The Next Evolution of Green

Last Saturday night, an innovative new green iPhone application launched at an event in Hollywood entitled "The Evolution of Green: From Hype to Habit." The 3rdWhale iPhone app is a product of a partnership between two green Internet companies - 3rdWhale (which builds green apps) and Creative Citizen (which offers a solutions engine). The partners built the application on a fully open architecture that invites radical collaboration with other groups.

The deeper question the event posed about the "evolution of green" goes beyond specific products or partnerships. With Obama in the White House and a top green swat team at his side, the green movement has matured in remarkable ways and now we have access to power and influence. Our central task moves from hype, as the subtitle of the event puts it, to shifting our habits on every level, from personal to corporate to political.

I believe a number of things will be required to make this shift real, a few of which may be controversial in the green movement:

  • Full integration of spirituality and religion

  • To shift our behaviors requires motivation and, in turn, our strongest motivations are tethered to our core sense of meaning and purpose. As spirituality and religion offer the vast majority of Americans their core purpose for life, an effective green movement needs to celebrate, integrate, and harness the full power of spirituality and religion or it will never succeed in changing behaviors on a wide enough scale. Imagine the power if mainstream Christian denominations were to embrace sustainability as an essential part of our divinity? Green living then becomes a form of worship and carries with it a moral imperative as well as a deep sense of reverence for the planet God has entrusted us with. Similarly, those with a more personal or eclectic spirituality can begin to see green decisions as expressions of their spiritual essence. Spiritual awakening often leads to a deep understanding of our interconnectedness. Making green choices then becomes a way to honor the interconnected web of life and the Spirit that animates it. Parts of the green movement have had an allergic reaction to fully embracing spirituality for fear of becoming seen as "woo-woo" or not intellectually grounded. In an earlier stage, this might have built credibility and allowed more atheistic scientists to go green, as well as giving green leaders a seat at the table of power. However, if green is perceived as anti-religion or anti-spirituality, that creates a major barrier to the widespread shifting of habits. When the green movement is fully embraced in mainstream churches, a true evolution will have occurred.

  • Becoming psychologically sophisticated

  • The Obama team is keen on using behavioral psychology to design solutions and policies, which is a great thing. Too often, the green movement has been strident and polarizing, which creates "green guilt" and not a lot of change. Far more effective (and often more fun) is designing green systems that harness our competitive instincts, social quirks, habitual ways of thinking, and intrinsic laziness. The key is artful design so that we get people to make green shifts by working with their existing psychology rather than the noble-minded ideals we believe should drive them. Feedback is key, as is social reinforcement. For instance, if people have a meter in their house that is visually tracking their electricity usage, they are likely to reduce their use somewhat. However, the real power comes if they are also seeing the average use in their neighborhood. The competitive drive and social pressures of keeping up with the Joneses makes it far more likely they will make a deeper reduction in their electricity usage.

  • Dissolving the silos

  • The green movement has sometimes isolated itself and its goals from other change movements. This allowed it to gain access to power because it wasn't lumped with a wide variety of other work, which might have triggered partisan sensitivities. But now that we are moving into a new phase as a movement, it's vital to see that the green movement and social justice movement are intertwined (as Van Jones' Green for All demonstrates) and that the green movement and the peace movement need each other, since we can't actually solve our planetary ecological problems while we waste our creative energies on conflict. The human potential/personal growth movement provides an important key to unlocking the quality of leadership required to go green. And finally, a robust entrepreneurial economy is required for making the shift to green, which is where green makes common cause with more conservative groups. That's why I'm increasingly interested in a larger "meta-movement" that integrates these other movements under a single umbrella -- a "shift" movement that aims to create a healthy, peaceful, sustainable, and prosperous world and one which recognizes that we need a foundational shift in our consciousness in order to achieve that goal.

  • Making it simple

  • We're in the early phase of developing a new green media company called GreenShifters and we're looking at what can we deliver in a few minutes each day that is informative, entertaining, and effective at helping people make green shifts. Our goal is to empower positive green choices in five minutes or less, harnessing high production media and solutions that have been streamlined, vetted, and made remarkably easy to participate in, as well as bundling multiple solutions together in a membership program. For example, offsetting one's personal carbon is a way to reduce our contribution to global warming but it often takes time to research, calculate, and register. What if it took less than a minute to sign up for an average American's carbon offset (at a group discount) and it was charged automatically every month? Simple. This monthly "green fee" then contributes to the development of a carbon offset market that can encourage more green entrepreneurship.

  • Harnessing technology

  • 3rdWhale and Creative Citizen are working together to make green fully mobile and far more accessible. Their goal is for anyone with a smart phone to have fingertip access to a full database of green businesses, restaurants, events, products, and solutions they can engage in their immediate vicinity. This will help shift green from something that requires extra work to something that is woven effortlessly into our daily lives. As the delivery technology gets better and the database of information more extensive, companies that can compete on their green credentials will be rewarded with far more business, creating a virtuous cycle. This also makes conservatives happier because it allows the market to drive solutions and innovations rather than focusing heavily on top-down governmental regulation.

  • Radical collaboration

  • Scott Badenoch, the CEO of
    is firmly committed to "radical collaboration." This stance goes beyond the usual competitive mindset of business to allow an accelerated evolution of new ideas and novel combinations. While it may seem opposed to the more proprietary mentality of intellectual property, competitive positioning, and branding, it's proving to be a great business model for companies such as Twitter, whose open API has allowed hundreds of innovative services to spring up around it and drive its success. The deeper truth of the green movement is that we live in an ecosystem and that our health is dependent on that ecosystem thriving. Radical collaboration is a stance that flows naturally from an ecosystem viewpoint. It doesn't waste energy. It begins with a deep understanding that we are all interconnected as allies to each other. When we do business (or create social movements or policies) with a commitment to radical collaboration, we can better liberate the full potential of green. Radical collaboration even means reaching across partisan divides, national boundaries, and industries -- always seeking the place of synergy and alignment that allows something better to emerge. As we learn to translate this idea into full practice, we'll have a far more effective and catalytic green movement.

    While that is far from a comprehensive list of what the next evolution of green entails, those six elements begin to point us in the right direction -- towards fully integrating green into our lives and value systems rather than seeing it as something separate we do. Now is the time to integrate green into our deepest beliefs, most cherished institutions and in every simple choice we make. It's a stance that marries inner wisdom and outer collaboration, with no parts (or people or movements) left behind. This paradigm shift can then fuel work that makes greenshifting fast, simple, fun, and profitable, all infused with a sense of reverence for this precious world we've been given.

    P.S. On a similar note, take a look at the article, "10 Ways to Change the World Through Social Media." MaxGladwell, in an unprecedented collaboration, posted the article to 100 blogs all at once, including the Huffington Post.