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With All Due Respect, It Is Easy Being Green

—by John Friedman—

If you’re listening to EcoPlanetRadio and reading this site, I know you live your values and like to find things – like this ‘station’ that allow you to live your values while enjoying excellent service. Research from the Shelton Group ( over the last few years has looked at the gap between consumers articulated values and their purchasing behavior. And one of the things that they discovered – not surprising – is that all consumers are not the same and the value-drivers that one must engage in order to build traction for sustainable products and services depends on the consumer mindset.

One of the most important findings is that while some people are compelled to purchase ‘greener’ or more socially responsible (i.e. fair trade) products, for the majority issues like cost, comfort and convenience are more powerful drivers. Put another way, skeptics are more compelled to save tangible dollars in their own wallets than theoretical (to them) polar ice caps.

But if you’re here, you probably fall into the category of people who are looking for things that can help you live your values. Since this column is called ‘Sound Living’, I thought I’d share a few thing I have done and found easy, quick and rewarding.

For years I have advocated the installation and proper use of programmable thermostats as a tangible demonstration of the intersection between saving money and the environment without reducing comfort. To me this is a simple, easy and effective way to live the sustainability model (although it does not appeal to those more radical environmentalists who feel that saving money and being comfortable somehow sullies the effort).

Sales of these money and environment-saving devices have doubled in the last 10 years, but research by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that less than half of households are programming the devices for maximum savings (and comfort). Click here for a copy of the Summary of Research Findings From the Programmable Thermostat Market.

As someone who rarely reads the manual on his own electronic devices, I can well understand that many people simply run the present program, so clearly more education is needed on how to maximize the financial and environmental impact of these simple to use devices.

Another product I have found are dual flush conversion kits for my lavatories, which retail from about $20 to $35, install quickly and easy and don’t require you replace your entire toilet – keeping the porcelain out of landfills. In my home, based on actual use and bills, they paid for themselves within one year.

Most people are surprised to know that their toilets account for more than a quarter of the water they use (followed by clothes washers and showers). Modern commodes use 1.6 gallons of water per ‘use’ (regardless of how much they’re sending down the drain), which is a huge reduction from the 7 gallons per flush in the 1980s. But these conversion kits can further reduce your water footprint and bill. And having the option of ‘less’ or ‘more’ means that you’re not skimping on power when you need your commode to do its job.

Another thing I have done is use rain barrels to catch rainwater. In a 15 minute light rain, I easily capture 80 gallons (two barrels, two different sections of roof) which not only prevents run off, it provides me with natural, non-chemically treated water for my gardens and lawn. No, I don’t have enough pressure to run a sprinkler, watering cans are how we tend many of our gardens – or even drip lines will work, if the resistance is low enough. I get my supplies from, but there are others as well.

These are a few recommendation based on my own personal experience and satisfaction with the products and services mentioned. I have no financial interest in any of the products and/or services described above and encourage readers to check things out for themselves – but also to share their ideas and experiences as well in the comments section.

We should recommend those products and services that appeal to the widest possible range of consumers while being protective of the environment and advancing of the human condition. If these companies are financially successful we can build a virtuous cycle, leveraging the power of the market to build a sustainable economy.



John Friedman is an award-winning communications professional and recognized sustainability expert with more than 20 years of experience as both an external and internal sustainability leader, helping companies, ranging from small companies to leading global enterprises, turn their values into successful business models by integrating their environmental, social, and economic aspirations into their cultures and business practices.

On social media, Friedman is recognized as a thought leader. In 2013 he was #2 on Triple Pundit’s List of the Top 30 Sustainability Bloggers on Twitter, #14 on Guardian Business’ 30 most influential sustainability voices in America and is consistently included as one of the leading voices in CSR by Forbes’ Brandfog. His insights on sustainability issues and strategy have been a regular feature on Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands, Ecopreneurist, and

An Albany State (New York) communications graduate, Friedman earned a management certificate from as part of the Lafarge/Duke Management Training program at the Fuqua School of Business in 2000.

Friedman is a co-founder and served in a leadership capacity on the board, executive committee and as board chair for the Sustainable Business Network of Washington (SBNOW) from 2003 until 2012. Friedman also heads corporate citizenship communications worldwide for Sodexo.

Organizational affiliations are for transparency purposes only; the opinions expressed are the author’s personal opinions and do not reflect those of any organization.

John can be reached at, is @JohnFriedman on Twitter and can be connected on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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