Archive for May, 2010

21 days without complaint or criticism: is it possible?

Photo by: Julie

Note: when this ran in my recent newsletter, I received more comments from readers than any other article! Today, I was inspired to post it here and invite you to post your experiences — if you take up the 21-day challenge. Can’t wait to hear from you! (Not subscribed yet to the newsletter? Don’t miss an issue! Put your name and email in the spaces under the red box that says, “Gabrielli’s Green Business.”)

I have embarked on something I must admit – I did NOT want to do this. Of course, I am absolutely convinced it’s just what I need right now. But when I really thought about it, I had no idea how I could possibly last the 21 days. I imagined myself having to start over, not just every day, but several TIMES a day. And, well, to be honest with you – so far, I have started over three times.

What is this quest, you may be wondering?

Inspired by Edwene Gaines‘ brilliant book, “Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity,” one of the laws is clear goal-setting. We’ve all studied and practiced this, right? Well, she has a twist. It’s a preparatory practice. Ready for it? Go 21 days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. 21 days. If you slip, simply forgive yourself and start over. For another 21 days. As she says, you have to be really careful what you say on Day 20!!

As I contemplated doing this, I literally could not imagine how I could last 21 whole days. What would I say? I played back a recent interaction w/ my son, where I both complained AND criticized him for losing not one but both pairs of scissors from the kitchen drawer. (Mind you – I’m not complaining NOW, just telling a story!! Really. . . Doesn’t count, right?)

Who says worthwhile things are easy? Not only did I resolve to do it, I also told my son about my quest and enrolled him as my “minder.” His job is to tell me if I slip up, so I can start over the 21 days. He seems to appreciate the challenge. (He also reminded me that it’s only me doing this – he doesn’t have to!)

So, what does this have to do with green business?

People in the environmental community, myself included, can sometimes dwell too much on the negative. There is, we perceive, much going wrong with the planet’s health. Climate change (aka “Global Weirding”), destruction of the rainforest, massive oil spills, species extinctions. Whew! Just writing that list was exhausting!

While it can be motivating to keep in mind these and other consequences of a mindless, wasteful way of doing business, a more common response is simply to shut down. It all becomes overwhelming and seems hopeless.

Since we tend to get more of what we focus on, let’s try a new approach: one that emphasizes creativity and innovation. Seeing opportunities, rather than limitations. Shifting perspective from fixing what’s broken to asking, what do we really want here?

So far, a couple of weeks into my 21-day challenge, the benefits are already clear. Since complaining and criticism are off the table, I can meet each experience with appreciation and acceptance as the default. This feels very expansive and liberating, as if a whole part of my brain finally gets to have its say (having been drowned out before).

Imagine how the green / sustainability movement would be if we all decided not to complain or criticize. If we focused only on appreciation and clarity about what we want, rather than what we don’t want.

I think it was Mother Teresa who said, “I won’t go to an anti-war march. But, if you hold a peace march, please invite me.”

I am enjoying this so much that I may just extend it indefinitely. With such a light heart, why would I go back to the old ways of anxiety and worry? Try it! I’d love to hear your stories.

Baltimore takes its place as an urban farming mecca

Photo by: Hamilton Crop Circle
Food security. Sustainable agriculture. Slow food. Healthy, locally-sourced food. Whatever it’s called, Baltimore is quickly taking the lead nationwide in the movement towards local, sustainable food.

This May, city leaders appointed a new Food Czar, Holly Freishtat, to improve demand for and access to healthy foods throughout the city. For a few years now, the City Schools Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Tony Geraci, has been busy reshaping the entire food-delivery system of the BCPS. There are at least eleven farmer’s markets throughout the week in Baltimore, numerous CSA’s to choose from, and places like the Mill Valley General Store, which offers only Maryland-sourced food products, both fresh and small-batch prepared. The Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future promotes “Meatless Monday” on its website.

New job-creating and educational ventures have started up to focus on healthy, local food. For example, there’s the Hamilton Crop CircleReal Food Farm in Clifton Park, and Great Kids Farm in Catonsville, to name just three.

What’s going on here? As a long-time advocate of and participant in the green movement, this reporter has observed that food is an excellent entry-point for so many people. We all have to eat, right? On a personal level, as well as from a business standpoint, food is hot!

Continue reading . . . .

Green is your strategic partner in business

Graphic by: Comparison International

I am a believer in the power of learning by example. I’ve discovered over the years that many businesses and organizations have similar challenges in going green, even though their core missions may be quite different. Take a look at a few recent conversations I’ve had with clients and peers. These illustrate some common themes.

Our company has had impressive results from several targeted “green” projects. Now, we have about 10 people really engaged and feeling successful. Our challenge now? How do we engage more of the smart, dedicated folks who work here?

I feel like I’ve wasted so much time – a year – building the case for green with our leadership, using both logic and emotional appeals. There’s so much potential, I just can’t figure out how to unleash it.

Greening is our organization’s highest priority, because it ties in to everything else: business expansion, office and studio space, travel, outreach and community programs. What do we have to do to make green a seamless part of our culture?

We want to be a world-class company, a leader in sustainability. Our core business – energy efficiency – certainly qualifies, but we want to go further and really look at our operations, our community engagement, and our employee policies.

Does your business have something in common with these folks? Are you:

  • A mission-driven enterprise that cares about people and the earth, as well as your bottom line?
  • Taking some actions to be a better steward of natural resources?
  • Convinced of – maybe already taking advantage of – the tremendous cost savings of reducing waste?
  • Aware of the great branding opportunities of aligning with the green movement?
  • Serving people who care about the environment?

Maybe, along with these folks, you are also wondering. . . .

  • How to save time and get right to what really matters to your organization;
  • How to engage more green champions from within to increase the great ideas for even more cost savings or revenue-generation; and
  • How to take your greening to the next level – to really unleash the sleeping green dragon in your business!

Let’s be honest here. Isn’t it frustrating to see the potential, but not know how to get there most effectively and efficiently?

Don’t we all just want to. . . .

  • Walk our talk;
  • Lead by example;
  • Reduce costs, save time and money;
  • Increase our revenue;
  • Attract loyal customers and employees; and
  • Do well by doing good?

Believe it or not, there is good news. Imagine what it would be like to:

  • Get a quick and clear overview of the drivers and strategies that can unlock the bottom-line benefits of green for your company.
  • Align around a common language to greatly improve communication both internally and externally.
  • Benchmark your internal culture so the actions you are taking are in service of a big-picture strategy.

Doesn’t that sound good? The work we do with our clients helps them to go quickly from frustrated to inspired, from confused to focused. And it all boils down to two simple practices. Yes, two. Ready for it?

  1. Slash waste.
  2. Create something new.

That’s it. Okay, if I put it in business language, you’ll probably recognize the two top things-that-keep-business-owners-up-at-night:

  1. Cut costs.
  2. Increase revenue.

The only difference between the first list and the second list is mindset. Sure, you can go about cutting costs in your business in any number of ways. And, you can play around with increasing revenue using the tried and true methods. My message today is to think of going green as an ally in your business, as a strategic partner that can help you reach levels of productivity, customer loyalty, efficiency, and innovation that you never imagined.

Stay tuned for some case studies and other tips.