GOOD

Who Can Change the World? Is it You, Sweet Potato Fries?

Something I think about a lot is the incredible act of changing consumer behavior through outstanding innovation or salesmanship.

This week, I've seen a few notes on the failure (and on the perhaps-too-early reportage of the failure) of mobile wallet apps. Why are they "failing?" A pretty reasonable guess is that they're not solving a problem that consumers have.


Fine—good reason. But, come on, we're talking about Google here. The new Google. The Google that no longer has time or patience for things that didn't make an impact. You're telling me that they don't know how to make me pay for beans with my phone? They can build robot cars and make them street legal and I'm still carrying around pennies?

Something I think about a lot is the incredible act of changing consumer behavior with innovation or salesmanship so impressive that it reorders priorities or invents new ones. Somebody asked me for an example of what I'm looking for today.

I told him that, for a simple example, I had my eye on a restaurant chain, Native Foods. It's a vegan restaurant chain. It seems to me for that chain to succeed, consumers' behavior has to change. Why? Well, about 3.2 percent of Americans eat vegetarian and 0.5 percent vegan. You don't have to be vegetarian to eat at Native Foods—while I follow a mostly vegetarian diet, I've been there with very carnivorous friends and they've dug it—but realistically it does take somebody who is vegan, vegetarian, or pretty openminded to spend money there and, ideally for the restaurant, become a regular.

I think it's awesome that a vegan restaurant chain exits, and I do know a fair number of vegans and vegetarians, but these are often folks who bristle a little at the idea of hitting a chain of any kind all that frequently. Maybe they'll make exceptions; I don't know, but no matter what, the success of Native Foods seems to depend on some combination of these changes in consumers' regular behavior:

1) People eating more vegan food.

2) Vegans and vegetarians eating at a restaurant chain location more frequently.

I could be wrong! (Work at Native Foods? Get in touch!) And this isn't to say I don't think it's going to work. I'm just saying that it's why I'm particularly interested in the success of the chain and the speed of its growth. These changes would represent real steps forward in, at the very least, consumers' carbon footprint. (If you haven't seen the recent studies, they're throwing around words like "catastrophic.")

But say I'm right. Is that behavior change coming from a place that solves a problem for consumers? In the sense that sweet potato fries solve problems, sure, I guess so. Is it solving a problem for the environment? It's a couple steps in the right direction. That's what I'm interested in—businesses getting out ahead like that, how they do it, why they do it, and what they learn and can share with the next round of folks who want to do well while doing good.

Photo via Flickr (cc) user ironypoisoning.

Articles
via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet