GreenYes Archives

[GreenYes Archives] - [Thread Index] - [Date Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]

[greenyes] Earth Day, Inc. (NY Times Op-Ed)

(Thanks to my Dad for drawing my attention to this.)


Marking Earth Day Inc.
Published: April 22, 2004

Welcome to Earth Day 2004, brought to you by petroleum powers, big-box
developers, old-growth loggers and chemically dependent coffee companies
trying to paint their public image green.

Let's start with Sierra Pacific, a benefactor of northern Nevada's
celebration of Earth Day. The timber company is involved in a lawsuit aimed
at weakening the Sierra Nevada Framework, which protects the region's
forests. Marathon Oil is Earth Day's sponsor down in Houston. Behind closed
doors in Texas, Marathon worked on voluntary emissions regulations that have
helped give Houston some of the worst air quality in the country.

The Earth Day cleanup and restoration program held by the California State
Parks Foundation is financed by corporations with poor environmental records
in the state: ChevronTexaco, which recently agreed to a $275 million
settlement over air pollution from five of its California refineries;
Wal-Mart, which lobbied unsuccessfully for a ballot initiative in Inglewood
to exempt a proposed supercenter from environmental restrictions; and
Pacific Gas and Electric, whose illegal dumping of carcinogenic chemicals
near the town of Hinkley was memorialized in the movie "Erin Brockovich."

In New York City and other areas, Starbucks has its own events, centered
around its latest slogan, "More than our logo is green." Yet the company
will neither label nor remove genetically modified ingredients in its
products. And while it promotes its "origins" line of coffees as a symbol of
its commitment to sustainable coffee farming, the origins varieties account
for just a sliver of the coffee that Starbucks sells.

Some might argue that there is nothing wrong with corporations acting as a
friend of Earth Day, no matter how unfriendly their everyday operations may
be. Perhaps they are just showing solidarity with the millions of Americans
who support Earth Day each year to combat the necessary environmental evils
of their year-round lifestyles. But the reality is that sponsorship is often
intended not as atonement for misdeeds against nature, but as a distraction
from them.

Through concerted marketing and public relations campaigns, these
"greenwashers" attract eco-conscious consumers and push the notion that they
don't need environmental regulations because they are already
environmentally responsible. Greenwashing appears in misleading product
labels like "all natural" and "eco-friendly"; in television commercials
showing S.U.V.'s rolling peacefully through the wilderness; and in the
co-opting of environmental buzzwords like "sound science" and
"sustainability" ? which corporate executives render meaningless through
relentless repetition.

Earth Day events are select venues for greenwashers, allowing them to
communicate with their target audience of green consumers. They also amount
to a public relations bargain. BP spent $200 million rebranding itself from
British Petroleum to "beyond petroleum." Major corporations pay hundreds of
thousands of dollars for environmentally themed advertisements in
high-circulation magazines like National Geographic and Time. In contrast,
at most Earth Day festivities, a few hundred to a few thousand dollars will
get a company marquee exhibition space and a prominent place for its logo on
publicity materials.

It would be a shame to let the high-flying banners of greenwashers distract
Earth Day participants from the environmental advocates, community
associations and government agencies that work to protect the environment
throughout the year. But it is also incumbent upon those same groups ? many
of which are in the position of choosing who sponsors these events ? to
adopt a strict screening process to separate the genuinely green businesses
from the greenwashers. Finally, let's not forget the most charitable patron
of all. Earth Day, like every day, is brought to us by the generosity of
none other than the planet itself.

Geoffrey Johnson is program coordinator of the Green Life, a nonprofit
environmental group.


Jennifer Gitlitz
Research Director, Container Recycling Institute

Home Office:
2 Pomeroy Ave.
Dalton, MA 01226
Tel. (413) 684-4746
Mobile: (413) 822-0115
Fax: (413) 403-0233
Email: jgitlitz@no.address

Container Recycling Institute headquarters:
1911 N. Ft. Myer Dr. #702
Arlington, VA 22209-1603
Tel. (703) 276-9800
Fax: (703) 276-9587

[GreenYes Archives] - [Date Index] - [Thread Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]