Canada welcomed the world recently when we hosted the 2010 Olympics Winter Games in British Columbia, a source of great pride for Canadians. Unfortunately, the truckloads of snow rumbling down the mountain to the ski hills also drew some unwanted attention. Although it’s not unusual for Vancouver to experience mild winter conditions, some people saw this as a sign of global warming. Climate change and sustainability at large get a lot of media air time, which is a good thing if it motivates us to take positive action.
Rewind about 18 months, and enter Cisco Canada.
Back in 2008, the folks at Cisco had a big idea. They set out to rally a nation around the premise that every person could make a small difference in the health of the planet, and if every person made their small contribution, together we could all make a big difference. This is the power of what Cisco calls “the Human Network Effect“.
In its most basic form, One Million Acts of Green was a simple call to action: log into the Web site and record your “act of green” – something positive you were doing or pledging to do on behalf of the planet. An act of green could be as simple as drinking tap water instead of bottled, taking the stairs or donating old clothing. Each act of green was awarded an environmental score, meaning that you could immediately see the impact of your particular contribution, as well as the cumulative effect of everyone’s efforts, in terms of trees saved or cars taken off the road.
The idea galvanized celebrities including environmental guru David Suzuki, basketball legend Steve Nash, HGTV star Mike Holmes, and singer Alanis Morissette, among others.
More importantly, the idea mobilized communities, corporations, and individual citizens.
Within 3 months, the program had exceeded the initial target of one million acts of green, and by July 2009, Canadians had logged 1.8 million individual acts of green, and saved 106 million kg of greenhouse gases. Then the site went global at http://onemillionactsofgreen.com/.
Canadian Ray Zahab, founder of Impossible2Possible (I2P), recently ran 7,500 km across the Sahara Desert to raise awareness for the water crisis in northern Africa. His journey was chronicled in Running the Sahara, a documentary narrated by Matt Damon. Ray talks about the ripple effect of One Million Acts of Green here.
The ripple effect is important. Every person has the power to influence those around them. For me, this exemplifies what one of my colleagues calls “the power of one” – the power of one act, the power of each of us to do something that makes a difference, the power of one captivating message.
And ultimately, it all began with the power of one person in particular: Willa Black, Cisco’s VP of Corporate Affairs. Willa conceived of One Million Acts of Green along with her team, and it was her personal power, influence and perseverance that brought the program to life.
For me, this is also a story of the power of technology to enable people to do something significant. Through technology, Cisco created a movement that inspired a country, and now they’ve set their sights on the world. The new goal: 1 BILLION Acts of Green globally. Perhaps you’ll decide to become a part of it. http://onemillionactsofgreen.com/ You can also find them on Twitter (@1M_ActsOfGreen) and Facebook.
To be sure, Cisco did not embark on this program for purely altruistic reasons. This was a marketing campaign, a highly successful one which will be the subject of “One Million Acts of Green Part 2: A Social Media Case Study“.
But for most people One Million Acts of Green was an opportunity to learn, share, make a difference, and become part of something meaningful.