Jacquie Ottman is the nation’s foremost expert on green marketing and eco-innovation. As a consultant with 25 years of experience, she’s developed sustainable green marketing strategies for the likes of Toyota, Nike, J&J and IBM. Now she’s taking the Green Movement one step further. With WeHateToWaste.com, Ottman’s firm aggregates a global community of “Waste-Watchers” to cultivate what she’s calling The No-Waste Lifestyle. She sat down with Conscious Connection Founder, Anthony Chiaravallo, to share the story of her career, how We Hate To Waste.com began and her vision for the community’s future.
Anthony Chiaravallo: It’s great to be talking with you again Jacquie! Tell me about your new initiative WeHateToWaste.com.
Jacquie Ottman: With We Hate To Waste.com we’re bringing together a community of ardent ‘waste-watchers’. People who hate to see water, energy, food — you name it, go to waste. They know they hate to see things go to waste, so as soon as they see that title, they get excited and want to join us.
For the first time in their lives these people have a ability to talk to like-minded people and share all the quirky, eccentric and devious ways they reduce waste, conserve resources, and get the most of the products they buy. Like getting all the toothpaste out of the tube. I had no idea. Guys have told us how they take scissors to the neck of the tube and stick the toothbrush in to get the last of the toothpaste out. I’m a flattener myself. Some people crumple the tube with their hands.
I’ve done Green marketing since 1989 and I’m familiar with the polls that monitor Green consumer behavior. Only a few of them have questions about turning the water off when you brush or turning lights off when no one’s in the room. A lot of these polls don’t talk about things like toothpaste tubes or how consumers manage leftover food. We don’t know how many people in this country take doggie bags from restaurants, for instance.
My colleagues at J. Ottman Consulting and I are trying to bring this community together, reinforce and inspire them to do more. And, because the website is free and open to all, we want to inspire others to do what they do. We plan to monetize the site by giving access to our community to brands that fit the No-Waste Lifestyle for market research, crowdsourcing and marketing purposes.
So businesses who are interested in working with us could conduct an online poll to get insight about unmet needs regarding products and services that could help all consumers be less wasteful. Or to do a crowd-source, because our ‘waste watchers’ have been thinking about these issues deeping, they have lots of ideas about what they’d like to see in the world, and are happy to share their ideas with businesses or governments or NGOs who can help everybody to be less wasteful (and save money, be greener, etc.)
Anthony Chiaravallo: So you hope to provide insight into exactly what these, really, lead consumers are thinking and feeling and what their values are?
Jacquie Ottman: Right. We are trying to create new knowledge about potential attitudes and behaviors that can be mainstreamed in an effort to reduce needless household waste and wasted resources.
It’s a form of niche marketing, but the goal is to broaden the niche by cross-fertilizing best practices from around the world and across what we see as eight different categories of ‘waste watching’ — fully utilizing products, reducing resources like energy and water consumed while we using certain products, recycling, composting and respecting food, among them. I am extremely interested in putting the web, crowd-sourcing technology, online market research, community management and social media to use for sustainability. WeHateToWaste.com gives us the ability to put all these things together in one place while creating a unique strategic resource for our clients that can at the same time be accessed by all in the name of changing our wasteful consumer culture.
Anthony Chiaravallo: What type of consulting did you do previously?
Jacquie Ottman: Strategy. Businesses come to us when they have a new product or service to develop (‘eco-innovation’) or greener products or services they developed themselves that they want to introduce to the marketplace. We’ve done a lot of work for many different businesses, mainly sustainability leaders in the consumer space. We also worked with Energy Star for many years and most recently we helped the USDA launch its new USDA Certified Bio-Based label.
Many businesses are still very much on the learning curve about all things green. So I get asked to speak to corporate and industry groups alot via live seminars and webinars. I tend to focus on my book, The New Rules of Green Marketing.
And just last month, Ad Age published a report that I co-authored. It’s entitled “How to Make Credible Green Marketing Claims: What Marketers Need to Know about the Updated FTC Green Guides.”
When businesses want to market their environmentally preferable products they need to know what they can say that consumers will respond to, that’s unique from competitors and that’s consistent with the FTC green guidance. I’ve become an expert in the FTC Green Guides and, as part of that, in certifications. So alot of clients come to me asking, ‘What can we say and who will verify that we’re saying it correctly?”
Anthony Chiaravallo: Where do you see We Hate To Waste.com going? You mentioned a few ways to monetize with polling, crowd-sourcing and as a 24/7 online focus group for brands who share your community’s values.
Jacquie Ottman: One thing we’re excited about on the site, which I didn’t expect, is how much we’re learning about waste prevention from other countries, cultures and religions. I didn’t take an anthropology class in college and now I wish I majored in it because it is so fascinating to learn from the posts that are coming in talking about mindful waste prevention practices in other countries. For example, the Japanese carry handkerchiefs because they are no paper towels in public restrooms. The People Towels concept was inspired by the Japanese. Or why the Swedes seem to live so simply for example, as mirrored in their Ikea and Volvo brands.
We are starting to ask some questions about religious practices. It struck me that I’d like to learn what the Shakers are about, and the Quakers, and the Amish. What is it about those religions that make them live as lightly and simply as they do?
We are attracting people from all over the world now. I didn’t expect to see so much reach so quickly. (We launched this past January.) We have visitors from 117 countries so far. We have this opportunity to cross-fertilize best practices in household waste-prevention from around the world. It’s not just U.S.-centric, it can be global. That’s something we want to emphasize. So we’re inviting guest bloggers from other countries and cultures to share their personal stories reflecting their country, culture or religion.
We plan to have more opportunities on the site for user-generated content. The blog is right now the focal point for how our community shares information, but we see the posts being just one aspect of it down the road.
My desire right now is to attract a community of businesses who want to use this as a way of learning about the No-Waste Lifestyle. To underwrite market research that can help us benchmark where consumers are in terms of cutting out wasteful behavior. Which products do they buy? To what extent are they into sharing? bringing their own bags, coffee mugs and even doggie bags for example.
In the longer term, we’re hoping to find a home for We Hate to Waste. Whether it’s a social branding company, a not-for-profit or a larger firm, just somebody who can give it more resources, and help it reach it’s full potential, allowing me to focus on the strategic work. Right now I wear a lot of hats and I speak a lot of languages. I work with the web developer and the graphic manager and am learning more about WordPress than I probably ever need to know. You have to wear all those hats in the beginning. But it would be nice to put this in the hands of a larger organization who can help WeHateToWaste.com reach its full potential.
I have a lot invested in WeHatetoWaste.com right now, a lot of ideas for this. Right now my passion and my every day existence is focused on it. That’s why if it sounds as if I don’t get a lot of sleep right now, that’s because it’s true!