Monday, December 13, 2010

Door to Door Giving

In the process of trying to take some time off, I decided I'd take on a fun, little contracting job for a company I've watched grow over the past year. As it turns out, this work is mostly fun and rarely little. As for my free time ... poof! gone for now.

The company makes lightbulbs, LED lightbulbs to be exact. LEDs are the best efficient lightbulbs on the market right now - they're pretty, they last forever, they use virtually no energy, and they're safe to dispose of. Did you know that CFLs (the lightbulbs shaped like a coil) have liquid mercury in them and are extremely dangerous if broken or left in a landfill? They're so awful that in 2012, CFLs are no longer going to be available for purchase in the US.

The drawback for LED lighting is that it costs a heck of a lot, and I don't know anyone who feels comfortable fronting a chunk of change for a 25 year commitment to a lightbulb. In order for massive adoption of a new technology in an otherwise mundane area of people's lives to occur, the lightbulb paradigm must change. This is where I come in.

We decided that people must begin to see the bulbs in places they like to go, learn about LEDs firsthand, and be given the option of purchasing the bulbs on the spot.  We're giving out 5 free LED bulbs to choice locations in San Francisco. Locations include bars, design shops, furniture stores, restaurants and cafes. Each lightbulb that replaces an incandescent will save that location an average of ~$20 per month in energy savings ($2.00 for CFLs).  It's a no-brainer for these locations, or so you'd think.

Of the 50 emails and calls I have made to locations, 5 have expressed interest.  Of the 20 in-person visits I have made to locations, 2 have decided to take the bulbs.  The vast majority of companies are simply not interested - citing their current design specs (understandable), their need to speak with HQ (understandable), or their distaste for third party marketing in their own stores (understandable, but these are just lightbulbs).

My opinion as to why people are not interested is that most are uncomfortable with change, even when it is nonimpactful.  The reason I believe this is is that the locations that were open to the idea were those that were the most cutting edge, successful, popular and young cafes/restaurants/bars in the city.   Upon my call or email, they responded with a resounding "yes, please come in! We're looking for ways to be green, and this seems like the perfect opportunity."

I'm suddenly not surprised that these are the most well-reviewed, well-attended locations in the city these days.  These types of locations are managed by open-minded, enterprising people, people who are a pleasure to work with and meet.

My task of finding 30 locations is going to be tough.  But, when I find the "right" locations, it's wonderful, and as far as I'm concerned, these are the locations that are going to continue to thrive as the world changes around them.  Let me know if you have any locations in mind - whether it's in SF or Silicon Valley, I've got a huge task ahead of me.

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