Community Building 101: The Acid Test Every Message, Blog Post, Tweet and Idea Must Pass

If you’re in business, you understand value. You ensure every action adds value to your business goals or bottom line. But do you evaluate your community-building initiatives as stringently?

Why social communities are important

Social communities can make or break your business. Whether you’re in B2B or B2C, there’s no better way to “cut through the clutter” than having a community of customers, prospects and influencers that has your back.

Social communities are valuable and can be your brand’s strongest advocates. They can also be a big driver for bringing in new customers. CrossFit and SoulCycle are both great example of using the social aspect of their brands to differentiate themselves in an otherwise crowded market.

But social communities don’t happen overnight.

First, choose the right audience for your specific cause or topic. This is where customer service is crucial, no matter the business or industry. This is the group that should remain at the center of all your marketing and community initiatives. Some quick, but important, questions to ask include:

  • Is the audience appropriate for your business?
  • Has your audience changed since you first started building a community?

Keep in mind that irrelevant, legacy audiences can be a source of blind headaches when they voice their disappointment in the way the company has changed. On the flip side, relevant legacy audiences can be your best friends – especially in times of trouble.

Once you’ve nailed down your audience, you’re ready to nurture your budding community with these four methods:

Listen

If you’re not engaged in social media listening, you’re missing out on tons of insights about the people who are actively talking about your industry and brand. Keep track of what the top influencers and prospects in your industry are reading and sharing. What hashtags are they using? What types of content are they sharing? What do their bios look like? What are their pain points?

Autonomy

While you want to control every aspect of the community-building efforts, you can’t. Control what you can and act responsibly, but know that at time you need to let your community develop organically. Allow your newfound audience to build its own momentum.

Engagement

Once you’ve kept an eye on the pulse of activity within the community, opportunities to engage will present themselves. Ask and answer questions, comment on their posts, like their activities, share their content and follow them back. Over time, they’ll notice your engagement and appreciate it – and they will likely return the favor.

Reward

People love rewards and they love validation of their actions. Go ahead and thank people for sharing your content. Invite them to company events and webinars. Use your social platforms to maximize brand loyalty by first engaging your social community. Let them be the first to know about your brand’s news, rewards programs and more. This creates an exclusivity that people naturally crave. In turn, you can make your social media platforms the place customers are encouraged to refer your business through different contents, recognition and more.

Great! Now What?

It’s easy to forget that your business is not the center of your customers’ universe. Their lives are filled with experiences, information, relationships and stories that have nothing to do with you.

To them, you are an occasional blip on a crowded radar screen — and if you can maintain some frequency to your blip and some relevance to the audience’s radar screen, you’ve done more than most.

Focus on how well you engage those you attract.

Maintain awareness of your audience and how you want it to change over time as you continue to engage your social community.

To do this, we believe every social initiative, down to each tweet, should pass a quick “acid test” to evaluate its strength.

The Community Acid Test Every Message, Blog Post, Tweet and Idea Must Pass

  • Do we believe it?
  • Will it interest at least 50 percent of our target audience members?
  • Will they believe it?
  • Does it in any way risk making an audience member feel disrespected?
  • Will they feel good passing it along?
  • Does it build on themes our audience has already discussed?
  • Do we mind if the audience runs with it?
  • Can it impact the company in any negative way?
  • Does it add value to our audience’s life?
  • Does it help advance our cause or mission?
  • Does it help audience members feel good about their relationship with us?
  • Does it help build positive bias towards our brand in some way?

Depending on the answers to these questions, teams can easily decide whether to move forward with a specific tactical initiative, such as a particular blog post or tweet.

For example, suppose you sell energy recovery ventilation (ERV) technology for HVAC systems. Over time, you’ve built a social community of salespeople, facilities managers, HVAC equipment suppliers and commercial real-estate owners. For these audiences, you can offer tremendous expertise about HVAC, ERV and a host of associated benefits and opinions. You can start discussions about technology, help your audiences understand the competitive landscape and trade-offs, and opine about a wealth of topics ranging from clean-energy installations to various energy efficiency strategies.

As you can imagine, such an acid test varies from industry to industry. Creating and using your own acid test to evaluate your social content will ensure that you add value to the all-important intersection of your organization and your audiences’ lives.

In return, the community will add value to your business for the long term.

B2B Success: Going Beyond What You Already Know

You’re constantly thinking about your potential customers. How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do? How much money do they make? What causes do they support? What are their pains, and what kinds of budgets do they have to address those pains?

Here’s a quick exercise. Look at the following examples and try to come up with the target audience for each:

  1. SolarRetailer sells end-to-end photovoltaic systems to retailers who operate their own buildings.
  2. EarthWindFire sells lobby kiosks to schools and universities, where the kiosk and its screen provide insight into a building’s renewable energy systems and performance.
  3. BizWind sells small wind turbines and associated equipment to building owners and managers who want to add renewable energy to their buildings.

Obviously, the target audiences are:

  1. Retailers with their own buildings/locations
  2. Schools and universities
  3. Building owners and managers

Are these audiences important? Yes. Should their needs and desires determine all the marketing efforts? Probably not, but many companies focus only on a limited view of a target audience. That’s normal.

We’re fairly myopic creatures in many ways, as Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman shows in his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” As he puts it, “familiarity is more important than truth,” and usually your target audience is very familiar to you. In the book, Kahneman coins the term WYSIATI, or “what you see is all there is,” to describe the human tendency to jump to conclusions and be overconfident about those conclusions.

We see this all the time in marketing, and many marketers use the following arguments (excuses) to support their minimally researched conclusions:

  • We already understand our target audience. We’ve been working with these folks for years, and we know exactly how they think.
  • We don’t have time or money to do research that will simply confirm what we already know.

We’ve learned that even when there’s no time or money to do research, we can still devote mental energy to question our assumptions. To do this, ask questions and use simple mechanisms to guide our thinking. One of those mechanisms requires us to frame the notion of “audience” differently in the B2B landscape. Instead of analyzing the target audience, we focus on the audience’s audience(s). In other words, when we work with a client, we spend part of our time thinking how that client’s customers need to impress their own customers. In the B2B world, all our clients’ customers have their own customers.

In the above examples, this means we need to target as follows:

  • For SolarRetailer, we must target people who might favor shopping at a store location that uses renewable energy, not just the retail store who is our client’s customer.
  • For EarthWindFire, we need to focus on students, parents, administrators and municipal stakeholders who might pass through a school or university’s lobby, not just the school or university who will purchase the EarthWindFire kiosk.
  • For BizWind, we need to look at businesses and individuals who favor renting space in buildings that offer clean energy or other “green” features, not just the building managers and owners who will purchase the wind-energy installations.

For example, when considering the customer’s customer, the SolarRetailer marketing team will move away from a strict focus on system cost and ROI for retailers. More importance will be given to the compelling look of SolarRetailer installations as seen from the ground. The marketing team might even develop posters and literature that come with the system, informing consumers about the store’s system and its benefits, such as cutting its carbon footprint. Perhaps EarthWindFire will be brought in to place a kiosk in the retailer’s lobby, showing consumers what the PV system is yielding in real-time with cool graphs and carbon-footprint calculations.

Such marketing and messaging will send a clear signal to the retail store’s decision-maker when it comes to purchasing a PV system: SolarRetailer is thinking on my behalf and giving me something that my own customers will love.

We must avoid limiting ourselves to thinking of audiences as “business-to-business.” Instead, we segment in the following manner:

  • B2B – Our client targets businesses that use its products and services to help run their own business more intelligently and efficiently.
  • B2B2B – Our client targets businesses that sell to other businesses. Our client’s attributes and messages can impact how their customers sell to those businesses.
  • B2B2C – Our
    client targets businesses that sell to consumers. Our client’s attributes and messages can impact how their customers sell to those consumers. (The fictional SolarRetailer fits into this category.)
  • B2Gov – Our client targets local, regional, state or federal governments to influence those bodies with messages that will eventually reach or help end users.
  • B2B2Gov – Our client targets businesses that sell into local, regional, state or federal governments. Our client’s attributes and messages can impact how its customers sell to those bodies.

Knowing that we often create our opinions and make decisions in a WYSIATI way, the above nomenclature provides an easy way to get us out of the “what we see” mindset.

In B2B marketing, your customers must always impress their own customers. Thinking about the latter set will help you message most effectively to your own customers and give them tools beyond your products and services to succeed in their businesses.

Burdens of Growth

Written by our Summer 2016 intern, Cara Kingsley.

Boston SkylineRed brake lights illuminate highways, and cars come to a halt in the middle of morning commutes. Rush-hour becomes unbearable with large sums of people packed into public transportation. If commuting feels long now, just wait 15 years…

Cities globally are experiencing the painful impact of population increase. Our growing population has far-reaching implications for cities trying to maintain sustainable living. According to a report from the business group A Better City, in the Boston area alone “another 80,000 cars and trucks will crowd the roads every work day by 2030, a nearly 5 percent increase from 2010 levels.”

Not only will the increase in commuters increase travel time, but it will also cause rapid decay for a city’s roads, transit, air quality and quality of living.

“There are many areas that will need some substantive attention if our infrastructure is going to keep pace with our economy,” said Richard Dimino, CEO of A Better City.

The growing population will need improved:

  • Utilities
  • Waste Management
  • Sustainability (especially regarding air pollution)
  • Housing
  • Transportation

Who’s going to fix these problems?

Thankfully there are companies that are working hard to resolve these issues and promote sustainability. But getting news of these solutions, technologies and research to intended audiences is difficult. While it’s easy to rail at the challenges urban centers face, there seems to be less acceptance of solutions, especially information from start-ups and smaller companies seeking momentum and adoption. So how do these companies reach their audiences?

B2B marketing is complex. The suggestions below can help communicate solutions the burdens a growing population create for urban infrastructure, and can help the companies providing the solution reach influential audiences.

  • Public Affairs: Public affairs as a platform to achieve strategic goals is a must for organizations activating change. Raising challenges and presenting solutions to the general public may drive goodwill and awareness, but does it motivate influencers who can make a difference at a corporate or governmental level? A public affairs initiative can elevate a corporate story from news to cause-related, or uncover opportunities to speak to government leaders influential in specific industries. Pro Tip: “Keep this fact top-of-mind: Behind any public policy challenge, are real people. When policymakers are your target audience, it’s all about the ‘show’ and less about the ‘tell.’ Provide tangible demonstrations of the strong support for a given policy solution and your issue will gain traction within the halls of power. A robust, nimble public engagement program can accomplish this by educating and, more importantly, activating constituencies relevant to policymakers.” – Saleem Cheeks, Counselor, Public Affairs
  • Digital: How well does your website perform when searching for keys words related to your product or service? How accessible is your site across devices? Taking a critical look at your website and SEO efforts, and improving both where warranted, can increase your awareness as potential clients search businesses in your industry. The more convenient and efficient it is to find your business, the more brand recognition and credibility you will receive. For example, there are many companies that help builders and architects comply with the myriad codes and regulations for the sustainable housing market. A strong digital presence helps a business rise to the top of what can be a cluttered environment. Pro Tip: “In this world where the number of devices are multiplying like rabbits, everything needs to be fully responsive. Today, more than half of internet traffic is from a mobile device. If your site isn’t conducive to this environment, then you’re going to lose a huge number of visitors.” –Erin Mooney, front end developer, digital
  • Advertising: Brand your solution with clarity, and in a way that drives affection relevance and trust. A strong brand voice and image drives brand loyalty, and helps prospective customers understand the offerings and values of a company. Sustainability is a popular subject and there is a lot of competition among companies that provide solutions. Pro Tip: “Big ideas rule the landscape. Public art captures attention. Create your own “advertising” channels by owning content when you create, promote, insert and measure… then repeat.” – Kevin Hart, Partner, Creative Director 
  • Public Relations: Driving brand awareness is best done through strategic public relations. Create two-way conversations between you and your public. Ensure your communication is dynamic. Use social media, blogs and other content to stimulate an audience’s interest in your business. PR helps inform consumers and businesses through digital media, media, special events, experiential marketing, content marketing, community relations and more. Pro Tip: Forming the right story – one with resonance and repeatability – and surrounding target audiences with it helps raise awareness and condition the market for solutions to sustainability challenges. -Mark O’Toole, managing director, PR

News and information can travel fast in today’s world. As urban density increases and human travel slows down even more, how will your story rise above the congestion?

Do you need parking for coworking?

The Greentown Labs space often looks more packed than even this!

The Greentown Labs space often looks more packed than even this!

One of the great things about working at HB is the chance to set down a laptop in a place like Greentown Labs. The team loves the time we spend there, not just because of the Bevi machine, but because of the energy within its walls. It’s just great to work among so many smart and energetic people and have conversations with them about the future of the world.

Todd Van Hoosear and I spent a bit of time working in the MassChallenge offices a few years ago and it was much the same thing.

And that’s how Bill Jacobson, CEO of Workbar, defined “coworking” during a panel hosted by the Newton Needham Chamber of Commerce and moderated by yours truly. He pointed out that the main difference between a coworking space and a place with just some co-workers is that coworking is built around the idea that people want to build a community. Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, said much the same thing when she talked about the curation of the Greentown Labs community and how they work to avoid competitive companies. Apparently this cooperation is at play when, in the labs, someone swears loudly and another person working nearby asks “how can I help?”

Over at Mullen Lowe‘s Wunderbar, Vishal Chandawarkar, who manages the space, noted that the energy and collaboration between the right people makes it all work. The entrepreneurs developing technology get the right feedback from the UX and digital teams within Mullen, something they couldn’t get if they were paired with, say, media buyers. Still, there are pitfalls, like making sure that everyone signs NDAs and lives by the rules.

The conversation that continues online, however, came from Duane Mayo of the International Entrepreneurship Center, who physically hosted the event. He noted that “ample parking” was key to making coworking viable. Some of the discussion on the Village14 blog, which occurred after the talk and involved both those who attended and those who didn’t, centers around transit as key, not jut parking.

Of course, you can just listen below and judge for yourself. Feedback welcome!

Boston Does More with Less

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Love or hate Boston, we have bragging rights for a reason and a new win to celebrate — we’re the most energy-efficient big city in the nation thanks to a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

The report covers various aspects from local government to transportation and community initiatives. You can view Boston’s scorecard here to see the total ranking breakdown.

What’s contributed to this major energy win for Boston?

  • Last year, Mayor Walsh released the Greenovate Boston 2014 Climate Action Plan Update, celebrating the city’s progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, and to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

  • The nation’s oldest ballpark and home of our beloved Red Sox gained another title this year: the largest organic rooftop garden in the majors. Not only does it provide fresh, organic vegetables, the garden also reduces energy costs by insulating the building below it and will be a ‘teaching tool’ for area children about healthy eating and the local environment.

  • Greater Boston is doing its part too. Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone launched a GreenTech program to meet the city’s ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. As part of this program, Somerville is engaging members of its community to help mold the city’s energy future. Last month Understory, a startup based out of Greentown Labs, joined the GreenTech program, providing the city of Somerville with its solar-powered weather stations as part of a pilot program.

Other major cities are now looking at Boston as a model for energy efficiency. Places like New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Denver aren’t that far behind us.

How does your city rank? If you’re Oklahoma City, you’re using way too much energy. Here’s an idea to help the environment: you could start cutting back on all the styrofoam cups, Sonic.

image via RealityTVGIFs

image via RealityTVGIFs

Blog posts don’t matter… do they?

Blog_Now

In a recent conversation with the HB team, someone asked if the work we do to keep our blog up to date with relevant content, interesting perspectives and topical news was worth it. You see, it requires a great deal of time and investment to do it well and to do it consistently. And sometimes it’s a struggle to keep up with the pace of the rest of the world’s zeal to produce content. But it is so worth it.

As a member of the HB new business team, I talk to a lot of prospects. Among the things that come up in our conversations is how they found HB and what interested them about us. This is also true of prospective employees and new partners. Very often they mention our blog. For example, last week one of the first things a prospect in the energy and sustainability world brought up was Nicolas’ blog about Solar. In another recent meeting, a prospective employee brought up a post I wrote years ago about an unfortunate incident at the OCCC. And there’s the prospect who was about to make a decision on which agency to select, read Chuck’s post about Tom Brady and chose HB.

A blog is an opportunity to express a point of view, take your opinions for a stroll, vent or wax poetic about… anything. And yes, it’s worth it.

Why We Chose to Go Solar, and Why You May Not Want To

For the first six years we lived in our house, our electric bills averaged $1,500/year. While we wanted to go solar for a variety of reasons, we didn’t think it was likely to be worthwhile financially. So we tried to economize by limiting our use of electricity. That generally didn’t work, as our house came with a pool which runs a filter 24/7 in summer months, a greenhouse with electric heat for winter (it’s freezing in there), and an exhaust fan for summer (it’s boiling in there), and a couple of rooms in the back — the part of the house that used to be a barn — which also have electric heat.

The back of the house — the former barn — had a large south-facing roof with asphalt tiles (the front of the house has a slate roof). There’s a huge unfinished area under that roof that turns into a furnace all summer, so we figured it must be getting some good solar exposure.

The front and middle sections have slate, but the back — the old barn — had a large, featureless, south-facing asphalt-shingled roof.

As it turned out, solar companies told us that this south-facing roof could hold enough solar panels to cover our electricity usage and more. They also believed that it could work out financially, by which they meant that if we invested in a solar system, we could most likely get our investment back in 5–8 years.

To read more of this story, including how we calculated ROI, on Medium or LinkedIn.

Somerville Means Business…Green Business

lightbulbMassachusetts is leading the clean and green tech revolution in the United States. From Governor Patrick’s leadership to our top-tier universities and every startup in between, we have all of the necessary elements in place to help drive our progress.

It’s important to note, however, that all of this innovation isn’t happening in downtown Boston. Many are quick to assume that the Bay State’s cleantech advancements are developed in the Innovation District or the Leather District but believe it or not, many of the latest and greatest technologies are born just across the river in Cambridge and Somerville.

The latter of the two is stepping up its green tech game by launching an initiative to engage members of its community to help mold Somerville’s energy future. At Greentown Labs earlier the week — the pioneer of green and cleantech in Somerville — Mayor Joe Curtatone announced the City’s official Request for Information (RFI) in an effort to gain information that will help develop a program for the City to collaborate with emerging green tech companies that can be applied throughout Somerville.

According to the City’s announcement:

“The purpose of this RFI is to gain a greater understanding of the projects and services that green tech companies can offer to pilot, demonstrate, launch or apply as part of the greater effort to experiment and develop new ideas that will support sustainability in the City of Somerville including our 2050 net zero emissions target.”

Cue the cleantech entrepreneur happy dance! Amiright?! Not only is Somerville hugely supportive of green tech innovations, it’s asking its brilliant community members for their ideas about how different technologies can be rolled out throughout the City. Hats off to Mayor Curtatone and his whole sustainability team. It’s not everyday you see city leadership asking its people for disruptive concepts to ignite positive change.

 

It’s Not Easy Being a Green Apple: 3 Cleantech Lessons from the iPhone 6 Announcement

Apple logo with a green leaf.

Apple logo with a green leaf. by Scott Beale, on Flickr

Buried deep in Apple’s big announcement yesterday was a small checklist that ticked off their environmental credentials. I cannot overstate how unimportant this was to the full announcement, the fact that it was even on stage is surprising.

You won’t find the checklist in any of the coverage, which focuses entirely on the features and benefits of the new Apple products. There is plenty written about the new Pay feature as well as the design of the Apple Watch, but want to know how green the product is? I found only one story on that and it’s mostly a critique of people critiquing Apple’s environmental credentials on Twitter.

The checklist itself can be found on the iPhone 6 specs page. What, you’ve never read the specs on the iPhone 6? Oh, well go do that, then scroll all the way to the bottom and you’ll find a small checklist. Here’s a screenshot:

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 6.36.41 AM

It’s a decent list, but look at how it’s presented. The important elements are in darker text so your eye finds them fast, the rest are really secondary. You know it’s environmental because it has that cool Apple logo that they roll out once a year.

But I don’t put this here to bash Apple, they’re just reading the market and maybe satisfying that segment that wants to check the “green” box. They know that consumers have a passing interest the environment and the list is enough for them to say “OK, Apple’s got this” and then move on to the cool stuff like how big it is, how fast it is and when can you take my money!

takemymoney

For companies in the cleantech and clean energy space, this means something much more.

When branding a sustainability, clean energy or cleantech company, it’s important to keep the true buyer in mind. If you are marketing to a checkbox item, then you’re not core to the business thereby making your sales position weak. Worse, your value proposition won’t enable you to charge a fair price, or even a premium, for your products, since “nice to haves” are cheaper than those products that speak to core business needs.

Here are 3 lessons from Apple’s announcement:

1. Separate the Mission from the Message

Tesla makes cars. Tesla makes technologically advanced cars. Sure, the team wants to disrupt the auto industry and even have an environmental bent by taking on the internal combustion engine. But at its heart it makes cars that are as good or better than anything that Mercedes puts out. That’s what sells, it’s what people want, it’s what Tesla makes. No one buys a Tesla just because it’s electric.

Yes, you may have a mission of saving the environment, you may even have done the math and realized that if a large portion of your the market uses your product, it can reduce water usage, power usage or CO2 by massive amounts. But, before any of that happens, the buyers must make a business decision to buy and that decision is based on factors that simply don’t include “being green.”

2. Focus on the Real Competition

You may feel like the competition is in the environmental industry, but it isn’t. Apple may be committed to putting a glass on its iPhone (and Apple Watch) that uses no arsenic, but first and foremost the glass must work for the phone. If it’s weak, cracks and scratches easily, or doesn’t have the right feel, then it wouldn’t be on the iPhone. The company may be running an entire factories and data centers by solar power, but if that power drives up the cost of doing business or can’t support the manufacturing infrastructure, then Apple will just put itself back on the grid. First and foremost, the plant needs power. How it gets that power is secondary.

As a company, your real competition is the alternative method of doing business. Your solution needs to not only be sustainable and provide a positive environmental impact, but also do the job as well, if not better, than what it’s replacing.

3. Listen to your Sales People

Sales folks are on the front line and constantly getting feedback from customers, they know what works, the competition and the true concerns of their prospects. Listen to them, go on calls with them, get their feedback on the messaging. They will know what motivates customers and therefore what should be built into your marketing messages.

 Just like in other industries, any advances are only as good as the benefit they bring. And for cleantech and sustainability companies, that benefit must go beyond the environmental impact.

When Smog Clogs Cleantech

smog clogs cleantechThe PR world is abuzz with the Guardian headline from last week, proclaiming that the world’s top PR firms won’t represent climate deniers. “World’s Top PR Firms Rule Out Working with Climate Deniers” the UK-based publication declared. It’s a great headline, even if the story is not nearly as black and white.

Yes, a number of PR firms said they wouldn’t represent groups that deny climate change, but others, like Edelman, were not so willing to toss aside clients based on ideology. Quite a few others didn’t even respond to the survey. The basic premise of the study, conducted by the Guardian and the Climate Information Centre, is that PR firms play a strong role in crafting the messages that are fogging the climate change discussion.

“I think that public relations people are right at the elbow of powerful people in industry and government,” James Hoggan told The Guardian. He is a former PR firm owner who also founded DeSmogBlog, a site devoted to separating PR spin from fact when it comes to climate science. “You are an insider – a very trusted insider – and you can have a huge influence. It really does matter. These are influential organizations,” he continued.

It is true that there are certain areas of black and white in the cleantech world. Yes, the world is undergoing a major change in climate, the science points to that. Yes, that change is happening quickly and is man-made.

But elsewhere in cleantech we find a lot of smog. We represent cleantech clients here at HB as part of our Energy and Sustainability practice and sometimes you need to trust your gut when hearing the claims. Add to that  the fact that the very nature of “cleantech” keeps changing. In a recent piece in Xconomy about VC funding for cleantech startups, National Reporter Martin LaMonica calls this out:

In the first half of [2014], the three big areas were transportation, solar, and agriculture and food, according to the Cleantech Group’s definition. Energy efficiency also remains a consistent area.
During the go-go years, energy technologies, notably solar and biofuels, dominated startup funding. But now, agriculture and food—a category that wasn’t necessarily considered cleantech—is quickly rising; about $471 million went into that sector in the first half of this year, almost as much as all of last year.

Peel back the covers and what’s in that agriculture column? It could be companies engineering plant life to grow with less water or companies using drones to better monitor crops. Also falling into the cleantech bucket is a company like Uber because it’s about reducing car trips, as well as solar energy installer Sungveity, which doesn’t develop its own technology but installs solar panels.

Even for those concepts that seemingly fall firmly into the “green” category, not everything has a bright line. A recent article on Citylab (formerly Atlantic Cities) focuses on green parking. The premise of the article is that parking itself can be a “greener” process if developers look at the right factors. The counter to that, however, is that driving itself should be discouraged and that focusing on parking at all is the wrong way to go in order to be “green.” It’s an argument that has no true answer, both sides have their points. It would be great if fewer people drove in individual vehicles and instead chose less polluting forms of transit. But the reality is that driving is a big part of our transportation infrastructure and our culture. Shouldn’t we accept that and take pains to improve, even if it isn’t the ideal?

In many cases the lines between cleantech and confusion are clear, but in many more cases it’s all clouded in a bit of smog. The best we all can do is listen to the facts and make our own informed decisions.