A Carrotmob is a method of activism that leverages consumer power to make the most socially-responsible business practices also the most profitable choices. Businesses compete with one another to see who can do the most good, and then a big mob of consumers buys products in order to reward whichever business made the strongest commitment to improve the world. It’s the opposite of a boycott.We asked all of the liquor stores in Isla Vista, “What percentage of the day’s gross revenue would you be willing to reinvest into energy efficient technologies like new lighting or insulation for the freezers?” Isla Vista Market submitted the highest bid, pledging to commit 20 percent of the revenue generated on November 21st (2009) from 1-5pm to be re-invested in to the store in the form of green technologies.In four hours we generated approximately $5,500 in revenue and had over 500 people shop at IV Market, resulting in $1,100 of energy efficient retrofits to their store. On a typical Saturday between 1-5pm IV Market brings in approximately $2,000 in revenue, so we considered the project a huge the success.
The Environmental Affairs Board (UCSB group hosting the Carrotmob event) partnered with Sun (re)construction LLC, which is a full-service consultancy and project management firm that is focused on generating effective deep energy savings for retrofit and new construction projects, to manage the retrofit of Isla Vista Market.
Through numerous audits and long discussions, EAB and Sun (re)construction were able to generate a long-term plan for Isla Vista Market that would make the store as close to a net-zero energy business as possible, all while providing a payback on investment within five years. The retrofit to the store will be conducted in a phased progression, with phase one being a complete redesign and replacement of the stores lighting system, phase two focuses on replacing old refrigerators and compressors with the most efficient new technologies available, and phase three will be the instillation of a photovoltaic system on the roof of the store.
Construction on Isla Vista Market is scheduled to begin on March 15th, 2010 and the tentative date of completion for all three phases is July 15th. The cost of the full retrofit is not concrete at this point but is estimated at $100,000 to $150,000.
What makes the concept of a Carrotmob so appealing is the partnership that is built between students, faculty members, and local businesses. Students at research-based universities are in great need of projects that provide them with hands-on, practical work and local businesses have the opportunity to build long-term relationships with student organizations from the near bye campus. This is a special event that provides all participating groups with beneficial roles.There is an easy-to-read Carrotmob manual that coaches would-be group organizers at each step along in the process. This manual allows for students, who would typically not be able to organize an event of this magnitude, to progress through the campaign with a set of guidelines and instructions.
A Carrotmob is an entirely positive campaign which does not seek to portray non-supportive businesses in a negative light, but instead encourages consumers to make conscious decisions that will benefit their local community and environment. The positive nature of the campaign is complimented well by the fun atmosphere of the day’s event and is a natural draw to all types of people. For this project to be successful it was necessary for students, faculty members, business owners, and working professionals to all be striving towards the same goal. The focus and direction of the campaign was in the hands of the students but relied on counseling from faculty members, support from local businesses, and the professional “know-how” from the working professionals.
The owners of Isla Vista Market made the event unique to their own store by pledging to be plastic bag free on the day of the event. Additionally, Isla Vista Market partnered with the County of Santa Barbara to have the business certified as a “Green Business” by the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County.Sun (re)construction, which is a company founded and operated by a UCSB alum, enabled the project to move forward in a way that neither students nor faculty members were capable of doing. Sun (re)construction was especially good throughout the project because of their ability to involve students from the campaign in the meetings and audits that were conducted.
In the campaign to the businesses I told the story of Keg N Bottle Market in Isla Vista (which is a grocery store similar in characteristics to Isla Vista Market), which in January of 2009 invested approximately $40,000 in energy efficient technology for their liquor store. The upgrades, which primarily focused on more efficient lighting systems and upgrades to refrigeration appliances, saved Keg N Bottle $4,800 on their first energy bill. The savings created by the new technologies had a payback on initial investment of less than nine months and would provide these types of savings for years to come. The system that will be introduced into Isla Vista Market includes newer and better technologies and is more widespread, because of these traits I believe the savings will be even deeper than that just described about Keg N Bottle. If money is being saved, energy consumption at the same time must be decreasing!