Our picks for TEDxVancouver: Lorne Craig, writer & designer

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Vancouver is an amazing city, chock full of creative talent. WE ARE VANCVR is a simple, elegant way to showcase all that talent in one place. Every week we profile one individual from the VANCVR community.VANCVR.com is a Domain7 Labs project.

Recently, we published an open letter to TEDxVANCOUVER with a modest proposal.

We are huge TEDx fans, and we’re also huge fans of all the bright ideas generated by our city’s creative types. That’s why the team at Domain7 Labs started We Are VANCVR in the first place—to bring all this talent together for good and then see what emerges.

When TEDx returns for its third instalment in Vancouver on November 12, we would love to see some of that talent on stage. This is the last of five letters we’ve posted to TEDx, with speaker recommendations from the We Are VANCVR community.

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Lorne Craig is, admittedly, one of the more “mature” members of the We Are VANCVR community, but we think with maturity comes experience. And Lorne has no shortage of that.

He’s been an art director and strategist longer than some of us have been alive. He started a company with friends from art school, which grew into a 20-person ad agency. He jumped on the web wagon in the ’90s—so pretty much a moment after it was born.

Around that time, he was working with the BC Ministry of Environment, and his interest in sustainability was piqued. “As you begin to turn over rocks you realize you are either part of the problem or part of the solution,” he explains. “I decided to use my evil powers of advertising to be part of the solution.”

Now he operates Unicycle Creative, a sustainable marketing consultancy, where he spreads the eco-gospel to corporate clients like London Drugs, BRODA Coatings and local designer favourite, Hemlock Printers.

His niche is sustainable marketing, but his real passion is bringing sustainability literacy to the wider public. He thinks our ability to read green marketing with a critical eye should be as ingrained in us as our ABCs—and should be taught to kids at around the same time.

His clever and seriously informative blog, Green Briefs, goes to work debunking some of our misperceptions about the so-called green messages we’re fed by corporations. He’s worked on the inside, so he knows terms like “planet-friendly” and “natural” are just too vague to have any real meaning. He encourages consumers not to take these at face value and not to be swayed by empty taglines that make undefined claims.

At the same time he calls out corporations for greenwashing, and challenges them to be specific in their green product claims, and then back them up—to not brag that a product is free of one toxin if it’s just been replaced by another, or not to fall victim to “claim creep”. Green marketing is not as simple as highlighting the number of trees you’ve saved by using post-consumer paper. It’s about taking real action and only then telling the public about it.

But where many enviro-types will point to corporations as nefarious culprits, Lorne makes a convincing case that corporate brands are the ones who can make significant change happen in the long run.

“Government agencies don’t deal in story telling. They aren’t the pros at getting people excited or enthused. Brands are. Brands can make broad sweeping changes that actually have an impact. Only WalMart could, with one swipe of the corporate pen, dictate that ALL laundry detergents must henceforth be supplied ONLY in concentrated form—saving water, packaging and shipping carbon, and effectively changing a whole industry almost overnight.”

Lorne also points to Nike, who, with enough pressure, decided to embed sustainability throughout their company—infusing it with their own style. Actions like this permeate their suppliers, he says, and can have a positive trickle-down effect.

He acknowledges that sustainable marketing is about so much more than soundbite issues—every aspect has a corollary on the other end of it. “For instance, it’s tempting to declare print communications less sustainable than electronic documents,” he says. “But if you take all the manufacturing, energy to run servers and disposing digital devices into account, the case is much less black and white.” The issues are not always easy to grasp. Which is why literacy is so important.

We know Vancouver is a pretty enviro-savvy city. We love nature, we recycle, we donate to our favourite eco-causes…But maybe it’s time we took a closer look at the brands we consume. At the next TEDx, we’d love to hear from Lorne about how to be more critically aware of the so-called green messages we’re fed every day.

 

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