Tag Archives: Sustainability

Podcast on Green Teams

We had a jam-packed radio show on Green Teams this Wednesday.

If last week was all about the external aspects of greening an organizations -buildings and facilities management– this week was all about how health care organizations build green teams. The best practices, and the learning moments.

  • Colleen Cusick of Johns Hopkins Health System talked about the sub-groups in the team that take leadership in many sectors of a health care system.
  • Joan Plisko talked about the corporate culture that drives behavior, and the need to have everybody on the same page.

Here is a link to the podcast:

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 29, 2010 in Best Practices, radio, Social Media


Tags: , ,

Industrial design could send a message

How could a building or  structural feature send a stronger message about what you stand for than other design elements –web site, brochures, annual reports– you put out on a regular basis?

Not everyone could build a spectacular ‘shrine’ like Apple has, in Manhattan.

At ASU, the Global Institute of Sustainability takes a more pragmatic approach, with wind turbines on the roof generating power, even while solar panels are being installed in other parts of the campuses so as to take care of 20 percent of the total energy.

And speaking of wind power, this story out of London, of designers creating a column of light using wind power is more than a fancy energy project. It demos the capacity of creativity that could be unleashed within the urban planing when you let energy send a message.

jason-brugesIn this ‘tower of power’ as it is being called, there are 120 LED’s being powered by a “gentle” wind. Nothing fancy in the set up. A laptop is the only piece of technology behind it, apart from these 1,200 tiny fans. The designer, Jason Bruges Studio, calls it a wind-light.

Maybe someday outdoor signs will be lit this way.

So that, beyond growing lettuce (watch this video!) on the vertical face of a billboard, as McDonald’s did in this very daring/cool design, existing structures could send a passive message, with some “gentle” asistance from the sun, water and wind.


Tags: , , , , ,

Creative visualizing of data

We just had a group at the Decision Theater inquiring how our visualizations, which are being linked to data sets, could be used in a Creative way. Creative with the capital C, that is.

So I am thrilled to promote a cool new interface launched today yesterday at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

It’s called the Campus Metabolism project. Specifically, a web-based tool (a richer experience than Dashboard) for displaying real-time energy use in several buildings across the Tempe campus.

For anyone managing gobs of data and has a hard time getting it to mean something, this is cutting edge. What’s most interesting is that the Campus Metabolism concept was created as a student project – A bottom-up process, if you will. Also, this is the kind of data that makes people feel a real connection to how we relate to the network, the grid, the eco-system. It was initiated with the purpose of looking at “the hidden connection between the impact of the actions in our daily lives and the natural world.”

Sidebar: The folks behind it:
Campus Metabolism brings out the collaborative force behind the work going at at the Global Institute of Sustainability. This one nvolved: ASU Facilities Management, The National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations, University Student Initiatives, Barrett Honors College, University Architects Office, College of Design, Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, Psychology, the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and APS Energy Services.

Read more about the project here.


Tags: , ,

Arizona PR practitioner ‘leases’ the sun

Fellow IABC member and PR professional, Len Gutman, is one of the first people in the Valley of the Sun  to install solar panels on his roof. It’s an interesting tale of a PR practitioner getting involved in a word-of-mouth campaign with a sustainability edge to it.

SolarCity, the company with whom the Gutman family signed up, had suggested they hold a ‘solar party’ to tell friends and neighbors about the decision. “We thought that was a great idea and so we held one a few weeks ago and more than 50 people showed up,” says Len.

Sort of like a Tupperware party for the planet.

The investment was hard to beat – zero down!  Basically the panels are leased –the Gutman’s monthly lease payment practically offsets the cost they save on their electric bill.

And here’s the kicker. So far, seven of those who attended the party have also signed with SolarCity and the hosts will get a referral fee. Is this great PR for SolarCity, or what?

What happens when the 15-year lease is up? “We have several options – we can have them removed at no cost, we can re-lease them for five more years, we can upgrade to new technology and start a new lease, or we can buy them for the residual value,” says Len. “Just like leasing a car!”


Tags: , , , ,

Big picture thinking, why is it so hard?

I was at a meeting yesterday morning where the discussion soon turned to how easy it is to look at a report or a set of charts and come to a ‘small picture’ conclusion.

We create models –the mathematical, 2D and 3D kind– here at the Decision Theater for clients that project out 20 or 30 years. But even as ‘big’ as this is in the big picture scheme of things, people easily run off with slices of this information just because it suits their agenda or world view. Water scarcity, a big picture scenario, doesn’t look so bad if you make certain small picture assumptions.

To come at this from a completely different angle,  Al Ries put it bluntly saying “No computer is as smart as a human being with a holistic point of view.” Ries, a marketing expert, was talking about “holism” and applying the need for holistic marketing thinking.

He asks why mathematicians and scientists “who developed the art and science of risk management” built models that could “comb through complicated mortgage portfolios to analyze everything,” and still been so off the mark. (A number that involves 7 and 11 zeroes, to wit!)

The answer, of course, is that they looked at risk up close, but not from a holistic, interconnected perspective.

The same goes for water, transportation, education, health. I like to tell people when presenting big picture concepts in the Drum, that even though we put things into nice buckets, we need to pay attention to the connections. Education planning involves transportation and urban growth –where would teachers live, how far will students travel, how many buses need to be in the school system?

Yes we do zoom in, move slider bars, tweak demand and supply. But we make sure people don’t undervalue the need to zoom out.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 3, 2008 in Best Practices, Social Media


Tags: , ,

Tipping points, “drill baby drill,” and journalism

At the Sustainability Summit today, outside of the lofty discussions around  tipping points (are we there yet?), coalitions (enough tossing bombs at each other), and sustainability was the need for leadership.

As I speculated yesterday, there was an open call for those in the media to drive this train. To up the ante in a different way –explaining to consumers what the policy alternatives mean to them. To bring some clarity. Ah! Media leadership. Not exactly out of the ambit of an industry previously accused of ‘agenda setting.’

A telling quote from the session about the message we need to spread:

“Drill, baby drill” should include “change, baby change!”


Tags: ,

Arizona’s water asset not promoted

Unlike rivers and dams, aquifers are not something we think about. After all, they are a few hundred feet below. But in Arizona, these constitute our back-up plans in the advent of a drought. They are also the intangible benefits of a desert state.

Unfortunately Arizona doesn’t market its water advantage enough. Water is framed as a crisis, rather than an asset because it’s the damn easiest thing to do. The media don’t help either, focusing on the problem not the solution.

This month WIRED magazine has an extensive feature called “Peak Water” by Matthew Power, covering the US, England and Australia. It leads with water management strategies in Arizona –Chandler in particular. “Thanks to this so-called recharge, the local aquifer is actually rising a few feet a year.” he says, illustrating it with a program between one of Intel‘s fabrication plants (Fab 32) which uses 2 million gallons of water a day, and pumps back 1.5 million gallons a day into an aquifer six miles down the road.

Peak Water is a topic close to me, by virtue of where I work -at the Decision Theater. Among other ways of addressing issues through visualization, we have a sophisticated supply and demand model of water called WaterSim. We are also right next to DCDC which plans for these precious resources. I mean assets.

To some the aquifer is either half empty. To others the aquifer is half full.

In Arizona, what story do we like to tell?

1 Comment

Posted by on April 23, 2008 in Communications, Public Relations


Tags: , , , , ,