In the early 1970s, Unity College was still struggling to find its identity.  A budding Forestry and Outdoor Recreation Program attracted nature lovers and outdoorsmen from small towns in New England who were probably inspired more by the enjoyment of the environment than its preservation.

At the same time, a limited but competent liberal arts program attracted an eclectic group of students from the urban and suburban enclaves of New York and Boston who were interested in bringing some peace, order and perhaps even a bit of intellectual insight into their lives while escaping from the social stress or carnage of an unpopular and horrific war. Unity alumnus, Marc Bane ’73 clearly fell into this second category.

At Unity, Marc discovered a particularly strong English Literature Department with a well-credentialed faculty that had, in Marc’s words, “chosen to forsake their ivory towers for a more simple and harmonious lifestyle in rural Maine.” Unity allowed Marc to both major and minor in English. He eventually graduated with more than 50 credits in this discipline.  As a Unity College English major in 1973, Marc’s only concept of a “Green World” was the pastoral scenes in Shakespearean comedies where the laws of society succumbed to the laws of nature to restore natural order. Ironically, and quite by accident, Marc managed to leverage his English degree and appreciation for writing into an interesting and rewarding career in energy-cleantech marketing and communications.

When Marc graduated in 1973, the humanities were the mainstay of college curricula, and the New York job market was flooded with liberal arts majors. Lacking a graduate degree for teaching, he had few career choices if he wanted to stay in his field. Publishing seemed to be a logical career path and Marc was lucky enough to land a job as a production assistant at Hearst magazines. About two years later he landed his first editorial position at a chemical industry trade magazine where he wrote business articles based on interviews with chemical industry purchasing executives. (“Not the most fascinating journalism,” admits Marc.)  In a few years, Marc became the Senior Editor and was assigned the editorial page. “I finally had the chance to use my writing skills to share my opinions on something that interested me – the relationship between industry and the environment,” explains Marc.

“The 1970s laid the cornerstone for the future of environmental policy in the U.S. and it was a great time to be writing opinion pieces on environmental regulation,” says Marc. “The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 establishing regulations and penalties for discharge of industrial wastewater. The horrors of leeching toxic wastes at Love Canal began hitting the headlines in 1976, and in the same year, the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act posed unprecedented fines and criminal penalties on the illegal dumping of hazardous wastes. All these laws culminated in the establishment of Superfund in 1980, a landmark piece of legislation that would shift the cost of environmental cleanup from the taxpayer to industry.”

Although there was no shortage of topics to write about, Marc had to remember that the chemical industry was supporting his magazine. “My, challenge was to advocate environmental responsibility with a balanced viewpoint that explained how reasonable regulation and compliance made good sense for everyone. What I lacked in industry knowledge, I made up for with a livelier writing style and catchy headlines that often drew from the literary metaphors and quotes I remembered from my literature classes. Much to my amusement, the editorial page became the most widely read column in the magazine.”

Marc also became one of the first graduates of New York University’s Direct Marketing Program in the early ’90s. “Direct marketing copywriting is great training for any kind of persuasive writing exercise, even environmental advocacy,” says Marc. “You really have to get into your prospect’s head and systematically lay out an argument that steers the reader’s thinking in the desired direction.”

Five years after founding an advertising and communications agency in New York, Marc decided to close the agency and climb the corporate marketing ladder. He eventually served in senior management positions at several companies in the energy industry. In 2005, Marc founded Bane Marketing & Communications, an independent marketing communications consultancy. One of his first clients was a company called GreenFuel Technologies. Greenfuel pioneered the early development of algae fuels that used CO2 emissions from power plants to accelerate growth, capture carbon, and produce a feedstock for biodiesel and ethanol.  Although the company didn’t have the financial endurance to reach commercialization, GreenFuel became the poster child for a new era in renewable energy, winning the prestigious “Platts Energy Emissions Project of the Year Award” and enjoying multiple TV spots on shows like the “The History Channel” and “Discovery Channel” as well as coverage in almost every major news and science magazine—including a cover story in “National Geographic.” Marc also began working with InEnTec Corporation, developers of the PEM®, a plasma arc gasification technology that rearranges molecules of municipal solid waste, or even toxic chemical waste, into molecules of syngas for the production of heat and electricity or valuable chemicals. InEnTec won the “Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation of the Year Award in Energy” in 2010 and was featured several times in segments on CNBC and CNN.

“Cleantech is really the nexus of energy and chemistry,” says Marc, which makes this industry niche a great fit for his background and experience.  Marc has since worked with a number of clients in the energy and cleantech space and now spends a major portion of his time promoting wastewater recycling at his client, ThermoEnergy Corp. ThermoEnergy was recently recognized with a “2013 IHS CERA Energy Pioneer Award” for its work in recycling water in the Power Generation and Unconventional Oil and Gas Industries. “Water is now the world’s toughest sustainability challenge,” says Marc, “and we are already seeing significant new innovation in this field.”

Marc insists that great marketing communications is critical to the success of both new and established alternative energy and Cleantech companies. “The enthusiasm for sustainable energy, excellent environmental curricula at colleges and universities, and considerable government and private support have resulted in a proliferation of new companies trying to enter the market,” says Marc. “The road to success is littered with great ideas that get lost in the noise. If you plan to compete in this game, you’ve got to consistently and elegantly share your vision and differentiate your brand. I hope Unity students are taking full advantage of the Environmental Writing and Media Studies program.”

Monday, March 10, 2014