In coordinating a recent event for the School of Urban and Public Affairs, the communications team identified various online an offline media to reach the diverse student population.  Although the targeted audience is diverse from the standpoint race, religion, gender, and ethnicity, the most important factor in determining marketing strategy was age.  The student body of the School includes age ranges from those just graduating high school to grandparents returning to college for advanced degrees.

The School utilized Facebook, blog entries, email messaging, e-newsletter and Twitter for the online approach.  In evaluating who was following the School on Twitter and the blog , it was determined that these platforms would be most effective in reaching the younger generation.  In addition, classroom announcements to the undergraduate population included reference to these platforms specifically.

Reaching the baby boomers has generally presented a challenge for the School.  Utilizing email messaging over the course of several weeks tends to be successful with this group, as opposed to the younger generation who will tell you that they just don’t check their email that often.  Advanced advertising through the School’s e-newsletter is also effective in reaching the older group.

On a side note, the message that the first 20 registrants at the event would receive a free t-shirt was incorporated into each platform and used as an incentive to increase participation.  Attendees would anxious to see if they were among the t-shirt winners, indicating the incentive was effective.

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Wow! It is hard to believe, but I am now a member of the Twitter family.  While I have chosen to follow a range of subject areas, this post will concentrate on those related to sustainability.  My Facebook Fan Page is dedicated to Aquaponics, so I sought out others interested in this subject matter.  I found two twitter accounts that had valuable information including training opportunities; they are @aquaponicsnews and @easyaquaponics.

My Facebook Note dedicated to the mobile app Seafood Watch prompted me to seek them out and I now follow them @seafoodwatch.  Their many tweets include information about NOAA Fisheries, sustainable sushi, and their connection to Whole Foods, just to name a few.

I am also following @greenenergynews and fellow classmates: Kyle (@kyl_mil) and Vijay N. Thakkar (@Vijaythakkar). Looking forward to following more classmates on Twitter.  You can follow me @jakegogreen.  Let me know where I can follow you!

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LinkedIn profiles seem to be extremely beneficial in networking in the professional world.  I do not currently have a LinkedIn profile, as I consider myself to be on the downhill slide of my career.  One might ask, then, why I am pursuing a Masters degree.  The answer to that is simple; while I am nearing retirement age, I still have to remain competitive in my current job.  Education is an important factor in that endeavor; a LinkedIn profile not so much.  Having a master plan for retirement, which includes continuing working part-time  but in a completely different market, a LinkedIn profile may prove beneficial to me at some point in the future.  However, since social media platforms come and go, my intent is to assess what platforms best suit my needs closer to the time I transition from my current profession to the next.

With all that being said, I believe that anyone entering a new profession, or looking at advancement in a current profession will find a LinkedIn profile valuable.  In fact, after watching the video, How to Use LinkedIn : Learn 5 Ways in 5 Minutes, I began to reconsider my position on LinkedIn.  I did not have a clear understanding of the different ways this platform could be used.  I particularly found the information on how to link your blog to your LinkedIn profile useful.  Truth be told, I am a relative newcomer (and definitely a novice) when it comes to social media platforms.  The video noted above boosted my curiosity about what other platforms might work well with LinkedIn, so I did a Google search.  Of the posts I read regarding the subject of complimentary platforms, I noticed that most mentioned Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.  Other platforms mentioned were bebo, biznik, and plaxo.  I must admit that these last three are Greek to me.  I guess more exploration is in order!

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Waterfront Park: Courtesy of Charleston Parks Conservancy

In talking about Charleston Parks Conservancy and the organization’s use of online and offline resources, I hardly know where to begin.  Prior to this assignment, I was not aware of the Conservancy or its efforts.  In exploring the organization’s online presence, I was hooked immediately and dug deeper into the history and efforts of this organization.  Referring to their mission, the organization’s website states, “We exist to care for and improve Charleston’s 120+ parks. By doing so, we improve more than the city’s beauty. We improve its health, community and economic strength.”

Charleston Parks Conservancy successfully uses a variety of online and offline activities to engage people in the effort to make parks an integral part of community activity.  While the city uses typical social media platforms such as a website, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube, offline activities are also an integral part of their success.

Hampton Park: Courtesy of Charleston Parks Conservancy

In exploring the online efforts, there are many aspects of the Conservancy’s social media usage that make engagement tools user friendly and practical.  Blogs addressing a variety of subjects are accessed directly from the web home page and are arranged by category making it easy for the reader to find specific articles.  Click on news at the top of the home page and the user finds press releases, news coverage, and even a media kit.  As with the blog, within each of the major categories is additional information laid out in a concise and straightforward manner.  It would be easy to go on and on about how the major components of the web page such as education, donate, activities, etc. are laid out for ease of use and active engagement, however the best example I can provide is a visit to the Charleston Parks Conservancy site, and I strongly encourage you to take a look.

Teddy Bear Parade: Courtesy Charleston Parks Conservancy

Among their offline activities are educational events such as classes in gardening, which include on-site instruction as well as online tutorials demonstrating the successful integration of online and offline initiatives.  Year round activities keep community members engaged on a continual basis.  Some fun activities are Garden in the Park, Botanical Illustration, Holiday Photography, Green Piece, and more.

The Conservancy uses a variety of multimedia to enhance its message.  Pictures are vibrant and portray active engagement in Conservancy programs, which serves to connect the viewer to the organization.  Videos are also very well done and contain vibrant color and useful content.  Written content is clear, concise, and easy to understand.  While all content is designed so as not to intimidate the novice, it doe not speak down to the audience either.  The content could be adapted and utilized in a variety of social media platforms.  However, the organization seems to have a good grasp on what works in regard to their particular efforts.  While there are other platforms that might be explored, it is important to evaluate which platforms are worth pursuing since social media overkill could prove detrimental just as easily as beneficial.

Follow Charleston Parks Conservancy on:

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In talking about social media with a member of a different generation, I found that on some points we were in complete agreement, yet in discussing other aspects of social media our attitudes were polar opposite.  To set the groundwork, I am of the boomer generation, while Shannon is considered either a member of the very late generation X or a member of the very early generation Y.  She falls into that category where there is some overlap of the two.

We discussed social media from several aspects touched on to date in this class.  Among those were privacy, social advantages/disadvantages, literacy, and professional application.  To my surprise, we agreed that privacy in social media was not guaranteed and that information put out on the web was vulnerable and difficult to protect.  She had an interesting viewpoint on whether privacy could be guaranteed in that she said absolutely.  She went on to say we protect our own privacy in that we control what we put out in social media from information to pictures.

In discussing the professional applications of social media, we were also in agreement that the use of social media is critical in today’s job market.  It is almost impossible to obtain a job today without social media coming into play in one form or another.  Social media also has many on-the-job applications from marketing and customer service to communication with both potential and current clients.

Our thoughts on social media differ regarding social interaction and communication.  She sees the use of “shorthand” as a type of slang.  Shannon notes that different generations use different slang.  An example would be SWAK used on the back of envelopes.  For those that may not know, SWAK stands for “sealed with a kiss” and is dated as far back as 1918.  Shannon doesn’t see the use of IDK or TY as any different than acronyms such as SWAK.

Our most notable difference of opinion relates to social impact.  Shannon sees social media as a way of keeping up with family and friends in a mobile society.  While I agree on this point, I also see social media as breaking down communication in that we don’t pick up the phone and have an actual conversation; and forget letter writing.

Shannon notes that people today are so busy with extended work hours, time demands related to children’s extracurricular activities, and the day-to-day demands of running errands, that social media has actually become for many their actual social life, or at least a significant aspect of their social life.  I find this concept troubling and sad.  Interaction with people is important to me, and I just can’t wrap by head around the thought that Facebook and other social media is considered a social life.

In  utilizing social media to reach and impact audiences from various generations, it is critical to understand differing attitudes relating to social media.  For instance, while Shannon’s generation may view the use of acronyms as acceptable, my generation tends to hold to the use of correct grammar and has a need for clarity in that we may not be familiar with modern jargon.  In addition, my generation tends to value face-to-face or verbal communication, and integrating the use of these along with social media is important in making my generation feel valued.

While these points hold true for my generation, Shannon’s generation values the use of social media in marketing, shopping, etc. because it fits into already demanding schedules.  Because social media is 24/7, it is effective in reaching audiences at a time convenient for the client/customer.

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Social media is an effective tool in soliciting charitable donations.  Nonprofit organizations are utilizing a variety of social media platforms to increase giving for causes ranging from medical research to university scholarships.  Not only has social media changed the way organizations solicit donations, but it has also changed how individuals respond to requests for charitable donations.  While organizations use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. to identify potential donors, individuals use these same platforms to identify charitable organizations that they identify with and are interested in supporting.

In a 2010 PBS interview, Allison Fine, co-author of “The Networked Nonprofit” discusses this trend.  From the soliciting organization’s perspective, she states that social media “enables donors to search for causes, to find out what people are saying about those causes, why people are giving to it, and to hear the stories of people that those causes are helping.  She goes on to say, “Social media is pulling insiders out, and allowing outsiders in to organizations, so that they can create a more meaningful relationship between themselves and their cause.  The complete interview (both video and written transcript) can be accessed at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/media/july-dec10/charity_12-30.html.

There are a variety of “how to” videos and articles on the web that discuss how organizations can utilize social media to increase donations.  One example is the following segment of BT (British Telecommunications) Viewpoint: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-I7tqoCaKw.

Blackbaud.com offers seminars and trainings aimed at assisting nonprofit organizations maximize social media resources to increase donations.  A blog post titled Social Media Increases Fundraising by 40% contains interesting statistics from a study conducted on the use of social media in fundraising efforts.  The post can be accessed http://www.netwitsthinktank.com/friends-asking-friends/using-social-media-increases-fundraising-by-40-percent.htm.

Then there is the article about an 11-year old girl who raised over $20,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in three years using Twitter, which demonstrates how social media allows an individual to actively participate in soliciting donations for a particular cause.  Not only are organizations benefitting by using social media themselves, they are benefitting through individuals who effectively use social media in fundraising efforts on their behalf.  The article about this proactive young lady can be accessed at http://m.roanoke.com/mapp/story.aspx?arcID=308468.

Our own University uses Facebook and other social media in its quest for external funding.  Visit the UTA on Facebook and you will see articles and information on the University’s fundraising initiatives. Follow this link for an example: http://www.facebook.com/notes/the-university-of-texas-at-arlington/gift-to-ut-arlington-will-grow-to-1-million-endowment-star-telegram-april-6-2011/217420948273330.

A quote from the BT website noted earlier in this post sums up the impact of social media on fundraising.  The site states, “Whatever your views are on social media, it’s difficult to argue the fact that sites like Twitter and Facebook are ideal for fundraisers looking to promote their charitable efforts to their friends and family.”

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What do you do with a landfill that houses 1.5 million tons of garbage? You turn it into a nature preserve, of course! This is exactly what the Trinity River Audubon Center accomplished.  The center, which opened in 2008, is located just eight minutes south of downtown Dallas.  In her welcome address located on the center’s website, Director Patty McGill says:

“Welcome to the Trinity River Audubon Center — your gateway to explore the amazing resources of the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest. As the largest urban hardwood forest in the United States, this forest supports a diverse community of plant and animal species and contains a unique mixture of bottomland hardwoods, wetlands and grasslands.”

The building located on the site is unique in many ways. Designed to resemble a bird when viewed from the air, it was recently certified LEED gold for the many sustainable features included in the construction of the building.  Many of the features are becoming commonplace and have been addressed in my previous blog entries.  These include things like dual flush toilets, use of recaptured rainwater, renewable wood resources for floors and walls, etc.  These features are extremely important and not to be understated.

It was not the features noted above that caught my attention, however.  The exterior features of this building are, in a word, amazing. I was absolutely blown away when tour guide Dana Wilson spoke about the no-maintenance exterior of the building.  From the Trex decking to the Cor-Ten steel walls, I was completely entranced.

Although it looks like traditional decking material, and by that I mean wood, Trex decking, pictured to the right, is made from recycled materials such as plastic milk jugs and water bottles, paper and plastic shopping bags, and sawdust from reclaimed building materials and wood pallets. The decking is made to order and is available in a variety of colors. In addition to being made of completely recycled material, the deck itself is maintenance free. In addition to decks, Trex products include house trim, outdoor furniture, fencing, and more.

Another external feature noted by Ms. Wilson were the steel walls, which make up a portion of the buildings shell.  The weathering steel she spoke of is often referred to as Cor-Ten steel, which is a registered trademark held by the United States Steel Corporation.  Weathering steel, if exposed to the elements over a period of years, takes on a rust-like appearance. The material requires no painting or other maintenance.

The remaining exterior walls are constructed of 60% concrete and 40% fly ash, which is ash produced by coal-fired power plants. These walls have been stained green, and like the steel walls, require no maintenance.  The walls were poured in such a ways as to give the appearance of being wood, which blends with the Cyprus wood wall that also makes up part of the buildings shell.

Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a sustainability proponent, or both, I highly recommend a visit to the Trinity River Audubon Center. Director Patty McGill says it best, “The Trinity River Audubon Center offers everyone the opportunity to connect to nature and to experience the outdoors year around. Come discover for yourself — you will not be disappointed.”

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The sustainable features of the Plano Environmental Education Center (EEC) are much more than functional, they are meant to educate. The City’s summer 2010 newsletter announced the opening of the center stating, “The City of Plano celebrates its new Environmental Education Center (EEC). The building symbolizes the Cityʼs commitment to environmental, social and economic stewardship. From the wind turbine and solar array to the rainwater harvesting system, the EECʼs LEED-eligible sustainable design creates the perfect atmosphere for environmental learning.”

The section of Plano’s website dedicated to the Environmental Education Center notes the Center’s sustainable design features:

  • Architectural site orientation and layout plan for maximum energy efficiency (roof overhangs, east-west orientation, shade
  • Use of recycled/renewable/nontoxic materials (low VOC paint, recycled carpet, tiles, fly ash concrete, glass)
  • Water conservation (rainwater harvesting, gray water recycling, low-flow water system, efficient irrigation)
  • Educational applications (interpretive displays, interactive programs, regional training site, workshops, public presentations)
  • Utilization of site’s natural features (creek habitat and environmental discovery gardens)

The Center is available for educational, community, and private events. There is one interesting stipulation to utilizing the center, however.  Any event held at the EEC must be a zero-waste event, and this point is not negotiable.

Sustainable Features: Plano Environmental Educational Center

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The trip to the Richardson, Texas, semiconductor fabrication facility, or RFAB was extraordinary. The facility is LEED gold certified, and effective management of the building has enabled the company to conserve valuable energy and water resources while reducing its carbon footprint. According to Paul Westbrook, the sustainable initiatives incorporated into the new building resulted in excellent outcomes beginning the first year.  Some examples included a 20% reduction in energy usage, a 40% reduction in water usage, and a 50% reduction in emissions.  Mr. Westbrook also noted that this facility was the first semiconductor plant in the world to achieve any LEED certification.

The operation in Richardson, Texas is, without a doubt, remarkable.  The sustainable components include native meadow restoration, a rainwater reuse pond, solar water heating, an efficient cooling system with waste heat recovery, a reflective white roof, efficient use of day lighting, exterior window shades, covered bicycle parking and more. The efficiency of this facility is doing so much to ensure the conservation of valuable resources, but what is most amazing to me, is that it is actually a small component of a much bigger operation.

Yes, Texas Instruments (TI) is doing great things locally, but they are also committed to sustainable initiatives in their operations worldwide.  According to the company’s Corporate Citizenship Report, “In 2010, TI’s Worldwide Facilities team became the first cross-company organization to define sustainability and establish sustainability targets for 2011, as well as longer-reaching goals.” The report goes on to say, “the organization also committed to launching a global, year-long communications campaign to engage, align and inspire employees. The intent of this effort is to educate employees on what sustainability is, what it means to the company, what we aim to achieve, and how each individual can help TI become a more sustainable company.”

TI is a vast operation, as noted on the map to the below, which was included in Mr. Westbrook’s presentation.  It is both exciting and encouraging that an organization of this scale is truly committed to global sustainability.  Through its Corporate Citizenship Report, which is published on the web in three languages, the organization is transparent to the public worldwide. The report provides a very detailed account of the organization’s goals, initiatives, and results in many areas including sustainability.  It is well worth a look, and clearly demonstrates TI’s commitment to good environmental stewardship on a global scale.

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Guest speaker Steve Chaney spoke about two subjects that are near and dear to my heart: water and landscaping.  His information regarding the utilization of native and adaptive plants echos what I have found in exploring sustainable options for my own yard.  In addition to plants, he spoke about water issues associated with landscaping.

It is estimated that approximately 25 percent of water used in Texas urban communities goes directly into landscaping.  Some estimates have this number as high as 30 to 50 percent.  With the drought conditions experience throughout Texas in the past few years, many landscaped areas have taken on the look of fields of hay, while others remain lush and green at the expense of the population as a whole that depends on water reserves being depleted in the name of green lawns.

xeriscape garden

It is possible to maintain healthy, sustainable landscapes while conserving water.  The concept of Xeriscaping originated in Colorado, and is a method of landscaping designed to make the most efficient use of available water.  Both the layout of the landscape and the plants used are critical to ensure beauty and efficiency.

According to experts in this area at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, “Many people have a negative association with this word, thinking that all xeriscapes are hot, hostile and very thorny. Some associate the term with minimal plant material and lots of rock.”  They go on to say that this is a misconception, and point out that “the ‘green industry’ has spent a considerable amount of time and money to introduce lush, colorful plants from all over the world.”

Rain Garden

Rain gardens also make efficient use of available water. Rain Garden Design Templates, a site developed through a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, defines a rain garden as “a garden which takes advantage of rainfall and stormwater runoff in its design and plant selection.”  In addition to the vast amount of information found on this site, it also provides numerous links to other resources in this area.

Decorative Rain Barrel

Incorporating rain barrels into landscaping is another way to conserve valuable water supplies.  It is estimated that 600 gallons of water can be collected for every inch of rain that falls on a catchment area of 1,000 feet.  The roof catchment area of a building is equal to the total square feet of the building plus the eaves.   Any building is a potential catchment area including single/multi-family residential buildings, office complexes, clubhouses, and rural out-buildings.  Mr. Chaney’s presentation included a short “how-to” on making a rain barrel, but for those that are not inclined to take this route, there are attractive rain barrels on the market and they are not cost prohibitive.  Many models, like the one pictured, sell for around $100.

Texas A&M is another resource for Texans who want to create an attractive, yet sustainable landscape for their business or home. Helpful information and a list of publications by subject of interest can be found on the university’s AgriLife Extension website.

Having a beautiful landscape and being a good steward of water resources can go hand-in-hand.  A little research can go a long way in helping reach this goal.

Photo Credits: Xeriscape Garden from http://www.landscapevirginia.com/xeriscaping/
and Rain Garden from http://www.roomu.net/exterior/build-your-own-rain-garden.html

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