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February 18, 2008



Joel, it's always great to read your comments.
One thing I cannot quite understand yet, is with all the attention to global warming, unsafe plastics, chemicals found in every household products from toys and baby bottles to cosmetics, yet the average person in the USA lives his life, like all these issues don't even exist. Even with all the "Eco-noise" from major news agencies, I see very little actual response from the average American.
I own an Eco-boutique in MA, and while I have a loyal but small customer base, I heard it from several people to generalize my store a little bit to make it more fitting to a larger customer base. My passion is having a true green store, and not a watered down version of it.
Do you have any suggestions?


Joel - great column. Particularly interesting for me because I'm a corporate communications and marketing consultant - one of "those in the business of helping companies tell their stories." You make a strong point that, "The public is hungry for companies to look up to, but they don't trust what they hear." Sometimes I'm surprised they hear anything at all. Too much of the good stuff happening in many companies still gets lost in the din of corporate-babble and self-congratulatory backslapping!

Mark W. McElroy

But Joel, there are definitions -- not to mention generally accepted principles that we can embrace and rely on. Things need not be as dire or confusing as you suggest.

Indeed, I think you know this. You know that there is an interpretation of sustainability (or "green", if you like) that is crystal clear. We either act, individually and collectively, in ways that preserve levels of natural capital required to maintain human (and non-human) well-being, or we don't.

Why carry on in your commentary as if such clarity in theory and practice does not exist? You know how I feel about the power of your journalism. And I know how much you know about the subject you cover. What puzzles me is why you persist in taking the seemingly ignorant, or neutral view, as if you didn't know damn well what the stroy was. You do. Tell it!




Interesting blog post about the surge in the "green" marketing of products.

It does seem that everybody has some kind of sustainability report anymore and that they try to show that they have always been green.


'the silent word is heard a thousand times louder than the spoken word'
-chinese proverb

the noise of greenwashing is deafening.

my belief is that in a few years the real 'winners' (i.e. the most sustainable brands) will be the ones who focused on doing the right thing and who designed a new world of what could be based on insights and their own beliefs - without the hoopla of weekly press releases. they did not gas up the PR machine and/or hire communication consultants to trumpet their small steps, but rather they took inspiration and rewards from simply doing the right thing. i firmly believe that we we will soon 'discover' these brands in a way that gives them long-term loyalty and trust.

p.s. do we really understand the essence and meaning of sustainability? are we looking at things through a lens of systems thinking?

Bob Difley

I would like to think that today's consumers can look beyond the hoopla of press releases and corporate self-praisers and see the real effects. Or am I naive?

Burt Klein


Thank you for the diligent examination of the ever changing business environment. I do see consumers making better decisions when they perceive that it impacts their health and businesses when it impacts their bottom line or gives fodder for their PR machine. Unfortunately, the vast majority of consumers and business are not willing to make their decisions based on sustainability. Yes there needs to be more education to help them make the right decisions but until they feel the urgency, I fear we will continue to move at this speed.

Laura Sapelly

I believe the ONLY way that companies can get their true 'green' story out is by using marketing/PR writers who will...

dare I say it? have the passion and integrity to help "tell their clients' stories" to the public.

Yes, I agree that most PR/marketing/advertising lacks any real substance...

but I for one am committed to a hybrid business of not only being a journalist and spreading the word about sustainable building projects but also promoting those businesses in any way I can..it's the only way a green business can expand its audience and influence.

Green businesses deserve the same exposure as the rest, and getting your name, product, project, whatever...out in the world is the way to do it.

Dr. Al

I agree with the assessment of all of the subterfuge, but part of the problem lies within the current market structure that only rewards huge mega-conglomerates for baby steps towards going "Green" while quality products, such as seen at, http://www.physicslablh.com/futureDesign.htm simply don't get the publicity or funding they deserve on pure merit.

Lisa Toller

Joel, thanks for pointing out that organizations can either "walk the talk" or "stumble the mumble" when it comes to green practices. NewLevel Group believes that sustainability initiatives fall flat unless embedded deep into the company culture. Sure, the supply chain might be green, or an organization might support environmental causes, but if employees drive gas-guzzling vehicles to work every day, fail to turn off the lights (at home and at the office), and print every email, it isn't green from the inside out.

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