Greenwashing, the eighth deadly sin?

Maybe not but it makes a good blog title.  I touched a little on this in my targeting socially conscious consumers article, plus Toby and others talked about it here and elsewhere but a recent post by Kiwano Marketing tries to summarize what greenwashing is and the importance of avoiding it.

Kiwano Marketing is a new firm in Vancouver focussing on marketing sustainablity and small businesses.


Energy Audits and DTES Auditors

The construction, maintenance and operation of buildings are among the most significant uses of energy. For a business or homeowner, improving the efficiency of a building is an important way to reduce energy consumption. Almost always, adaptations in behaviour can lead to immediate improvements. Physical upgrades to the building can take reductions much further. The question is how to start and the answer is with an energy audit (also, energy assessment). Before you slap on a green roof or some solar panels or change all your lightbulbs, you need to know how you and your building are using (and losing) energy. The intent of an energy audit is to examine and analyze the flow of energy in a building in order to reduce consumption. It seeks also to identify uses with regard to their cost effectiveness of energy savings. An audit will lay along a spectrum from simple examinations of an energy bill, types of lights, size of mechanical units, etc. to comprehensive analysis including tests of the building envelope and thermographic inspections. A proper energy audit will tell you how you are using your energy, where your greatest inefficiencies are and allow you to prioritize the steps you take to address them. The audit is important because our inefficiencies are not always the same and neither are the steps we should take to fix them. If good planning doesn’t sell the idea, then beauracracy will, any incentive program, such as NRCan’s ecoENERGY Retrofit Program (and the sister American program (pending further legislation), REEP, Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance), requires them BEFORE you start work. This means you won’t get government money unless you start with an energy audit. Costs range from several hundred dollars up to several thousand depending on the size and type of building and how comprehensive the audit will be. An organization like Light House can tell you more.

So, we say all of this in all earnestness, but if you can’t afford to do an energy audit, then do your own. Take the time to actually look at your utility bills and assess how much energy you’re using. Follow the points provided by Waste Reduction Week (Oct 19-26!). Proceed with the common sense changes in behaviour like dropping the thermostat a few degrees in winter and raising it a few in summer. Turn off (and for some: unplug) appliances not in use. Turn off lights. Use natural ventilation to cool in summer. Use cold water as much as you can. Purchase a $35 meter like the Kill A Watt and see what some of your major energy users are and see if you can’t use them less. See what kind of power they use when they’re off! That would surely be a good place to start.

And now to get hypothetical, I’d like to suggest that perhaps energy auditing could be an avenue of job development for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Firstly, there will be demand. Businesses and residents here are concerned about their energy use (among many vital issues). So as they seek out retrofits, they’ll need to take the logical first step.  Further, all buildings will need retrofitting at some point, and getting the most efficient building for our dollars is the best way to serve the triple bottom line. If anything, we’re needing retrofits here sooner than other areas of town simply because the buildings are older (leaky condos aside). That doesn’t mean those upgrades are a given, many buildings fall deeper and deeper into disrepair, but revitalization, what we’re talking about, means making things look and feel good to live in and that will take capital investment. So when people put the money in, it’ll be important that they start with an energy audit. And an energy audit team could be developed and trained here in the Downtown Eastside. The skills required are technical but can be imparted relatively quickly. Deeper understanding will follow from ongoing technical training and field experience. The tools required are not cheap (ladder, laptop, blower door, etc) so there would need to be some significant investment. But as the equipment needs are consistent, we could very easily establish a bicycle trailer system in place of trucks. Trust me, I did landscaping and solar installs with bicycle trailers. It works.

Pedal Powered Composting Service

Word reached me, through top secret sources (Seann Dory of United We Can), of a business in Victoria started by a homeless activist and a UVIC student to collect compostable material in 5 Kg buckets for the flat rate of $5 dollars per bucket.  The collection is done by bicycle so there is no carbon-based fuels consumed.  The service has proven very popular with over 80 customer in Victoria now.

The composting is done in one of the partner’s backyard, the size of the compost set up requires very little land and water.  The fertilizer is then used by local gardens to grow food.  This model is being setup as a co-op and the founders have no qualms about others setting up a similar system say in Vancouver…

United We Can already has their Urban Binning Unit and as more and more of these become available there is no reason they could not haul compost in addition to other recycleables.  In order to get this project off the ground in the DTES, Seann and the rest of United We Can need a place where they can work the three composting piles necessary.  The composting is done on a small scale so smells and other side effects will be minimal.  If you know of some land where the composting could be done, contact me or Seann.  Once the land is secured this service will then be available to residents and businesses within easy biking distance of United We Can.

Given today is Max Gladwell‘s second big experiment lets see if social media can’t help one of the DTES most famous charities and social enterprises.

10 Ways to Support Charity Through Social Media.

This post is a collaboration between Mashable’s Summer of Social Good charitable fundraiser and Max Gladwell‘s “10 Ways” series. The post is being simultaneously published across more than 100 blogs.


Social media is about connecting people and providing the tools necessary to have a conversation. That global conversation is an extremely powerful platform for spreading information and awareness about social causes and issues such as greening the inner-city. That’s one of the reasons non-profits can benefit so greatly from being active on social media channels. But you can also do a lot to help your favorite charity or causes you are passionate about through social media.

Below is a list of 10 ways you can use social media to show your support for issues that are important to you. If you can think of any other ways to help charities via social web tools, please add them in the comments. If you’d like to retweet this post or take the conversation to Twitter or FriendFeed, please use the hashtag #10Ways.

1. Write a Blog Post

Blogging is one of the easiest ways you can help a charity or cause you feel passionate about, we started Greening the Inner-city to raise awareness on the work going on in Vancouver’s DTES. Almost everyone has an outlet for blogging these days — whether that means a site running WordPress, an account at LiveJournal, or a blog on MySpace or Facebook. By writing about issues you’re passionate about, you’re helping to spread awareness among your social circle. Because your friends or readers already trust you, what you say is influential.

Recently, a group of green bloggers banded together to raise individual $1 donations from their readers. The beneficiaries included Sustainable Harvest, Kiva, Healthy Child, Healthy World, Environmental Working Group, and Water for People. The blog-driven campaign included voting to determine how the funds would be distributed between the charities. You can read about the results here.

You should also consider taking part in Blog Action Day, a once a year event in which thousands of blogs pledge to write at least one post about a specific social cause (last year it was fighting poverty). Blog Action Day will be on October 15 this year.

2. Share Stories with Friends


Another way to spread awareness among your social graph is to share links to blog posts and news articles via sites like Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Digg, and even through email. Your network of friends is likely interested in what you have to say, so you have influence wherever you’ve gathered a social network.  Building Opportunities has a Facebook page, become a fan.  Toby Barazzuol is an ethusiastic tweeter, follow him, apparently Gregor Robertson does.

You’ll be doing causes you support a great service when you share links to their campaigns, or to articles about causes you care about.

3. Follow Charities on Social Networks

In addition to sharing links to articles about issues you come across, you should also follow charities you support on the social networks where they are active. By increasing the size of their social graph, you’re increasing the size of their reach. When your charities tweet or post information about a campaign or a cause, statistics or a link to a good article, consider retweeting that post on Twitter, liking it on Facebook, or blogging about it.

Following charities on social media sites is a great way to keep in the loop and get updates, and it’s a great way to help the charity increase its reach by spreading information to your friends and followers.

You can follow the Summer of Social Good Charities:

Oxfam America (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube)

The Humane Society (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Flickr)

LIVESTRONG (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr)

WWF (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr)

4. Support Causes on Awareness Hubs


Another way you can show your support for the charities you care about is to rally around them on awareness hubs like, Care2, or the Facebook Causes application. These are social networks or applications specifically built with non-profits in mind. They offer special tools and opportunities for charities to spread awareness of issues, take action, and raise money.

It’s important to follow and support organizations on these sites because they’re another point of access for you to gather information about a charity or cause, and because by supporting your charity you’ll be increasing their overall reach. The more people they have following them and receiving their updates, the greater the chance that information they put out will spread virally.

5. Find Volunteer Opportunities

Using social media online can help connect you with volunteer opportunities offline, and according to web analytics firm Compete, traffic to volunteering sites is actually up sharply in 2009. Two of the biggest sites for locating volunteer opportunities are VolunteerMatch, which has almost 60,000 opportunities listed, and, which also lists paying jobs in the non-profit sector, in addition to maintaining databases of both volunteer jobs and willing volunteers.

For those who are interested in helping out when volunteers are urgently needed in crisis situations, check out, a site which helps register and educate those who want to help during disasters so that local resources are not tied up directing the calls of eager volunteers. Teenagers, meanwhile, should check out, a site targeted at young adults seeking volunteer opportunities in their communities.

6. Embed a Widget on Your Site

Many charities offer embeddable widgets or badges that you can use on your social networking profiles or blogs to show your support. These badges generally serve one of two purposes (or both). They raise awareness of an issue and offer up a link or links to additional information. And very often they are used to raise money.

Mashable’s Summer of Social Good campaign, for example, has a widget that does both. The embeddable widget, which was custom built using Sprout (the creators of ChipIn), can both collect funds and offer information about the four charities the campaign supports.

7. Organize a Tweetup

You can use online social media tools to organize offline events, which are a great way to gather together like-minded people to raise awareness, raise money, or just discuss an issue that’s important to you. Getting people together offline to learn about an important issue can really kick start the conversation and make supporting the cause seem more real.  We used social media extensively to promote the launch of the Green Inner-city Cluster.

Be sure to check out Mashable’s guide to organizing a tweetup to make sure yours goes off without a hitch, or check to see if there are any tweetups in your area to attend that are already organized.

8. Express Yourself Using Video

As mentioned, blog posts are great, but a picture really says a thousand words. The web has become a lot more visual in recent years and there are now a large number of social tools to help you express yourself using video. When you record a video plea or call to action about your issue or charity, you can make your message sound more authentic and real. You can use sites like, Vimeo, and YouTube to easily record and spread your video message.

Last week, the Summer of Social Good campaign encouraged people to use video to show support for charity. The #12forGood campaign challenged people to submit a 12 second video of themselves doing something for the Summer of Social Good. That could be anything, from singing a song to reciting a poem to just dancing around like a maniac — the idea was to use the power of video to spread awareness about the campaign and the charities it supports.

If you’re more into watching videos than recording them, enables you to raise funds for charities like Unicef and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital by sharing viral videos by e-mail.

Building Opportunities got some UBC planning students involved in revitalizing the inner-city and they produced the following video about Save On Meats.

9. Sign or Start a Petition


There aren’t many more powerful ways to support a cause than to sign your name to a petition. Petitions spread awareness and, when successfully carried out, can demonstrate massive support for an issue. By making petitions viral, the social web has arguably made them even more powerful tools for social change. There are a large number of petition creation and hosting web sites out there. One of the biggest is The Petition Site, which is operated by the social awareness network Care2, or, which has collected more than 79 million signatures over the years.  There is a petition on this site to save Pantages Theatre in Vancouver’s inner-city.

Petitions are extremely powerful, because they can strike a chord, spread virally, and serve as a visual demonstration of the support that an issue has gathered. Social media fans will want to check out a fairly new option for creating and spreading petitions: Twitition, an application that allows people to create, spread, and sign petitions via Twitter.

10. Organize an Online Event

Social media is a great way to organize offline, but you can also use online tools to organize effective online events. That can mean free form fund raising drives, like the Twitter-and-blog-powered campaign to raise money for a crisis center in Illinois last month that took in over $130,000 in just two weeks. Or it could mean an organized “tweet-a-thon” like the ones run by the 12for12k group, which aims to raise $12,000 each month for a different charity.

In March, 12for12k ran a 12-hour tweet-a-thon, in which any donation of at least $12 over a 12 hour period gained the person donating an entry into a drawing for prizes like an iPod Touch or a Nintendo Wii Fit. Last month, 12for12k took a different approach to an online event by holding a more ambitious 24-hour live video-a-thon, which included video interviews, music and sketch comedy performances, call-ins, and drawings for a large number of prizes given out to anyone who donated $12 or more.

Bonus: Think Outside the Box

blamedrewscancerSocial media provides almost limitless opportunity for being creative. You can think outside the box to come up with all sorts of innovative ways to raise money or awareness for a charity or cause. When Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with cancer, for example, he created Blame Drew’s Cancer, a campaign that encourages people to blow off steam by blaming his cancer for bad things in their lives using the Twitter hashtag #BlameDrewsCancer. Over 16,000 things have been blamed on Drew’s cancer, and he intends to find sponsors to turn those tweets into donations to LIVESTRONG once he beats the disease.

Or check out Nathan Winters, who is biking across the United States and documenting the entire trip using social media tools, in order to raise money and awareness for The Nature Conservancy.

The number of innovative things you can do using social media to support a charity or spread information about an issue is nearly endless. Can you think of any others? Please share them in the comments.

Special thanks to

vpsnet logoA special thanks to, who are donating $100 to the Summer of Social Good for every signup they receive this week.

Sign up at and use the coupon code “SOSG”to receive 3 Months of FREE hosting on top of your purchased term. honors a 30 day no questions asked money back guarantee so there’s no risk.

About the “10 Ways” Series

The “10 Ways” Series was originated by Max Gladwell. This is the second simultaneous blog post in the series. The first ran on more than 80 blogs, including Mashable. Among other things, it is a social media experiment and the exploration of a new content distribution model. You can follow Max Gladwell on Twitter.

This content was originally written by Mashable’s Josh Catone.

Meet Cam MacDonald, Urban Farmer

Google Alerts delivered a story with the above title, complete with audio interview, from another local blog called VanGoGreen.  So on a break from my main duties at Building Opportunities with Business, I’m ‘reblogging’ the story.  We’re still putting a lot of effort and research into urban agriculture opportunities in the inner-city with partners like UBC and United We Can.

Besides Resilient Cities, another event BOB and the Green Inner-city Cluster members should have a presence at is FutureSocial which is an architectural contest seeking to explore the future of social housing/supportive housing.  This is being organized by Matthew Soules and other folks at UBC, BC Housing, and PHS.

Building your Green Building Brain

At DemoCamp 07, which took place last night at Workspace in Vancouver’s inner-city, a number of new web platforms, frameworks, tool kits, and websites were presented and discussed including staff from the maker of this blogging platform.  However the presentation of most interest to this blog’s audience and mandate is the open source, copyright free, information network being built around green buildings and green architecture called the Green Building Brain.

The Green Building Brain is the brain child of the Vancouver Design Nerds and Recollective.  They are looking for help in building their website, finding bugs, and suggestions on how to make the Green Building Brain a useful resource for professionals and folks interested in learning more about greening an existing building or designing and building a green building.

I think this is a record for using green and building in one post/paragraph.