Archive for July, 2009
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The Bright Green Talent Team
Here’s an article Tom wrote for Max Gladwell
Many of us are a somewhat adolescent when it comes to using social media. You’ll find the political set making blunders and fugitives exposing themselves. I’ve met preeminent scientists and Harvard, professors who are terrified by Twitter, and self-proclaimed networkers who only have 5 contacts on LinkedIn.
My Mum, who fortunately falls into none of these categories, would certainly be happier if social media had never seen the light of day. In fact, perhaps we should stretch that discontent to computers as a whole – she suffers a rare condition of inverse learning that ensures that the more she uses them the worse she gets (similar to my own algebraic affliction). At her current pace, it won’t be long before I’ll be receiving telexes… stop.
Jobseeking can be a lonely, self-centered process. People often sit alone day after day, slogging through job boards, online applications and career fairs where the continual refrain is “apply through our site.” It’s easy to start to feel like they are constantly asking favors of friends and friends-of-friends to connect them to organizations who may or may not be hiring. Highly-qualified candidates begin to question whether they do indeed have much to offer since rejection, or even worse silence, seems to indicate otherwise. If you fall into this category, please remember that it is an extremely challenging time to be looking for a job – be it green or otherwise!
Amidst all the statistics about skyrocketing unemployment and mass layoffs, the story that is often missing is the psychological toll brought on by a prolonged job search in a bad economy. Jobseekers feel powerless, that their skills aren’t valued, and that their voices aren’t being heard. As a career coach at Bright Green Talent, I have seen this time and again with the most impressive people you can imagine.
One of the most important messages I try to convey is this: Just as critical to a successful job search as resume polishing, cover letter writing and networking is finding ways to empower yourself.
The best way to do this can sometimes seem counter intuitive but is tried and true — helping others. Rather than asking all of your contacts for connections, help another jobseeker find career opportunities. Join a mentoring network through your alumni association or nonprofits groups such as Upwardly Global. Find a volunteer project where you can contribute your unique skills to help an organization grow. Join Net Impact and take on a leadership role in your local chapter.
I should emphasize that this is not an argument for creating good karma. It is because the simple act of helping in and of itself is a way to move yourself in the right direction – from helpless to helper. This action has a variety of benefits that have been studied at length within positive psychology but when it comes down to it, we feel better about ourselves when we help other people. If you are a jobseeker, it is critical to understand that this will not only help you cope after long days of seemingly wasted time, but will also keep you articulate and sharp for when you get a chance to ‘pitch yourself’ in an interview or networking event.
For our own part at Bright Green Talent, we’re always trying to find ways to help our social and environmental impact reach around the world to the places where it’s needed most. We recently launched a campaign in which, for every 50 resumes that are registered with us, we’ll sponsor the education of a child in Madagascar for one year. Yes, having more resumes on hand helps us place people into meaningful careers with environmentally-minded organizations more quickly — recruiting is, to some extent, simply a matter of being able to find the right people at the right time.
Beyond that, we believe this campaign plays into the concept of empowering jobseekers to feel that they’re part of a larger movement of good work. Education – both about environmental issues and to promote economic security and development – is key to promoting stewardship of the world’s natural resources. Spreading education and opportunity to others, is one of the most important tasks we can take on whether employed or not.
So if you are a jobseeker, find ways to pay it forward. Your actions are more powerful than you can ever know both for the receiver and for yourself!
Christina Gilyutin, Bright Green Talent’s Director of Development and Chief Career Counselor, attended Stanford University before heading over to the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute of Global Sustainable Enterprise, where she earned a joint MBA/MS in Natural Resources and Environment.
Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to interview Andrew Winston, the author of ‘Green to Gold‘, a seminal work in the environmental space and all round green guru. If you haven’t read it already, I’d highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the sometimes difficult relationship between the environmental sector and commercial organizations. As ever, Andrew provided thoughtful commentary on the state of the environmental movement and CSR:
1. In your book Green to Gold, you eloquently argue for the economic benefits of going green – has your view changed given the recent crisis and the stimulus push’s subsidisation of the industry?
No, my belief in the benefits of going green has strengthened. That’s why I wrote my new book Green Recovery, which focuses on going green in hard economic times. One of the core principles of going green is doing more with less — getting lean. That’s a perfect strategy for tight times. Companies can save a great deal of money and quickly in a few key operational areas that are generally ripe for savings: facilities (lighting, heating/cooling), IT, fleet, telework/telecommunication, and waste. Getting lean can help companies survive, potentially avoid some layoffs, and provide capital to reinvest in people and innovation for the longer run.
2. What did you get right and what did you get wrong? Did anything you argued or predicted in Green to Gold turned out to be wrong?
It’s an interesting question. I’m not sure there’s anything ‘wrong’ with the arguments or frameworks in Green to Gold, but we may have covered some areas less than we should have. One area that comes to mind is the focus on large companies in Green to Gold, which could appear to leave out small and medium sized companies. I believe that most of the lessons and tactics of GTG apply equally to small companies with one major exception – influencing your supply chain in a deep way is not possible for smaller enterprises. They need to work together with others or with their industry to truly tackle the value chain impacts. But many of the key ways to create value — reducing costs, innovating to help customers reduce impacts, building brand — work well, and often better, for smaller companies. Overall, we tried to remedy any missing elements in the paperback that came out earlier this year, with revisions throughout and some answers to frequently asked questions and a new intro with key themes.
3. In your book, you talk about ‘waveriders,’ or those organizations that are leading the charge – who’s in that category, and what’s changed?
That list in GTG was mainly a starting point, not a declaration of leaders. It was based on which companies were doing a number of things back in the beginning of our research (going back to 2002-2003) — it was companies that different ranking companies like Innovest had highlighted, or companies joining groups and making commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. I thought of it as the starting point for what companies we might want to interview. There were ones on that list that might have seemed questionable then, and certainly do now — GM for example. So there are certainly changes, but more in who’s missing, like Wal-Mart, which has become the standard bearer in the last few years. But the list of companies that people talk about as sustainability leaders has remained fairly consistent for years — there are just some new entries.
4. What do you think of Tom Friedman’s “green bubble” argument — that, like IT and the internet, we need a bubble to get new clean energy technologies integrated into society?
If I understand where he’s talking about, he means a bubble of investment where there’s a rush of experimentation and serious money flowing. Some things don’t work out, but you’re left with a real infrastructure and ecosystem of new companies and technologies. I agree, but the build out will be much larger than even the Internet. We’re talking about how we power our lives, how we live, travel, eat, etc, etc. We do need a rush of investment, but then sustained higher levels of innovation and investment going forward.
5. If you could have any job, what would it be?
That’s a funny question. I don’t know — I enjoy what I do now a great deal. There are pros and cons to being an independent voice and general evangelist for the benefits of green business, and I sometimes miss the hands-on feel of working for something in an organization and having responsibility for seeing it through. But I can reach so many organizations in my current career incarnation, that I’m happy where I am.
6. What keeps you up at night?
Besides worrying about my kids’ future, I do worry and think a lot about that big sustainability question: Are we going to make it? Are we going to stem the tide of the environmental damage and handle the inertia in the climate system well enough? The signs are always such a mix of positive and depressing that you have to just keep moving and stay hopeful. In one week a few weeks ago, I spoke at a Wal-Mart sustainability summit in Brazil that was earth-shattering: the company made its suppliers agree to avoid beef and soy from cleared Amazon lands — that’s one of the most positive steps I’ve seen and could have enormous ripples around the world in how products are sourced and how we impact land use. But at the same time, the U.S. Congress barely passed a climate bill and then the G-8 meeting was moderately successful. It doesn’t seem like the policy discussion around the world is moving at the pace that the scientists are telling us we need to. This is somewhat terrifying. But I have faith that what we’re seeing in the private sector is just the beginning and may drive the innovation and change we need faster than the governments can keep up.
7. Do you ever turn down clients for your consulting business? If so, why?
It hasn’t really happened yet. I haven’t been approached for consulting by a company that doesn’t have some belief in this business movement or want to green their strategy. I HAVE had some dilemmas on speaking engagements. In one case, I took an engagement with a company that is mainly moving the environmental ball in the wrong direction, but I gave most of my fee to an organization that is working hard to combat those environmental challenges. It was a tough call, but I speak very often to the very skeptical and those who are not sure about all of this. This is my job I think, to speak to the hardest audiences in a language that they feel comfortable with.
9. You’ve had a hand in educating the next generation of environmental leaders – what are the questions being asked? Where do these folks lie in the spectrum between Birkenstock-wearing treehugger and Wall Street capitalist?
I think that line is certainly blurring. For example, the quintessential green CEO to me is not exactly Ray Anderson or Yvon Chouinard [note from Tom: read Yvon's book!] (although these guys are the standard-bearers), but someone like Jeff Immelt at GE. In some sense, having executives who don’t consider themselves ‘green’ or converts, but just see the business and growth opportunities will lead to larger change. We need everyone to see that it’s good business to get lean, get smarter about environmental impacts up and down the value chain, and get innovative. And the line is getting even less important when you look at what’s happening to attitudes in business schools and universities. These students don’t see a trade-off between CSR and profits anymore.
10. More recently, you’ve authored ‘Green Recovery.’ Can you give us a sneak preview as to the advice you give?
Beyond what I wrote in response to the first question, I’d add that a major focus of the new book is balancing the ‘now’ (getting lean) with the future. I discuss something I’m calling ‘heretical’ innovation — I suggest asking some very tough questions that challenge the very foundations of your company or your products. Things like Boeing asking, can we fly without jet fuel? Or a cleaning company I highlight, Tennant, asking ‘can we clean the floor without any chemicals?’ (their answer is yes, and they have a very successful new floor-cleaning machine to prove it). I also spend a bit of time on employee engagement, but not on the normal tools like incentives, awards, training, etc. I speak more about what employees should understand and believe to set up the company for success in this century. A few principles like: climate change is political and business reality, no matter what you think of the science, or resources are not infinite (that’s a new one to our species). It’s a mindset change that will drive real innovation and cost-savings when you get these ideas ingrained. Companies can recover from this economic mess, and going green can lead them out.
Social media is about connecting people and providing the tools necessary to have a conversation. That global conversation is an extremely powerful platform for spreading information and awareness about social causes and issues. That’s one of the reasons charities can benefit so greatly from being active on social media channels. But you can also do a lot to help your favorite charity or causes you are passionate about through social media.
Below is a list of 10 ways you can use social media to show your support for issues that are important to you. If you can think of any other ways to help charities via social web tools, please add them in the comments. If you’d like to retweet this post or take the conversation to Twitter or FriendFeed, please use the hashtag #10Ways.
1. Write a Blog Post
Blogging is one of the easiest ways you can help a charity or cause you feel passionate about. Almost everyone has an outlet for blogging these days — whether that means a site running WordPress, an account at LiveJournal, or a blog on MySpace or Facebook. By writing about issues you’re passionate about, you’re helping to spread awareness among your social circle. Because your friends or readers already trust you, what you say is influential.
Recently, a group of green bloggers banded together to raise individual $1 donations from their readers. The beneficiaries included Sustainable Harvest, Kiva, Healthy Child, Healthy World, Environmental Working Group, and Water for People. The blog-driven campaign included voting to determine how the funds would be distributed between the charities. You can read about the results here.
You should also consider taking part in Blog Action Day, a once a year event in which thousands of blogs pledge to write at least one post about a specific social cause (last year it was fighting poverty). Blog Action Day will be on October 15 this year.
2. Share Stories with Friends
Another way to spread awareness among your social graph is to share links to blog posts and news articles via sites like Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Digg, and even through email. Your network of friends is likely interested in what you have to say, so you have influence wherever you’ve gathered a social network.
You’ll be doing charities you support a great service when you share links to their campaigns, or to articles about causes you care about.
3. Follow Charities on Social Networks
In addition to sharing links to articles about issues you come across, you should also follow charities you support on the social networks where they are active. By increasing the size of their social graph, you’re increasing the size of their reach. When your charities tweet or post information about a campaign or a cause, statistics or a link to a good article, consider retweeting that post on Twitter, liking it on Facebook, or blogging about it.
Following charities on social media sites is a great way to keep in the loop and get updates, and it’s a great way to help the charity increase its reach by spreading information to your friends and followers.
You can follow the Summer of Social Good Charities:
4. Support Causes on Awareness Hubs
Another way you can show your support for the charities you care about is to rally around them on awareness hubs like Change.org, Care2, or the Facebook Causes application. These are social networks or applications specifically built with non-profits in mind. They offer special tools and opportunities for charities to spread awareness of issues, take action, and raise money.
It’s important to follow and support organizations on these sites because they’re another point of access for you to gather information about a charity or cause, and because by supporting your charity you’ll be increasing their overall reach. The more people they have following them and receiving their updates, the greater the chance that information they put out will spread virally.
5. Find Volunteer Opportunities
Using social media online can help connect you with volunteer opportunities offline, and according to web analytics firm Compete, traffic to volunteering sites is actually up sharply in 2009. Two of the biggest sites for locating volunteer opportunities are VolunteerMatch, which has almost 60,000 opportunities listed, and Idealist.org, which also lists paying jobs in the non-profit sector, in addition to maintaining databases of both volunteer jobs and willing volunteers.
For those who are interested in helping out when volunteers are urgently needed in crisis situations, check out HelpInDisaster.org, a site which helps register and educate those who want to help during disasters so that local resources are not tied up directing the calls of eager volunteers. Teenagers, meanwhile, should check out DoSomething.org, a site targeted at young adults seeking volunteer opportunities in their communities.
6. Embed a Widget on Your Site
Many charities offer embeddable widgets or badges that you can use on your social networking profiles or blogs to show your support. These badges generally serve one of two purposes (or both). They raise awareness of an issue and offer up a link or links to additional information. And very often they are used to raise money.
Mashable’s Summer of Social Good campaign, for example, has a widget that does both. The embeddable widget, which was custom built using Sprout (the creators of ChipIn), can both collect funds and offer information about the four charities the campaign supports.
7. Organize a Tweetup
You can use online social media tools to organize offline events, which are a great way to gather together like-minded people to raise awareness, raise money, or just discuss an issue that’s important to you. Getting people together offline to learn about an important issue can really kick start the conversation and make supporting the cause seem more real.
8. Express Yourself Using Video
As mentioned, blog posts are great, but a picture really says a thousand words. The web has become a lot more visual in recent years and there are now a large number of social tools to help you express yourself using video. When you record a video plea or call to action about your issue or charity, you can make your message sound more authentic and real. You can use sites like 12seconds.tv, Vimeo, and YouTube to easily record and spread your video message.
Last week, the Summer of Social Good campaign encouraged people to use video to show support for charity. The #12forGood campaign challenged people to submit a 12 second video of themselves doing something for the Summer of Social Good. That could be anything, from singing a song to reciting a poem to just dancing around like a maniac — the idea was to use the power of video to spread awareness about the campaign and the charities it supports.
9. Sign or Start a Petition
There aren’t many more powerful ways to support a cause than to sign your name to a petition. Petitions spread awareness and, when successfully carried out, can demonstrate massive support for an issue. By making petitions viral, the social web has arguably made them even more powerful tools for social change. There are a large number of petition creation and hosting web sites out there. One of the biggest is The Petition Site, which is operated by the social awareness network Care2, or PetitionOnline.com, which has collected more than 79 million signatures over the years.
Petitions are extremely powerful, because they can strike a chord, spread virally, and serve as a visual demonstration of the support that an issue has gathered. Social media fans will want to check out a fairly new option for creating and spreading petitions: Twitition, an application that allows people to create, spread, and sign petitions via Twitter.
10. Organize an Online Event
Social media is a great way to organize offline, but you can also use online tools to organize effective online events. That can mean free form fund raising drives, like the Twitter-and-blog-powered campaign to raise money for a crisis center in Illinois last month that took in over $130,000 in just two weeks. Or it could mean an organized “tweet-a-thon” like the ones run by the 12for12k group, which aims to raise $12,000 each month for a different charity.
In March, 12for12k ran a 12-hour tweet-a-thon, in which any donation of at least $12 over a 12 hour period gained the person donating an entry into a drawing for prizes like an iPod Touch or a Nintendo Wii Fit. Last month, 12for12k took a different approach to an online event by holding a more ambitious 24-hour live video-a-thon, which included video interviews, music and sketch comedy performances, call-ins, and drawings for a large number of prizes given out to anyone who donated $12 or more.
Bonus: Think Outside the Box
Social media provides almost limitless opportunity for being creative. You can think outside the box to come up with all sorts of innovative ways to raise money or awareness for a charity or cause. When Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with cancer, for example, he created Blame Drew’s Cancer, a campaign that encourages people to blow off steam by blaming his cancer for bad things in their lives using the Twitter hashtag #BlameDrewsCancer. Over 16,000 things have been blamed on Drew’s cancer, and he intends to find sponsors to turn those tweets into donations to LIVESTRONG once he beats the disease.
Or check out Nathan Winters, who is biking across the United States and documenting the entire trip using social media tools, in order to raise money and awareness for The Nature Conservancy.
The number of innovative things you can do using social media to support a charity or spread information about an issue is nearly endless. Can you think of any others? Please share them in the comments.
Special thanks to VPS.net
A special thanks to VPS.net, who are donating $100 to the Summer of Social Good for every signup they receive this week.
Sign up at VPS.net and use the coupon code “SOSG”to receive 3 Months of FREE hosting on top of your purchased term.
About the “10 Ways” Series
The “10 Ways” Series was originated by Max Gladwell. This is the second simultaneous blog post in the series. The first ran on more than 80 blogs, including Mashable. Among other things, it is a social media experiment and the exploration of a new content distribution model. You can follow Max Gladwell on Twitter.
This content was originally written by Mashable’s Josh Catone.
We had a chat with Tracy Hepler this week, an entrepreneur trying to green LA:
Q1 What are you up to at the moment?
Right now I’m constantly working on growing my baby, yourdailythread.com which is an online community space for green, sustainable and local living in Los Angeles. Our goal is to bring green down to the local level. There are wonderful national and global sites out there right now such as treehugger.com or grist.org, but they usually don’t focus on neighborhood issues. We try to focus on things that you can do in your own back yard, from community gardens to local green events—we sift through all green marketing and green washing to bring our readers the crème de la crème of local green issues.
I have also recently co-founded LYFE (Leading Young Future Entrepreneurs) with Hillary Newman (the Ecowarriorr) and Rachel Hurn-Maloney of Vie Eco Fashion Boutique in Los Angeles. LYFE brings together young entrepreneurs who care about the environment and want to network both professional and socially.
I also do freelance writing/blogging for a few other green/cause oriented sites including the Huffington Post Green, Causecast.org and I’m working on a few more side projects including bringing green to the Latino mainstream.
Q2 Why do you do what you do?
After graduating college, I thought I really wanted to work in the entertainment industry as a writer. I soon realized once in the industry that my calling was to use my skills towards work that would help make the world a better place. As cheesy as that might sound, it is true. I feel that climate change and the environment is possibly the most pressing issue of our time and I want to do everything in my power to bring change and inspire everyone to do everything they can to conquer this problem.
Q3 What keeps you awake at night?
Haha, this is funny because I’m currently on vacation and I can’t be away Your Daily Thread for more than a few hours—that is my baby, if you will, and I am so inspired to see it succeed all the way through.
Q4 You mentioned that you’re doing a summer special with YDT – what tips do you have?
Well I missed the 4th, but our tips are applicable for the rest of summer. If I could suggest one big thing it would be to avoid using disposables. For one hour of picnicking or bbqing your plastic plates and forks will sit in the landfill for hundreds of years. I don’t care how tasty you burgers are—it’s not worth it. Bring your own plates from home or if you need to use a form of disposable, use compostable ones from companies like Earth Shell. They’re made in the USA from old potatoes and other scrapes and can be thrown into the compost bin. If you don’t compost and must throw them away, they won’t take nearly as long to biodegrade. You can view the rest of our green summer bbq tips here.
Q5 If you were a g(r)enie, what would you wish for?
I get three wishes I assume!
1) I’d wish for green to be a major priority across, political, social and all other spectrums. I’m happy with the amount of progress we’ve made in the last few years, but I think we’ve got a lot more to do and a stronger sense of urgency is needed.
2) That every household and business in America used a recycling and composting bin so that we would throw less into our landfills.
3) That we’d return to eating healthy real food. I have been a big fan of Michael Pollan for a while and recently saw Food INC—it’s shocking how much of what we eat really isn’t food. I’d wish for a return to more seasonal organic food that everyone could afford.