We’re Moving! Come Join Us At Our New Blog…

November 21, 2009 by

The GoGreen Conference is growing—in addition to our annual October conference in Portland, we’re headed up to spread the green gospel in Seattle as well (Save the date! April 21, 2010). So we’ve moved to another blog domain that’s more geographically inclusive. Join us at the GoGreen Conference Blog for all the latest conference and green news, Green Line Series interviews with sustainable all-stars and inspiration for pushing your business to the next level of green.

See you there—and thanks for reading!


The Green Line Series: NY Times Writer Andrew Revkin

November 13, 2009 by

We were stoked to hear New York Times writer + Dot Earth blogger, Andrew Revkin, speak last night at Portland State University. Andrew gave a compelling talk on what’s happening with climate change, the controversies in the science behind it, ways governments are handling the situation and how news outlets have covered what he calls a “slow drip” phenomenon over the last century.

He was also kind enough to answer a question we’ve been working to answer through the GoGreen Conference: How do we, as citizens and business owners, make a difference at ground zero while our governments and scientists are figuring everything out? Here’s his response.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Green Line: Eco-Visionaries Panel

November 11, 2009 by
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Four incredible women joined us at GoGreen 09 in Portland, Oregon and inspired us beyond belief. Sitting in the session with Darcy Winslow (DSW Collective), Sarah Severn (Nike), Sheri Flies (Costco) and Joyce LaValle (Interface Americas), we knew we had to share it with you. Here are four of the most dynamic change agents on the sustainability front—sharing their incredible collective experience and ideas for the future. Enjoy!

The Highlight Reel 2: Takeaways From GoGreen ’09

October 29, 2009 by

The whole GoGreen Conference was so amazing, it’s been hard to pick our favorite moments, but we’ve put together a few more for you. See below for highlights from the incredible Writing Your Sustainability Plan session (with KEEN’s James Curleigh, Stoel Rives’ Mark Morford and Clark Brockman from SERA Architects), the Electric Vehicles session and pictures from the day!

Writing Your Sustainability Plan

James Curleigh, Mark Morford and Clark Brockman really put on a show for the attendees of this session. Coming from very different industries (retail, the law and architecture), they shared their models for success with a sustainability plan. A common thread between the three is that they each took risks with bold programs.

SERA discontinued paying for employee parking. Instead they offered 2 extra days off a year for all employees and a free monthly bus pass to those who were willing to change their commuting habits. Stoel Rives simply removed all trash cans from their employee spaces in order to encourage recycling. KEEN stumbled into refurbishing used materials such as rice bags and scrap aluminum for its products.

The sticking impression is that a sustainability plan is going to be different for everyone—it’s important to remember that a thoughtful review of your companies goals, strategies and tactics should be undertaken to get the ball rolling and reviewed as times and your business change.

SERA Architects had a great mantra for forming their operations model: Can the earth replace what we take? Are the choices we make fair and equitable? Can what we make be absorbed back into Earth? Are our actions respecting the earth and all living things?

Electric Vehicles Session

Oregon has a pretty awesome opportunity to be a worldwide leader in battery technology and electric vehicles in the coming year. This is due to the windfall score of millions of dollars for several Oregon companies to develop new battery technology + being selected as one of five Nissan test markets for a new line of electric vehicles and 2500 charging stations.

We were honored to have four great minds on electric vehicles as speakers at GoGreen 2009. David Patterson (Mitsubishi America), Mark Brady (Business Oregon), Charlie Allcock (PGE) and Jeff Cogen (Multnomah County) lead an insightful discussion on where we are, where we need to be (from a resources use/impact versus planet health point-of-view) and how to get there.

Some key points from our incredibly knowledgeable speakers:

  • We have met the average customer’s needs. The early adopter is already there. Now we have to convince the masses and make it easy for them to drive electric vehicles.
  • We have the vehicles. We need to build battery technology that will allow drivers to go farther and charge faster. We also need the infrastructure that will facilitate mass use of this technology—i.e. charging stations, battery repair shops, etc.
  • The only way electronic vehicles will be successful, is if we make a dollar. It has to be a sustainable BUSINESS.
  • Big Opportunity lies in hardware and infrastructure for electric vehicles. Oregon can take advantage of switch to battery from fossil fuel.

GoGreen Photo Album

We had a great time with everyone and hope you learned a lot, got seriously inspired and took the knowledge you gained out into our community! Click here to see our Photo Gallery.

The Highlight Reel: James Curleigh at GoGreen ’09

October 29, 2009 by

We were thrilled to see a video from the “Writing Your Sustainability Plan” session up on KEEN’s blog the other day. KEEN CEO James Curleigh joined Clark Brockman of Sera Architects and Mark Morford of Stoel Rives to discuss the crucial elements to include when integrating sustainability into your overall business model. We’ve got select video footage coming from the 2009 Go Green Conference in Portland, but here is your sneak peek courtesy of KEEN. Thanks guys!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Highlight Reel: GoGreen ’09

October 29, 2009 by

Wow! Was GoGreen ’09 an incredible day or what? We’re so lucky to have such an engaging, passionate business community in Portland—and one that is keen on being green as well. The GoGreen Team would like to extend a great big “THANK YOU” to all of our speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and our attendees! Each and every one of you played a crucial role is creating a success-filled day of learning at The Gerding last week. We are so inspired by all of you!

Some new, exciting things happened at GoGreen ’09 and we’d like to share a few of our favorite moments and takeaways from the day over the next week. If you weren’t able to make it, we’re confident that these nuggets of green goodness will inspire you to look into the vast local network of resources available to businesses who want to become more sustainable.

Eco-Visionary Session

This year we gathered four of the most influential and inspiring women working the front lines of corporate responsibility and sustainability. Darcy Winslow (DSW Collective), Sheri Flies (Costco), Sarah Severn (Nike) and Joyce LaValle (Interface, Inc.) showed us the bigger picture—that sustainability includes social responsibility. They all gave great insights to the philosophic argument for a sustainable global economy and a few extra goodies, including a book list!

  • Sheri Flies’ crucial statement on the right to access: “We need major shifts beyond our niche. Green needs mainstream. Everyone should have access to green products.”
  • Darcy Winslow reminded us that there isn’t one lever we can pull to affect massive change—it’s about building systemic change with individual actions and welcoming the challenges that come with such an extensive undertaking.
  • Joyce LaValle noted that eliminating waste in your production cycle is an important, cost-effective and efficient place to start, but that collaboration and partnerships with others are the key to integrating sustainability into your on-going business development.
  • Sarah Severn challenged us to look at sustainability as a component of being socially responsible and to, “stay true to [our] highest intention,” by avoiding easy outs + political games.

Books That Will Change Your Worldview

All four of our eco-visionaries agreed that access to the right information can change the course of history. They strongly recommended the following:

The Twitter Brigade

Not only did we explore the power of social media via a special panel with local experts on the subject, but we also put social media’s reach to work. A group of 60 Twitter users spread the green gospel throughout the day and inspired our tens of thousands of collective followers to start living and working more sustainably!

Here is a sampling of the incredibly effective way our attendees shared their experience with others.

Picture 2Picture 3Picture 10Picture 11Picture 12

Picture 14Picture 17

If you aren’t already following us on Twitter and Facebook, we’d love to have you join us! We’ll be continuing to spread news, insights and information on local, regional and global sustainability topics and events—AND we’re gearing up for GoGreen Seattle in April 2010!


The GoGreen Conference is only as good as what our attendees get out of it. So what were your takeaways? We’d love to know! Send us a link to your blog or post your thoughts in the comments. We’ll be following up with more highlights over the next week, but in the meantime, check out what one of our attendees and one of our speakers had to say about their experiences at GoGreen ’09!

Melanie Adamson

Darcy Winslow/DSW Collective

The Green Line Series: Making The Investment With Dan Weldon (Umpqua Bank)

October 4, 2009 by

09speaker_DanWeldonMaking your business a sustainable enterprise can be a daunting and seemingly impossible financial task. The bottom line often gets in the way of “the green line” despite our best intentions. Lucky for us, we’ve got a banking wiz here to help us crunch numbers, weigh the options and find financing for green investments. Umpqua Bank’s Dan Weldon, eco-banking manager, breaks it down for us—from federal and state incentives, to Umpqua’s Green Street lending program and where to get started saving green.

GG: Going Green can be seemingly expensive. Tell us about the benefits/incentives of spending more upfront for eco-friendly systems, construction, etc., what unique incentives Umpqua provides and why you encourage businesses to consider this option.
DW: With all investment, there are multiple approaches to cost and benefit: Short term vs. long term, prospective vs. actual, opportunity vs. risk.

It is true that often times “going green” can be more expensive than continuing with the current process and approach. Leading edge technology solutions often cost more than long established products. When comparing these two scenarios, what we should see is that the more forward leaning, higher efficiency improvements have an incremental benefit to the existing systems and equipment. The various state and federal incentives seek to bring efficiency investment more in line with simple maintenance. Often times, owners are looking for a very short simple repayment of the added investment ranging from 2-3 years.

A longer term perspective would recognize that the investment in energy efficiency acts as an annuity in future years as the owners continue to receive the improved cash flow from increased energy efficiency. Depending on the life of the equipment purchased, that annuity stream may extend far beyond the owner’s typical investment horizon.

Investment also acts as a hedge to rising energy costs. As energy costs continue to increase as a result of population growth fueled demand, early investment into efficiency translates into greater gains in cash flow.

Finally, early investment also serves as a hedge against governmental regulations which may seek to encourage energy efficiency and discourage excessive energy consumption. The current discussion of a Carbon Tax or establishment of a Cap and Trade system for Carbon emissions can result in either cost or income for company, based upon their decision to invest early in efficiency or to wait.

Umpqua Bank seeks to support and encourage energy efficiency investment through offering beneficial loan structures and pricing.

GG: What are the most effective places to start replacing outdated, inefficient systems with eco-friendly ones? Are the cost-savings as significant as the energy savings?
DW: Solar Oregon has a great model for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects; Reduce energy use, and then invest in renewable energy. The first and best place to focus is energy / resource conservation. Efficiency almost always outperforms expansion. At the point where we have become as efficient as we can be, we then look to invest in growth. Cost and energy savings go hand in hand. From a best practices perspective, companies who look closely at their operations first, identifying areas to reduce overhead or waste, are able to then optimize their investment in growth knowing that the investment will yield optimal returns.

So where do we look first? From a very practical standpoint, when sustainability is viewed as a value statement within an organization, it is truly amazing what saving can be had through the enthusiasm and behavioral changes of company associates. The energy provided by a few key associates can yield significant returns for little to no capital investment. Look to your people first.

Next, look for low hanging fruit … lighting fixtures have become much more efficient over recent years. Outdoor lighting, common area and grounds lighting, as well as task lighting all represent opportunities to significantly decrease the energy we use. Simple items such as motion detectors, day-lighting initiatives, and helping employees change habitual behaviors can all translate into savings.

GG: What kind of programs do you have in place to help offset those upfront costs and provide for customers wishing to take a sustainable route for running their home/business?
DW: Umpqua Bank’s GreenStreet loan program removes the fee barrier to energy efficiency investment. Our GreenStreet loans have no upfront fees, no 3rd party fees, and no pre-payment penalty.

Our larger commercial banking targeted eco-loans all have lower interest rates than our standard programs, reduced loans fees, and recognize the timing of the various incentive payments and tax credits available. We seek to structure the loan terms to work in concert with the various sources of cash flow available to service the loan request.

GG: What kind of partnerships does Umpqua Bank have in place to help customers with financing for sustainable initiatives/programs?
DW: Umpqua Bank has been very proactive in reaching out to organizations like the BEST business center, City government, Energy Trust, energy efficiency trade contractors; private and non-profit organizations and we continue to expand our networks within all of our Umpqua Bank communities.
Our collaboration with Energy Trust of Oregon was one of the first in the nation to offer both small business owners and consumers low cost financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

GG: You recently wrote a blog post about the incredible opportunity Greensburg, Kansas discovered to rebuild sustainably, when faced with a tragic natural disaster. What lessons can business-owners take from that experience?
DW: Business owners can look at the current economic climate as an opportunity to re-build their companies in the most efficient ways possible. This economy has prompted many organizations to lay off workers, reduce expenses, and streamline processes. We all have the opportunity to take what we have learned and are learning each and every day, and to apply those best practices to our businesses as they grow. The days of irrational exuberance are gone. Waste is now viewed as waste. We need to be smart in our investments, diligent with our management of scarce resources, and open to looking at new and better ways to serve our customers.

GG: Why is it so important to make these investments now?
DW: There is an African proverb, also attributed to Lao Tsu, which says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is now.”
In addition, incentives are subject to change at any time. By acting now, businesses and consumers can garner Local, State and Federal incentives which significantly reduce the cost to act now. Technology will advance and costs may come down over time. There is no guarantee that the economics will improve, but it is guaranteed that there is a cost for waiting.

GG: Anything else you’d like to tell our readers about?
DW: Oregon leads the nation in its support of sustainability initiatives. As exemplified by the Clean Energy Works program through the City of Portland, Portland Development Commission and Energy Trust, we have shown that we are willing to step out in new ways to help Oregonians reduce their energy use. The Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit, Renewable Energy Tax Credit ( for consumers ), Energy Trust incentives, and the various programs available to both financially encourage energy conservation, and to educate consumers and business owners on how to identify areas of improvement are all valuable resources for everyone to consider.

I believe the next step in this process will be to better understand the potential in collaborations between private enterprise and public institutions. We need to continue to focus on fostering vital and robust communication among the various stakeholders and resources within our communities.

Dan Weldon is the vice-president/eco-banking manager at Umpqua Bank. He’s also a speaker the GoGreen ‘09 Conference, October 7th, 2009 in Portland, Oregon. To hear more from Weldon and our other 40+ eco-visionary speakers on embedding your business with a sustainable commitment , register today at www.gogreenpdx.com/registration. Tickets are $175 per person or $150 per person for groups of two or more.

For more information about Umpqua Bank, please visit: http://www.greenstreetloan.com/

To get the latest Go Green ‘09 news, green news and innovative ideas join us on Facebook (Go Green Conference) + Twitter (@gogreenpdx)!

The Green Line Series: Creating Partnerships With Colin Sears (Portland Development Commission)

September 29, 2009 by

colinsearsIt’s takes two ba-bay-ee-ee. Well actually, according to Colin Sears from the Portland Development Commission (PDC), it takes three or seven or twelve. In our interview, Colin shared with the Green Line Series the importance of partnerships in building successful sustainable ventures and how the PDC can help facilitate your next sustainable project–whether it’s creating a low-emission technology for one of your manufacturing processes or bringing to life an event space for sustainable ventures.

GG: How is the Portland Development Commission driving change for Portland businesses on the sustainability front?
CS: We’re doing primarily doing two things. We mostly focused on five key industry sectors: Wind and Solar energy, Green Development, Energy Efficiency, Electric Energy and Battery Storage. And at the same time, we’re focused on providing technical assistance for companies who want to become more sustainable through their practices, and we do that through the Zero Waste Alliance. It’s called the Green Gain Program. We offer a matching grant to companies looking to green their practices—and they don’t necessarily have to be within those five sectors.

GG: Tell us more about the Green Gain Program.
CS: The Green Gain Program offers technical assistance up to $15,000 for companies that want green their businesses. For example, Rejuvenation wanted to reduce the use of chemicals in some of their manufacturing processes. They went through that program and developed a zero emissions system for some of those manufacturing processes. That’s one way to do the program—it can be anything, but it’s usually more complex things.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has the Best Business Center, which helps businesses plan things like composting and recycling and other low hanging fruit. Then we have more complex problems like zero waste programs, where they need technical assistance like scientists, etc. We’re not the experts at PDC, but we can connect them with people who are.

GG: Are there any other programs or initiatives that PDC uses to help businesses become more sustainable?
CS: We’re doing our cluster work, with the five clusters I mentioned, but we’re also doing some work with advanced manufacturing companies such as the active wear industry. With the active wear industry there is a project that focuses heavily on sustainable materials in a way that brings industries together. With our sustainable industry clusters I mentioned, we’ve been convening some of the clusters.

One that’s convened itself is the PDX Lounge Partners and they’ve formed themselves into a new association called A VOIS For Oregon. We’ve worked with them as a partner since the convened and we’re contributing to what they call a VOIS Box over at the West Bank Project. We contributed to a grant to help them turn that into a convening and event space that sustainable businesses can use.

We’ve also been working with the electric vehicle cluster and some of the technologies that have been coming in externally and are moving here. We’ve been helping them set up strategic initiatives and go after federal funding to help that cluster build and grow.

GG: Are those funds a part of the Recovery Act Funding?
CS: Yes, we’re going after some of that funding as well as working on some grants coming out of the Department of Energy that would be industry-wide rather than for specific businesses. The really big thing though, is that we have business finance programs that we offer companies to primarily fund things like improvements. Those are available within our Urban Renewal Areas. We also have some citywide capital available for businesses provided they meet certain criteria. We do emphasize our five main sustainable industry clusters, but other industries aren’t precluded from applying.

GG: We’ve been hearing that partnerships are crucial in this environment. What are your thoughts on that?
CS: Everything we do is based on partnerships, with the private sector primarily, but also with the University system. Oregon BEST has become an important partner as well, along with others. Like I said, everything we do involves partners—we’re all driving this bus together. We can’t operate in a vacuum; we have to work together to get things done. But the fact that we are in a place where there is so much going on and where there are lots of folks to collaborate with is great.

GG: Does working in partnership help drive success in realizing sustainable projects and initiatives?
CS: I think it does. I think a good example of that is the Oregon Sustainability Center, which is in the feasibility stages. That’s a project where a large number of parties are involved—the Oregon University System, the Governor’s Office, the Mayor’s Office, City Hall—this is a multi-bureau, multi-agency, non-profit, private sector, public agency project. It’s a pretty amazing project. If we pull that off, it’s going to be the only large-scale Living Building in existence in the world that we know of.

Colin Sears is a speaker the GoGreen ‘09 Conference, October 7th, 2009 in Portland, Oregon. To hear more from Sears and our other 40+ eco-visionary speakers on embedding your business with a sustainable commitment , register today at www.gogreenpdx.com/registration. Tickets are $175 per person or $150 per person for groups of two or more.

For more information about Portland Development Commission, please visit: http://www.pdc.us/

To get the latest Go Green ‘09 news, green news and innovative ideas join us on Facebook (Go Green Conference) + Twitter (@gogreenpdx)!

GoGreen Conference Top 10

September 23, 2009 by

TOP 10 REASONS to ATTEND GoGreen ’09

  • Spend the day with over 600 Portland business owners who care about the environment and sustainability as much as you do! Network and get to know your peers—form relationships that can help your companies grow
  • Learn from 40+ Sustainable Business Leaders that will rock your green world. Our line-up includes Keen’s James Curleigh, Nissan’s Mark Perry, gDiapers’ Jason Graham-Nye, Celilo Group Media’s Nik Blosser and many more!
  • Choose from 10 different sessions addressing the most important aspects and challenges of taking your company down a sustainable path. From writing sustainability plans to using social media to your advantage and how to secure grants and funding for green projects – walk away with actionable next steps to green your business
  • Lunch + Learn with Sustainable Industry Leaders via roundtable discussions while you feast on organic fare from Artemis Foods. Have in-depth conversations with experts in the Top 10 Sustainable Growth Sectors featuring: Wave, wind and solar energy, smart grid, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, water, agriculture and food.
  • Steve Clark/Publisher of the Portland Tribune will announce the 2009 Green Giant Awards at GoGreen ’09, given to local business owners and citizens who have gone above and beyond the norm in sustainability practices over the past year
  • Mayor Sam Adams will receive the Blue Sky Visionary Award since he is credited with leading the Portland Street Car system to 100 percent clean-energy use through the Pacific Power Blue Sky Program . This avoids 480 tons of CO2 emissions annually, saves 1,025,400 driven miles, and equates to the planting of 94,280 trees!
  • NEW! The 2009 Eco-Visionaries panel session will knock your organic, sustainably produced socks off! We’ve got the best in the biz including: Darcy Winslow (21-Year Nike veteran + world-renowned sustainability consultant), Sheri Flies (COSTCO), Joyce LaValle (Interface, Inc.) and Sarah Severn (sustainability guru at Nike)
  • Learn how to tell your sustainability story authentically—and avoid dreaded “Green Washing”—from improvisational artists Gary Hirsch (On Your Feet) and Scott Davis (From the Rooftops)
  • Join the GoGreen Conference Tweet Team for coffee at the Gerding Cafe and connect with your fellow sustainability-focused Twitter users before the conference starts!
  • We will be graphically recording GoGreen ’09 in addition to posting video of the sessions post-conference on the GoGreen HUB to help keep these valuable ideas and success stories fresh in your mind

GoGreen ’08 sold out! Make sure to reserve your spot today.
GoGreen ’09 – cultivating sustainable business
One Day Conference
Wednesday, October 7th

For Tickets + Registration


The Green Line Series: Serving Up Sustainable Social Media With Kettle Food’s Michelle Peterman Hunt

September 20, 2009 by

09speaker_MichelleHuntKettle Brand Foods produces all-natural and tasty potato chips–but they’ve also built an impressive array of sustainable components into their business model. Now they’re delving into social media to share the details of their story on the consumer’s turf. Vice-President of Marketing, Michelle Peterman Hunt shares her take on social media and how to use it to engage consumers where the conversation is already taking place. She reminds us that social media is not a silver or a green bullet, but that it can boost traditional communication in ways we’ve never seen before.

GG: Can you give us a brief overview of how a company can use social media to engage and grow a tribe?
MPH: Social media is one component of how to grow a tribe. The primary vehicle we use at Kettle Brand Potato Chips are the chips themselves. It’s the wonderful flavors that people experience through our chips that ultimately grow the biggest tribe. Beyond that, social media is an area where we’re just starting to dip our toes in the water. We know our tribe is already out there on Facebook and on Twitter, because we’ve been watching and listening to them for a while. We know that it’s really important to have a two-way conversation with them and to be where the conversation is already happening.

Mainly, in the last couple of years, we’ve relied mostly on traditional marketing tactics: The chips in the bag, the bag design, traditional PR. That’s a conversation generated from us to the consumer. The transition for us is to be where that conversation is already taking place. That requires a build up of tools to be able to do that in a good way. I always challenge my team to do whatever we do in the marketplace very, very well.

GG: How can social media be used to spread the word about green programs and initiatives?
MPH: At Kettle Foods, we do a lot of little things that aren’t necessarily worth writing a press release about. For example, we have a wetlands at our Salem, OR facility where we’re always watching the return of the birds every year. It’s not something we would write a press release about or on the back of the bag, but social media gives us a forum to say that. Now, we’ve also mentioned the birds at the wetlands on our website, but that requires the consumer to find us. Being engaged in social media allows us to join the conversation where it’s taking place and bring our story there.

GG: Do you think social media has the capability to boost the bottom line?
MPH: The bottom line isn’t driving our commitment to social media. It’s about relationships with our customers. The degree to which we can increase engagement with our brand, ultimately can have an impact if people buy more chips because of it. But that’s not the calculation we go through to drive initiatives with social media. If you’re talking about the “green line”—from an environmental standpoint—then I think that if the work that Kettle Foods does inspires people to minimize their impact, then that’s a bonus.

GG: Can you tell us about a few of the green initiatives you have going on at Kettle Foods?
MPH: The way I frame our sustainability commitment is less about initiatives and more about the way we run our business. Specifically, a potato plant we built in Wisconsin in 2006 was the first Gold LEED certified food-manufacturing facility in the nation. That’s more than just an initiative. That’s sustainability baked right into the product—literally.

Similarly, the way we power our potato chip plants is increasingly sustainable. We have solar panels built onto the roof in Salem. When it was built, it was the largest solar array in the Pacific Northwest. We have wind turbines on one of our facilities. We offset all of our electrical purchases with wind credits. We recycle all of our waste chip oil to bio-diesel. It’s built right into the business and these are practices we would do regardless of whether we talk about it. We have a very high threshold for what we will choose to announce and that’s press-worthy. Sustainability is built into this work and we certainly don’t want to be accused of green washing. That’s the last thing we want to see happen, because this is a commitment to the way we run our business—it’s not initiative lead.

GG: Other than treating “green” as business as usual, how do you rise above green washing by others in the industry?
MPH: Authenticity is what you should focus on. Authenticity is paramount to our brand and it should be to any brand. It’s at the root of everything that we do. Authenticity, if you do it right, comes through in any marketing program that you do, social media or otherwise. What that means—speaking back to the standard that we hold for ourselves—is that we want to talk about things from the standpoint of investing in the marketplace first, as opposed to overloading our fan base with every single thing that we do.

Social media is a form where you can introduce some of the smaller things that you’re doing. Such as, “Kettle Foods just learned how to improve our waste water impact by 5 percent!” There might be people out there who want to know that. It’s not something we would tell national press about, because that would smack of green washing. But for the dedicated fan base who are interested in hearing about that, social media is a fantastic forum to discuss things along these lines.

GG: Does that provide an amount of leverage against the competition?
MPH: Kettle isn’t about “going green”—it’s about doing business in a sustainable way. From my standpoint, corporate sustainability needs to be part of core business principles, not just a marketing initiative. We go up against the competition by making fantastic, tasty and all-natural potato chips. That’s how we compete in the marketplace. We wouldn’t bring our sustainability story as a tactic to compete, necessarily. We would also never go out and say, we’re doing something better than someone else. We cut our own path. We do this work because it’s the way we run our business. If people want to make comparisons, that’s for them to do, but that’s not the way we run our program.

GG: How would you advise a business to engage consumers in social media?
MPH: Well, we’re still learning. We hope that in the future we’ll be able to share some of the things that we’ve been able to do and use it as a platform for people to think about a new way of communicating—not only their core business composition, but also communicating their environmental impact. I should also note here that Kettle Brand isn’t necessarily an advocacy brand. Sustainability is a part of our overall philosophy and core principles, in addition to great taste and being all-natural. Again, it’s not initiative lead. In engaging people through social media, it’s been our experience—and it’s a limited experience—that this has been a transition between traditional marketing and this new space, and we’re trying to do it really well. I would say the success that we’ve had is connected to the product that we make.

Specifically, we had a social media campaign on Facebook when we launched a product in 2008 called Death Valley Chipotle. Just to give you a little background, Death Valley Chipotle was selected as the brand to launch for Kettle Foods in 2008 as a result of our People’s Choice Campaign. The People’s Choice Campaign is a traditional online campaign. People had to come to our website and select a flavor from a list of five that we were thinking about and Kettle Foods went on to make the winner.

With the Death Valley Chipotle launch last year, we also had a Facebook application where people there could download a thermometer. We had a contest through Facebook, where once the temperature in Death Valley National Park reached 120 degrees, people could enter a sweepstakes to win chips for an entire year. What that required was going to that Facebook application everyday to see if the temperature had reached 120 degrees. We had approximately 15,000 people download that application. That event was also a fundraiser for the Death Valley National Park’s Death Valley ROCKS program, and we raised $5,000 for them in two weeks.

Death Valley Chipotle then went on to be released in the more traditional manner—with a press release, etc. What social media added was a buzz factor. The benefit of that is having a conversation directly with your consumer base. We didn’t need to wait or go through the traditional media channels—where you have to appeal to an editor and a writer and they have to decide to write about it. Going to the consumer directly has an advantage in that it’s very efficient from a time standpoint and a cost standpoint. The challenge in that is to come up with something creative enough to capture the mind share that’s available. There’s a lot of competition for eyeballs and for time. Your program has to be something that is really compelling.

Michelle Peterman Hunt is a speaker the GoGreen ‘09 Conference, October 7th, 2009 in Portland, Oregon. To hear more from Peterman Hunt and our other 40+ eco-visionary speakers on embedding your business with a sustainable commitment , register today at www.gogreenpdx.com/registration. Tickets are $175 per person or $150 per person for groups of two or more.

For more information about Kettle Brand Foods, please visit: http://www.kettlefoods.com/

To get the latest Go Green ‘09 news, green news and innovative ideas join us on Facebook (Go Green Conference) + Twitter (@gogreenpdx)!