Green Briefs header image

Muzzling scientists has been tried before, but it never works for long.

September 4th, 2014 · No Comments


It was the early 1600′s. The Catholic Church, ie, government of the day, was opposed to the radical new idea that the earth was NOT the center of the Universe.  The Copernican view, that the Earth revolves around the sun, was considered heresy. The infamous radical astronomer Galileo (himself a Catholic) was tried by the Roman Inquisition and forced to recant his views and spend the rest of his life under house arrest.

In a similar way today, climate scientists employed by the Canadian Federal Government (well, by taxpayers, really) are being told they no longer have the right to speak freely to the media or public, or they might just face their own form of house arrest – unemployed. In 2012, the Privy Council Office, an arm of the Prime Minister’s office, put the big freeze on Canadian scientists wanting to spread the news of the greatest summer arctic ice melt levels on record.

Neither the Vatican or the Harper Government can win at this game in the long term. Because natural systems don’t play politics. They just keep on doing their thing, as the evidence stacks up. Or melts away.

→ No CommentsTags: Art · Green Points of View · Green Politics · Sustainable Lifestyle

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

The best organic winery brand you haven’t heard of. Yet.

August 28th, 2014 · 1 Comment


The vines are so close to the driveway I could pick grapes out the car window. A rooster runs by and I wonder if I’ve made a wrong turn. Then, a short distance ahead, I see other cars parked between a farmhouse and a small rustic wooden barn.
This is the Clos du Soleil winery, one of the Similkameen Valley’s secret treasures. Judging by the Thursday afternoon crowd buzzing around Tasting Room Manager Jesce Walker, its status as an undiscovered brand is already in jeopardy.
I’m at Clos du Soleil to find out a few things – like how a french style winery came to be in this remote southern BC valley; why the word ‘organic’ doesn’t appear on their labels or website; and what is their long-term vision for this upstart brand?

What ‘Clos du Soleil’ is French for.
The winery’s French roots come from owner Spencer Massie’s experiences in Europe.
“Spencer wanted to bring Bordeaux flavours to BC and infuse them with the terroir of the Similkameen,” Walker tells me as she pours, “A ‘clos’ is a rock wall, or enclosure traditionally found in French country yards, and ‘Soleil’ is the sun. The rock cliffs behind the winery absorb the sun’s heat and reflect it back, ‘enclosing’ the sun for the benefit of the vines. Clos du Soleil a microclimate within the microclimate of the Similkameen Valley.”
We begin the tasting with a black label Fumé Blanc.  My palate is good enough to notice the grapefruit and pineapple tones, but I just nod knowingly when Jesce refers to notes of lemongrass and make a note to steal the term.
The wine label colours are a clue to their brand category. Black labels are the approachable everyday drink-right-away wines. Gold labels indicate collaborations with other vineyards and the white label Clos du Soleil wines are the ones you want to stock away in your cellar for a few years. A logical hierarchy, if perhaps a little mysterious to the consumer.

Is ‘organic’ a bad word?
I put this question directly to Jesce, wondering why it doesn’t appear on their labels or website. She assures me they are known for organic growing and people do feel good buying and drinking organically-grown wines, just as they do shopping for organic food. (Clos du Soleil does add sulfites, so even through the grapes are grown organically, the wines themselves are not certified organic)
“I think in the past, people got the idea that organic equaled poor age-ability,” says Jesce, “Now when I pour them our wines that are two or three years old, people are amazed at their richness and complexity.”
The tasting moves to a crisp rosé made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  This starts off with a classic rosé strawberry patch nose, but has a surprisingly earthy finish. Jesce tells me the Similkameen Valley has volcanic clay ash soil, similar to that in regions of France (and unlike the more glacial sandy soil of the Okanagan) That is what gives these wines more rich minerality.

Grapes first, brand later.
As we move into the reds, I delve deeper into the topic of brand vision.
“When Clos du Soleil started, the focus was purely on growing the grapes,” Jesce continues, “Our 10 acres of vines are certified organic, and we also work with the principles of Biodynamics.”
jesce-clos-du-soleil-organic-wineryThis approach to growing includes tending the vines with the phases of the moon and, in a delightfully pagan-sounding ritual, burying animal horns full of manure to re-energize the soil with its naturally occurring microbes. Another story that bears more fruitful telling.
“Now we are planning to build a new tasting room, and can concentrate more on getting customers involved with our brand,” Jesce says as she pours a rich merlot. “For example, we see more and more people in their 20’s here, looking to learn more about wine.”
I compare this to the burgeoning craft beer market, and ask if Clos du Soleil plans to compete in the creative name and label trend that has brought so many unique brands to the Okanagan.
“No, we want our look to stay more classic, with a sense of elegance.” Jesce pauses to check on the roosters outside who have recently fended off an unleashed dog. “It’s our vision one day to have a Clos du Soleil wine served in one fine restaurant in every country in the world.”
The wines certainly seem capable of standing on their own, and it helps that the Similkameen was recently named by enRoute Magazine as “one of the world’s 5 best wine regions you’ve never heard of”. But is French-style elegance enough?

Cellaring the brand.
I can’t help but think there is a more unique, rustic and and authentic brand story here. A story that somehow expands on the term ‘elegance’, to embrace everything from the volcanic rock cliffs to the kittens and roosters that prowl the farmhouse yard. Not to mention the warm, genuine hospitality.
And perhaps, properly told, the organically-grown and biodynamic story could open doors in many fine restaurants across the globe, too.
Whatever Clos du Soleil decides to do with their brand evolution, As I savour the raspberry reduction overtones of the Grower’s Series Guild Merlot, something tells me they are going to have to build a bigger parking lot.

→ 1 CommentTags: Brand Identity · Sustainable Businesses · Sustainable Products

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Franki Craig // Aug 31, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I can certainly endorse the rose and the merlot, and look forward to special occasions to bring out the Celestiale and the late harvest Saturn.

Leave a Comment

BC’s Mining Industry Running With Its Tailings Between Its Legs

August 6th, 2014 · No Comments


The Mount Polley Mine Environmental Disaster, as it’s soon and forevermore likely to be known, has thrown into sharp focus the incredible liability the mining industry faces whenever they decide to store a toxic swamp full of lead, cadmium, arsenic and whatever other delightful chemical combinations these elements can create. (Which is pretty much every time a copper/gold mine is built these days)

Yet BC Mining Companies continue to pressure governments, at home and abroad, for less and less environmental oversight. And when governments like the BC Liberals oblige, everyone loses.

(And if you think these are just the ravings of a left-of-center hippie cartoonist, read  Stephen Hume’s Vancouver Sun column on the subject. He’s hardly what you call a card-carrying eco radical)

Perhaps if we made mining companies bear the true costs of extracting  gold, copper, silver, zinc, aluminum, platinum and other metals that are so in demand for our high-tech lifestyle, the e-waste recycling business model would prove more attractive.

→ No CommentsTags: Art · Environment · Green Creative · Green Points of View · Green Politics

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

Dear ROGERS, can you please put a less stupid face on my wireless bill?

July 28th, 2014 · No Comments

Rogers Stupid Online BillOK, everybody in Canada knows we pay some of the highest cell phone fees in the world. Our government has even gone so far as to pass legislation to reduce these levels of parasitic extortion (a superficial ploy to appease the weary consumer vote that has actually resulted in HIGHER mobile bills… but I digress)

The point is, NOBODY in Canada is happy to receive their monthly shakedown from the Big Three. So when I got my ROGERS bill in the email box this month, something in me snapped.

“YOUR ONLINE BILL IS READY” it screams, in all-caps-text-shout. And look – here is a happy photo of a girl demonstrating your proper response as a consumer of our Most Magnificent Services. Open your computer! Sigh with contentment! Click the ‘Pay Now’ button! OH JOY!!!

Really, ROGERS? Do you think your customers are all drooling idiots?

The way I see it, there are two reasons for this waste of my criminally overpriced bandwidth:

A) This the result of some thoroughly-researched and tested ROGERS Evil Customer Subordination Plan™ that has found corporate male customers over the age of 50 will be so enchanted by a young professional female with intelligent-looking glasses,  we won’t even feel  ROGERS reaching for our wallets. (Presumably women, and men who identify as gay, will receive a square-jawed male version of the image, with just enough smoulder in his gaze to let them know he could be a bad boy in the right circumstances)

B) Image selection for customer e-mails has been handed off to a design division that has neither the time nor the initiative to go beyond the first page of stock photo results for “happy technology consumer”

Frankly, I’m not sure which is more insulting.

But, as we here at Green Briefs and Unicycle Creative are all about solutions, let’s look at the 90% of this glass that is not full yet. What could ROGERS do with this opportunity?

A smarter ROGERS Online Bill

How about helping some people out with this valuable space? Scrolling down to the very bottom of my ‘MyROGERS’ page, I found a musty, cobweb-encrusted link for The ROGERS Youth Fund.  It’s a worthy-looking initiative that helps support a wide variety of groups across the country.

What if this valuable space were offered to groups within the program to help profile their initiatives and share some of their stories? Would this be too confusing for bill-payers? Would it look too much like a calculated corporate softening of the wireless payment pain? I don’t know. Perhaps some Evil marketing Bot™ could make that prediction.

But for my money, it would be a whole lot better than a corporate photo model smirking at my stupidity for being just another helpless Canadian wireless consumer.

What do you think?

PS. No offense intended to the woman who innocently posed for the original ROGERS photo, stock or otherwise. You are, in all likelihood, a very nice person. The stupidity originates with the network.

→ No CommentsTags: Brand Identity · Production · Social Media

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

6 New Tattoos to Launch The Harley Davidson Electric Motorcycle

June 23rd, 2014 · No Comments

© Harley Davidson

© Harley Davidson

You know electric power has hit the mainstream when legendary motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson builds an electron-powered bike. That’s right, Project LiveWire is the latest prototype badass e-bike to hit the road, on a promo tour in select iconic locations. It’s got I’m-the-meanest-electric-bike-on-the-road styling and if anyone can build a cool, battery heavy ride it’s got to be Harley.

Some are saying this will be the ‘halo’ bike that will bring rebel legitimacy to the charge-up category. But without the tooth-rattling car-alarm-triggering iconic V-twin sound, I think we need more. Some cult-building grandma-scaring brand art that will make people think twice as they don’t hear you rattling down their dusty main street.

I give you the e-bike tattoo sketch gallery V1.0



Now you’ll only need to stop at the gas station for smokes. And you’ll have more money to buy ‘em, too.


Go ahead. Sell all our tar sands bitumen to China. We don’t need it. The US don’t need no Keystone XL either. And while we’re at it, screw you, OPEC.


Not all tattoos have to have such attitude. Lots of moms, dads and grandparents can ride with e-pride, too. How about a having happy hog on your shoulder? It’s brand-ready for a Disney cross-promo.


For anyone who has been jarred awake in the middle of the night with the jumbo-jet flatulence of a Harley with straight pipe exhausts, this will be a welcome brand update. Thunder is like, a state of mind, baby. Ride softly but carry a big charger.


This is actually a Harley-Davidson slogan from 2008. It was supposed to be their flip-of-the-bird to all the economic crisis woes. But it kind of works for Big Oil, too.


Of course, tattoos don’t have to be limited to Harley e-Bike owners. As a species we can all get behind the idea. So put a little Brando in your Brammo. Add a little zip to your Zero. Or even put some muscle in your Motorino.

But this is just a start. I officially throw down the gauntlet to REAL tattoo artists out there. Let’s give all e-motorcycles a bit more street cred.



→ No CommentsTags: Environment · Green Positive · Social Media · Sustainable Lifestyle · Sustainable Products

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

Three ways to make your personal brand world-ready.

June 15th, 2014 · No Comments

Though it is the mega-corporations who dominate the headlines, small business is one of the key drivers of the sustainable world economy. In 2012, self-employment climbed 3.6 per cent in Canada, with 95,600 individuals accounting for almost 40 per cent of new jobs created in that time. And whether you are hanging your shingle as a consultant or building a global business model starting with one employee, a solid brand is a key step to global (or neighborhood) domination.

Here are three examples of personal branding projects with different approaches to making their mark.

Appeal to Your Target Market’s Values.

As a Vancouver-based consultant with global experience in public health and environmental conservation, James Boothroyd has too many credentials to list in a tagline. But one thing he shares with his prospects is a strong belief and dedication to making things better. “I am a Boy Scout at heart, and an intellectual” says Jim. Both of these qualities are evident in his clean, bespectacled logo, and Boothroyd Consulting tagline – “Let’s change the world.”


If you have a strong set of values, and they help to tell your story and sell your services, don’t be afraid to put them right on your brand sleeve. A personal brand can be just that – highly personal. (Any prospects you turn off are likely to be a poor fit for your practice anyway) Just remember to prioritize your values and key messages with your customers’ needs in mind.

Use a Sense of Humor, But Keep Your Brand Solid.

Anybody who has worked with Chris Malthaner in his Sea-to-Sky trade area knows he can be a pretty funny guy. But there’s no joking when it comes to the quality of his craftsmanship. So on his trucks, and at the work site, Malthaner Custom Construction delivers its message with a smile. But the logo and brand clearly communicate strength, precision and good taste. “When I am taking down a 100-foot tree, or planning the construction of a Whistler home, there’s no joking around,” says Malthaner, “But in the Sea-to-Sky corridor, life and work are closely linked, and it’s important to have fun at both.”


If you prefer to sell with a smile, choose the right communication tools for that job. Where will people appreciate some humour? Where is a straight message more appropriate?  Make sure your overall brand identity reflects the tone that is most relevant to your central market advantage.

Build a Brand That Goes Beyond Your Name.

When personal coach Mark Cannon decided to ramp up his practice, he ended up moving to a name that has individual appeal, but a lot of potential for brand expansion. “Unicycle Creative guided me through the Brand Centering process, allowing me to identify what I really wanted for the business,” says Mark, “The outcome was LifeBlend Coaching. A name that helps differentiate me from other coaching businesses, and has a brand persona with potential to go further.”


Do you want to build a business that will go beyond your personal brand? Consider finding a company name that sets you up for success and can be passed on to other operators, franchisees or even owners. Look for a name that will let you start a conversation. (With LifeBlend, it’s an easy opener to ask people how their life blend is these days) Just know that in a world of over a half-a-billion websites, a unique name can be hard to come by. Best to get professional help with that.

Whatever goals you have for your personal brand, take the time to engage in a branding process and develop a good design platform. You’re worth it.

The brand examples above are from the Unicycle Creative portfolio. If you want to know more about personal or corporate brand development, visit the Unicycle Creative website.

→ No CommentsTags: Brand Identity · Naming · Uncategorized

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

Gesamtkunstwerk – German for ‘here’s how to create a REAL sales experience, dumkopf!’

June 1st, 2014 · No Comments

Vancouver House

Over the past few months in Vancouver, an intriguing idea was spelled out at the North end of the Granville Street Bridge. The word Gesamtkunstwerk was emblazoned in tasteful neon, atop a copper-clad building easily visible to all southbound traffic. So what was the meaning of this 15-letter German Scrabble masterstroke?

Vancouver House

Vancouver House

Gesamtkunstwerk is defined as ‘Life as a Total Work of Art’. To their credit, the developer, Westbank, and the architect, New York based BIG, actually created an engaging, intelligent space that merged architecture salon and sales center. Upon entering the museum-like hall, visitors (after registering of course) were welcome to browse a free exhibition of ‘Vancouverism’ featuring a genuine 1955 Arthur Erickson sketch. Through a complimentary audio tour, visitors also experienced firsthand the challenges and dedication involved in bringing a residential tower to life on a unique building site.

One event featured the new BMW electric i8 - who says green can't be sexy?

One event featured the new BMW electric i8 – who says green can’t be sexy?

A series of events was held in the space, featuring visionaries such as James K. M. Cheng, Larry Beasley and Mike Harcourt. Almost 20,000 people attended the exhibit and events, becoming immersed in the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, and in its expression as Vancouver House – a gravity-defying 52-storey tower that rises from a triangular footprint to form a curtain-like gateway to the downtown peninsula.

Vancouver House is also one of the first developments to feature an innovative social housing model that buys a home in a third-world country for every home purchased here. World Housing, the brainchild of real estate marketing gentleman Peter Dupuis, gifts a micro-home to a worthy family living in a dump community through an amazing group of dedicated partnerships and people.

Yes, the end result is indeed, another tower. But by offering a free, inclusive look at a larger architectural vision that also celebrates Vancouver’s origins, a greater sense of grandeur, presence and even social license has been created. The exhibition has now evolved into a display of the fine detail and finish of Vancouver House, and no doubt a fair number of the almost 20,000 prospects will be interested in investing.

The true market for Vancouver House is global, but by offering to educate, illuminate and include Vancouver citizens, Westbank and Vancouver House have also paved the way for success right here at home.

I have always wondered about the beautiful lives of miniature architectural model people.

I have always wondered about the secret lives of beautiful miniature architectural model people.

→ No CommentsTags: Brand Identity · Sustainable Businesses · Uncategorized

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

What makes a green product… green?

May 28th, 2014 · No Comments


Beyond lettuce, vermillion paint and stuffed frogs, defining ‘green’ for products can be difficult. First of all, the word itself has no agreed-upon definition. Should it refer to recycled, local, energy-saving, or involve a complete life cycle assessment to the molecular level? Perhaps the solution is not to judge.

What’s the Green Deal?,  the sustainability brand for London Drugs, developed and guided by Unicycle Creative , has never proposed to be a certification system. Maintaining the brand itself as a question means the team should always be looking to find out more, and share knowledge with customers.

resp-purch-icons-vertDeveloping a Responsible Purchasing Program

As What’s the Green Deal? has evolved, it became evident that it would naturally move further up the supply chain. Working with Reeve Consulting, a purchasing policy specialist, London Drugs recently formalized the product attributes and qualities it expects from vendors. Unicycle Creative is involved in naming and communicating the program, as well as developing the vendor document system for collecting product information.

From Certifications to Common Sense

The What’s the Green Deal? Responsible Purchasing evaluation process works on several levels:

  • Third Party Certifications – Recognized standards like Canada Organic, FairTrade Certified, Energy Star and EcoLogo let the team know that other organizations have done their homework.
  • Self-Declared Environmental Claims – London Drugs will recognize vendor claims if the documentation and website evidence appears to back them up. Recycled content, biodegradability and natural ingredients are examples of such claims.
  • Transparency – Can all ingredients and materials (including categories like colour and fragrance)  be sourced on the packaging or the company website? Transparency is one of the key factors in engaging genuine green trust. Especially on any products that go in, on, or around our families.
  • Corporate Responsibility – It’s hard to buy green products from a brown company. Social and environmental programs at the corporate level, company vision and other policies play a part. CSR reports and certifications such as B-Corporation are designed to formalize these policies.
  • It’s just greener. Duh. – Sometimes green just makes sense. Rechargeable batteries, compost containers and other products that help people live a little greener are worth pointing out.

If you want to find out more, visit to see London drugs’ Responsible Purchasing Policy.

Just keep greening.

Here’s where we spout the obligatory ‘sustainability is a journey, not a destination’ line. Trite, but true. As standards evolve,  What’s the Green Deal? will evolve with them. Hopefully helping create so many green products we won’t be able to feature them all.

→ No CommentsTags: Brand Identity · Naming · Sustainable Products

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

How to integrate in-store, on-line, web video and selfies in a contest that makes customers the real #GreenHeroes

April 21st, 2014 · 4 Comments

It’s about time recyclers got the hero status they deserve. So when London Drugs needed to spread the word about recycling for Earth Day 2014, we decided to get social with a heroic campaign.

We began with online video. Leaping out with balloons, confetti and an obnoxious bull-horn, we surprised shoppers using the London Drugs free in-store recycling service. We then festooned them with a stylish handmade medal and gave them $100 gift cards. (This settled their nerves appreciably) Check out some of the fun:

Everyday #GreenHeroes We Salute You! For shoppers not ‘lucky’ enough to get ambushed, we created an multi-pronged contest offering a $250 gift card, a Microsoft tablet and a 46″ Samsung TV. Customers can enter at the store (when they recycle), through Facebook or Twitter or by sending a ‘recycling selfie‘. This helps drive more contest entries and sharing from several vectors.

Setting a PR Challenge for the media. Our target is to double the recycling London Drugs usually handles in April, and spread the word about all of the things shoppers can take back totally free of charge. This creates a strong, measurable result that increases the newsworthiness of our campaign.


Getting the #GreenHeroes hashtag to take off takes a dedicated team. Having one dedicated main web landing page and a consistent hashtag is key to consistency and uptake. Unicycle Creative handled theming, video direction and obnoxious bullhorn duties, Wishpond handled the online contest strategy and integration, Wasserman & Partners took care of online media, PR was handled by Hartley PR. The concept was brainstormed by the entire team, including the London Drugs Marketing Department. Special thanks to the video team: Angela, Britta, Samantha and Shawn.

And of course, London Drugs customers, who are great sports and keep the whole Green Deal rolling with their sustainability efforts.

Click here to ‘like’ the contest and enter on Facebook

Click here to enter via Twitter

Click here to post your Recycling Selfie

green-hero-medal1Back Story: The Forging of the #GreenHeroes Medallions We wanted these medals to represent the values of London Drugs’ What’s the Green Deal Program, so we made them out of 100% recycled circuit boards, reclaimed from SIMS – LD’s responsible recycler for electronics, styrofoam and appliances. They were assembled by hand and cut using a solar-powered jigsaw. (Really!)

→ 4 CommentsTags: Green Creative · Social Media · Strategic Alliances · Sustainable Businesses · Sustainable Lifestyle · Unicycle Case Studies

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jen Westerveld // Apr 23, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Great reminder that everyone doing a little something adds up & does make a difference.
    Thanks LD for making it so accessible. :)

  • 2 Jaxon // Apr 23, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Wow, what an impressive move!
    I guess another reminder that it really does pay to recycle <3

  • 3 Sandi Green // Apr 24, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Nice! Video has a great vibe! Especially like the bullhorn. Customers seemed really surprised and very excited that recycling pays off!

  • 4 Trevor Simpson // May 2, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Good one Lorne, well done, works well and the message is clear

Leave a Comment

You Are Here. A Sustainability Literacy Presentation

April 16th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Green Design Graduating SuowOn April 16, 2014 I was honoured to be asked to present at the University of The Fraser Valley’s inaugural Graphic and Digital Design Portfolio Show. For those that attended, here are links to some of the resources I mentioned in my talk. For the other 6,999,999,850 or so of you who missed it, the approximate text of the speech follows. (Minus my ukulele version of Monty Python’s The Universe Song. Instead I leave you with a link to the real thing)

Sustainability Literacy Links:

Understanding Green Claims – Office of Consumer Affairs Canada

Environmental claims: A guide for industry and advertisers (PDF)

7 Sins of Greenwashing

Enbridge & The Missing Islands

London Drugs What’s the Green Deal Contest –

The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

The End of Growth – Richard Heinburg

The Meaning of Life (The Movie)

The Universe Song, YouTube

Public Speaking on Sustainability

You Are Here – The Talk: April 14, 2014 – Heritage Park Center, Mission, BC

Welcome. Thank you for having me, here, and congratulations to the University of The Fraser Valley Graphic & Digital Design Class of 2014.
You are here. And you are, indeed, green. But that’s not a bad thing.

Lorne-in-jukeboxI was once green, too. A long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Thirty years ago, in Calgary. I rummaged through old boxes of photos and found my original promo shot. I think I saw too many Tom Cruise movies… Yeah, I was green all right. Green as grass.

I graduated from the Alberta College of Art in 1984. George Orwell had predicted constant surveillance, a perpetual and undefined state of war, doublespeak and fascism dressed as strong government. (That wouldn’t really come until 30 years later)
Michael Jackson gave us Thriller, Eddie Van Halen told us to Jump. Prince sang about  Purple Rain and acid rain was the environmental scare of the day.

The Macintosh launched. With a Superbowl TV ad that made history. When I graduated, we still pasted our layouts on to boards with beeswax. Auto correct was done with an exacto knife. But through it all, there was always someone we could call. The Ghostbusters. (RIP Harold Ramis)

But in 1984 another team of people was setting out to save the world. The United Nations asked the Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, to create an independent organization, to focus on environmental and developmental problems and solutions. Three years later, this Brundtland Commission published a report called “Our Common Future”, giving us one of the key definitions of sustainable development, still being used and abused today.

“Sustainable development is the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

At the time, when I graduated, I had no clue about any of it.

So now I have to make an environmental confession, if you will permit. Forgive me David Suzuki, for I have sinned.

What’s the worst environmentally damaging thing you have done? For me, it was this.  A 1972 Oldsmobile Delta 88 i bought for $100. It had a 455 cubic inch V-8 engine. It moved me from Calgary to Vancouver in 1985, probably emitting as much carbon as a loaded 747 at take-off.

But the car itself was not my worst crime.

You see I used to change the oil in that car… And what do you think I did with the old stuff? Take it to the garage for recycling? Nope. I dumped it right in the alley. At our house, a block from the Bow River. I’d call a cop if I saw someone doing that today.

Somewhere out there is a 2-headed trout calling me ‘grandpa’.

I share this story not merely to cleanse my soul, but to illustrate why It’s so important that as designers and businesses we embrace the concept of Sustainability Literacy.

Even if you don’t think we’re all going to hell on a hockey stick graph, these days you need to understand the concepts of sustainability. Not knowing enough about sustainability can put your design practice your clients or your business at risk. And when we are ignorant, we are dangerous.

Sustainability is a technology. You can think of it as an upgraded operating system for the economy.  And like any technological innovation, its adoption can be graphed. The standard technology adoption curve is basically the same for any new idea or invention. From the leading edge early adopters to the laggards. It can also be illustrated with cartoons. (A picture tells a thousand words)

So even if that is you, at the far end of the curve, driving your Hummer, and you don’t care about sustainability, the people on the other end of the scale do. These are the letter writers. The protesters. The leaders of shareholder activism.

And besides the pressure from these groups, there is increased scrutiny on environmental regulation and claims. Are you a label reader? Do you look at ingredients? How about where a product is made? What about certifications?
All certifications are not created equal.

For businesses selling packaged goods, or designers out there wanting to do packaging design work, theres a riveting document out there called Environmental Claims: A Guide for Industry and Advertisers. This is a treatise put out by the good people at the Office of Consumer Affairs Canada. Among other things, it outlines three basic levels of certification.

Type I Eco Labels – are Independently verified by a third party through a testing process, usually around components of a life cycle
Examples: Canada Ecologo, USDA Organic, Canada Organic, Energy Star

Type II Eco Labels – are self-declared claims made by manufacturers, distributors or others who stand to gain by an improved environmental perception of the brand. Usually on a single product attribute. Credibility of these claims can be strengthened if manufacturers provide the supporting information in a clear, accurate and easily accessible way.
Examples include ‘Biodegradable’, ‘Non Toxic’ and  ‘Recycled’

Type III Eco Labels – A comprehensive Data list based on performance of a product throughout its life cycle. Similar to nutritional labeling.

So what about a label promoting a CFC Free product? It’s none of the above. Because CFCs have been banned for over 10 years, this is a completely irrelevant claim. This is what we call Greenwashing:

Green-wash (green’wash’, -wôsh’) – verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

It’s one of the biggest risks to a company or brand. As designers, you’ll have to really watch out for this.

The 7 deadly sins of Greenwashing were written by our friends at UL, (which used to be Terrachoice), a Canadian firm that helped create the EcoLogo program.

The Sin of the Hidden Trade Off
A claim suggesting that a product is ‘green’ based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues.
An example of this would be a Japanese whaling company that proudly boasts about their recycled photocopy paper.

The Sin of No Proof
An environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification.
One example would be the term ‘Recycled’. Is it 50% recycled? What is the percentage? Is it per-consumer waste, or post consumer?
Just saying ‘recycled’ is like going to an online dating site and not posting a photo. Danger!!

The Sin of Vagueness
A claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer. ‘All-natural’ is an example. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. ‘All natural’ isn’t necessarily ‘green’.

The Sin of Irrelevance
An environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. ‘CFC-free’ is a common example, since it is a frequent claim despite the fact that CFCs are banned by law.

The Sin of Worshipping False Labels
A product that, through either words or images, gives the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement exists; fake labels, in other words. Designers have to be really careful about this, because it looks like fun to design these! You get to use little leaves and planets and stuff… Maybe an earthworm… But if a client asks you to do this, they are leading you down the path of sin!

The Sin of Lesser of Two Evils
A claim that may be true within the product category, but that risks distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole. Biodegradable single serving coffee brewer cups is one example.

The Sin of Fibbing
Environmental claims that are simply false. The most common examples were products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified or registered. But here’s a more relevant one.


The image on the left is part of a promotional video that Enbridge produced in 2012 to help encourage British Columbians to support the shipping of bitumen through Douglas Channel from Kitimat. Unfortunately they missed a few things. like about 1000 square kilometers of islands. Whether you support Northern Gateway or not, its obvious that blatant Greenwash is not the way to convince people you can be trusted.

Oh, and who first spotted these missing islands? A Vancouver Islander named Lori Walters, Graphic Designer.

So with all these rules and regulations and potential pitfalls of green marketing, is it even possible to do good design and, God forbid, maybe even have a little fun?? Sure!

London Drugs What's the Green Deal CampaignIn 2008, London Drugs asked me what they should do to brand their sustainability initiatives. After looking at their business, their programs and their customers, we came up with one big question: What’s the Green Deal? This program does not preach. It does not judge. It simply offers credible information for shoppers looking to live and buy a little greener.

So is What’s the Green Deal a type I II or III label? It has elements of all three. In describing products, we refer to certifications whenever we can and we tell people the difference. We also do research on self declared product claims and share them. And, with our recycling programs, we track and share our waste diversion rates with the detail of a type III label.

Part of the London Drugs strategy is not to blow our own horn, but rather thank the customers who helps recycle over 11 million lbs of packaging, electronics, batteries, cell phones and more every year.

For our Earth Month 2014 campaign, we went into stores, surprising customers who were recycling or buying green products and giving them a $100 gift card. We also have an online contest, where people who bring recycling to their local stores can enter to win an energy efficient electronics bundle worth $1500. Customers can also enter on Facebook and Twitter.

More importantly, What’s the Green Deal tells the world that London Drugs will always be asking the question, and moving forward.

Because sustainability is a journey, not a destination.

And, as with any journey, the best part is the stories you gather along the way.

Here is a fun web video I produced for Left Coast Naturals. It does a really good job of describing the basics of sustainability, but also reveals a surprising discovery about their supply chain.

After all that organic love, would it surprise you to know I did work for a coal fired power plant?

Drax, one of Britain’s largest coal power facilities, was working on a plan to commingle biomass with the coal. I was asked to design a report to help explain why that might be a good idea. Working with Terrachoice, we branded it Field to Furnace .

Right up front we transparently addressed the challenges of coal, even clearly stating its impact on climate change. Then we explained where biomass comes from and what sources might be available. Finally, the key point was explained in this info graphic. Showing that biomass is part of our current C02 cycle, while fossil fuels like coal are adding carbon dioxide from our planets past.

So where is it all going? Like coal and biomass, How can sustainability coexist with the current world we live in? Here’s a look at how traditional economists see environmental sustainability…

The economy must grow, more sales, more profits, more GDP. And within all that is e public sector, government programs and the like, some of which are supposed to be in charge of protecting the environment. If the economy keeps growing, so the current thinking goes, we can grow our support for public and natural systems.

Traditional Economy

BUT there is a growing school of thought that says is is actually inside out.

It’s a field called Ecological Economics, and it was actually started in the 1920′s. In the briefest terms, the idea is that nature is a closed system, with hard limits. Within this system the market economy must exist. And coexist with public services, each providing to their strengths.

Ecological Economics Economy

As you will quickly surmise, this implies a net zero growth state. Is it possible to provide for human welfare with an economy that does not grow?

More importantly, is it possible to exist on the planet with an economy that does not stop growing?

Obviously worthy of more debate than we can give it here. Look up a book called The End of Growth, by Richard Heinberg, or The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

So by now your minds are melting… You just wanted to get a job doing something creative and now you have to save the whole frickin’ world??

Well maybe it’s time to get a little perspective.

Let’s go back to the 80′s, where a little movie from Britain promised to give us all The Meaning of Life

→ 1 CommentTags: Events · Green Creative · Green in the Economic Downturn · Green Points of View · Green Politics · Uncategorized · Unicycle Case Studies

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 gail whiteford // Apr 22, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    great speech, Lorne. You left them laughing and thinking at the same time. Congratulations

Leave a Comment