a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for July, 2007

Note to Self

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

“Stop thinking this is all there is…Realize that for every ongoing war and religious outrage and environmental devastation, there are a thousand counterbalancing acts of staggering generosity and humanity and art and beauty happening all over the world, right now, on a breathtaking scale…Resist the temptation to drown in fatalism, to shake your head and sigh and just throw in the karmic towel…Realize that this is the perfect moment to change the energy of the world, to step right up and crank your personal volume; right when it all seems dark and bitter and offensive and acrimonious and conflicted…there’s your opening. Remember magic. And, finally, believe you are part of a groundswell, a resistance, a seemingly small but actually very, very large impending karmic overhaul, a great shift, the beginning of something important and potent and unstoppable.” –Mark Morford

Tigers and Goats and The Change

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

by Jerry Stifelman, Carrboro, NC

The challenge of marketing/branding sustainability makes me think of an old story that I first heard through Joseph Campbell…

A tiger is orphaned and raised by goats.

It learns to act like a goat, bleat like a goat and eat like a goat.

One day an adult tiger attacks the goats and, of course, spares the tiger.

The adult tiger is quite put off with another tiger displaying all this goat behavior.

He takes the young tiger to his cave and forces him to eat what a tiger needs to eat – -meat — which the young tiger wants nothing to do with.

Next, he takes the young tiger to a pond to show him his reflection.

Finally, he after much struggling and holding down of food, he manages to teach the young tiger to recognize the tiger within himself.

Campbell describes this as a story about enlightenment and as a metaphor for discovering your authentic nature.

We are all tigers living in this world as goats. We must evolve to recognize our tiger natures.

But once you recognize our tiger faces, then what next? How the hell do we go on living among these &*^!! goats?

Campbell’s answer is to “wear the outer garment of the law and the inner garment of the mystic” — yet live with the awareness that all the goats have tigers within them as their true selves.

And in your art, you let them know that they are tigers.

The Green Book – an interview with the authors

Monday, July 16th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I recently read and posted about The Green Book, The Every Day Guide to Saving The Planet, One Simple Step At A Time. Released last month with several celebrity-endorsements and a shout out on Oprah, this book is the Live Earth of Hollywood. Co-authors, Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen dig in with mainstream moxie. Rogers created and produced the eco-friendly MTV show, Trippin and Kostigen currently writes the “Ethics Monitor” column for Dow Jones MarketWatch.

The web site reveals that The Green Book also supports many non-profit environmental organizations, and provides a national resource guide. You can go here to learn more or buy the book – a must-read for every household and business.

The authors took time to answer some of my questions below:

TAO: If this book is a “starting point”, what are the next steps towards
change and how can this book take people in that direction?

TGB: My hope for this book is that it make green user friendly and accessible. That it reach a broad base of people that may not be aware of how easy it can be to start shifting a habit and how little changes can add up to make a big difference. With that sort of momentum this book will take us all in the right direction.

TAO: How and why did you choose the celebrities that are quoted in your book?

TGB: Any time that you can make your message part of pop culture you are bound to get more attention to your content. By adding 12 celebrities to the book it gives someone 13 different ways into the green book and once they are in there are over 400 solutions of simple shifts of habits that they can do on a daily basis.

TAO: Who do you think will read this book?

TGB: The book was written for everyone. It was set up to follow most of us through our lives and show us all how the little things can be shifted. I am a working mother and tried to start with my day and build from there, but with 12 chapters that include: home, entertainment, shopping, school, health & beauty, sports, business & finance, building, travel, work, communication & technology and going carbon neutral there really is something for everybody in this book!

TAO: What role does local and federal government play in helping people make
these changes?

TGB: I think that they play a crucial role. But if we were to wait for them we may find ourselves out of luck most of the time. Hopefully we will see more support coming from our government, but in the meantime it seems that we have to take matters into our own hands and that is why a book like this is so great. It shows people that they can make a difference. That they can start moving through their day making the shifts and making a difference.

The Live Earth Debate – join us!

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Tao vs Sami

Sami says: A few days ago, Tao asked me for my opinion on Live Earth. She was writing a post on the event, and wanted to include some different perspectives. The post came and went, but as I hadn’t seen Live Earth, and was at best a little skeptical, it was difficult to comment. My initial thought was to write something on why I hadn’t bothered watching the show, but Tao was none too impressed by this approach. The resulting email exchange threw up some interesting issues, and we thought we would share an edited version with the world. It went something like this:

TAO: I ended up wholly inspired and impressed with the Live Earth broadcast last night! This COULD have a huge impact, after all! If you get a chance, Sami, could you watch and send me some thoughts for the blog?

SG: I’ll try and sit down and watch some, but I may not get a chance. Here’s my thoughts at this point:

I think it should be judged solely on how successful, or unsuccessful, was it in terms of moving us towards solutions to this massive crisis. Unfortunately, I find that hard to judge as I did not watch any of it. I guess that’s what worries me the most – despite, or perhaps because of, all the hype, I was left totally uninterested in seeing it.

The idea of so many celebrity musicians, only a few of whom I’d choose to watch at any other time, playing yet another ‘concert with a cause’ just seemed a little old fashioned and boring. What next, the climate change ribbon?

TAO: I had my skepticism, too, but realized it was not realistic to make any judgment until I actually saw it. [Ouch! Sami receives a severe blow from TAO’s ever sharp observations] And, what I saw greatly pleased and surprised me. It was not boring and it was not just another concert. They did spots between all performances, interviewing artists about their green habits and what changes they
were making. There were also brilliantly designed graphics detailing conservation tips. Really smart stuff!

SG: I guess I thought it was kind of relevant that the very idea turned me, and a lot of people, off before even seeing it. However well a concert is actually staged, if the audience isn’t inspired to watch, they’ll never know. If a tree falls in the woods…

[At this point Sami grumbles in resignation, if it’s possible to grumble by email, and agrees to watch some of the highlights]

TAO: From a marketing perspective, it is useful to notice why the “hype”
gave that first impression to you, me and some others, but I recognize
that humans – myself included – find it easier to simply go with first
impressions, and being cynical is sometimes sorta fun…..or, we like to
be on a “side” of an issue from the start, rather than do the analytical work.

[One day later…]

SG: Have just sat down and watched some of the show. I must say it looked pretty much like I expected. I’m still not against it, I just can’t really relate to it on any level other than it being a big celebrity ego trip/ hug fest. Madonna singing ‘Hey You’, with some of the most banal lyrics I have heard, somehow it all just seemed so shallow to me. And Boris Becker (??!!!) lecturing me on recycling – the less said about that the better!

I’m glad to hear that it affected you differently, and I really genuinely hope it will prove to wake a bunch of people up. I must admit that the info clips were helpful and interesting, and did transcend empty platitudes. I just also have a fear that the whole thing may help slot climate change in a convenient bubble of ‘just another issue’, rather than it being THE biggest threat to our existence. Didn’t we ‘do climate change’ last year? Spinal Tap was cool though.

TAO: I can’t disagree with your take on the what could be called “hype” at this kind of thing. Was it shallow? In some ways, yes! Was it ego-fueled? You bet. Was it a celebrity/groupie hug fest? Sure…

BUT, I wasn’t looking to be impressed and inspired myself as much as I was looking at it from an ipod/celebrity/Hollywood-obsessed, consumer-driven mainstream perspective and I do believe it was a successful campaign towards that end. Madonna is many things, but I wouldn’t call her or her lyrics shallow. In fact, she’s consistently explored controversial issues outside herself from racism to sexual identity to mysticism through both her music and her own life. And, well, anyone – even Boris Becker, who is willing to go on national television and talk about any green habit gets points in my book.

I don’t agree that this televised event will reduce the importance of this issue. I think it was done in a way that did transcend the green washing vibe that is out there in some mainstream places. And the fact that this was the first event of this sort that was truly and radically global will mark it in history and keep the climate change issue “on the front lines”.

At this point, Tao and Sami decided to agree to (kind of) disagree, post some of the exchange on the blog and invite others to join in the discussion. How do you feel about the Live Earth concert and its ongoing campaign to stop global warming? Let us know!

The Truth is Your Best Tool – The Change Speaks

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC
Jerry, the founder and Creative Director of The Change, is the guy all we Changers look and listen to. From several years of first-hand experience, I can say he is not only the most creative thinker I know, but is [usually] right about [almost] everything. It’s great to be getting his vision and voice out there.

Today, Jerry posted the first in a series of guest posts on green marketing over at TreeHugger. Here’s some of what he had to say:

“As an environmentalist, and as a guy who leads a good-for-the-world branding agency, I suggest that treehugging businesses should become the most kickass marketers on the planet. Brand communication is a critical way to change the equation, and balance it in favor of responsibility over expediency, and in favor of products created with moral consideration as opposed to just cheap goods. Here’s some thoughts on how to do it.”

Jerry always says, “The Truth is your best tool.” And as I’ve mentioned, he’s usually right. Read more about how he manages to kick some ass with his marketing philosophy at Tree or visit

The Environmental Impact of Multiculturalism

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

An Interview with Sami Grover, Sustainability Director for The Change Strategy, with Multilingual Living Magazine: (Reprinted with permission from the July/August issue.)

“Reports about global warming abound in today’s media. Yet, how often do we give thought to the detrimental impact we have on the environment by living our multicultural lives? Did you know that each time you fly in an airplane to visit family abroad you are exponentially increasing what experts term your “carbon footprint?”

To help us understand the impact that our lives as global citizens have on the environment, we turned to the bilingual journalist and environmentalist Sami Grover, editor of the Bilingual Family Newsletter ( correspondent for TreeHugger ( and Director of Sustainability for The Change ( Having grown up bilingual and bicultural and with a lifelong dedication to helping protect our world’s environmental health, Sami
understands the dilemma we face, especially now that he lives in the U.S., an ocean (and airline flight) away from his family.

MLM: Sami, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule for an interview. To get started, what exactly is a “carbonfootprint” and how can we find out what ours is?

Sami: A carbon footprint is essentially a way of measuring the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), and sometimes including other greenhouse gases, that you emit in the course of living your life. It would include emissions from the food you buy, your daily travel patterns, your vacation travel, and heating and lighting your home. Other activities also contribute, but these are probably the most significant. There are plenty of carbon calculators out there that can help you calculate your footprint, and they often include advice on how to reduce your emissions through, for example, different travel choices, or reducing your energy use (Calculators can be found at and

MLM: Why exactly do airplane flights have such an impact on our “carbon footprint?” Doesn’t driving a car each day havea far greater impact?

Sami: There are really two reasons why aviation has such a big impact. Firstly, since it enables people to travel over a huge distance, it encourages people to travel more and further than they would otherwise, burning up a huge amount of fuel in the process. Secondly, the effects of aviation on the climate are much more than just the carbon dioxide emitted. There are also other greenhouse gases, and the contrails that the plane leaves behind can also affect the climate. Some experts estimate that the effects of aviation emissions are as much as 3 times higher than carbon dioxide alone. To give you some idea of the overall impact, one journey from London, Heathrow to Adelaide, Australia is estimated to create as much as the equivalent of 5.3 tons of carbon dioxide per passenger, according to UK company Climate Care.

MLM: Are there ways in which we can minimize the daily contribution to our “carbonfootprint” to help offset the damage of our flights? And what about alternative modes oftransportation – do some cause less of an impact than others?

Sami: Certainly. Changing your light bulbs, eating less meat (meat and dairy are huge emitters of greenhouse gases), riding your bike, walking, carpooling, buying local, driving a smaller car. All of these things can reduce your impact, but, ultimately, international travel is still going to have a huge impact. Unfortunately, this is one of the downsides of multicultural living. Environmental writer George Monbiot coined the term ‘love miles’ to account for those journeys that we are obliged to make for family or loved ones, but which clock up such huge emissions.

Really, there are only a few things you can do to reduce the impact of your love miles. Firstly, try to avoid flying where possible. Trains are a viable alternative for many countries – the Man at Seat 61 is an excellent website for overland travel (, and probably even driving is a preferable alternative to flying, especially if you have the car full with passengers. Overland journeys can be so much more fun too – it’s nice to see where you are going for a change!

Secondly, try to take fewer trips, but make them worth while. Why not visit once a year, but stay twice as long? In the end, quality, not quantity, is probably more important.

Finally, if you must make a journey, carbon offsets are one way to take responsibility for your emissions. You can pay a provider like Terrapass (, or Climate Care ( to fund projects elsewhere that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a similar amount that your flight has created.

MLM: As global citizens raising multilingual and multicultural families, what are
your recommendations on how we can help to keep our world healthy for our children’schildren?

Sami: Talk to your kids. Read. Learn and understand the reasons why the crisis we are facing has come about, and then set about doing something about it. Personal lifestyle choices, like changing bulbs, riding a bike, or reducing your flying are all important but, ultimately, we need action at the government level. So I’d say kick up a fuss! Demand action from governments and companies to both reduce their emissions, and to bring about legislation that taxes unsustainable behavior, and rewards more responsible actions.

I’d also say that it’s important not to get too extreme – nobody likes a nag or a doommonger. The trick is to encourage the kind of radical, and ultimately positive, change that we need if our kids are going to have a future, without scaring (or boring!) people so much that it becomes a turn off. How we do that, I’m not quite sure, but we should have fun trying!

Thank you Sami for this interview! And thank you for your dedication to both multilingual families around the world as well as the world’s environmental health! As the Great Law of the Iroquois states: “In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” You are certainly doing your part!

Multilingual Living magazine is part of the Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network

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Good Search – Share the Google Love

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

We all love Google. Why not? They are not only the best and most techno-savvy search engine out there in cyber-space, but they are green-savvy and really cool employers. They recently gave away bicycles to a few hundred employees for commuting and provide shuttle service for employees in the United States.

Still, it’s time to share the love. There’s a new search engine providing a direct line to socially conscious surfing. Good Search is a search engine which donates 50-percent of its revenue (from advertising) to the charities and schools designated by its users. You pay nothing, the organizations pay nothing and you can switch your donation choice at any time. It’s super-simple to set up and it’s powered by yahoo! so you get proven search results. So far, I’ve found it has kept stride with google in thoroughness and efficiency.

Check this out today and share the google love!

Live Earth – Rock Rolls In World-wide Eco-consciousness

Monday, July 9th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC”

Are you alive?!” yells James Hetfield, lead vocals and guitarist of Heavy Metal band, Metallica, during the Live Earth show at Wembly Staduim in London, England. Of all the sincere, moving and musical statements made by the many performers worldwide yesterday, this one hit me hardest. Metallica – the world’s definitive “Crash” Metal legend heeding the call to Global Warming and challenging their audience to wake up – ? Our time has come.

I had my doubts, but the Live Earth Concert pulled it off – it brought together millions of people to confront, accept, take action and even celebrate an issue threatening every part of the globe – every person, animal, community and ecosystem. And it worked. The broadcast included well-designed and presented conservation tips large to small – from eco-conscious spending, to using less paper napkins to ditching bottled water (they probably even lost some advertisers with that last one).

The brief interviews with performers appeared unstaged and authentic. Dave Matthews was humbly and candidly honest. When commended by his interviewer for switching his touring bus to bio-diesel fuel, he looked down, shook his head slightly and said, “We’re a touring band, we’re still polluters.” The message was clear. We can all make a difference by changing our individual lifestyles, but we have to do more than that – we need to pursue big changes and we need to do it now. Overall, Live Earth makes it all seem possible.

An exclusive download of Metallica’s Live Earth performance is going to be available for a minimal fee immediately after the event finishes. All money raised will benefit four climate charities hand-selected by the band: Sierra Club, The Apollo Alliance, WWF and Rainforest Action Network.

Lars Ulrich of Metallica… “I love my sons. I want them to “inherit the Earth” FOR REAL! We keep waiting for future generations to solve the problems; to invent cleaner technology; to pay the costs…that’s the same as passing the buck. I want the buck to stop here, now. I want lawmakers and laws to impose change. Nothing else will keep this world safe for my sons.”
You can still download the show on and be sure to go to , sign the 7-step pledge and pass it on to friends. For more on

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