out and say it. I’m a little overwhelmed.”

Hey Mary, I’m a professional environmentalist and I’m confused too. When Williams called me last week to discuss his article, I couldn’t have been in more agreement with his thesis. We all need help reducing the signal to noise ratio.

Luckily I was able to tell the Times about one of our tools for helping cut the clutter. It’s an ever-growing NRDC web program called SimpleSteps where we give clear advice in a “minute, a morning or month” format. In other words, if you have a minute and want to make better choices for your family and the environment, we’ve got a tip. If you have a morning, we’ll take you a bit deeper and -- if you have a month -- well dive on in.

Williams was writing for the Times Style Section. Had he been reporter for the business sections of the Times, though, I would have directed him to another newly launched resource which is designed to build on NRDC’s long experience working behind the scenes to help businesses and other large organizations green their operations.

Building on that expertise, we just launched the NRDC Greening Advisor to open the vaults of our business-based expertise.

The Greening Advisor was developed as a free, web-based tool for small and mid-sized businesses interested in finding ways to reduce the environmental impacts of their operations. It’s full of practical tips that can help any company establish and achieve a green goal. It tackles topics such as energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction and paper use, and also points out how environmentally friendly business practices can improve the bottom line.

Does the thing really work? Ask Major League Baseball, the NBA and the GRAMMYs -- they’re just a few of the groups that have already made use of the Greening Advisor. And many many more are working with our experts to get started.

So stay tuned. Maybe someday soon we’ll be able to persuade the business pages of the Times to follow up on this weekend’s excellent Style Section story to help corporations and others turn buzz into reality.

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Earl KillianJun 16 2008 02:04 PM

Websites with advice are nice, but what would really help is a trademark symbol (like the DOE's Energy Star) that green products can use to indicate they are in the top 20% of the greenest products. Companies would have to license the right to display the trademark each year. I imagine a coalition of environmental organizations (including the NRDC) being the trademark holder and arbiters.

With this system, there would be the revenue to pay for the analysis on a product-by-product basis to determine what is really sustainable and healthy.

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