Cheat Sheet from Sustainable Brands ’09


Sustainable Brands ’09 was a whirlwind of inspiring talks and mellow wine tastings in historic Monterey, Calif.  From May 31 until June 4, presentations from Fortune 500 companies, best-selling authors, top university professors and consulting firms offered an eclectic mix of tips and sustainable strategies.  The green forecast?  Peek into my notebook scribbles below and get the insider’s lowdown on the new buzzwords and trends you’ve got to know about.

How to Reach the General Public

-It’s all about the love, people.  According to Dacher Keltner, PhD, Executive Director at the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, “We are wired for good.  Sympathy is our strongest instinct.”  To up the love among attendees, the SB ’09 gift bag included Boom Boom! Cards – a social revolution game that encourages acts of kindness.  Complete an act and pass it along, changing the world one step at a time. 

-The Brits have one-upped us.  Simple messages are most effective.  Written on the wash tags of select clothing in the U.K. is this straightforward tip: “Think Climate: Wash at 30 degrees C.”  Oh, what quiet geniusness.

-To be successfully sustainable, first channel empathy.  Second, seek creativity.  Only then are you ready to execute.

-Talk about what people are passionate about.  For example, carbon emissions are too hard for people to understand in connection with their daily lives.  In the words of Diane MacEachern, Founder & CEO of Big Green Purse, “Serve up the dessert and sneak some broccoli on the plate.”

Use Your Culture As a Brand

-It is critical to inspire your employees.  Pick a cause closely aligned to your goals – authenticity matters and is critical.

-Some great examples include:

  • Sun Chips – chips made in their California factories are powered by solar energy; by 2010, the chip bags will be fully compostable (see their consumer-friendly videos below – I enjoyed them, but fully realize that a few production facilities in California are just a drop in the solar bucket…)
  • Patagonia – Footprint Chronicles let you track the path of your favorite outdoor consumer goods.
  • Seventh Generation – take a look at their Corporate Consciousness Report. 
  • Toms – I’m sure everyone has seen their “buy a pair of shoes and a pair will be donated to a child in need.”  But the video is so awesome that I’m including the link again.

Random Takeaways

-Take pride in the sunny state of California!  This gem was brought up quite a bit – “As goes California, so goes the nation.”

-If you live in California, embrace your civic duty and visit the California Green Chemistry Initiative, where Wikis and discussions on environmental policies and regulation are updated frequently and allow you to have a voice.

Biomimicry – there’s a lot we can learn from nature.  We just need to sit up, pay attention and realize that humans don’t have the answer to everything.

-Though I’m not necessarily in the market for insanely expensive eco-couture, Linda Loudermilk showcased pieces dyed with mud and made from seaweed.  Definitely innovative!

-I WANT a home from Living Homes in Santa Monica, Calif.  Seriously, I can’t imagine a more eco-friendly or chic abode.  I’m going to sign up for a house tour stat!

So want to propel your business and brand forward in the tough economy while maintaining your sustainability and earth-preservation principles?  Sustainability solutions are people-oriented, relevant, cost-effective and credible.  And, at least for the time being, lay low on the science jargon.


  1. vintagerocks says:

    Great notes! I feel like I was there 🙂
    If only more companies/individuals were doing just the basic stuff…..

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