My colleague Jacquie Ottman, a veteran green marketer, has founded a group called “We Hate to Waste” that lives at wehatetowaste.com. The group offers a No-Waste Lifestyle™ (with 8 facets) but I have to admit, the “TM” is a bit of a stumbling block for me. The website says:

To spread our No-Waste Lifestyle™ around the globe, we connect our community with businesses and governments who, in turn, can help millions, if not billions of consumers meet their own needs more sustainably.

Isn’t trying to trademark the idea of a “no waste lifestyle” a bit like patenting seeds? or “branding” sustainability? These concepts (zero waste or sustainability) live in the arena of public goods where the definition is that you can’t exclude people from the benefits. If someone reduces waste, we all benefit, TM or not. That’s the very reason these concepts generally live outside the market place–they are otherwise known as “market externalities.”

I like the principles behind wehatetowaste.com, but is trademarking and proprietary control (e.g. of blog entries) the right approach? Would a creative commons license serve the effort better? Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments.

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