Just a small plug today for my mom’s company, Leed’s Promotional Products. My mother, who single handedly instilled within me the passion and drive to succeed, also apparently likes to help with my homework.On earth day, April 22, she forwarded me an e-mail from Leed’s Marking Communications Specialist. It read:

“In honor of today, Leed’s has donated one dollar to American Forests for each full-time member of our workforce. Each dollar Leed’s donates to American Forests plants at least one tree in an ecosystem restoration project in North America.”

In terms of green marketing and employee relations, Leed’s hit it on the head by planting it in the ground.

Last fall, the company, which is the second largest supplier in the $16 billion promotional products and advertising specialty industry, decided to contribute to the green movement. Leed’s launched its EcoSmart platform of products. For each EcoSmart imprint order produced by the company, Leed’s donates $1 or one tree to the American Forests organization.

As of Earth Day, Leed’s contributed $2,407 to American Forests’ tree-planting projects from donations for the EcoSmart orders and the donations on behalf the employees.

American Forests partners with several other corporations as well. It offers “special opportunities to our patrons in cause-related marketing, community impact efforts, and education and employee participation   
                                                      programs.”

My initial reaction after reading about American Forests was that it is almost a pre-packaged, environmental buy in for corporations wanting some kind of green initiatives. For companies like Leed’s, this makes sense. Partnering with American Forests connects with its goals and objectives and parallels with the companies business of branding promotional products.

My concern is that some corporations using American Forests won’t partner with the conservation organization for strategic green tactics, as Leed’s did, but use it as a shoe in to the green movement.

So far, American Forests seems to have great success with its partnerships and from what I have seen avoided green washing; however, I can’t help but be concerned the organizations is providing a backdoor for companies to “go green.”

But going back to my main point, I must give kudos to Leed’s for implementing and excellent sustainable initiative, connecting employee and consumer relations to its green cause.

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After seeing a small piece from National Geographic’s Human Footprint special, which aired at 9 p.m. on April 13, and receiving a link from a co-worker (thanks Scott), I decided the program and National Geographic needed a standing ovation.

Not only was the channel right on with the segment, but it presented the information in a way that allowed the audience to visualize the statistics, which is vital for television and media. For instance, at one point during the program, the producers showed a path of rubber duckies representing the amount of showers an American takes in a lifetime.

This on average is 28,433 showers per person, per lifetime, which, if showers are kept to a short 5-minutes,  is equal to running water nonstop for 98 days.

And this isn’t all. These are some examples from the Web site of the average amount of items one American consumes in a lifetime:

  • Oranges – 12,888
  • Soda – 43,371
  • Gallons of Gasoline – 31,350 (And that ain’t cheap either, baby!)
  • Hamburger Buns – 12,129
  • Diapers – 3,796

The numbers are not only jaw dropping but depressing. It is depressing – number one – because I know those hamburger buns aren’t empty, which does not reflect well on the prospect of a successful diet. And number two, because it reflects the serious degradation of the environment. According to the article by Dan Kulpinski, “Americans discard four-fifths of a ton of trash per person, per year.” That’s 1600 pounds of crap per year.

Are there any questions on why Americans suddenly turned over a new GREEN leaf? 

After playing with the Consumption Interactive link, I discovered that I will read and then dispose of 8,086 newspapers in my lifetime. This of course is below the average for Japan’s average newspaper consumption for one lifetime, which is 16,425 and below the U.S. average of 5, 054.

According to the Web site, it takes about 43 trees to make a lifetime of newspapers for each U.S. citizen and to make all U.S. newspapers for one year, it takes 191,000,000 trees.

This is even after the shift to online news publications, the virtual handshake and paper-free companies.

So when you ask yourself, why people are going crazy over green? Refer to the numbers above and remember that only 33 percent of that 1,600 pounds of annual trash per person is recycled.

All these numbers bring to light the ways in which we are individually destroying our world and our future. In this case, the footprint we leave on the earth is not positive but detrimental to society.

You heard it here – I am in full job search mode. And interestingly enough, this green movement topic tends to follow me everywhere, including my job interviews. After deciding to stay in Northeast Ohio (my friends and family from the Burgh refer to it as reverting to the dark side), I sent out my resume like wild fire, which resulted in an interview last Friday.

By the time I tamed the nervous twitch in my foot, the interviewers and I were on the topic of the green movement and its affects on the PR world. What we discussed only increased my interest in the agency and elicited a new found understanding in the way public relations professionals should handle this sustainability trend.

The woman who I was interviewing with said that the agency is very careful about jumping on the green bandwagon because sometimes it just doesn’t make sense for its clients or their audiences. Even though some companies are a perfect fit for the green movement, others just don’t belong and their goals and objectives don’t mesh with the new trend.

I started realizing that this new “going green” initiative is like any other new trend. Just because it hot right now, doesn’t mean its right for you or your company. I mean skinny jeans are the new it thing in fashion, but it doesn’t change the fact that they make my behind look like that of a fat circus midget’s.

As public relations professionals, our job is to council our clients on what is right for them. This understanding comes from the first step in the RACE process – research, research and more research. Sometimes we may find that a Facebook page or a new sustainable product is perfect for a client’s audience or objectives, but other times we may have to revert back to our traditional tools. We don’t necessarily have to light up our torches of freedom, but a news release or special event may just be perfect for what an public relations agency is trying to accomplish.

The key to success is finding a happy medium between the new and the old. Because the green movement has become such a force in our society, companies and public relations specialists alike tend to leap before they look.

Just remember if it doesn’t fit, don’t wear it – or you could end up looking like a fat circus midget.

vegetable-oil.jpgGreat Lakes Brewing Company, a microbrewery in Cleveland, is taking the green brewing initiative a step farther by fueling its vehicles with straight vegetable oil. Yes, you read it right – vegetable oil.

With this information, please take a moment to realize how massive the green movement has become. Now, simply just brewing green beer can be considered mediocre. Companies, like Great Lakes, are taking it to the next level: the cutting edge of sustainability.

At first, the alternative fuel started as a tactic for publicity and customer relations. Great Lakes developed the “Fatty Wagon,” a van that runs on vegetable oil, which shuttles its glbc_5.jpgcustomers to and from the Cleveland Indians games.

The van proved that vegetable oil was not only cheaper than gas and diesel, but it elicited better gas mileage, better air quality and better lubrication of fuel injectors. In addition, the exhaust smoke gives off the ever-so-tasty smell of french fries. Don’t let the aroma temp you though because indulging in McDonalds French Fries wouldn’t really go with an organic diet.

After witnessing the benefits of the alternative fuel, Great Lakes decided to convert one of its semi-trucks to run on straight vegetable oil. Now, not only does this truck distribute beer made from organic products, the delivery truck utilizes a sustainable fuel method.

truck.jpgAnd just a FYI to my older audience, a truck that delivers beer and smells like french fries while doing it is most likely to appear on a college student’s list of top ten inventions.

But on the serious side, what makes this a PR lesson is that Great Lakes Brewing was not shy about going green. The company not only understood the value of going green in terms of the environment, but it also understood the value of going green in terms of publicity without greenwashing. Great Lakes launched an advertising and marketing campaign to alert the world about its adoption of truly green tactics.

Along with alternative fuels, Great Lakes Brewing Company has an energy efficient cooling system. The system was designed to bring in cold air during the winter months to cool the beer.

Other sustainability tactics utilized from Great Lakes range from the use of organic mushrooms and all-natural meat, dairy and produce on its Brewpub menu to recycling cardboard, glass, plastic, steel/aluminum, paper and brewer’s barley, reducing trash removal fee by 40%. See a more in-depth explanation of its green methods here.

So the next time your chugging – I mean slowly enjoying a Great Lakes brew, take the time to cheers the company for making an extraordinary effort in going green.

blog_plasticbagban.jpgAs I unpacked my groceries after returning from the local Giant Eagle, I applauded my efforts to purchase more organic foods in order to lead a healthier life. I figured if I am constantly blogging about the green movement, I should take some steps to being green myself. But, as I gathered all the plastic bags that transported my groceries and started shoving them under the sink to add to my me and my roommates collection, I thought to myself, “I just spend all this d**m money on organic food when I could have helped save the environment by transporting my groceries in some other way.”But apparently, I just jumped on the plastic-bag-hating bandwagon too soon because some accustations targeted at the totes are not totally justified.

According to the Green Daily, it seems that the plastic bag has been the “scapegoat for other dangerous plastic debris,” and has encountered its very own public relations image crisis.

i-am-a-plastic-bag.jpgIf you review the “The ‘I’m Not a Plastic Bag’ bag” section of my previous post, you’ll see the plastic bag has been under tremendous scrutiny from the public. Last year in San Francisco, our unfashionable, villain friend was banned from all major grocery stores in the city.

In actuality, the green movement and its followers attacked the wrong culprit and the plastic bag took an unjustified hit on its reputation.

According to TimesOnline:

Scientists and environmentalists have attacked a global campaign to ban plastic bags, which they say is based on flawed science and exaggerated claims. The widely stated accusation that the bags kill 100,000 animals and a million seabirds every year are false, experts have told The Times. They pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds.

The publication quoted David Laist, the author of a seminal 1997 study on the plastic bag subject, who explained the majority of the cases where animals die of marine debris are a result “fishing gear, ropes, lines and strapping bands” and not plastic bags.

But let’s not give plastic bags to much credit (this is a blog on the green movement).

Even though they may not be the main cause of marine animals’ deaths, they are not, in any means, good for the environment. Between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year, according to the National Geographic article “Are Plastic Grocery Bags Sacking the Environment?”.

Estimates show that only one to three percent of plastic bags make it to the landfills. Of the remaining, only one in every hundred are recycled.

So where do the rest go?

National Geographic hits it right on the head:

“They sit balled up and stuffed into the one that hangs from the pantry door. turtle.jpgThey line bathroom trash bins. They carry clothes to the gym. They clutter landfills. They flap from trees. They float in the breeze. They clog roadside drains. They drift on the high seas. They fill sea turtle bellies.”

It’s true plastic bags aren’t going to be the poster child for the green movement anytime soon – but, let’s face it, they aren’t as bad as we made them out to be.

So before you go choosing paper over plastic (which is an even bigger “no, no,” see here) or cursing the heavens for creating such a colossal criminal to the environment, remember the majority of the bag’s negative publicity was elicited from strewed facts and the bandwagon effect.  

In the meantime, I’ll just continue to choke down my organic yogurt sprinkled with my organic nuts and accompanied with my organic coffee and maybe purchase some reusable totes if my budget can withstand the hit.

hollywood.jpgThe lights in Hollywood are glittering green. From concerts to designer bags, sustainability is not only a movement it has become a Hollywood trend. And as any trend embraced by celebrities, high fashion and politicians, the style of green became more important that actually being green.

Influence by Hollywood’s obession with sporting its environmentalism, people are now spending hundreds of dollars on eco-friendly clothing instead of simply turning down their thermostat or attending a save-the-earth concerts instead of riding a bike to work. These all-talk-no-action, environmental showboats are called Neo-Greens.
Daniel Pink of Wired magazine describes the Neo-Greens as “Prius-driving, solar panel-installing, Sierra Club-donating, look-at-me environmentalists.”

More interested in marketing themselves as green advocators than actually practicing sustainability, these people utilize a number of opportunities to publicize their sustainability. Just as a public relations professionals use different mediums to promote their clients, Neo-Greens use different vehicles to promote their pseudo environmentalism. The following are examples from 2007:

  • Live Earth Concert – 7.7.07 was the date for the concert that was suppose to save the world – or at least create live-earth.jpgawareness for global warming. The concert was pegged as the “monumental music event that will bring together more than 2 billion people to combat the climate crisis.” Live Earth was a 24-hour, 7-continent musical event sponsored by The Alliance for Climate Protection. The U.S. portion of the concert was held in Giants Stadium in New Jersey and drew a number of A-list rock stars, including Kelly Clarkson, Akon, Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer and Kayne West. It also attracted a number of corporate sponsors, such as Pepsi, smart car and Stonyfield Farm, showing their support of green with a large amount of green. 

 

  • Eco-Fashion – Not only was the 2007 Fashion Week sponsored by eco-friendly companies (The CarbonNeutral levis-eco-lable.jpglevis-eco-ass.jpgCompany and Whole Foods Market), many designs on the runway were made from organic or eco-friendly materials. See here. Top designers such as Debra Lindquist, Ecoganik and Rene’ Geneva Design proved green could be high fashion. Even ready-to-wear companies started producing sustainability clothing. Levi Strauss went eco-friendly with Levi’s Eco jeans. Made of organic cotton, coconut shells, all-natural dye and recycled cardboard, the jeans run for $250 in the U.S.

 

  • The “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” bag – Whole Foods Market‘s introduction of its new canvas tote with “I’m Not a Plasticnot-plastic-bag.jpg Bag” printed on the side started a frenzy in New York this summer. Thousands of people waited in the rain to get their hands on the $15 tote, designed by Anya Hindmarch. The 3,000 bags sold out in 29 minutes, but soon after were being sold on EBay for hundreds of dollars. Whole Foods created the reusable bag to help eliminate public use of plastic grocery bags, which can take more than 500 years to degrade. But believe me the tote didn’t gain popularity because it was environment friendly. It goes back again to the Hollywood trend. The source of popularity came from photographs of celebrities Petra Nemcova, Keira Knightley and Ivanka Trump sporting the tote.

According to Gothamist, Hindmarch told the New York Times, “… I hate the idea of making the environment trendy, but you need to make it cool and then it becomes a habit.” But my question is what environmental habit are you encouraging, Hollywood? The fashion fad or the future?

As we inch closer to one of my favorite holidays, St. Patty’s Day, the talk of green beer doesn’t usually surprise me – until recently. In light of the new sustainability craze, sometimes the green before the beer means organic, not festive brew polluted with food coloring.

071217-4copas-vmed-4p_widec.jpgApparently, now even alcohol companies are jumping on the green bandwagon and producing organic vodka, beer, wine, tequila and brandy.

According to an MSNBC article, 4 Copas Tequila, with the slogan “Sip Tequila. Save the World,” is now certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Other prominent companies have also produced organic alcohol products. In Nov. 2007, Anheuser-Busch started producing an organic vodka, Purus. The company was following in the foot steps of its sister companies, Michelob and Budweiser, that started producing organic beer in 2006.

The process of producing organic alcohol is lengthy and expensive, disabling a number of smaller companies from becoming green (see this article for more information on organic brewing). So only corporate alcohol giants with a golden budget have the ability to produce organic products. But are these companies really concerned about the environment or just the bottom line?

The MSNBC article (linked above) states:

Last year, organic beer sales grew 29 percent to hit $25 million, according to the Organic Trade Association. Organic wine grew 13 percent to reach $80 million, the association estimates.

As a business professional or sales representative, statistics like these shine brighter than a leprechaun’s pot of gold. But producing organic or green alcohol for the pure fact of increasing sales is against the main objective of the green movement.

Anheuser-Busch learned this lesson first hand with the production of its two organic beers, Wild Hop Lager and Stone Mill organic_beer.jpgPale Ale. According to The ‘Budweiser Exception,'” “Both [beers] were made with 100-percent organic barley malt, but mostly non-organic hops.”

The USDA created a petition, signed by more than 20,000 people, to make the public aware that even though certified organic, Wild Hop Lager and Stone Mill Pale Ale still contained non-organic hops. Obviously, it caught the eye of Anheuser-Busch that is now using 100-percent organic hops.

Despite the media’s current obession with greenwashing, there are some truly green advocates out there, even if they are in the alcohol business. Owners of Coast Brewing, David Merritt and Jaime Tenny, brew with organic ingredients whenever possible.

According to Chris O’Brien’s Beer Activist Blog, whenever the couple was asked why they decided to go green, Jaime responded:

There’s really no other way for us to approach it. How could we live our lives one way and run our business another? . . . At the end of the day, we want to be content with or decisions. We think it’s possible to go green and run a profitable business.

Although Coast Brewing company went green for the right reasons, my concern is that big brewing companies like Anheuser-Busch are only looking to increase sales and promote a positive reputation. Instead of using green initiatives to sustain a resourceful environment, it is using the environment to keep up with the competition.