Gangbusters For Green

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When the organization formerly known as Plants At Work began the renaming process, it cast a wide net, sending out a Zoomeran survey to industry members and working with its board of directors to narrow down the choices. Speaking to the green building movement was a top priority, and the new formal name, Green Plants For Green Buildings, was the clear winner. The name was fully in place by the OFA Short Course in July 2007, says MJ Gilhooley of Gilhooley Consulting, which provides PR and other services for the organization.

“At this point, everyone knows about ‘green’ being an important trend affecting everything from Windex to the cars we select,” Gilhooley says. “Therefore, the idea of a green building makes sense almost immediately to both professionals and the public.

”The Green Plants For Green Buildings (GPGB) Web site, www.gpgb.org, is working to communicate this message and explain the benefits of plants in hospitality, retail, general office and health care settings, as well as in the home. So far, Gilhooley says, the most “clicked through” area on the site is the “in the home” menu option. “The core of our message is still the benefits of having plants inside the built environment — every built environment — including in the home," she says.

Hard At Work

In addition to promoting its name change and mission statement through several four-page spreads in industry trade publications, electronic newsletters and through trade show materials, GPGB is also working hard to educate professionals outside the green industry about the benefits of interior plants. GPGB was recently showcased in the “Green Zone” at the International Facility Management Association’s World Workplace where, Gilhooley says, GPGB was “a huge hit. We were attracting our core audience,” she says. “There were many professionals who own or manage millions of square feet around the world and, after spending some time at our booth, they certainly understood the environmental benefits that plants bring to the indoor built environment.”

The organization plans to provide a full new line of educational materials to enable sponsor companies to both better understand the benefits of GPGB, as well as to communicate those benefits professionally to their current and potential customers, Gilhooley adds.“

This will include items like a corporate sales package to use duringvarious stages of the client relationship cycle,” she says.

In addition, GPGB will offer sponsor companies continuing education training, which will enable all sponsors to become official providers of continuing education units (CEUs) to the professional architects, building owners and green building professionals in their regions.“

We feel this alone can recap enough critical change to transform the dynamic from a buyers market to a sellers market,” Gilhooley says. “The fact that to date, already we have 99 trained presenters who have taught the benefits of plants in the built environment directly to nearly 350 end users indicates the beginning of an aspect of the program that has the potential to revolutionize the way end users see interior plants.”

Along with its new name, in July 2007 GPGB also received non-profit declaration of independence from any other organizations, Gilhooley says. “It’s important that the message remains true to GPGB and does not get diluted with other special interests,” she says. “This does not mean that we could not partner with a group at some time, but it does mean that, as a program, it remains autonomous both in message and financially.” The non-profit status also helps the organization be more creative in its programming, as well as in avenues of fundraising, Gilhooley adds. “We can offer a complete tax deduction for contributions; we can apply for corporate responsibility funds and other grants, and funding that is usually only available to non-profits.”

Upping The Ante

In September 2007, the new GPGB board of directors met in person for the first time for a strategic planning session. While the board came up with many ideas, Gilhooley says, the group will be careful to “sculpt a master plan on which the program can be sustained for many years to come. This does not happen overnight,” she says.

However, the organization is concurrently and aggressively researching methods to produce and present interior plants that are even more environmentally friendly and “ultra green.” This includes looking into the VeriFlora sustainability certification program (see www.greenhousegrower.com/sustainability or www.veriflora.com), Gilhooley says.

“We are similarly looking at many other ways plants can become particularly green for buildings such as measuring the carbon dioxide levels of absorption; and looking into the positive lifecycle issues of plants, the recycled container options for the future, the compost elements and the water conservation issues that can be amplified through simple, professional best green practices.”

These areas of research and their eventual results will allow for even more targeted public relations messages from GPGB, both to the industry and the public at large, she adds.

“We will be able to communicate that interior plants are particularly healthy and more beneficial to the environment than we had thought. That indeed we are reducing the carbon footprint as we provide a product that calms, enhances productivity, absorbs common toxins, reduces noise, inspires creative problem solving, helps with the recruiting process, improves mood, helps balance humidity levels to match that of human comfort and reduces what many deem to be a serious health problem today — stress,” Gilhooley says. “Not even mentioning the pure aesthetic value that makes plants a complete package and what would seem like an obvious investment.”

In addition, GPGB will promote the bottom line return on investment for interior plants, as well as communicating its goal that every built environment invest in one plant per 100 square feet, Gilhooley says. “When this is achieved, the plants to human benefits are maximized.”

Laura Drotleff is editor of Greenhouse Grower.
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