Saturday, February 28, 2009

Faceless, but not spineless plastic people

Organizations such as the Progressive Bag Alliance/Progressive Bag Affiliates, American Chemistry Council or the Society Plastics Industry aren’t very visible, but their impact is plainly evident. It’s usually in the best interest of lobbyists or unsavory think tanks to fly under the radar. When they do appear, they spare no expense on PR. Where's the money coming from? Here's where: Advance Polybag, Inc., The Dow Chemical Company, ExxonMobil Corporation, Hilex Poly Co., LLC. (See also:, NOVA Chemicals, Inc., Superbag Corporation, Total Petrochemicals USA, Inc.
City after city has failed to impose a tax, deterrent or ban on plastic bags. Colorado as a state just totally failed. It's unlikely that the national small business association snubbed the regulations, but surely the plastic lobbyists are hard at work protecting their interests. Better Bags Colorado: these good guys are hard at work too and the truly progressive ones. The ban on plastic bags will inevitably happen one day and this will all seem so silly. Looking back, there once was a time where plastic bags were considered as toys. What is it about a plastic bag that makes it a progressive bag? Seriously, no matter how you frame it, plastic and progressive are two very different and non-interchangeable words.
China’s ban on plastic bags will save the country 37 million barrels of crude oil per year. This is an incredible feat that China enacted ahead of the first world, but it wouldn’t have been possible had it not been promulgated by a centralized totalitarian government. Well actually, Ireland, Rwanda and Bangladesh also made it happen. San Francisco, CA too, of course. Verdantic recognizes that the Chinese government does have its flaws, e.g., human rights or censorship. Sure China has many environmental issues that it still needs to address, but Verdantic is impressed with China when it wants to be progressive, i.e., the one-child policy. No other government could’ve pulled that off.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where in the world do people love Wal-Mart?

Today, Verdantic visited a Wal-Mart in XiaMen, China. Fortunately, it's 80 degrees and sunny in Southern China. Unfortunately, the pollution is more evident than ever when it's hot and muggy. As for the economic climate here, the current stimulus package in China jump-started its stock markets this week. By offering vouchers to millions of rural citizens to buy TVs and household appliances, the market reacted positively. On my visit to Wal-Mart, I stood at the precipice of the great environmental nightmare: China's rising middle class. Now equipped with purchasing power, they are quickly changing their consumption habits to mirror the American way of life. Although Wal-Mart is way over priced here, they deliver the American dream with authenticity intact. Seeing the outdated SUV trend that has captured the hearts and envy of the Chinese population and an IKEA selling shitty disposable furniture in DaLian yesterday was not encouraging either. Typically, doing business abroad requires the utmost sensitivity to local customs and culture, but in a market that seeks the American system of comfort and status symbols, the more wasteful and extravagant the better. Unlike India and China, who will see a 5% and 6% growth in GDP this year, Americans will see our failed model manifested in two emerging economies from the sidelines. What we're about to see is two economies—representing a third of the world’s population—being built on the reliance of consumerism and materialism. That is worrisome.

Columbia U, the beautiful

It's a great feeling when stepping foot onto Columbia's campus. When there; I'm miles away from work, home, friends and the center of the universe. Altogether, it looks great. I truly appreciate the hard work of the landscape engineers around campus. Part of the holiday hangover might include ditching a Christmas tree out on the sidewalk or consolidating credit cards. In the picture above, the engineers are cutting down lights that were tightly wound around tree branches. One guy would cut the lights' wires, another guy would rake the wire and bulb scraps into piles, and then another guy would throw the piles into the dump truck. A sight to sore you eyes; however, when the lights are lit, they are quite a mesmerizing sight to see. LED light bulbs would be great way to save energy if they were not intended to be trashed.
The holidays bring merriment and joy and Verdantic is not about to suggest otherwise. Verdantic will ignore this along with all of the other ills committed by Columbia, such as unfriendly community outreaches in Manhattanville. Spring tuition is due in a couple of weeks so when searching for value in Columbia, we can look beyond the oval office for a Columbia product at work. Columbia also hosts a global classroom that brings together more than a dozen campuses around the world for weekly discussions on food production, energy systems and global ethics that underscore the communality of our world's challenges.
Go Lions!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gift cards don't go to heaven

I was gifted a $200 gift card from Circuit City when I graduated from undergrad in 2001. What once seemed like a despairing recession no longer seems so bad by today's standards. At the time, I couldn't eat the gift card and I couldn't use it to pay off my PG&E energy bill--that reached an obscene four digit figure because of Enron.
One way or another, it's 2009 and I still have money on the gift card. Circuit City's liquidation sale is far from impressive nor cheap--at least not now. I used my money to buy a printer/scanner/copier and a stock of ink cartridges. This turned out to be a very thoughtful gift and purchase that will enhance my school and professional work. Gift cards are a great gift idea: it's discreet, as opposed to being tacky and giving cash; obligates the giftee to spend at a store; easy to ship and transport; and it's easy to wrap a gift card.
Unlike my Circuit City gift card that had a shelf life of 8 years, gift cards are made of plastic and aren't re-used or recycled. Much like water bottles and plastic bags, gift cards are starting to be scrutinized by treehuggers everywhere. It is more environmentally responsible than buying and wrapping a gag gift, but gift cards create an extraneous step in the gifting process that ends with another piece of unbiodegradable waste per gift. With more scrutiny, perhaps for Christmas 2009 a brand will have a potato-based gift card. That would be impressive.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Analytics on Google's buses

Verdantic will get off of the topic of Google after this post. Promise. In India, Google has a traveling internet bus that will tour through 19 cities from February until mid March. The bus is equipped with interactive learning stations that will help them learn about the internet and how to use it. They should probably warn the third-world citizens of the addictive properties of the internet. Forgive me for raising skepticism on Google, but this kind of self-serving way of promoting digital literacy. It smells a bit like an old school Coca-Cola strategy of investing in a developing country's road infrastructure so that distribution trucks can penetrate new markets. The internet bus is pretty cool, but not as much as Google's Apps bus last year that traveled to colleges in ten US cities. The Apps bus is way better because it runs on bio-diesel and provides 7kW of renewable energy.
An eco-friendly bus bodes well for Google in Northern California, but probably not as much in India. For what it is worth, Verdantic certainly appreciates it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The brand ID of Primobol

Less about A-rod and more about shady pharmaceutical companies. A-Rod took primobol, a steroid that gives you greater power and speed without the bulk. That sounds great to me. Probably sounded great to A-Rod too but as it turns out, he didn't know what he was taking.
It would be interesting to find out that a major pharma corporation like Pfizer or Perdue developed and distributed primobol. Unfortunately, there isn't much information about it. And since 2003, the last--supposed--time A-Rod took steroids, it is hard to tell who was the leader in the steroid-producing industry. Top athletes can turn to better resources--like Canseco--than this, but the most reputable steroid manufacturer on the blogosphere is BD, that's British Dragon. In the past and present, Verdantic has been entrusted by clients to advise on branding and logo treatments, but never as dire as this. This is just terrifying. This would be scary to see on the cover of a comic book and even scarier to see on something that will be injected into your body.

Turn-off of the grid

Not to blatantly promote socialism or Keynesian ideals, but it is great to see our government investing in our infrastructure, rather than paying corporations to run civic services, such as schools, prisons and public transit. It won't be easy nor cheap to pull off the new grid for renewable energy and our government won't be able to do it without the help of corporations. But, this $100 billion price tag makes much more sense--utilitarian sense, that is--than a financial services bailout.
Growing the green economy and introduction of using renewable energy requires a better system. Just how bad is our current grid that it can't handle the power from the wind-producing states from the west? Just how much wind power are we talking about if the long term goal is to use 20% of our electricity from renewable energy by 2024? Must be a lot, but if that goal is not reached, the grid could be used to transmit coal-burning energy.
In addition to building the grid, the energy has to come from wind-farms that still need to be built. Which corporations will benefit from these investments? Who are the thought leaders? Google? GE? Verdantic is a San Franciscan living in New York and has never been inland past Vail, Colorado. So when it comes to the Midwest or Great Plains, Verdantic has no idea of who these players are but they are, apparently, the thought leaders on the forefront of our renewable energy grid: Midwest Independent System Operator, SERC Reliability Region, PJM Interconnection LLC, the Southwest Power Pool, the Mid-Continent Area Power Pool and the Tennessee Valley Authority. So there's one dot gov in there but most of them sport an innocuous dot org suffix.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Google: PowerMeter. And then see for yourself

Google's software, Google PowerMeter, is still being tested, but will soon be available to provide us each with detailed information on our energy usage. It is based on the iGoogle platform, where users create a customized page with widgets Web-based applications. We should all be very curious as to what my energy or electricity usage looks like at home--even when we're not at home.
While the PowerMeter is designed to show a granular, real-time view of electricity-consuming devices, Google says that it will not share information with utility companies. Since this is Google, it could be a serious invasion to our privacy given everything else that they already know about us. Although giving them a list of appliances shouldn't be a big surprised since I Googled them prior to my purchases.
PowerMeter will teach us a lot about our energy consumption habits and its carbon emissions and impact on the environment. It can shape our lifestyles to be more energy efficient and automate appliances for us. And of course, saves money too. Sold. But President Barack Obama's stimulus plan does account for puting 40 million smart meters in U.S. homes and investing in the green economy. We don't need to be skeptical about Google since they swore off being evil in their motto. Plus, if this is coming from, it can't be thaaat evil.

Say yes! Say it!

Western Union will be launching a new global campaign that will be centered around human interest stories around the world. These stories are based on some of Western Union's most important clients: migrant workers that send money to their families in their home countries. According to Western Union's EVP and CMO, the campaign is titled, "Yes!" for those who have chosen to say, "yes" to their dreams. The campaign will feature a microsite that launches on February 23rd,, that contains images and compelling stories of these migrant workers. Through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, users can vote for their favorite stories.
Western Union states that its target audience is migrant workers. All brands want an online presence, but how will an online strategy reach a migrant worker? Migrant workers travel from some of the world's poorest countries to work in the richest. Will he or she have the time and resources to visit the microsite and vote? Do they have Facebook or MySpace profiles? How will they access other migrant workers stories so that they may be inspired? I don't see how this campaign connects Western Union with their target, but these positive stories may inspire the digitally literate and shareholders to say, "yes!" to Western Union. Without a doubt, the battered American workforce could use some heartfelt stories of diligence and fortitude.
This post may seem to lack verdant content and to have strayed from Verdantic's mission statement. It is a good thought and these poignant human interest stories can unite the world. Western Union might be primarily concerned with global human services, but its business operations can be good for the environment.
This might be a stretch... Instead of sending jobs overseas and shipping products and services back from overseas, Western Union enables migrant workers to work on location to support their families back home. Verdantic supports Western Union because--let's not forget--using Western Union to wire money will have a lower environmental cost than shipping a cashier's check via
FedEx® International Next Flight.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Verdantic milestone

Verdantic celebrated its launch a couple of days ago, February 7, 2009. Although "verdantic" is an inorganic/made-up word, this blog has climbed its way to the top Google search result for the query: verdantic. There's no need for anyone to point out the obvious. Google bought and Google thinks the searcher meant "verdant" instead. Alas; Ask, Yahoo!, Altavista and Dogpile did not yield any results. Not expressing sour grapes, but those are, in fact, inferior search engines. Nonetheless, we'll give them some time to catch on.

Carbon rampage: 12,000 calories per diem

Fellow-blogger (dis)engaged raised a very interesting point about Michael Phelps' diet in a comment to my recent post: So he took a bong rip? I don't see how that would help him win anything. Of course, given his diet I can not imagine his munchies.
By the way, Verdantic awards Conan O'Brien with the funniest comment about Phelps' bong debacle. “A tabloid published a picture of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps at a party taking a huge hit from a bong. I think there’s an important lesson to be learned here: Kids, never share your pot with someone who has the lung capacity of a dolphin.”
Damn funny. Okay, back to what (dis)engaged pointed out, and as we may remember from last year, Phelps' daily diet is at a staggering figure of 12,000 calories. Yes he trains hard to be the greatest Olympian athlete, but judging from the junk that he eats, (dis)engaged's imagination about Phelps' munchies may not be far from the truth.
* * * *
BREAKFAST: Three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. Two cups of coffee. One five-egg omelet. One bowl of grits. Three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar. Three chocolate-chip pancakes.
One pound of enriched pasta. Two large ham and cheese sandwiches with mayo on white bread. Energy drinks packing 1,000 calories.
One pound of pasta. An entire pizza. More energy drinks.
* * * *
That's a whole lot of food that could possibly even sustain a reasonably-sized person for a week.
By now, you may be wondering why Verdantic is so obsessed over Phelps and marijuana. Just so you know, Verdantic was once a junior Olympic-hopeful in swimming and played 4 years of water polo in high school. But Phelps' actions raises a serious environmental issue that's near and dear to the heart of Verdantic. And while Phelps' diet does not necessarily consist of lamb or beef; his insatiable appetite for ham, dairy and 8+eggs that he consumes is a threat to our water, topsoil, rain forests and global climate. Aside from the livestock; transportation, non-local produce and processed foods also add to his carbon usage. Not a problem and nor is he being judged: Verdantic is happy for Phelps, his diet, achievements, bong and carbon rampage.


Fashion week is upon us in NYC. More so than usual, the city is mottled with models at every corner. So far, Verdantic has openly admitted lamb and red meat consumption, and now, I reveal that clothing purchases do not always include recycled or secondhand clothes. Nor is Verdantic a credible resource on fashion. Also, for the record, Verdantic does not knit or sew any of its own clothing.
It is safe to assume that fashion trends and consumerism will subside in this recession. But let's steer clear of high fashion's spring collections and onto less glamorous designs such as Howies. Disposable fashion can not be the way forward. Fashion trends and design entailments aside, to stand the test of time, fashion must be designed and constructed with the intent of lasting for decades. A UK clothing company, Howies, manufactures its clothing and accessories with organic tweed and organic ventile that is water repellent and uses less yarn to produce. They also use heavy waxed canvas, die-cut leather, and rust-proof aluminum zips and hardware. Sure a jacket may cost 400 British pounds, which is an absurd amount, but I am touched by their label, which features fields where name and dates can be written by the coat's owners. Chic or unchic, Howies are made to last and it encourages secondhand clothes and hand-me-downs.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Organic: Marijauna or Steroids?

This week, two leaders in their respective sports fell from glory. Michael Phelps for a bong rip photo taken last year and Alex Rodriguez testing positive for steroids in 2003. Which millionaire can we condone and which to we hang? Verdantic says let Phelps keep his million dollar sponsors and thwart A-Rod from the record books along with Canseco, Clemens, McGwire and Palmeiro. Above all, as far as Verdantic is concerned, Phelps is all-natural and A-rod is an inorganic compound.
Phelps is not a cheater. He shouldn't have to publicly apologize to his million facebook fans. In fact, if he wasn't such a teenage heart throb, image and role-modelness wouldn't matter nearly as much. But since he is, he's worth millions in sponsorships to the tween market. Doubters like Kellogg's who rescinded their contracts will be back in 2012.
A-Rod cheated baseball and baseball fans. He also cheated on his wife. Let him keep his $28M annual salary and if the Yankees can squeeze a public apology out of him, that could actually help his image and reputation.
P.S.: I'm currently blogging live from Boston, where marijuana has recently been decriminalized and A-rod is detested.

The Greenest of Superbowl 2009

During Superbowl this year, I was a contender of a 3-team chili cookoff in Brooklyn, where my team, The New Presidents, won with our all-organic chili, The Lamb of God. I won't apologize about our braised grass-fed New Zealand lamb shanks--it is simply the best that's available. Some may argue that since New Zealand farms can raise lamb more efficiently, it is greener than buying local. When all was said and done, the 24 judges awarded us with a sweep in all three categories: originality, taste and presentation.
Moving onto the Superbowl, it was the most watched television program in history with 151.6 million viewers. It happens to be the second highest day of food consumption in the US behind Thanksgiving. $55 million is spent on food and most of it is eaten within the first 15 minutes of the game. Our organic chili, The Lamb of God, required a $151 Whole Foods run. Over then course of the day, I drank at least 24 beers. To my credit, I did ride my bicycle out to Brooklyn but I had to take a cab home. So much for being green.
I was so busy celebrating our chili's victory that I didn't watch the game or any of its ads. My guess is that Superbowl is not the perfect moment for green messaging. First, a million dollar commercial spot is not the best time to share your company's budget with a green cause. And second, judging by the aperture moment and the audience, who really cares? According to the Nielsen IAG ad ratings, the top ads included Budweiser, Dorritos, Pepsi and What else can you expect? From the ones I saw online, they were quite funny. As expected, there were plenty of car ads from many car makers, but none for hybrids or fuel efficient cars.
The greenest ad, which hardly makes the cut, comes from GE. In this ad, a scarecrow sings and dances around a powerplant touting GE's smart grid technology. Not bad and certainly better than my carbon intensive experience on Superbowl Sunday.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Launch & Author's Foreword

Verdantic, it is. Believe it or not, it took me hours of inner deliberation and brainstorming to come up with this name. I actually wouldn't be too surprised if it changes again. To capture the concept of the blog, the name had to include something about being green. And since I work in a PR agency, I am irrevocably predisposed to puns and wordplays. Honorable mentions include Ecosexual, Verdancity (veracity of verdancy), Id and the Super Eco, Rosco Eco Train, Chagreen, El Greengo and The Socio-Ecopath.
To set the premise of this blog, I hope to share my observations and insight on issues regarding the green economy, sustainability and the environment when it comes to corporate communications and product innovations. Whether we heeded Al Gore's prophecy or began buying organic produce, green marketing has changed consumption habits by reaching nearly every industry and consumer good imaginable. Green marketing has given businesses an edge in revenue and corporate image; however, it is ugly when it is abused. To me frankly, it is simply unforgiveable--or until they redeem themselves somehow or until it is no longer convenient for me to hold this grudge.
As our attention shifts towards the recession, unwittingly we are greener by consuming less. On the other hand, business strategies can not rely on green marketing to woo consumers. The topic has plenty of fodder for banter. As a native San Franciscan, I feel that it is part of my culture and heritage to care. I am hopeful that Verdantic will help me and others shape our beliefs, attitudes and behavior to improve the way we live on our planet.