"Laptop in Tree" | Image by Ken Colwell on Flickr
A decade ago, the idea of a green industry seemed like a pipe dream.  Environmentalism was still an “outsider” idea, and the smart money was on more (big, irresponsible) business as usual.

But in our post-9/11, post-Hurricane Katrina, post-An Inconvenient Truth society, something changed.  Suddenly, people were concerned about the environment, and about energy, and about the impact their daily actions might have on the planet’s future.

In the aftermath of this green awakening, people needed a way to ask questions, share suggestions, pitch policy reforms and raise environmental concerns.  Thus, from blogs to YouTube to Facebook to Twitter, social media became the hub for a wide array of environmental discussions — and today their collective conversation is louder than it’s ever been.

Blogs: The Spark for Green Journalism

Before the mainstream news media embraced the green movement, impassioned individuals were using blogs to bring attention to the environmental issues they were personally concerned about.  These grassroots movements flowered, and today some of the most trusted (and highly-trafficked) sources for green news are blogs like Grist, Sustainablog and TreeHugger.  In turn, larger news organizations like the New York Times and the Huffington Post now have blog channels dedicated to green content, further validating the environment as a mainstream subject.

Green News Travels Fast

A simple search of Twitter hashtags like #sustainable, #green and #EcoMonday reveal that hundreds of green conversations take place on Twitter every day.  Equally impressive is how often brands and corporations enter those conversations to share related tips (and to promote their related products and services).  This real-time information exchange helps brands monitor topics of interest to their customers, but it also means that breaking news like the BP gulf oil spill quickly becomes common knowledge (and stays in the public eye for months), making it harder for companies to manage the spin.

Common Bonds Create Communities

As young mothers become increasingly aware of the ingredients they’re introducing into their children’s lives, “green mommies” have become a swiftly-growing subset of the “mommy blogger” community, championing a renewed emphasis on natural and organic foods, fibers and cleaning products (like those made by our client, Ecover).

This same unifying “green” thread can be found in other eco-responsible communities, including designers, chefs, fashionistas and anyone seeking a little lifestyle improvement.  This provides consumers with universal access to information, support and resources, and it provides ecological brands with unified audiences to poll, connect with, learn from and sell to.

Greenpeace vs. Nestle: When Facebook Becomes a Battlefield

Sometimes, brands who use social media for sales and marketing find themselves trapped in a PR conundrum because they forget a basic online truth: they don’t control the conversations that happen on their channels.  For example, when Greenpeace activists hijacked the conversation on Nestle’s Facebook page, Nestle was slow to respond (and clumsy when they did), which caused the company to seem both evasive and dismissive.  News of their snafu spread like wildfire, causing Nestle a lengthy and time-consuming PR headache — and, ultimately, led to Nestle agreeing to meet Greenpeace’s demands.

It’s hard to imagine that kind of outcome occurring a decade ago, before social media provided the green industry with a collective voice.  And it’s fascinating to wonder where such a hyper-connected green future might lead both a green-obsessed world and the ecological companies that serve their needs.

Image by Ken Colwell via Fickr.