March 25, 2010

Using social media to help combat climate change

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ido30 treads line between grassroots movement & corporate campaign

By Julie Katz
Socialbrite staff

Finding a balance between creating a movement and actively, successfully campaigning without coming off as a brand ambassador is very hard to come by for many nonprofits, especially when the campaign is backed by corporate interests. ido30 is a Denmark-based nonprofit promoting low-temperature laundry as a way to help combat climate change.

ido30If every household in Europe goes from 60 to 30 degrees Celsius (140 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit) when washing laundry, we can save the same amount of carbon dioxide that’s produced by 3 million cars in one year, the organization says. That applies to Americans as well: Choosing a “cold” setting instead of warm or hot would accomplish the same.

With growing followings on their Facebook page (over 12,000 fans from 25 countries) and Twitter account , it is hard not to see the group as a grassroots movement. On the other hand, ido30 is sponsored by bio-industrial company Novozymes, which creates the enzyme that makes low-temperature laundry possible. 

What, then, differentiates a movement — spreading the word and gaining a following — from a campaign that takes action to achieve a goal?

Sebastian Overgaard, creative director at Mindjumpers, a progressive and social media focused advertising group working with Novozymes, explains their strategy for creating a grassroots approach using social media.

“First, it’s important that we ourselves and the employees at Novozymes really believe in the cause – that spreading the word about low-temperature can actually make a difference,” Overgaard says. “This way we’ve been able to act almost like a grassroots organization, with a very human and spontaneous approach, but always with a transparent honesty about Novozymes’ underlying interests in focusing on ‘climate friendly choices’ as a bio-innovation company.”

By communicating these climate friendly choices through social media, the ido30 effort makes joining the movement synonymous with being an active participant in the campaign. In doing this, ido30 gathers what Overgaard calls its tribe. “Having a group of people sharing a cause that is in alignment with your core business makes a strong argument when approaching new potential partners,” he says.

But it is Mindjumpers’ attitude toward its tribe that makes ido30’s online tribe active participants. Says Overgaard: “You have to be genuinely interested in the people and not just look at them as numbers but as potential new fans” who can be called upon to take action through interaction on Facebook.

Nurturing a community, then prompting it to take action

One example of this approach took place in 2009 during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. People like Overgaard saw a flood of wall posts on ido30’s Facebook page from members around the world communicating how they wished they could be in Copenhagen to help spread the word: “This inspired us to bring their statements out to the world in ‘speech bubbles’ on the Facebook wall,” he said. “After this was well received, we got the idea to really bring the statements to Copenhagen in a ‘real’ speech bubble, which we brought to the center of Copenhagen, filmed and put on YouTube.”

There are two important processes Mindjumpers use strategically in their social media support of organizations like ido30. First is “social media gardening,” a process used to nurture an online community, like ido30’s Facbeook page, after it has been “seeded” with members. “Practically speaking,” Overgaard says, “this means we’ve engaged in one-on-one conversations with fans of ido30.”

Second is something Overgaard calls “tribesourcing,” essentially using what the flowers of their online gardens have to say, as they did in Cophenagen. “We’ve gotten insights, feedback and ideas from all over the world,” he says.

Focusing on the human factor, as Mindjumpers suggests, is precisely what helps to achieve the balance between the social power of a grassroots movement with the political savvy of a corporate campaign. Mindjumpers’ strategy allows members of  ido30 to be part of an organization making their voices heard in European capitals while helping to create a green movement of climate friendly decision making.

A little encouragement is all it takes. “We’ve encouraged people to spread the word by telling their Facebook friends about the campaign, and pass on our videos, one of which has been seen by more than 330,000 people,” Overgaard says.

Clearly, the world can be saved one laundry load at a time and one voice to another.Julie Katz blogs at Julie the CMC Major.

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4 thoughts on “Using social media to help combat climate change

  1. Times They Are A Changing

    Ms Katz article just proves that the social networking movement is a powerful tool to get messages and ideas out to a large population. The Low Temperature laundry supplies are a definate must in this country. Ms. Katz certainly did a great job of getting the facts and ideals out there and I am looking forward to reading more from her.

  2. Great article. Although Low Temperature laundry supplies are not yet available in the US marketed in that way, it is possible to follow this way of life already. I use only cold water for all washing and I even use cold water laundry detergent (available at the supermarket) for the cleanest clothing possible. I believe in your last line…"the world can be saved one laundry load at a time and one voice to another." Great job, Julie!

  3. You are certainly an advocate for a new wave of ways to help! I can only imagine what you will make happen to the betterment of this world. How does it feel to be a catalyst?

    G.A. Nina

  4. Thanks Julie for writing about ´I do 30´, it means a lot to us at Mindjumpers that people like what we are doing – THANK YOU!

    @Haylee, actually cold wash detergent is in certain stores in the US, some of the big supermarket stores have some of the Low Temperature or Cold Wash detergent. The detergent could be featured in a lot more stores, that will hopefully happen one day ;-)

    Best – Jonas / Mindjumpers