Posts filed under ‘Business’

Green Washing, not greenwashing.

Cleaning products

I recently went on a shopping spree in Soho. No, not for clothes, but for green cleaning products.

Green Depot began as a supplier of green building materials- think insulation, paint, tiles. Their success in the building world coincided with a rise in public awareness and interest, and they recently took the plunge into the consumer world. Green Depot’s store on the Bowery showcases all things to do with “living,” from building materials to gardening supplies and lighting options. They have a “filter” system that evaluates the environmental impact of their products, so as to “squarely address greenwashing.” With the curator of all things natural and organic (Whole Foods) just down the street, it certainly feels like Green Depot is angling for the position in the world of green.

For me, the jewel in the Green Depot crown is their cleaning agent refill bar.

Soap bar

Anyone can bring a bottle in and have it refilled with glass/tub & tile/all purpose cleaner or dish soap. Eager to give it a try, I crossed town with 3 empty bottles (method, Listerine & Envirostep) in hand. The stuff is literally on tap, and several pumps later, the friendly barista (soaptender?) had filled the bottles and taped on new labels. The cost? 12 cents an ounce, which works out to be less than a new bottle.

In addition to the modest cost savings, that’s three less plastic bottles for me to chuck in a landfill. (I’ve been haunted about my plastic footprint since watching “Garbage Island.”  It’s a problem.)

Is it reasonable to think that everyone is going to schlep around with empty bottles in their purse? Maybe not. But response has been very positive, and one hopes that it might provoke major players such as P&G and Unilever to acknowledge that consumers are beginning to care enough to go a little extra distance– and that there is opportunity to meet us halfway. I personally would be delighted if my supermarket had a refill station for everything from shampoo to cooking oil. –Kat

August 17, 2009 at 5:49 pm

“So a biker walks into a hotel…”

the-iron-horse-hotel-harley

Paris. London. Hong Kong. Milwaukee?  Recently Craig, Kat, and I had the pleasure of staying at the Iron Horse Hotel, which we agreed was one of the best hotels we’ve spent a night in. Opened in October last year, the Iron Horse was founded by real estate developer Tim Dixon and is the first upscale hotel geared for business travelers and motorcycle enthusiasts alike, which makes sense given that Milwaukee hosts many conventions and is home to Harley-Davidson. Its name comes from the term Native Americans used for the train as it crossed the prairies, and today the Iron Horse is located alongside a historic yet active railroad.

(more…)

August 6, 2009 at 10:31 am

Milk and Honey’s Invisible Visibility

Picture 1 copyI recently got the chance to peek at the Milk and Honey Service Manual, authored by patron-saint-of-cocktails Sasha Petraske and his staff. A pioneer in the fancy cocktail scene, M&H is especially known for 1. Quality: Extreme attention to detail in every aspect of drink making, especially in regards to ingredients (Bartender Magazine ranks it the #2 bar in the world, below its London location) and 2. Mystery: Hidden behind a door on an otherwise unremarkable stretch of Eldridge St; strict call in advance reservations only policy; and an (until recently) unpublished phone number.

To my surprise and delight, in spite of their venerated position, M&H’s manual describes a Remains of the Day-level dedication to pursuing virtue through humility and service. (more…)

May 21, 2009 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

Recessionary Thoughts: The Consumption Quandary

buybetterless2

This weekend I walked past the John Fluevog store in Soho, and was struck by their “Buy Better, Buy Less” promotion. In a time when shopping has ground to a halt and 70% sales are the new 30% sales, retailers are looking for new ways to connect with skittish consumers, an especially tricky thing for the luxury industry. One beacon of hope in high-end retail is the concept of buying higher quality, more durable goods, but fewer of them. While not an original thought (just ask your depression-era grandparents about the wastefulness of the past decades), durability has hardly been the backbone of the retail sector, or of pop culture as we know it. In fact, planned obsolescence is key to most business’  long-term strategies.

The “Buy Better, Buy More” wave of green products and free-trade-everything, has been followed by the harsh realities of the economic collapse. So while counter-intuitive from a traditional business perspective, I wonder if culturally, the time has come for companies to redefine their relationship with consumers on fundamental level: asking people to consume less. One viable way to do this would be to offering a more durable product, but augmenting revenue with service/maintenance add-ons. Fluevog for example, could offer re-soling services by cobblers who are experts at working with their designs, thus adding another year to your shoes. Skeptics will balk at this idea, pointing to the direct decrease in replacement shoe sales. But it’s a new era, and perhaps customer loyalty, the knowledge that resources are being maximized, and fresh revenue streams will become necessary differentiators. In most cases, keeping your customers may better than losing them all. –Kat

February 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

Inauguration Unites New And Old Media

Inauguration

This coming Tuesday, millions of Americans will come together to watch our nation swear in its first ever African-American President. Evidently, the spirit of unity is spreading beyond the crowds. Several interesting media partnerships have emerged to make the inauguration available to those eager to watch, but unable to attend.

The most newsworthy of the lot is MSNBC’s deal with Starbucks to simulcast the event in 650 coffeeshops in three cities. But the list goes on, with particular attention paid to making the ceremony available online. Fox News is expanding their existing partnership with Internet TV provider Hulu to provide free live coverage from noon to 2PM. Hulu’s competitor Joost, on the other hand, will stream CBS’s broadcast of the event. Other networks have opted to team up with popular social networking sites. User-produced CurrentTV will air viewers’ reactions in realtime via micro-blogging site Twitter. Elsewhere, powerhouses have united; CNN.com has integrated its site such that Facebook users can watch the Senator turn President along with their friends. Well, sort of.

While most people rushed home on election night to watch “regular” TV, the workday timing of this heavily anticipated inauguration seems to have led the big networks to rush online. I’m hopeful that the creative partnerships spurred by this historic day will encourage television networks to further embrace this type of cross-platform, deformated content. But on Tuesday, that’s not all I’ll be hopeful about!

– Johnny

January 16, 2009 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

The Amazing Year That Was

Obama crowd

2008 was an unforgettable year for us at People Are Amazing. Aside from Kat getting married, and me getting typhus, we launched this very blog and (despite our best efforts), it is still up and running! Since then, we’ve been privileged to interview a number of amazing people from Kalliopi Kohas, owner of Greek pine sap purveyor Mastiha to Tony Dusko, 5th grade teacher by day, whimsical web animator by night. A personal highpoint was hearing the wise words of 90 year-old Dave Crawford on growing up during the Great Depression and how best to navigate a crumbling economy.

But the recession didn’t keep us from visiting some intriguing places. John took a trip to Brooklyn’s own Fine and Raw for a taste of artisanal, dairy/sugar/preservative-free chocolate. He brought back some perishable, refrigerated samples and we made sure they never reached room temperature! Kat found herself in the Mid-West wandering the aisles of Cincinatti’s own supermarket/amusement park Jungle Jim’s. Food, it seems, is a minor obsession at P.A.A.. Kat’s post about local panini-makers S’Wich found its way onto foodie blog Eater in May. I wrote about an awful new bottled tap water I came across at a bodega; in turn, that company curiously linked to our post, “Tap’NY Must Think You’re Stupid,” in their press section.

Surprisingly, our most popular post ended up being about a miscolored canine. In early May, I was experimenting with ways to boost traffic and I noticed that the search term “green puppy” was “volcanic” in popularity on Google Trends. Apparently, a Labrador with a pea-colored coat had been born in New Orleans and really people wanted to see the pictures. I posted the two images available at the time, unaware that moments later the popular site Buzzfeed would link to our post. Within a matter of minutes, we had thousands of viewers visiting our humble little blog. Thus, the “Green Puppy Effect” was born.

Obviously, you never quite know where a year will take you. This time last year, People Are Amazing didn’t even exist. But between blogging about diabetic rappers and Colorado grease thieves, we were thrilled to ride the ups and downs of 2008. Luckily for us, amazing things are always on the horizon and 2009 is sure to provide hearty fodder for the blog. Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

– Johnny

January 12, 2009 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

Craig Bamsey On “Discount Porn”

Business Of Life

GUEST BLOGGER

“Full of people, but no one was buying. Everyone was just walking past the windows, looking at the sales.”

Two people came into the office this morning with similar tales from the front lines of suburban retail. Rubbernecking is in this (pre)Christmas season. Plastic swiping is out. The masses are still coming to the altars of capitalism – they’re just not partaking in the sacrament.

So why do they come? Why load up the kids and go for an indoor stroll past bulging shop windows full of screaming red signs with cryptic numbers and symbols and codewords such as “60% Off” and “Everything must go” and “No item undiscounted?”

Because, it would seem, when indulging our fantasies becomes too expensive, we flexibly become a nation of voyeurs. Sales voyeurs. Patrons of the soft pornography of discounts and mark-downs.

A top story on CNN Headline News this morning noted that GM was offering $15,000 off on brand new Yukon SUVs and Cadillac Escalades. “$15,000!” exclaimed two other people who brought up this fact unaided in subsequent conversations. “It’s almost obscene,” said one. Indeed.

It’s the oldest rule in marketing: “Sex Sells.” What could be sexier than watching products and retailers stripped down to their margins?

November 18, 2008 at 10:32 am

Come Together, Right Now!

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, the Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd, MTV Games, and Rock Band manufacturer Harmonix announced an exclusive Beatles video game to be released in the winter of next year. This comes as a welcome surprise for the many critics who feel that those licensing the Fab Four’s music have been painstakingly slow in adapting to digital culture. Though the band did brave new territory with Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE, for their own odd reasons, they have still yet to release their coveted catalog for purchase on iTunes.

On the shoulders of Harmonix and Guitar Hero makers Activision, video game manufacturers are now aggressively partnering with the music industry. According to The Economist, aging rockers Aerosmith have made more money in licensing income from Guitar Hero than from sales of any of their albums. But I have a hunch that these lucrative partnerships are indicative of something bigger.

In the past month, we’ve witnessed a presidential candidate advertising in Xbox 360 games and Brian Eno release an ambient musical instrument for the iPhone. We’ve watched Internet TV provider Hulu celebrate their first anniversary and Netflix and TiVo partner to stream on-demand rentals. Obviously, we are living in an era of rapid technological transition, but these innovations seem more enduring than past experiments. Virtual reality goggles anyone? While the Internet provides us with entertainment everywhere, it also raises our expectations of more traditional forms. Analog “one-purpose” mediums like TV, radio and even video games are learning that to survive you must not only partner with the competition but merge mediums. It seems on this long and winding road, there’s only one lane and it’s moving fast. — Johnny

October 30, 2008 at 1:04 pm Leave a comment

One Great Life…Two Great Depressions?

INTERVIEW

Addressing our economy back in April, President Bush refused to utter the term “recession,” opting instead for dopey euphemisms like “tough time,” “slowdown,” and “rough patch.” But as the domino effect of Lehman’s bankruptcy topples bank after bank, week after week, the discussion amongst grown-ups shifts to the plausibility of “depression.” Facing such a bleak outlook, we thought it would benefit our readers to share a personal account of the Great Depression, not necessarily to judge the economic parallels, but for the anecdotal guidance only our elders can provide. Dave Crawford, a 92 year old retired law professor and veteran of WWII was 13 years old when the stock market crashed in the fall of 1929. Earlier this month, he spoke with People Are Amazing:

Johnny Williams: As a 92 year old who lived through the 1930’s, do you think that we’re approaching another depression?

Dave Crawford: Definitely. And I think we may be even worse off than we were then. I think the big difference now is that nobody even dares use the word “depression.” They say “maybe we’re in recession,” but I think the fundamentals are even worse than they were then. I hope I’m wrong. In 1929 it was like falling off the edge of a cliff, people starting jumping out of their offices in Wall Street…it was that bad of a crash. It wasn’t until FDR came along in the early 1930’s that we began to rebound. He did a remarkable job; he was a real savior for our nation. We have no such leadership in evidence at this point. FDR came right in and said, “listen, this gap between the rich and the poor is ridiculous” and he inaugurated plans like the National Recovery Administration that were anathema to the wealthy. But we don’t have anybody like that now to take hold and close the ever-widening gap between the rich and the middle class and the poor.

Johnny: What are your earliest memories of the Depression era?

Dave: What comes to mind more than anything else was the new junior high school in the suburban Philadelphia area where my family lived. They started building in 1928 and they had all the steelwork up in 1929, but at the time of the crash the construction just stopped. I still remember driving by the skeleton framework of the school that I was supposed to be going to that fall. Gradually they got back on track but that skeleton framework is still very vivid in my mind. Also I remember one of the dances at my high school where the charge was “a penny a pound” for your date’s weight. So if she weighed a hundred pounds, it was only a buck for admission.

Johnny: Did they actually make the girls get on scales?

Dave: Yes, they did! So it was best to be with a girl who was very thin!

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October 14, 2008 at 10:29 am 1 comment

The Future of Reading

Ever inclined to hide its most interesting articles in random sections, the NYT ran a fascinating article last week about how book publishers, authors and new-media-types are looking to drive youth interest in books by expanding the concept of a ‘book’ to include video games and interactive elements. According to the article:

“You can’t just make a book anymore,” said Mr. Haarsma, a former advertising consultant. Pairing a video game with a novel for young readers, he added, “brings the book into their world, as opposed to going the other way around.”

Mr. Haarsma is not the only one using video games to spark an interest in books. Increasingly, authors, teachers, librarians and publishers are embracing this fast-paced, image-laden world in the hope that the games will draw children to reading.

Spurred by arguments that video games also may teach a kind of digital literacy that is becoming as important as proficiency in print, libraries are hosting gaming tournaments, while schools are exploring how to incorporate video games in the classroom. In New York, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is supporting efforts to create a proposed public school that will use principles of game design like instant feedback and graphic imagery to promote learning.

Publishers, meanwhile, are rushing to get in on the action. Scholastic, the American publisher of the Harry Potter series, recently released “The Maze of Bones,” the first installment in a 10-book mystery series that is tied to a Web-based game.

What follows is a good synopsis of the ongoing educational debate: video games promote learning vs. video games damage learning. Not surprisingly, no consensus is reached, but a number of interesting voices offer their take on the ways in which reading is evolving.

There is, however, a significant distinction that that article touches on but doesn’t fully explore. The book publishing industry, in its struggle to stay relevant amongst digital competitors, is confusing a new desire for interactivity for a shift in what people want from reading. (more…)

October 13, 2008 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

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