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Educate your customers how to accomplish an easy ‘green reboot’

As a business owner or manager, or as someone who works in a nonprofit or government agency, you probably have more influence than you think. Why not use that influence to both help your customers go green in ways they may not have thought about and establish yourself even more firmly in their minds as a green organization that cares about the world. Forward-thinking companies around the world have been doing this for years — why not you?

Every point of interaction is a chance to educate your public: product packaging, in-store signs, advertisements, social media messaging, press coverage, a bulletin board in the reception area, the home page of your website and Facebook page, email and printed newsletters, brochures, and more — all opportunities to do good in the world by talking about the green steps you take, and the green steps your readers, viewers, listeners and customers can take.

What sorts of messages can you promote?

Of course, you want to discuss the green steps your organization has taken or will take shortly: the motivation for the change, the impact it has, the way it changes what is possible.

But why stop there? Use this “bully pulpit” to educate and inform a captive audience about why and how they should go green.

The how is as important as the why; lots of people are philosophically inclined to go green but have never really thought about the easy ways they can go greener in their personal lives.

And much of that lack is because of bad training — so you can make a difference by helping people retrain. It makes even better sense if you pick aspects of green behavior that relate directly to your own mission. Here are some examples: We are trained to turn the faucet on full blast and leave it spewing precious water the whole time we wash a dish or brush our teeth. Educate your customers to turn on a small stream of water during the actual washing and rinsing, and to turn it completely off for the between part while they scrub or brush. Dentists, dish soap companies, sponge and kitchen appliance manufacturers or retailers: this is an opportunity for you. Run a restaurant? Post water-saving tips in your restroom or place them on a table tent.

We are trained to pull off a huge wad of toilet paper every time, most of which is completely wasted. Educate your customers at how effectively they can wipe with just a few squares — especially if you make or distribute paper products or bathroom fixtures.

We are trained to fill up a whole kettle every time we want just one cup of tea, then to either pour the extra down the drain — behavior that borders on criminal, if you ask me — or waste energy to reboil the same water again, sometimes several times. Florists and garden supply stores, why not suggest that your customers water the plants with the surplus water once it’s cool? Plate and cutlery companies can recommend soaking dishes with the extra. Tea and energy companies can point out that the tea is better tasting if it’s not reboiled, but in a way that discourages the down-the-drain “solution.” Kettle makers can run contests for the best ways to recycle the extra water left in the kettle.

We are trained to jump in a car, by ourselves, and drive even very short distances. Ridesharing companies can encourage carpooling; bicycle and mass transit companies as well as health care providers can demonstrate the benefits of not driving at all.

Need more ideas about your opportunities to connect with your customers and change their behavior? Here in New England, there’s a famous old slogan that can help you discover the possibilities: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” One resource that can help educate your customers is an e-book I’ve written called “Painless Green: 111 Tips to Help the Environment, Lower Your Carbon Footprint, Cut Your Budget and Improve Your Quality of Life-With No Negative Impact on Your Lifestyle.” Contact me if you’d like to use this resource in your educational efforts.

Marketing consultant and copywriter Shel Horowitz, shel@greenandprofitable.com, writes the monthly “Green And Profitable” column and is primary author of “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green” (John Wiley & Sons).

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