Carbon Conscious City Creates Green Aura Through ‘Protection Action’

The City of Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, is establishing itself as the hub of environmental consciousness through its Climate Protection Action Campaign. The campaign launched in 2007 demonstrates the importance of homogenous market segmentation and identification of target audiences in strategically determining the best marketing mix for success.

Columbia convened a “green team” of experts to draft its green plan. The slogan “Green is Good” was adopted and a new brand created. Niche strategies include: Green is Good for Business Conference and Green Business Member program featured in business publications. In April 2008, the city unveiled Green is Good for Kids and Green is Good for Neighborhoods.

To ensure success at every stage, green team members were selected based on the potential of high social networks to produce increases in brand awareness through word-of-mouth and internet marketing. Promotions took the form of electronic invitations to educational seminars, text messages with links to news video clips and published articles, and performance updates. Each message had a particular appeal to various individuals to increase the probability of being passed along. These actions created the impression of spontaneous word-of-mouth enthusiasm broadening the reach and impact of climate protection awareness at a minimal cost.

The question posed to potential partners and green business members was, “Wouldn’t you rather work with a company that shares your values in fiscal, environmental and social responsibility?” Personalizing the issue ensures self-replication of the message among a broad constituency furthering the brand and its influence.

Organizing government, non-profit, and business around a “Green is Good for Business” concept expands opportunities for mentoring relationships, building capacity and outreach to recognize companies employing green practices. Boot camp attendees act as mentors and mentees, sharing ideas and experiences while learning from others for greater efficiency in achieving solutions, enhanced public image, and expanded networking opportunities.

The program has produced measurable results. The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosted a “green networking tradeshow” to connect business with potential customers in a relaxed environment. The Green Business Edition highlighted local companies providing environmentally safe products or services.

Leading the way for businesses to adopt environmentally-friendly practices is WLTX, Columbia’s CBS affiliate. This green business member purchased a fleet of hybrids and recycled three tons (5,860 lbs.) of batteries, computers, monitors, printers, and other e-waste. The Gannett-owned station now offers a “Go Green” section on its Web site.

In addition to establishing green teams, other members have switched to compact fluorescent lighting, quantified energy and waste reduction savings, replaced high level volatile organic compounds with environmentally friendly alternatives, and purchased recycled products such as toilet tissue and office paper. Some are using LEED. guidelines to direct renovation and expansion­.

Seals have been awarded to a diverse mix of companies: B-P Barber and Associates, one of the oldest and largest civil engineering firms in the Southeast; Callison, Tighe & Robinson Law Firm; Cox and Dinkins, designed and constructed the first LEED certified building; Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina; Green Touch Cleaning; Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission; Keep the Midlands Beautiful; PBR Associates of Columbia; Reliable Electrical Services; Rosewood Market and Deli; Studio 2LR Architects and Planners; The Print Machine of Columbia; Carolina Imports, specialty retailer; Roof Basket Works Incorporated, wooden basket manufacturer; Sonoco Recycling; Unlimited Marketing Solutions; and  Wal-Mart, Bush River Road.

Kids Day Columbia goes green with Andrew Talkish, the 6-year-old recycling dynamo featured on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” serving as an environmental ambassador. The youngster was selected to appear on the show after producers learned of his avid recycling practices, which were first reported in The State newspaper in August 2007. The event at Finlay Park, the city’s crown jewel of green spaces, features interactive “green” exhibits for kids, parents, grandparents, caretakers, and friends to enjoy.

The City of Columbia has a long history of being environmentally friendly, caring for more than 48,000 trees. The increase of plantings and green space functions as a “carbon sink” to help regulate air quality and reduce energy consumption by countering the warming effects of paved surfaces, recharging groundwater supplies and protecting rivers from polluted runoff. Columbia has received the Tree City USA award since 1979 and has operated a compost facility for more than 20 years demonstrating a longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship. Other related resolutions offering environmental protection include:   

â–     Curbside Recycling 1991

â–     Tree and Landscape Ordinance, 2002

â–     Resolution for Hydrogen Center, 2003

â–     Resolution for Fuel Cell District, 2007

â–     LED conversion of traffic signals and holiday lights

â–     Use of high-pressure sodium lighting instead of mercury vapor

â–     Use of GIS for mapping of streets, roadways, piping, etc.

â–     Alternative fuel vehicles

The City of Columbia’s slogan “Everybody Counts, Everybody Contributes, Everybody Benefits” serves as a constant reminder of the philosophy of the management team at the highest level. Some of the challenges experienced: 

â–     Resource Limitations: doing more with less.

â–     Overcoming Preconceived Notions: environmental protection is costly.

â–     Staying Focused: Google search reveals 54,600,000 climate protection links.

â–     Developing Baseline Emissions Inventory.

Here are some tips to consider: 

â–     Take a simple focus—List a maximum of ten items that can be easily accomplished within a specified period of time e.g. 6 months to one year.

â–     Be imaginative and creative —Go beyond your comfort zone.

â–     Don’t repeat mistakes—If something doesn’t work, don’t continue to do the same thing over and over again, even if your experience tells you that you should.

â–     Be action oriented—Meetings should have a clear beginning and end. Keep track of initiatives.

The City of Columbia is committed to protecting the health and well-being of its citizens by taking proactive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and urges Midlands residents and businesses to act accordingly to preserve the quality of life we all enjoy.
By targeting each sector independently, Columbia has efficiently and effectively energized individual sectors honing in on messages of importance to each with a broad vision of linking all of the pieces together to achieve a common goal.

This article was written by Ray Borders Gray, senior public information specialist for the City of Columbia Public Services. It's currently featured in PR News Going Green: Case Studies in Outstanding Green Business Practices, Volume 1. To find out more or order a copy, go to