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My views on Sustainability Marketing

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Going into this course, I really did not have any expectations, but chose to enrol not because the course was required, but because the topic seemed very interesting to me (I am not even in the marketing option). To my surprise, I have thoroughly enjoyed all the lectures and topics covered throughout the term, and recommend the course to anyone who is interested in sustainability, or looking for alternatives to gain competitive advantages for their business.

Has it changed how you think about how you live your life as a consumer?

Yes, and no. I think this course was designed to target the business, rather than the consumer. As a student post-course, of course I am more sustainably aware and conscious, but I am still on a limited budget. So if given the choice between regular products and green products while shopping, I would probably not be willing to dish out the extra cash for a green product if it is not clearly made known to me the advantages. Ultimately, it comes down to whether the benefits outweigh the costs for consumers. And so this leads me back to what this course is about: how can a business best advertise and educate consumers on the benefits of their sustainable product so that they will be willing to make the switch? One example of a product that was introduced to us during class, the Nest Learning Thermostat, is a good example of a product with transparent and tangible benefits. It is easy and simple for regular consumers to understand the advantages of the thermostat, and moreover it is relatively easy for the company to communicate the benefits of their product. As a consumer, it makes a lot of sense to purchase this product, and by doing so, you are contributing to an ideal win-win senario: saving energy and natural gas, while saving money on your heating bill.

Has it changed how you think about business?

After taking this course, it is very clear to me that if a business wants to remain competitive and profitable, they need to engage in some sort of sustainable practice. Sustainability is no long just a trend for businesses – it has now become the norm. As more and more consumers are becoming socially conscious, they will associate themselves with brands whose values align with their own. Not only does sustainability improve a businesses’ ethical stance, there are numerous cost advantages including distribution, packaging, and waste savings. When I think about businesses we’ve come across in class that have changed their business to incorporate sustainability in some way, the first that comes to mind is Harbor Air. Harbor Air purchased the full-audit services for $10,000 from Offsetters, and in return the company increased their revenues by $250,000 as they received a 12% increase in customers thanks for their investment. Even after adding $0.50 per ticket, Harbour Air’s customers still chose to fly with them vs competitors because of the company’s commitment to carbon neutrality and environmental relief. Harbour Air and Offsetters are great examples of how incorporating sustainable practices and values into your business model will have great returns for your business.

So in summary, I took a lot away from the course. I really enjoyed the live project and working with Offsetters, and also learning about other sustainable brands and the initiatives other companies are implementing into their business. Particularly, the cases such as Clorox and Burt’s Bees really opened by eyes to realizing that there are so many companies already attempting and successfully following through with sustainable initiatives, whether consumers are aware of them or not.

Introducing Vancouver’s new Bike Share Program… (maybe)!

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

I first came across this idea when preparing material for our team’s class lecture last month. But since it’s something I am so EXCITED about, I decided to do some more research and blog about it! Collaborating with the city of Vancouver’s “Greenest City by 2020” goal and action plan, Alta Bicycle Share, a privately owned and operated company based out of Portland, would run the system in Vancouver. The plan was for the program to be produced this Spring and launched late Spring/ early Summer of 2013, but it is skeptical that the program won’t actually be running until 2014. The reason for the delay is issues with Vancouver’s mandatory  bike-helmet law.

According to an article from the Vancouver Sun, BC’s Motor Vehicle Act provides $100 fines for anyone who rides a bike on a public motorway without a helmet. A solution to this problem was a helmet-dispensing machine which was prototyped by Richmond-based SandVault, who was awarded $50,000 to come up with the prototype. The machine is solar-powered, user-friendly, and hygienic. For people worried about any sanitation issues associated with sharing helmets, the machines ensure all helmets are “quarantined” and not rented out until they are cleaned and checked for safety. Each helmet will also be equipped with RFID tags, and the whole operation, including sanitization, will cost $1.9 million annually.

Bike share programs have resounding success in over 300 cities worldwide, including Montreal. If launched in Vancouver, the plan is to initially construct 125 docking stations holding a total of 1,500 shared bicycles. The service allows individuals to rent a bicycle (and helmet) at a docking station, ride the bike to a new or same destination, and then return the bike and helmet to any available docking station within the service area. For Vancouver, the proposed service area will be confined to Vancouver’s core, with the borders being Arbutus on the West and Main St. on the East, and from downtown to as south as Broadway.

Personally, I am super excited about the idea of a bike-share program in Vancouver. I do not think enough people bike, it hasn’t really taken off as a “trend” here; maybe the numerous hills in Vancouver are to blame, but there are way too many people using cars in the Summer!! If this program is successful in over 300 cities worldwide, it baffles me that Vancouver hasn’t jumped at this opportunity yet, with it’s record as one of the World’s leading cities. Today’s weather is gorgeous, blue skies and sunny, and all I want to do is take my bike to the seawall and soak up some sun. Of of the problems I have is that I live quite far from downtown, my bike doesn’t fit in my car, and biking from my home to the seawall would be a workout and half in itself (not to mention taking all the busy streets and riding along the bridges is slightly out of my comfort zone this early on in the season). If only Vancouver had a bike share program, all my issues would be solved! Come of Vancouver, make this happen!!

People Water

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

One of my classmates recently blogged about people water’s “double bottom line” commitment to creating social outcomes while still making profits. People Water is a for-profit, but for-cause business; similar to TOMS, their Drop for Drop business model proves they are a business that is about more than just profits. For every bottle of water purchased, People Water will give an equal amount of clean water to a person in need. A great social entrepreneurship idea to justify the company’s approximate $3/bottle water.

My question is why do they use the  following advertising line to target  retailers: “What carry People Water? We want to change the world! Americans are still good people — kind, caring, socially and environmentally conscious.” ..Environmentally conscious??! Does having a “Drop for Drop” business model compensate your “environmentally conscious” advertising when you are selling bottled water? Ok, to be fair they claim their bottles are made from eco-friendly plastic bottles, but still, they are selling bottled water. Seems kind of ironic to me.

Funny enough, I first heard of People Water when Jef Holm, one of the co-founders of People Water, appeared as a contestant on ABC’s The Bachelorette (season 8). Holm, along with 24 other contestants, competed week after week to win over Bachelorette Emily Maynard’s heart. In the finale, it was Jef Holm that beat Sean Lowe after Emily accepted his wedding proposal (but the two are no longer together). Regardless, I’m skeptical on Jef’s initial intention for going on the show, whether he honestly thought he would find true love or he used the show to leverage his then new company, People Water. What ever the reason, the marketing worked as the show’s whole dedicated fan base knew about his company during, and following the show. I am certain that publicity he and his business received from being on the show gave People Water enormous exposure. Following the show Jef and Emily travelled to Ghana where they worked (and tweeted, instagrammed, facebooked, blogged about, etc.) on a well-building project that furthered media attention. At the time, it seemed as if Jef Holm had it all, he got the girl and his business was a booming success. Cha-ching!

What is Recycling?

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

If we want to switch to a more eco-friendly, sustainable planet, changes need to be initiated by the United States. With a population of over 300 million, second to only China and India, and home to countless influential and wealthy individuals, the US has no excuse to lag behind in habits such as recycling!

I noticed California’s lack of recycling practices while in San Diego this past week for reading break. I was there for a tournament with the T-Birds, and of course everyday we accumulate a lot of plastic water, gatorade, and juice bottles. The tournament was held at the beautiful University of California San Diego campus, and at the end of the day, our team, a bunch of thirsty and recycling-consicous girls, found ourselves regretfully mixing our empty bottles with the trash. There just simply were no recycling bins! Even looking at my gatorade receipts from the large grocery store chains, there were no $0.05 deposit fees tacked onto every bottle sold. How can recycling-consious people recycle if there is no way to? And further, how and why would non-recyclers have any incentive to practice recycling if their are no easy means to do so? If a state, or country, wants to promote recycling, there needs to be adequate recycling bins. Sure, there must be recycling depots somewhere in San Diego, but of course our team is time-bound and the effort of finding the depots and driving over to them probably counteracts the task. To give them credit, the University had specific recycling bins for bottles outside the residence where we stayed on campus, but that was no where near the fields. In order for the University to encourage sustainable recycling practices, there needs to be adequate recycling bins to help individuals make the switch as easy and effortless as possible!

Another example is going into Starbucks while I was over there. I can’t remember where our exact conversation stemmed from, but I had a short chat with the barista as she was punching my order into the register. Somehow the topic of recycling came up – maybe I had an empty bottle I needed to throw away – and I asked her if she had a bin somewhere I could toss it other than the garbage can. She said no, and then to my surprise, commented that it wasn’t really necessary after I suggested that they needed and should implement one. If this was the response of an ordinary American, working an average job, what was the response of the majority of other Americans? Do they all have this view about sustainability and recycling??! Mind blowing. A concept so simple as to sorting recyclables and garbage, that extends so far, yet a pointless hassle in the minds of many. Perhaps a large reason why many Americans think this way is because they are not educated in the risks of not starting sustainable practices to our planet – for change to happen, it needs to start in the States!

Another example I have is travelling to Austin, Texas last year for another tournament. No where in that city did I see recycling bins. Texas is worse than California! If only the government implemented deposit fees to consumers that was automatically tacked onto their purchase when buying bottles, then maybe people would change their habits. Maybe it wouldn’t change how the consumer views recycling, but if they do it because it could save them money, then at least its a step in the right direction. While I was in Sweden in the fall, the deposit fee for cans or bottles were $0.15! You have to be crazy to not be more conscious about returning your bottles to grocery stores, the high fee definitely made me worry about recycling – you could guarantee that I returned all my bottles to get back my money – it all adds up!

Vancouver takes steps towards composting

Saturday, February 9th, 2013


This week our family got a letter in the mail from the mayor detailing a new and very exciting change!! Starting in May, garbage collection will decrease to every other week, and yard trimmings (food scraps) collection will increase to weekly collection. The purpose of this change is to prepare for the landfill ban on all food scraps and yard trimmings in 2015, in addition to promoting food scrap recycling instead of garbage disposal.

Like we talked about in class, it is difficult to motivate people – especially a large  mass of people such as all Vancouver residents – to change consumption patterns when there is no tangible incentive to do so. Of course, everyone is aware that garbage disposal is “bad” and composting is “good”, but if it takes more effort and the effects are not drastic and tangible, then many people find changing their habits a challenge. To fight this mentality and promote food scrap recycling, I applaud the City of Vancouver and the mayor for forcing its residents to watch their waste disposal.

Now that garbage collection will be more infrequent, and yard trimmings and food scrap collection will double, Vancouver residents will definitely have to watch their waste. If they don’t, they will have to pay to dispose more garbage. Additionally, to make this change even easier to adapt, every household will be provided with a counter-top container that you can use to collect food scraps in the kitchen. My family already has one of these that we use daily, but it is an eye-sore so I am very excited for this new container! By changing the waste collection pattern, and providing counter-top containers for each household, Vancouver residents are forced to change the way they dispose, and the change shouldn’t be as difficult as people fear.

Audi goes Green

Thursday, January 31st, 2013
YouTube Preview Image

The video above is a commercial for Audi that was premiered for the 2010 Superbowl. They chose the infamously expensive Superbowl commercial time slot to showcase their Audi A3 TDI – a clean diesel vehicle and “Green Car of the Year” (awarded by Green Car Journal).

The reason I like this commercial is because right from the first few seconds, I was engaged. They spun the traditionally serious topics of eco-friendliness and sustainability into one that was over exaggerated but hilarious. Although they brought sustainability to an extreme level, they definitely got the message across and I understood that the central theme of the commercial was sustainability. However, the viewers were never presented with the product until the last few seconds of the commercial. So the message and theme were clear, but the product that was being advertised wasn’t. But, I think overall the message will stick and Audi will have a positive image with regards to their “clean” vehicles because the dramatics and exaggeration of the commercial is what consumers will remember.

The Restaurant Industry can be Sustainable too

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

Arthur Potts-Dawson's Sustainable Acorn House Restaurant

In a TED talks video from 2010, Chef Arthur Potts-Dawson describes the restaurant industry as “pretty much the most wasteful industry in the world”. This surprised me because food is produced to be consumed, I thought wasteful industries had more to do with machinery or industries that generate production. According to him, for every calorie of food consumed today, 10 calories are taken to produce it. He uses the example of the potato, whose 8 forms of production is similar to all vegetables and other foods. Energy is used used within each stage of the potato’s life: planting, growing and nurturing, harvesting, distribution, sold and bought, and delivered to retailers/chefs, prepared and cook, and finally waste as the last stage: waste of time, space, energy, and waste of waste. To lessen the harsh impact of food as inputs, restauranteurs can focus on eliminating waste and energy through any or all stages of production.

Potts-Dawson then explains the sustainable efforts he has put into place in his personal restaurant. Not only does eliminating waste in food production contribute to saving energy, but many sustainable alternatives can be bought or re-used in the construction and maintenance of the restaurant itself. His restaurant uses sustainable and recyclable floor, recycled and recyclable chairs, forestry-commisioned tables, reused cushions, sustainable energy (powered by wind), and the best part: a menu that lets customers choose the volume of food they want to consume. So simple, yet so genius and practical that food waste is minimized.

Finally, he stresses the fact that it is impossible to eliminate waste – there will always be waste. The goal for his restaurant, Acorn House, and the goal for all restaurants alike should be to minimize waste. Composting is easy, requires little effort, and can go a long way – even for his small restaurant, the business still generates over 70kgs of compost each week!

Here is a link to the blog post with the video:

Sustainable Cities: Role Models for the Rest of the World

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Bike Parking Lot in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Living in Sweden for the past four months really opened my eyes to a different culture and way of life. During my travels, I also visited other cities working on their sustainability. Scandinavia has been recognized for their efforts in promoting a sustainable lifestyle and culture, and the Nordic countries are among the top sustainable cities. One of the things that stood out to me the most was the amount of people that ride bikes! Amsterdam in The Netherlands had massive parking lots for bikes, and in Copenhagen in Denmark, I saw many people biking all over the cities in the blizzard-like conditions! Maybe it was easier for locals in these cities to bike because of the flat landscape, but it is now apart of the culture there – often I saw more people riding bikes than cars on the road. Other notable sustainable efforts include Swedish-brand H&M’s organic clothing initiative, escalators that don’t move until stepped on by people, and the Arlanda Express – the quickest, most eco-friendly way of getting from the Arlanda airport to the Stockholm city centre.

Eco-friendly Arlanda Express in Stockholm

Perhaps one of the reasons sustainability is emphasized in everyday life for the Swedes is because Sweden, along with Norway and Denmark, are a few of the most expensive cities to live in the world. While I was there, I was very conscious about recycling and my garbage waste because of the high prices. For example, plastic bags at the grocery store were 2 kronor, which is equivalent to approximately $0.30! So whenever I did grocery shopping, I always remembered to bring my own bags, not only because it is more environmentally friendly, but also because I would save a lot of money! The same goes for returning empty cans such as pop cans. Returning a can would give you 1 kronor, or $0.15 – that’s triple the $0.05 recycling fee in Canada! These higher prices give further incentive to practice a sustainable lifestyle.

When it comes to the world’s top sustainable cities, according to Grist it was exciting to see Vancouver as number 5. It was more interesting to me that I have visited 7 of the top 8 “greenest” cities in the world!! Here’s the list of the top 15, according to them:

  1. Reykjavik, Iceland
  2. Portland, Oregon, U.S.
  3. Curitiba, Brazil
  4. Malmo, Sweden
  5. Vancouver, Canada
  6. Copenhagen, Denmark
  7. London, England
  8. San Francisco, California, U.S.
  9. Bahía de Caráquez, Ecuador
  10. Sydney, Australia
  11.  Barcelona, Spain
  12. Bogota, Columbia
  13. Bangkok, Thailand
  14. Kampala, Uganda
  15. Austin, Texas, U.S.


Black Friday craziness

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Last Saturday I headed down to the states for post Black Friday shopping. I love going shopping in the states and even more when the discounts are mind boggling cheap. Being Canadian, we do not have the same luxury of post-thanksgiving deals but Boxing Day is a good competitor. The buildup to November 25th was overwhelming – numerous emails and commercials marketed and informed me of the deals and regardless of all the terrifying youtube videos and news reports about aggressive shoppers, I can’t say no to a sale! And even though I headed down on the Saturday, not the Friday, the stores were still packed and the shopping spirit alive.

I routinely head south for my shopping trips because on any given day, you will always save money. Regardless of the strength of our dollar, the Canadian markup on the same items is ridiculous! I found boots that retail in Canada at $175 for $125 US (regular price!!!) at Nordstrom. So when I came across a fellow classmate’s blogpost, informing me that Nordstroms is coming to Vancouver, I got very excited! (..not for a few years, but exciting nonetheless!) Many American stores are slowing becoming “international”; previous exclusive American brands such as Abercrombie, Forever 21, and Victoria’s Secret are finding their way into the Canadian market. However, I still (and will always!) enjoy shopping in the States. There’s just something about good old America…

The Lookbook as an effective marketing tool

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Natasha Belonio, 19, Server & Aldo Employee from Ladner Spotted At: Granville St.


Touching on the theme of marketing campaigns and discussing their effectiveness, I want to share an example from my own experiences from this past summer. In May 2011 I started interning as a marketing intern at Vancouver Fashion Week. It’s a biannual event (every April and November) where local and international designers showcase their collections over a course of 6 days… 6 days of non-stop fashion and runway!

Because Vancouver Fashion Week is only in its 10th year, its a relatively new concept on the West Coast, no where near as big and extravagant as the famous Toronto Fashion Week. This is where my job became important. Effective marketing strategies would attract new customers to purchase tickets and the name and prestige of the event would then follow with time. I think the biggest hurdle with the event is that not enough people know about it – therefore the key to our marketing strategy would be to target and inform every day people such as you and I. Because I love photography, the two ideas were combined and The Lookbook was initiated: it focused on Vancouver’s street style. As I walked around Vancouver, snapping pictures and interviewing trendy locals, I connected with them on a more personal level and really dug deep into not only what inspired their sense of style but also what they thought of Vancouver and its style and culture as well. Through this experience I have met numerous people from all around the world who all have a common interest: Fashion!

I thought this marketing initiative was quite successful because The Lookbook had lots of social media exposure; it was featured on the VFW website, our Facebook fan page, our Tumblr page, Twitter, and The Province Newspaper. In addition, when I stopped people on the street, the majority of them were flattered and agreed to talk to me for 10 minutes where I pitched them a snippet of the event if they had never heard of it and I thought the personal interaction was most effective. For new customers, they were bound to use word of mouth to tell their friends and family and tag themselves in the Facebook pictures. Our Facebook page currently has 8,166 likes and our Lookbook album consists of a full 200 photos. The Lookbook got so popular that we started “tweeting” the location we would be scouting that day, and people flocked to that area in hopes of getting their photo taken. Other ongoing promotions were little things such as for the styles that receive the most “likes” on Facebook every week, that person would win free tickets for one of the shows – more reason for the people I stopped on the street to tell their friends and thus, the more traffic our page and website would receive. Ultimately, win-win for everyone.


Holly Russell, 27, Stylist from Vancouver Spotted at: Granville St.


Tibeb Mitiku, 19, Student from SFU Spotted At: West Georgia St.




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