Ford introduces Ford Ranchero, the car you can eat

Vegas, baby, Vegas!Just kidding. There was a nicely comic moment this morning at the LOHAS conference when Neil Golightly, Ford’s Director of Sustainable Business Strategies, walked into the space-y eco-modern lounge set up as the company’s conference HQ, took a look at the lozenge-shaped green and orange sofas, and said, “It’s furniture you can eat.” Maybe you had to be there, but edible furniture seems plausible enough at this celebration of all things sustainable.

A stream-of-consciousness recounting of our adventures in LOHAS land:

5:00 AM — Tom and I get up. Me, because I’m on east coast time. Tom, because he has a morning interview on KMOX out of St. Louis. It’s the first of the day’s many press interviews.

7:00 AM — Alicia takes a Tae Bo lesson from Billy Blanks, while Tom and I retreat to a local 24-hour diner for breakfast. LA is rich in 24-hour diners. Afterward Alicia, who earlier had expressed fear that the lesson might be too easy, tells us that she won’t be able to use her arms for the remainder of the conference.

9:00 AM — An introductory speaker leads all of the conference attendees through an exercise in which we make “soft eyes” at one another as an expression of warmth and connectedness. The Ford team, freshly in from Detroit, look as though they want to crawl under the table.

10:00 AM — A panel discussion of green building is somewhat overshadowed by the stupendous flower arrangements from Organic Bouquet, which no one can stop gawking at. You’ve never seen roses like these, and apparently they’re earth-friendly and fair trade. Buy these flowers.

11:00 — Neil gives his keynote on Ford’s recent environmental efforts, including the partnership with TerraPass. We may be biased, but we think he killed. One interesting tidbit: in 2008 (I think) Ford will be introducing a line of cars with seats made of 100% recycled material, created in partnership with Interface. We love Interface, the makers of carbon neutral Cool Carpet, and we are positive on this announcement, which Neil followed with some nice stats on the savings in water, carbon dioxide emissions, and pollutants that these green seats will help Ford achieve.

12:00 — We decamp to the Ford lounge to set up the TerraPass booth, which includes our “100-lb chocolates,” an edible carbon offset that costs a quarter and let you neutralize your day.


2:00 — Tom and Neil have a Q&A about the TerraPass partnership. It’s a bit of a love-fest, mostly softball questions. Come on, people! Give it to us straight. We can take it. Probably my favorite moment is when a guy in the audience (a Ford plant?) leads into a question by talking at length about how much he loves his gas-guzzling Expedition, loves its size, its towing capacity, etc., etc., but he knows it’s not good for the environment. As an Expedition-owner, what can he do? Tom’s two-word answer: “Drive less.” Kermit looms ominously overhead.

Fear the frog

4:00 — We’ve sold a few TerraPasses and answered a lot of questions. At this point, the BBC has called, NPR, Ward’s Auto, Sustainable Business Insider, Sustainable Industries Magazine, and the Dallas Morning News. Whee!

5:00 — We pack up our gumball machine and retreat to the hotel balcony to stare at the ocean for a little bit, see what the blogosphere has had to say about us, and rummage through our gift bags. Alicia wanders off to “network,” I tether myself back to the laptop, and Tom goes off in search of free organic booze.


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  1. Anonymous - May 2, 2006

    i think carbon candy is a great idea. it’s a fun way to get people to ‘sponsor’ their own carbon neutrality at an event.

  2. gabriel - May 3, 2006

    I’m also a huge fan of the carbon candy! What is neat is it is an ida anyone could use to make some money for the cause…

  3. Scott - May 3, 2006

    Any plans on rolling out “Carbon candy” vending machines? I envision a nice big “TerraPass” logo vertical on the machine. For $1.25 or so you get a bottle of water and a 500# CO reduction.
    I’d buy that H2O before someone else’s.

  4. Adam - May 4, 2006

    Glad you like this idea. We thought it was kind of fun. We’re trying to figure out what to do with it now — it might make a nice offering for our corporate customers.

  5. Marie - May 4, 2006

    What about marketing Carbon Candy to colleges? As a college student, I use the vending machines to buy snacks a lot, and if the funds were going to help out a worthy cause, wow would I buy more. Plus you tap into the market of “people who just took a class on global warming, want to do something, but are too lazy to do much except buy a snack to tide them over during their next class.”

  6. Baby Peanut - May 5, 2006

    Want a “hardball” question about TerraPass? Here you go: Why should I buy a TerraPass instead of directly buying stock in an alternative energy company? The money from the stock purchase goes directly to the alternative energy company and I could see a return on my investment. Money spent on a TerraPass doesn’t completely make it past the coffers of TerraPass to the alternative energy company and offers no chance at a return on investment.

  7. Adam - May 5, 2006

    Hi Baby Peanut,
    There’s a misconception that when you buy stock in a company, your money goes to that company. In fact, the money goes to whomover you’re buying the stock from, and that person is almost always an individual or institutional stockholder, not the company itself.
    Unless you’re making a capital investment in a non-public company, or getting in on a secondary offering, or something similar, the company you’re investing in sees very little direct benefit from your investment.
    When you buy a TerraPass, on the other hand, your money goes directly to the alternative energy producer to fund their operations. Yes, some of it goes to cover TerraPass’ overhead, but the energy producer sees far more direct bottom line impact than it ever would if you just bought some stock in the company.
    There’s also the issue of investment scale. A TerraPass costs $30-$80. Transaction costs alone ensure that you’ll never see a good return on a $30-$80 stock investment.
    Really, buying a TerraPass and buying stock are just totally separate things, with different goals and different outcomes. They are in no way mutually exclusive. When you buy a TerraPass, your money goes directly to an alternative energy producer to fund a fixed amount of carbon reduction. When you buy a stock, your money goes to another shareholder, and you hold the stock in the hope of seeing an investment return. Apples and oranges.
    This topic is probably worthy of its own blog post.

  8. brad - May 6, 2006

    To follow up Baby Peanut’s question, You have a stated goal of 90% of donated money going to buy carbon credits. What, currently, is the actual number?

  9. Adam - May 7, 2006

    Nope, that’s not our stated goal. Our stated goal is profit margins of about 10%, which is a very different metric. As a young start-up, we are presently not profitable.
    Our model is to provide a guaranteed benefit with every purchase. When you purchase a TerraPass, you know exactly how many tons of carbon you’re offsetting, and the price per ton is completely transparent. That will continue to be our model going forward.

  10. Anonymous - May 11, 2006

    RE:9. Comment by Adam @ May 7, 2006 10 AM Comment permalink
    I was going to say that 90% going to the ’cause’ would be even more than every *non-profit* ive heard of.