Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Good things happen to those who simply inquire

Two experiences I’d like to share quickly re: the power of simply asking a question:
First. We currently order our brochure holders from a firm called Displayarama – big points for coolness of name, minus points for eco-friendliness of the firm – many of the displays they sell are made from acrylic and the packaging that they use to ship the displays contains styrofoam. (I do also have to note that we are currently using one of their not so eco-friendly acrylic displays; this is 1) because we’re very tight on dollars and to be frank the display is cheap, and 2) because we need something which is relatively transparent. That being said, we’d love to use something more earth friendly, so if anyone knows or can suggest a better greener alternative, we are all ears!).
Now, acrylic aside, we did decide to ask them if they could ship us our displays with something other than styrofoam and simple as that… they did. 2 of the 3 next boxes that we received were packed with newspaper as opposed to styrofoam. Now it’s still not 3 for 3 (yet!), but it was a simple inquiry that shows just how easy it can be to cause some green change.
Second. (I’ll try and keep this one shorter). Pete & I were in Biondivino last week speaking with Zach about Viv. Zach was immediately into the program and we started talking about green commitments that Biondivino could make. I asked him if he recycled and/or composted, and Zach (who was clearly very passionate about the environment… he got his last apartment building to start composting) literally walked out the door (almost looking a bit flush) and shouted back to Pete & I to hold on. He walked back 2 or 3 minutes later w/ a cardboard box saying ‘we do now’ and placed it behind the counter. A simple question with an immediate and simple response that caused some green change. That’s what it’s all about.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

To be or not to be… for-profit

Many people have asked us whether Viv is for-profit or not-for-profit, even offering reasons for both sides.  Dinesh and I discussed the question during Viv’s earliest stages (before we had even come up with the name “Viv”… yes, it was eons ago).
We decided to make Viv for-profit because we wanted to make absolutely sure that the organization could sustain itself.  Even before the economy came tumbling down in ’08, we knew that we did not want to rely on donations and grants to keep our bank account in the black forever.  It is probably tiring asking for money all the time.  We knew the best way to take care of Viv was to make sure it could take care of itself… and thus fund itself.
We are building Viv for long-term success.  No doubt that we want businesses partnered with us to have the same success.   In doing so, we hope to lead by example and have our company support environmental sustainability not only in our mission & product but also in our daily operations & activities.  Itty bitty steps, big results.
To lead by example is one reason we even experiment on our own company with ideas for green project.  Glad that I have not overflowed the toilet trying out different homemade toilet dams.  A piece of advice I sometimes ignore: “Don’t try this at home, kids”.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

How you do what you do

You use Viv.  We use Viv.  We wants lots of people to Viv.  It’s why we spent many, many months making Viv as simple as possible for you and everyone else out there.
All you have to do is sticker your card and show the sticker when you make a purchase at one of our partner businesses.  But wait… many people have been asking, “Does every business scan my barcode?”  No, and here’s why: we wanted to make Viv simple for businesses, too!  Not every business has a barocde scanner so let me explain.
When you pull out your trusty Viv sticker in that oh-so-precious moment as you buy something, the business counts you showing your sticker– Viving your purchase– in three possible ways. Employees either scan the barcode, tap a “Viv” button on their terminal’s touchscreen, or hit a mechanical counter.  No matter what type of business we partner with, every one of them has a way to count you Viving.
So the next time you pull out your handy Viv sticker don’t worry if your favorite business does not have a barcode scanner.  Just check that the employee taps the touchscreen button or hits the mechanical counter with that classic “cha-chik” sound confirming you Viv’d your purchase.
Since I was watching Amazing Race earlier and rooting on Tammy, it is now time for me to race to bed.  Some of us still have to work on President’s Day…

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

If only I had Gmaps when I was trying to bring Carmen Sandiego to justice

View Larger Map
(Click the Larger Map to see a full list of businesses!)
First of all, big shout-out to the spiciest kid I know, M. Seltz, without him I definitely would not have figured this out (or at the very least it would have taken a whole lot longer).
Hope everyone enjoys. We now have 45+ businesses. Restaurants, Coffee Shops, Bars, Florists, Salons, Grocery Stores, Convenience Stores, Liquor Stores (hold on… aren’t they the same in San Francisco? – gotta love it), and more. Go in and use your sticker!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Credit Cards that go "beep" in the night (or in the day)

So late last week I was setting up one of our grocery stores with our friend Sam. Sam put the barcode into his system in about 30 seconds (love that it’s so nice and easy), and I grabbed myself a donut to kick-off the first Viv scan at his store.
The cashier rings me up and I take out my Amex card with my Viv sticker and wave it over the barcode scanner. It beeps, rings up as Viv at $0.00, and the guy behind me turns over and says “D****mn yo, that’s a f*** sweet card you got there.”
My takeaway – 1) This guy is clearly the man, he needs a sticker; 2) Things that beep (like the Viv sticker when scanned) rock; 3) Missy Elliot knows what’s up –

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Do a little's that simple

At Viv, one of our mantras is “do a little green”.   It is what individuals do each time they show their Viv sticker and make a purchase.  A little green happens.  The catch is those little greens add up.  Itty bitty steps, big results.
That’s the difference with Viv.  We do not ask you, your friends, or anyone else you know to dramatically change your lifestyle.  We just ask you to get stickered, use the sticker, and tell 5 friends… all together those small steps will lead to dramatic change.  (Let us worry about the other stuff.)
We do what we do because we have a different perspective than what you may read in the press.  Mainstream media says doom & gloom with global warming and government has to step up as the environmental steward.  Maybe, but we also say that people can make a difference.  Thedifference.  Every person with a Viv sticker counts, every vote for a Viv’d purchase adds up, and before you know it… a whole lot of pro-environmental change happens.  It’s that simple.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Daddy? Where do green actions come from?

This is one that I’m sure many folks are wondering, and while we plan to have a lot more detail on this at, I’d like to get the ball rolling here with a blog post.
How do Viv members decide on the green actions they’re committing to. Well, it’s a pretty simple process based on 2 things: 1) Viv’s recommendation, and 2) the business owner’s will.
Viv’s recommendation: Viv has a core list of green actions that can be applied to a wide variety of business types (florists to restaurants to newsstands). These actions have been sourced directly from local green certification programs, the most coming from:, The Bay Area Green Business Program, and Thimmakka (a local green restaurant certification program with 100+ restaurants certified). We plan to share this large list of potential green actions online shortly, as we want to provide as much transparency as possible.
The Business owner’s will: The #1 criteria here is applicability. For instance, if a local business does not have heating and cooling, then re-caulking and sealing their windows and vents will not help them save energy. The second most important criteria is “what’s been done already” – many of our businesses have already taken a few green steps forward, and while this is fantastic, we do not want to be repeating these past actions. After these 2 areas have been reviewed we work with local business owners to determine the initial 3-4 green actions that they’d like to commit to. Member businesses follow guidelines from the aforementioned certification sources in implementing those steps, and once they have been completed we reconnect with the businesses to determine a next set of steps.
While I’m sure many folks out there will want more detail (and it’s coming soon… just be a bit patient with us please), I hope this is a helpful start.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl Sunday and the breakfast of champions

Today was the next thing to a federal holiday: Super Bowl.  A day that people revere, plan weeks ahead for, and indulge in an unbelievable amount of football, friends, and feasting.  Plus a few hilarious commercials.  The Super Bowl.  A long-standing ritual across the country, capping off another season of thrills & spills with a single blowout finale that leaves you longing for the next season.
That’s just it.  Monday morning is going to come, and a champion will have been crowned for last season but every one knows the next season is ahead.  Tomorrow is a new day.  Many players and teams will wake up tomorrow to ask themselves what am I going to do this week to get better.  This week, not waiting for the one after, to hustle and pay your dues.  All the preparation, focus, and hard work matters now before the next big game day comes in front of the whole country.
I have to remind myself every week that companies are not built overnight.  Shittake.  It’s a long, tough slog but all the winners I know kept at it and persevered.  Tomorrow morning when my dreaded alarm goes off at the crack of dawn and I grab a cereal bowl for breakfast, it will be time for another week at the grind.  After watching the Super Bowl, I can’t help but imagine a Wheaties box with the new champ on the front… here’s to a great week to prove to ourselves that we can pull this puppy off.