Monday, November 22, 2010

The Portland Bottom Line is going green with Eco-Libris!

We are happy to announce a new collaboration, this time with the editors of 'The Portland Bottom Line', a new book exploring how small businesses can effectively and efficiently shift toward sustainability and thrive.

This interesting and unique book, which was released earlier this month, includes 51 essays of small-business people from Portland who share their experiences with sustainability in their companies.One tree will be planted with Eco-Libris for every printed copy of the book.

Here's more about the book:
Co-edited by Peter Korchnak and Megan Strand and organized into 12 sections along the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Prosperity, “The Portland Bottom Line: Practices for Your Small Business from America’s Hotbed of Sustainability” explores how small businesses can effectively and efficiently shift toward sustainability and thrive. In their short, 400-word essays, 51 small-business people from the City of Roses share their experiences with sustainability in their companies.

“The Portland Bottom Line” demonstrates how small businesses can innovate to put people before profit, help restore the ecosystem, and prosper. The book is also a community benefit project. Contributors collectively chose, by vote, the local community organization Mercy Corps Northwest, which supports the launch and growth of sustainable ventures, to receive 100% of profit from the book’s sales.

We are happy to partner with this book as we strongly believe in the power of local businesses to create change and move the local economy towards sustainability. We know very well from our involvement with SBN in Philadelphia and Portland is also a good (if not the best) example of this process. Hopefully this book will help and inspire other places to follow and create the change we are looking for.

This book is also a very interesting experience in crowdsourcing, as the sustainable marketing expert and co-editor Peter Korchnak points out in the introduction to the book:

"As I delved deeper into my exploration of sustainability and marketing, the questions seemed increasingly pressing. In my search for the best way to explore and publicize the issue, I recalled my experience co-authoring mass-collaboration book projects such as "Connect! Marketing in the Social Media Era" and "Age of Conversation 3: It's Time to Get Busy". Could I employ the same crowdsourcing technique of co-creation to produce a collection of essays highlighting answers to those burning questions?" Did you receive answers to these questions?

We talked with Peter about the book, the working process and the answers you can find this book:

Hi Peter. How "The Portland Bottom Line" started?
Three factors motivated the creation of “The Portland Bottom Line”:

First, after I contributed chapters to “Connect: Marketing in the Social Media Era” and “Age of Conversation 3: It's Time to Get Busy”, I realized collaborative books that benefit causes are a fantastic way to create microcommunities around topics of interest and raise money for good.

Secondly, as principal of Semiosis Communications [link: ], a Portland, Oregon-based sustainable marketing company, I have focused on strategies and tactics that support social sustainability – the People bottom line.

Finally, Portland is on the national, if not worldwide, forefront of sustainability, and I'm always on the lookout for additional ways to share our accomplishments here.

I thought, why not combine it all? Can I create a crowdsourced book in which Portland's business community can share their experiences with sustainability? “The Portland Bottom Line” is the answer.

Did you receive answers to the questions you brought up at the
introduction to the book (see above)?
Absolutely. Each essay in the book demonstrates sustainability and business go well together. For Portland's small-business community, sustainability is both personal and profitable.

Can you highlight one or two stories that taught you new lessons about
integrating sustainability and business together?
What really struck me was how personal doing business in a sustainable way is for contributors. Adopting sustainable practices in business is certainly a business decision, but personal experiences and convictions drive it long-term.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the range of stories, from deeply autobiographical narratives to number-crunching case studies, as well as by the range of businesses that contributed. To see very little shameless self-promotion was also very encouraging.

Alan Gunderson's piece “Growing and Staying Green” highlights how company growth and environmental sustainability can go well together. As a marketing professional, I was happy to see Rich Bruer write about sustainable branding in “Sustainable Branding: It May Not Be What You Think”: small businesses, too, need to cultivate their brands to stay in business.

With all these stories that show you how sustainability is a win-win business strategy, why do you think the majority of businesses still avoid this path?

Though the essays in “The Portland Bottom Line” demonstrated that sustainability is partly a personal, emotional issue, none of the contributors would have applied sustainable practices in their business if it hadn't made business sense as well.

There's a widespread, albeit slowly diminishing, misconception out there about what sustainability means. For far too many people sustainability still equals 'being green', even though it, in fact, includes social and financial benefits as well. That's why the triple bottom line is often depicted as a three-legged stool: Profit, People, and Planet must be balanced in our business decisions, otherwise it won't work.

As the number and success of sustainability-minded companies grows, more will join them on that path.

Do you think there's a next level to making local businesses more sustainable or what we read in these stories is as good as it gets?
I believe that outside of nature, total sustainability does not exist. We can only strive to conduct business as sustainably as possible. In other words, sustainability isn't a goal, but, as the previous question pointed out, it's a path. In sustainability, the journey truly is the destination.

Why is it (almost) only Portland? Why don't we see similar sustainable/local business hubs in other cities?

Several theories exist why Portland is a hotbed of sustainability. A while ago I summarized my take in a dedicated blog post “
Portland is an island”. In brief, we must thank our natural environment, climate, people and their connection to this place, liberal politics, government policies, and the virtuous circle connecting it all together. Portlanders love their city and its surroundings, and we'll do everything possible to preserve and nourish both.

At the same time, while Portland may be on the forefront of sustainability, we still have a ways to go. As I said earlier, sustainability is an ideal. In a small city like this one, sustainable business stands out because of its higher-than average concentration. A lot of good, and often better, stuff is happening in other cities as well, and we have plenty to learn from them.

How was the crowdsourcing process? Would you do it again?

am doing it again. Volume 2 of “The Portland Bottom Line” will be out in November 2011.

Crowdsourcing is a lot of work – it takes more than you think at the outset. Particularly coordination of the crowd is a huge task, testimony to the fact that crowdsourcing requires good management, it doesn't just happen. The experience made me wish there were an easy way, and I look forward to soon delivering that with GoodBookery, which will enable people to create and publish collaborative books that benefit causes.

How come you don't have even one story from a bookstore?

I did notice that. I guess no bookstore owners are in my social network yet. Please connect me or, if you run a bookstore that would be interested in carrying “The Portland Bottom Line”, please get in touch at editors[at]portlandbottomline[dot]com.

Any advice to someone who might be inspired from your project and would like to do something similar in their city?

Start working on the concept now, but hold off until July 2011 when GoodBookery will be launching. In the meantime, go to to sign up for updates!

Thanks, Peter! More information about 'The Portland Bottom Line' can be found at

The book can be purchased and downloaded on

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!

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