Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sharing the Beanstalk

Of all the feeds dumping into my Google Reader everyday, CNET's Green Tech Blog is the one that's most consistently relevant to Acorn.

Smart grids vs. smart thermostats. Coal leadership calls for efficiency improvements. Lack of cleantech entrepreneurs. Etc.

I caught up on this week's posts yesterday, and I discovered that the Green Tech Blog is relevant to the brand comparison project as well.

On Monday, Elsa Wenzel, one of the Green Tech Bloggers, posted about social media sites and their potential roles as greenwash filters. She didn't give any predictions about which sites she thought would do the job most effectively, but she did take a whole lot of links and string them together into a nice little "industry overview" narrative.

I have always wanted to post about "the competition" up here, but, apparently, I've needed to post about heroine addicts, free-roaming cows, edible insects, and swamp coolers instead.

I'm glad I wrote about all that. It was on my mind, and now it's publicly available and maybe a little embarassing. But, now that I've read Elsa's overview, I feel another urge to write about competition in the responsible consumption/sustainable business/green living space.

Maybe I'm crazy to feel this way, and maybe I'm even crazier to say it out loud, but the fact that there are heaps of smart, savvy, and well-funded people out there working on projects either similar to mine or seeking to accomplish similar goals to mine makes me happy.

Obviously, it's nice to have a business idea validated by the fact that lots of other people have had and continue to believe in that same idea.

But, more importantly, it's reassuring to me that we're trying a bunch of different approaches at this. Enlightening consumers and creating a more perfect market is a big and complicated undertaking, and, as someone that wants to get enlightened and participate in that market, I don't want all my eggs in one basket.

I want very badly to be able to quickly and conveniently figure out what brand of running shoes I should buy. I want to make a tiny little baby step positive impact on the world every time I get a new tube of toothpaste. I want to choose to support the car company that's pushing fastest and most creatively toward sustainability. I know it's possible to create the tools to help people make those choices, and I know they don't exist at the moment, so I'm taking a stab at building them.

The conversations I've had with some of the other entrepreneurs in the space and the reading I've done about others has led me to believe that they feel the same way.

The vision is solid. The vision is shared. There are a whole lot of great implementation ideas out there. But nobody knows who has the magic beans or the ability to make them grow.

We're all looking at our beans, our soil, our water, our garden tools and wondering. We're watching what other people are doing. We're tinkering. We're reading manuals. We're digging holes and pulling weeds and adjusting shade and sunlight. And we're all feeling good about our chances of sprouting the first beanstalk.

Magic beans are finicky though. Unpredictable. Notorious heartbreakers. So we're all a little scared too.

If we zoom out from the experimental bean garden, however, and have a look at the big picture, we should be excited about what's going on. There are a lot of beans in play, a lot of soils, a lot of farmers, and I think that makes for some good odds that a beanstalk will in fact grow. Hard to tell from which of the little bean plots will come the explosion, but, regardless of whose beans find their magic, we all get to do some climbing.

That's been my goal: finding the beanstalk and climbing it. When I first realized I had that urge, I looked around to see if a stalk already existed. It didn't, and that bothered me, so I got some beans started learning how to plant them. It'd be extra special fun to watch a beanstalk grow from my own beans, but, honestly, give me a stalk I can climb, and I'll be happy.

Note: This metaphor actually doesn't really make sense, come to think of it. It was kind of a last minute improvisation. The plan was to compare the competition to a chili cookoff after which all the cooks get to share the big pot of blue ribbon chili. But beans and beanstalks hijacked my brain, I guess. Sometimes metaphors get away from you, and sometimes you just gotta live with that.

Another note: A couple more projects you won't find on the Green Tech Blog. Citizens Market. Thought and Memory. Excellent people behind both. Sparkly looking beans as well.