Archive for September, 2010

7 simple secrets to “Switch” to green


Change does not come easily to us, as a species. We are hard-wired to prefer the status quo, to drag our feet or over-analyze to the point of paralysis when changes are proposed. Fortunately, a new book addresses this in an engaging and enlightening manner: “Switch: how to change things when change is hard,” by Dan and Chip Heath. (Get the book here.) I’ve pulled out seven secrets from this book to help you to design a smooth transition to a greener business.

1. Use a metaphor to understand the three parts to effective change. Using vivid examples, the authors illustrate the story of the rider and the elephant. The rider is our rational brain; the elephant is our emotions. Both are actively functioning in us; the trick is to engage them each in ways they understand.

• The rider – avoid analysis paralysis by providing specific instructions and direction
• The elephant – give people an emotional hook to instill hope and motivation
• The path – change the circumstances or environment, such as by using social pressure

2. Direct the rider. Find, study, and replicate the “bright spots.” Look around and notice who is having success, how are they doing it, and get others to do that too. We tend to focus on what’s wrong or what’s broken and how do we fix it. Bright spots shift our focus instead to what’s working right now and how can we do more of it. That’s tremendously motivating for the elephant.

Ask these Bright Spot questions:

• What is working?
• How can we do more of that?

3. Script the critical moves. It’s not enough to ask your team to “be more green” or “waste less.” If you are leading a change effort, you need to remove the ambiguity from your vision of change. Ladder your way down from a change idea to a specific action.

4. Point to the destination. There is no way to orchestrate an entire change process from Day 1 to the desired result. Instead, send your team a “destination postcard” that vividly describes the end-goal and appeals to them emotionally. Then, script the critical moves to get them started off on the right foot. This helps the rider to translate aspirations into actions. If you have the beginning and the end well-defined, the middle part will evolve organically.

5. Go after behavior. Everyone who is trying to effect change sets goals. The more successful change transformations set behavioral goals. For instance, project teams will meet once a week and each team will include at least one representative of every functional area.

6. Behavior first, then mindset shift. Contrary to popular belief, knowledge does NOT change behavior. You have to practice the new behavior, to act your way into a new way of thinking. Knowing is NOT ENOUGH. Also, be aware that some information is “TBU”: True, But Useless.

7. Find the small tweaks. We think of big, systemic change as having to be long and arduous. Counter-intuitively, small adjustments can work miracles, as anyone who has ever tinkered with their golf swing can attest. This book has example after example to illustrate that big problems are NOT best solved with big, systemic solutions. They are often solved with many small solutions, unrolled over time.

Reading “Switch” has crystallized much of my recent thinking into a powerful framework for change. Let me know when you try out some of these strategies, what the results are for you. I’d love to hear your story.

The Weekly Green: Juice for the Journey #15

photo by: Julie

Week 15

Everything we love can be saved. ~ Alice Walker

I like to play with how I read this. The obvious way: that there is hope for everything we love. Another way: that our love is a kind of superpower that allows us to save anything. By approaching a problem with love, we step into a stream of grace that makes anything possible. This week, try approaching a problem with love and see what happens.

More: Watch Alice Walker on balance and the earth.

Read the Weekly Green from Week 14 here.

We always love to hear from you! How juicy is this quote for you?

The Weekly Green: Juice for the Journey #14

WaterShed, University of Maryland 2011 Solar Decathlon entry

Week 14

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. ~ Albert Einstein

How can we avoid adding to the confusion that is our modern world? On one hand, we think we have to work within the system in order to change it. On the other, we see examples of people who have gone outside the system and started over. What if both are the answer? As long as we approach it with equal measures of acceptance and challenge, we have a chance to effect change.

More: Solar Decathlon is a good example of this. Boundless creativity within the bounds of a tightly-defined competition. http://www.solardecathlon.gov/

Read the Weekly Green from Week 13 here.

We always love to hear from you! How juicy is this quote for you?

The Weekly Green: Juice for the Journey #13

photo by: Julie

Week 13

I am here to be seen. We see you. ~ traditional African greeting

What a tremendous act of trust to step up and be seen – really seen. And what a beautiful act of love to acknowledge someone so elegantly. I love the exchange between the individual and the group here, too. The vulnerability of being one, the gift and power of being part of a larger whole. What can you do to acknowledge others in this way?

More: Watch Wangaari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, telling a story to answer, “what can we do?”
Watch a 3-minute PBS video about her work.

Read the Weekly Green from Week 12 here.

We always love to hear from you! How juicy is this quote for you?

How low can you go?

Businesses that set ambitious goals to reduce their carbon footprint also increase their profitability. How is that possible?

It’s simple. Reduced carbon emissions result from using less energy, the production of which in the U.S. puts tons of CO2 and other so-called greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year. Greenhouse gases have been shown to accumulate in the atmosphere, causing climate change, also called global warming. By paying attention to more efficient use of energy, a business squeezes out waste while reducing its contribution to the release of CO2 gas. Whenever a company reduces waste, it saves money and enhances profits.

Here are two compelling examples provided by Hunter Lovins, of Natural Capitalism Solutions.

Dupont set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions 65% below its 1990 levels by 2010. They made this announcement in the name of increasing shareholder value. The company met their goal early, and are now over 80% below their 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Between 2000 and 2005, the waste-cutting saved them $3 billion. Andrew Winston, the author of “Green to Gold,” points out that between 2005 and 2007, Dupont’s annual savings from squeezing out waste was $2.2 billion a year. That was the same, those years, as their profitability. Here’s a company that’s profitable because it’s cutting emissions.

In another example, Swiss microchip maker ST Micro-electronics, set a goal of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 while increasing production 40-fold. At the time they made this announcement, they had no idea how to meet this goal. During the 1990s, its energy efficiency projects averaged a two-year payback (a nearly 71% after-tax rate of return). Making and delivering on this promise drove innovation and increased their market share. In 2004, the company moved from the number 12 micro-chip maker to number six. By the time ST meets its commitment of net-zero emissions, it estimates that it will have saved almost a billion dollars.

Sure, these examples from large corporations are impressive, but what about small business? A June 2006 article in Business Week by Byron Kennard, “Global Warming on Main Street,” is rather dire, noting that small businesses are especially vulnerable to climate disasters, including flooding and droughts. And yet, “There’s been virtually no research on what global warming means to small business, even though 23 million U.S. small businesses constitute one-half of the economy.”

It’s in the best interest of a small business owner, then, to lower its carbon emissions. Simple energy efficiency measures, such as installing programmable thermostats, upgrading lighting, turning off computers when not in use, and using water-saving faucets, can easily allow small businesses to save at least 30% on their energy bills.

Taking it up a notch, setting a really audacious goal of being carbon neutral by, say, 2015 is a great challenge that could inspire great innovation and engagement. A goal like that invites everyone in the company to contribute creative ideas. People who know they are helping a greater cause are naturally more involved and committed to success. Who knows? Maybe some businesses would even tie profit-sharing to reduced carbon emissions, to acknowledge the profitability of eliminating waste.

Even if you are skeptical about the causes or consequences of climate change, what’s not to like? Saving money from reduced waste and an engaged workforce innovating to solve problems goes directly to the bottom line.

If you need help mapping out a plan to save energy in your business, call on us! We have tips and training on how to reduce energy use around the office. Two articles to get you started:

Shift Your Mindset from Hell to Heaven Three steps to lowering carbon emissions.

Blueprint for a Green Business Start by benchmarking your carbon footprint and/or ecological footprint.

[Note: Information in paragraphs 5 and 6 of this article are from the paper, “The Business Case for Climate Protection,” by Hunter Lovins, available on the Natural Capitalism Solutions website. Paragraph 4 is from an interview of Hunter Lovins by David Riordan on Integral Life.]


The Weekly Green: Juice for the Journey #12

photo by: Amy Gardner

Week 12

I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. ~ Thomas Edison, 1931

Every generation has its sages and seers. Imagine what our world would be like if Edison had stuck around for another 20 or 30 years. In the last 70 years, we have made some progress towards harnessing the sun’s energy. If you were Edison today, where would you put your money?

More: Learn about the University Park Solar Co-op, the first of its kind in the U.S. These pioneers are paving the way for distributed energy that builds community and generates income.

Read the Weekly Green from Week 11 here.

We always love to hear from you! How juicy is this quote for you?