Sunday, May 06, 2007

Blue Sky Guide

At the Living Green Expo this weekend, I had the good fortune to meet one of the people behind Blue Sky Guide, the rather nifty coupon book that you've probably seen for sale around the city. Previously, I hadn't really thought much about the relationship between urban policy and a coupon book, but on this occasion I realized that there is indeed a connection. Bear with me, and I'll try to explain.

The Blue Sky Guide is not simply a coupon book. It's a coupon book that seeks to bring together retailers and service providers who have a shared commitment to sustainable business practices and community involvement (big surprise they're at the Living Green Expo, huh?). The Guide, to some extent, brings together people who are interested in sustainability, and by marketing itself primarily in metro areas it promotes an urban perspective on said sustainability.

The Guide is doing well in the Twin Cities (six years running, apparently) and they're seeking to expand into other markets. We got to talking about whether Cleveland-Akron has enough vendors (at least 300 ideally) who meet the criteria for participation. I suspect that the region does indeed have that many, but without an existing institutional framework connecting them all (formally and informally) it's difficult to rustle them together. There's definitely a solid population of people interested in sustainability in the Cleveland-Akron area, but are they organized and self-aware as a group?

Moreover, can a market-driven institution--such as Blue Sky--be a driver of that self-realization? What forces can bring together like-minded people who have not yet fully grasped how many people in their region feel similarly?

Coming this week:

Monday: Blogabout!
Tuesday: Blue Sky Guide
Wednesday: Getting Around: Highway Access
Thursday: Downtown Living
Friday: Reader Responses


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