Honest Tea

8 characteristics of Green Insurgents

April 27, 2012: 10:01 AM ET

Don't be afraid to challenge the status quo -- sometimes it works.

By Seth Goldman

FORTUNE -- Last week I participated in a panel on Green Insurgents at Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Niguel, California. My fellow panelists were Adam Lowry, co-founder and Greenskeeper of Method and Jason Graham-Nye, dad/co-CEO of gDiapers.

The discussion helped illuminate what it means to be a Green Insurgent, beyond of course the obligatory funky job titles, (according to this TeaEO). Clearly, it starts with offering products that challenge mainstream offerings. Method hijacked the stale category of soaps and cleansers by combining fashion and style with high-performing, eco-friendly products. gDiapers changed the waste stream of diapers by offering a flushable alternative to a category that is the third largest contributor to landfills around the world. And my company rose to prominence by offering lower-sugar organic drinks first for adults with Honest Tea, then to the broader population, with Honest Ade and Honest Kids.

Once our products were launched, we each grew primarily through grassroots marketing. While it might be quaint to think this was a strategic decision, none of us had the budget for a real advertising campaign. As a result, we grew through word-of-mouth. Consumers adopted us as their own and became advocates for us – forcing our products on their friends, and occasionally harassing store personnel who failed to restock our products.

We've each taken the special relationships with our consumers beyond just the transactional relationship of selling and buying product. For gDiapers an office open house turned into a slumber party, with moms and babies, flying into Portland, OR from all over the country to celebrate their shared commitment to a lighter environmental footprint. For Method, it means a daily dialogue with thousands of their most passionate advocates, the People Against Dirty. Recently, one advocate decided the perfect place to propose to his girlfriend would be in Method's offices in San Francisco, in front of the whole company (he did, and she said yes!).  For Honest Tea, our Great Recycle in Times Square on April 30 (complete with 30 foot high recycling bin) will engage thousands of consumers in NYC and around the country as we seek to boost recycling rates. More

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