Time to Invite Others to the Party by Gia Machlin, December 19 2010, 0 Comments
As I've mentioned frequently, a few years ago I was clueless about environmental issues. I didn't even know about the effect of cow farts on climate change. But then I had my "AHA!" moment and became keenly aware of the effect that my actions (and my eating habits) had on the environment. I changed my behavior and tried to preach as much as I could about it. Problem was, I was preaching to the choir. My mission to convert the unconverted, to get them to see the light and have their "AHA!" moment was falling upon deaf ears. What I failed to realize was that the majority of people are not going to have an "AHA!" moment and completely change their lives like I did. There needs to be a shift among mainstream consumers, which includes buy in from business, government, and constituents. I can imagine the frustration amongst the folks who have been environmental activists for years, banging their heads against a wall while the rest of us carried on with our wasteful ways. I'm sorry! I wish I knew then what I know now.
The good news is the tide is finally turning (can I use any more cliches?) and I think my job is going to be easier than the one that the veteran environmentalists had in front of them. Thanks to Al Gore and others, at least the issues are out there, whether or not people decide to take action. But there is another big catalyst in play: we are no longer having a party with ourselves. What do I mean by that? A decade ago, Seventh Generation refused to do business with Walmart - just on principle. Fast forward to 2010, Seventh Generation is all over Walmart. (OK, the fact that founder Jeffrey Hollender was later ousted by the company board definitely puts a skeptical spin on this - but try to set that aside while I attempt to make my point). Why the shift? Because Hollender realized that the only way to make a dent was to reach out to people where they were. Another pioneer who has been given a hard time for dancing with Walmart is Adam Werbach, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S. Yet thanks to his efforts he has brought personal sustainability practices and awareness to hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide.
About 6 months ago, I was approached by someone in the sports world who wanted to partner with EcoPlum to promote sustainable purchasing to their fans. My initial reaction was to decline associating with a sport that, well, wasn't exactly green. No way! However, as I started to learn more, it started to make sense. The sports teams were, in fact, taking steps to incorporate sustainability into many aspects of their operation. And while not perfect, we have the opportunity to get EcoPlum’s message out to so many, many more people about how they can live a green lifestyle and we can encourage them in making good purchasing choices by offering a great array of sustainable products for which they can earn EcoChipz. Am I selling out? Absolutely not. I could continue to sell green products and publish green living articles to the already committed, but we're not going to change the world by throwing a party for ourselves. We need to reach people where they are. Fans will go to these spectator sports and spend money on products promoted there whether or not the green companies get involved. So let's bring our message to where people are already hanging out - whether or not it is a place with which we are altogether comfortable.
Can you think of a few examples of green companies that are reaching the general public without greenwashing?