Josh Dorfman, aka The Lazy Environmentalist, is an environmental media powerhouse who not only started his own high end modern design and green furniture company (Vivavi) but also built a popular radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio, wrote a book about green living, has speaking engagements at companies like Google, Apple, Volkswagen, and The North Face, and has appearanced on "The Martha Stewart Show" (scroll down for the video), "Bloomberg Venture", and "Morning Joe". He is also one of the nicest guys in green. I first got to know Josh as a fan of his writing and was lucky to later get to know him as a friend and fellow green media guy.
Josh is currently working as the VP of Marketing for the Good Guide, one of the leading eco-ratings sites on the web. He lives with his wife and young son in San Francisco. Here are seven questions answered by Josh Dorfman.
How's the transition from media guy to marketing guy going?
Pretty seamless. It’s fun being in the trenches during the entrepreneurial stages of a company when marketing is as much about implementing an overall strategy as it is about specific initiatives to reach a target market. The cool thing about GoodGuide is that people here are really smart yet fun and just a bit dorky. For example, our VP of Biz Dev just walked into my office and said, “Dude, the new office Nerf Baskeball league is all set. Ivy Leaguers versus UC Berkeley. They’re going down!” He’s right too, they are going down.
Why do ratings work?
Ratings work because of information overload. We simply don't have the time or expertise to research consumer products to fully understand their environmental, health and social impacts. Take a seemingly benign product like baby shampoo. Ever wonder what enables baby shampoo to lather, clean, make hair soft and shiny, smell good and last a long time on a store shelf? The answer is LOTS OF CHEMICALS. Some of them are harmless. Others we'd be wise to avoid putting on our kids. Figuring out which products are healthiest for your children and the planet is a major task. Ratings help busy people quickly make better, more informed decisions.
Photo credit: Treehugger
What's wrong with marketing?
Well, aside from issues like greenwashing, the major problem with green marketing is that it’s boring. For some reason, green marketers seem to think that stating the obvious is the best way to get people to buy their products. For example, do we really need Toyota Prius commercials to constantly inform us that the Prius is planet-friendly and gets great gas mileage? Don’t we already know that? If those were such phenomenal selling points wouldn’t more than .12% of Americans in 2010 have bought the Prius? And the Prius is the best selling of all hybrid cars.
Here’s the type of Prius commercial I would create instead that’s still on message but adds a little sizzle:
------ FADE IN
EXT. RESIDENTIAL DRIVEWAY – DAY A shiny sports car and a Toyota Prius are parked side by side.
INT. KITCHEN - DAY A Teenage Boy enters the room. His DAD sips coffee at the kitchen table while reading the newspaper.
TEENAGE BOY Dad, can I borrow the car?
DAD (without looking up) Sure, Kiddo. But you have to take the Prius.
The teenage boy rolls his eyes. Shoulders slumped, he trudges toward the door.
INT. PRIUS - DAY The teenage boy is behind the wheel. THREE GUY FRIENDS are with him as they drive along in silence, staring dejectedly out the window.
They stop at a red traffic light.
Out the window, the boys HEAR light, bubbly techno MUSIC, faint at first, but steadily nearing as the beats get LOUDER and LOUDER.
EXT. PRIUS – DAY Another Prius rolls to a stop at the traffic light. Inside are FOUR CUTE COLLEGE GIRLS. They smile at the teenage boys. The girl driving the car leans out her window toward the boys.
COLLEGE GIRL DRIVER Nice ride, Fellas.
The traffic light turns green. The college girls speed off.
INT. PRIUS – DAY The four teenage boys slowly turn toward each other then break into wide, toothy grins.
CAPTION. The Prius. Because life is about more than just saving the planet. ------
What's the difference between green and greener?
More than meets the eye. Those of us tracking green products have grown accustomed to looking for signals like eco-friendly and non-toxic materials or natural and organic ingredients or recyclability. Those are essential attributes. But even a product as seemingly innocuous as an organic cotton t-shirt - sewn in a factory in China on machines made from a factory in Korea that bought parts for those machines from a company in Germany that got the raw materials for the metal from an iron ore mine in Australia that bought the machines to extract the ore from the Caterpillar company here in the U.S. that sourced parts for those machine from all over the world (and on and on) - is inextricably connected to the impacts of that entire global supply chain. So the concept of green is amorphous. The best we can do is make greener choices.
Does the world need saving?
No. The world can muddle through just fine. Even if global warming proves calamitous, the world will figure out how to muddle through. But who really wants to just muddle through? I’d rather focus on making the world awesome for as many people as possible for as long as possible which means bringing human activity into balance with nature’s capabilities to sustain it. To do so, the world needs a credible yet inspiring vision of a future in which quality of life goes up as greenhouse gas emissions go down.
Who is one person doing good in the world (besides yourself) who we should know about and why?
Elon Musk. He’s founder of Tesla and Solar City. Tesla demonstrates how green cars can be fast, sleek and powerful. Solar City will put solar panels on your home for zero money down and low monthly lease payments that immediately save you money on your electric bills. Both ventures showcase how to make green living attractive and appealing. Tesla costs way too much, but it’s aspirational. Solar City save you money right away, so it’s practical. Both attributes are essential to catalyze real change across mainstream America. The movement probably doesn’t need another Al Gore, but it could sure use another 100 Elon Musks.
(Shea's note: I invited Josh to come up with and answer his own question here) If you could offer just one piece of career advice to others who want to make a difference in the world, what would it be?
Always, always trust your gut above the opinions of others and do what you’re most passion about. More people along the way will try to dissuade you than encourage you. Don’t let their fear and failures become yours. Follow your path.
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