Green Industry Articles

Brand Yourself as Local Green Brain

A few years ago, Anna Altic, GREEN, EcoBroker, of Village Real Estate Services, met lots of local professionals, including lenders, non-profit groups, city government, and builders, interested in sustainability. "There was a lot of data and programs, but no one was talking and none of it was connected or cohesive," according to Altic.

She saw a way to bring those disparate groups together, and, in the process, she branded herself as something of the local green brain. She, her website, and blog are repositories for all things green in Nashville. During a GRC Webinar, she talked about her "aha" moments and shared some ways that you can build your local connections and start branding yourself as a green guru.

Here are some key takeaways and observations from Altic's Webinar:

Do it with integrity

Altic's green activities all stem from a deep belief in sustainability. "I believe climate change is reality," she commented. And buildings, she believes, are part of the problem and noted that real estate practitioners are well-positioned to reduce buildings' impact on the environment. That core belief and those values are something others, both consumers and business owners, connect to, according to Altic, who outlined several lessons she's learned in the last few years.

For one, the best builders to chase are those interested in infill and reuse projects. But, she warned, "Those builders can spot a fake. So you have to be very in tune with what they're trying to do and the challenges they're facing."

And consumers interested in a green lifestyle typically are educated and computer-savvy and do their homework. As a result, they're very leery of green washing.

And she's found that consumers give building science a yawn and it doesn't sell well. "Insulation and fenestration aren't sexy and there aren't guaranteed financial benefits," Altic pointed out.It's more effective to address topics that relate to their green lifestyle interests. That means pointing to a community's green features, such as the local agriculture scene and urban gardening opportunities, rain barrel and recycling programs, biking and walking options, local green space, and even information on whether keeping chickens is an option.

Rich content

And if you're going to be the local go-to green person, you need to be up-to-date on an array of topics, including:

• Incentives through local utilities for energy efficiency
• Public transportation
• Walk-friendly neighborhoods
• City parks and educational programs
• Electric car charging stations
• Certified mold, lead, and radon mitigators
• Farmers' markets and CSAs
• Composting
• Recycling
• Rain barrels
• Community gardens
• Local bike/walking paths
• Hazardous waste and electronic disposal

Her website features a page devoted to helpful local links (the page gets 8 to 10 hits a day) about the above topics. The information also can be plugged on blogs, posts on Facebook business pages, and in newsletters.

Altic also blogs about everything from local restaurants that tap local agriculture sources and mass transit changes, to seasonal posts about spring gardening tips and autumn energy audits.

She's further branded herself through a significant online presence at spots like Facebook, LinkedIn, neighborhood listservs, and at Trulia, Agent Genius, and Greentowns.

Here's how she uses some of the sites:

• Twitter: @GreenerAnna is used for quick blurbs, and local news updates. She also follows other local leaders, such as city council representatives. That way, she gets news in advance that she uses for Tweets and blog posts. It shows that she's on the cutting edge of local information.

• LinkedIn: Some of her local green affiliations have LinkedIn pages for communication.

• Yelp: Altic writes reviews of local non-profits, parks, and green businesses. To give businesses a heads-up about her reviews, Altic sends business owners an e-mail
congratulating them on the review.

• Neighborhood Google Groups: She often finds information about neighborhood green projects or homeowners looking for advice on issues like mold or energy efficiency.

Matchmaker, matchmaker 

As a result of her deep involvement in the green community, Altic has also become something of a matchmaker, connecting various green business people with one another.

It's an important role that can include arranging lunch with an energy auditor and green builder, inviting green business people to speak at company meetings, and writing positive online reviews of businesses.

What are good businesses to connect with? Altic has a long list that includes green building suppliers, cleaning companies, lenders, eco-friendly stores, energy auditors, organic gardening supply stores, and restaurants that support local farmers.

"My goal has been to put all the green information in one place and be the local brain," commented Altic. "The more you give of yourself, the more business finds you. If you make yourself indispensable you won't have to ask for business."

The involvement has raised her profile and she's been tapped for an array of honors. For example, she did a presentation for a USGBC Chapter breakfast and twice served as a panelist at the local NAHB green lunch and learn programs. In addition, she's routinely interviewed on the local news about land use, and Altic was asked to manage the marketing for the region's first green homes tour.

Altic offered one bit of parting advice. When you have a high profile, people start noticing you and watching to see whether you're committed to your cause. "Don't let them catch you in the grocery store using a plastic bag."

Access the GRC Webinar online at GreenREsourceCouncil.org/Webinars.cfm.

Source: Green REsource Council Newsletter, September 2011