Every day people are discovering more ways to be “green,” by reducing, reusing, and recycling, in the office, at home, and even specifically in art studios. For example, Jonathan Laidacker of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program says that they’ve begun using Golden Paints on their projects for several reasons, including Golden’s low presence of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and also the fact that the engineers work with the mural program and tweak formulas to fit their needs.
In the 2014 Photographer’s Market book, Tom Tumbusch shares the following article (below), “Giving Greenlancing a Go: Make Sustainability a Core Value of Your Business,” on how to incorporate green practices into your own business (click here to Tweet this free article).
So here it is! Several ways that you can make small steps that add up to making a difference. The 2014 Photographer’s Market includes more articles on art business, plus listings of where to sell/hang your work. Plus, it comes with a free one-year subscription to ArtistsMarketOnline.com, which has even more resources, such as software to help you track various aspects of your business.
Do you have other suggestions for making your studio “green”? Tell me! Simply send an email to email@example.com, or post your comment below to get the conversation going. And, read more about the amazing things happening in Philly here:
Until next time,
Giving Greenlancing a Go: Make Sustainability a Core Value of Your Business
by Tom N. Tumbusch, a freelance writer who specializes in creating action for green businesses and creative agencies. His tiny solar-powered corner of the internet can be found at www.wordstreamcopy.com.
In late 2009, I made sweeping changes to my freelance writing business. I not only renamed and rebranded my company, but I also added a major focus on sustainability. It’s one of the most satisfying choices I’ve ever made, and I’ve never looked back.
Ever since I made the switch, I’ve received occasional inquiries from other solopreneurs who are interested in pursuing a similar career path. It’s a commitment, to be sure, but the good news is that getting started takes less effort than most people realize.
Are You “Green” Enough?
Many creatives who want to get into green marketing are skittish about making the jump because they worry their lifestyle won’t bear the scrutiny of more sustainable colleagues and neighbors. They fret about being branded as a fraud unless they eat a strict vegan diet, do all business and household errands on a bicycle, recycle every scrap of household waste, flush only under certain circumstances, and water a four-acre organic garden with graywater from their solar-powered homes.
If you can live that way, great. But if fear of having your home office picketed by greener-than-thou protestors is the only thing holding you back, I give you permission to let this anxiety go right this minute. A sincere desire to walk the talk is a good thing. Unearned guilt is not.
First of all, if you work from home, you’re already greener than the vast majority of the workforce because you’re not commuting. About five years ago, the American Electronics Association (now part of TechAmerica) estimated that telecommuting could save 1.35 billion gallons of gas every year if every worker who could do it stayed home just 1.6 days a week. Work from home every day and you can legitimately claim substantial green cred out of the gate.
With that as your baseline, make at least one additional commitment. My first lifestyle change was an Eco-Drive wristwatch: Eight hours of direct sunlight provides enough power to charge the battery for a year. It cost a bit more at the time, but I haven’t bought a new watch battery since 2007.
Make Small Choices, Then Larger Ones
Once you’ve made your initial commitment, periodically take things up a notch. Incremental changes are easier to stick to, and they make larger changes more, well, sustainable later on. My solar watch led to a backpack solar charger, which I use to juice up my phone and other small devices as often as I can. It’s also a great icebreaker when I go to networking events and prospect meetings. Sometime after that I switched my e-mail and web hosting over to a solar-powered ISP. Every month or so I try to find some new way to reduce my impact.
Again, it’s okay to start small. Any effort that you make to decrease your footprint has value, and we can’t all afford to install geothermal heating systems on day one. Switch to paperless invoicing. Set up your home office to make the most of natural light. Recycle as much as possible. Replace auto travel with walking or bicycling when you’re able. Make do with the Apple gizmos you already own as long as you can.
One of the best places to get practical, attainable ideas is Practicallygreen.com, a free website that suggests ways to make your personal life more sustainable based on what you’re already doing. The company has also announced a business-oriented service they have in the works. You can request a demo on their website.
Whatever you choose, you don’t have to be perfect. Seriously, don’t beat yourself up if you slip once in awhile. You won’t have to. Once you commit to a green lifestyle, life will send you plenty of gentle reminders to keep you on track. The day I wrote this article, I had to pay 50 cents extra for my coffee because I forgot to bring my travel mug to the shop where I was writing. Use lessons like this as reminders to solidify habits, not judgments about your value as a person.
Decide What Green Means to You
Just because you promote yourself to clients who value sustainability doesn’t let you off the hook from defining your target market. “Green” is a nebulous term that’s used to refer to everything from electric vehicles to organic food, and if there’s one thing you’ll find in this market, it’s diversity. The marketing needs of a general contractor working with the U.S. Green Building Council are vastly different from those of a nonprofit charity protecting coral reefs.
Trying to be every shade of green will drive you crazy. You may even find that running your business sustainably has more appeal than pursuing green clients.
Here’s another tip: Not all of your prospects will be neo-hippies, liberals or Democrats. They’re still the majority, but today’s major sustainability advocates also include the U.S. military, corporate behemoths, Libertarians eager to get off the grid, and some evangelical Christians.
Face Green Marketing Challenges
Many people want to live more responsibly, but only one consumer in five is willing to buy merely for greenness. Three common problems repeatedly confront green marketers:
• The pervasive myth that green equals greater cost
• The fear that green requires some kind of sacrifice
• Consumer fatigue from the growing number of fraudulent claims about sustainability.
Your job as a greenlancer will often involve confronting these issues proactively. The cost problem is the most common, as exemplified by the Toyota Prius, which is more expensive up front but saves money over time. Many green products face similar challenges.
Whenever possible, imagine how a green product stacks up against its competition without its green benefits. Use infographics and other design elements to show how it’s just as good or better than the alternatives–then follow up with the kicker that it’s better for the planet too. A great case study for this approach is Tide Coldwater, which provides immediate benefits without cost increases or major changes in consumer behavior–just wash clothes in cold water instead of hot water.
Look for Green Opportunities
There are plenty of startup businesses founded on sustainable goals, but going after the green market doesn’t limit you to new or struggling companies. Some big names are already on the green bandwagon, including Apple, Continental Airlines, Ford, General Electric, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Honda, Procter & Gamble, Toyota and even Walmart.
If medium-sized firms are your ideal prospects, look for companies that support larger organizations with a green agenda. For example, the supply chains for P&G and Walmart favor vendors who follow sustainable practices over comparable competitors who don’t. Companies who want to play with these giants have a vested interest in greening their image legitimately, not just looking the part.
Green construction is another field that’s being propelled into sustainability by outside forces. Building owners and government agencies are starting to realize that green buildings are good for more than just public relations—they’re more cost-effective to operate, retain tenants longer and can command higher rents. Many architects, contractors and interior designers are being dragged into this movement kicking and screaming, but growing demand and generous incentives are making the trend difficult to ignore. Forming a relationship with your local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council is a great way to get your foot in the door with this crowd. Visit www.usgbc.org to find a group in your area.
One final word about greenlancing: Don’t do it unless you sincerely believe in it. Green enthusiasts may not hound you if they doubt your credibility, but they can still smell “greenwashing” miles away. Don’t try to green your business just to look hip and responsible. Do it because it enriches your life on some level. You can waste a lot of time splitting hairs about whether you should pursue the green market, but the bottom line is that enthusiasm, a few small commitments and a willingness to learn more are enough to get you started.