Sunday, July 15, 2007

Green is enthused

About a month ago I spoke to Chris Munford, founder of Bedrock Industries
I was researching background on an article that would become AGT article Futureproofing: Building environmental policy into the bottom line.

Bedrock makes recycled glass tiles and other glass items. When I called I wasn't expecting just another conversation about n% recycled inputs, re-used packaging, responsible stewardship etc. Because I knew a bit about them both from Treehugger and from Bedrock's very un-fancy website.

Some manufacturers recycle to save money. Fair enough, but don't expect me to get excited about your greenness. Like Marketing, Recycling isn't the be-all end-all. A lack of recycling is one thing, but greed and ignorance and a lack of real interest are arguably up there as major reasons why the environment is imperiled.

What makes Bedrock authentic is their intent: relationship to their environment is not so much 'policy' as a fundamental value. As a result, they dont have to worry about "marketing" so much. There is a market-as-conversation trail that follows them. What I like about this is that it is sincere and non toxic. Although some conversation can be "gamed" by clever talkers, conversation as /word of mouth marketing - leaves very little non-biodegradable mental residue that conventional branding leaves behind.

The company has always used 100% recycled materials, but they are not defined by recycling: you could say that they are defined by enthusiasm. Which makes marketing relatively easy. Bedrock has a store in Seattle, Chris explained, and this store is where they sell most.

Bedrock organizes bottle drives and give people more-than-market rates for the bottles they collect. Because Bedrock has its own, busy store, they can do small runs and not worry to much about transportation of warehousing costs. They can design what they have in front of them, taking unique materials as starting point of designs. So if a local wrecking company has, as happened last year, 100 glass panel lamps to get rid of, Bedrock can make something unique out of them, a limited edition run of tiles, in this case. As word has spread, the company's creativity is what has brought people in. People want to see neat things in their yard, see used resources differently. And people find that Bedrock's products, and their processes, are spectacles.

As the phonecall went on, Chris and I shared where we both liked, what we had done, what we both did. I got off the phone and began to think about how activity can inspire people and take them to a new place. Bedrock's open-to-the-public store is on a tour bus circuit; tourists converge on it on weekends and summer weekdays. Bedrock sells products all right, and some just pick up one of a kind souvenirs. But people come for something else as well. The company, and its 12 employees, sells citizenship and responsible, energized enterprise.

If my interest in this company seems contrived, it doesn't do Bedrock justice. Enthusiasm can and does occur spontaneously around decent things - hype is something else entirely. Real enthusiasm is the result of remarkable work and simple conversations - which in some cases is all the marketing that a brand requires.

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