Yesterday, Sunday April 22 was the 42st Earth Day in the United States, but if you saw less promotional activity wrapped aroun the day it may be because Earth Day has 'jumped the shark."
Albe Zakes, global VP of media retalions for TerraCycle, told Amy Westervelt at BusinessGreen.com that "With everyone and their mother doing some kind of quasi-green messaging around Earth Day, you risk a truly environmentally responsible promotion, product or service getting lumped into consumer's green fatigue and being consider green washing,"
Far be it for me to say I told you so, but I told you so last year on Earth Day 2011.
"As it’s presently constituted is that there’s too many emphases for people to keep in their heads. Earth Day is markedly more sophisticated in 2011 than it was in 1970. Trouble is, we've still got the same human brains we've always had."
"The Earth Day Network website lists 15 campaigns of emphasis: School Greenings Across the USA; Building the Climate Movement; A Billion Acts of Green®; The Green Generation™; Green Economy; Earth Day-India; The Canopy Project; Athletes for the Earth; Arts for the Earth; No Child Left Inside; National Civic Education Project; Healthy Schools Act; Green Schools; The Road to Rio™; Women and the Green Economy."
"I was so turned off by the number that I didn’t even bother checking what they were about."
I found a Kellogg’s Earthday Sweepstakes website, highlighted in an FSI (free-standing insert) that had a rotating banner which listed no less than 20 things we could do as individuals to improve the environment.
"My Earth Day friends," I wrote, "this is too much. I know the earth’s environment is a system and that a lot of improvements need to be made and made quickly."
"But just as the human mind has place for two colas (in America it’s Coke and Pepsi)…two smart phone operating systems; Apple and Android…two late night talk show hosts; Letterman and Leno and two beer companies; Budweiser and Miller… it has room for no more than two environmental goals at a time."
"And don’t come back to me with the exceptions."
"Environmentalists really don’t want to occupy the amount of space reserved in the human mind for Pabst, Dr. Pepper, and the Symbian OS."
"This is made worse by the complicated calculus of environmentalism. Trees for instance, are good because the soak up greenhouse gasses. Until they die, decompose and release their carbon and then they’re bad. Compact fluorescent lights are good because they produce good light with less power and (usually) last longer than filament light bulbs. Until they fail at which point they have to be carefully disposed of because they contain trace amounts of mercury, which is a toxic heavy metal."
Even locally sourced food is no slam dunk. If, for instance, the tomatoes you're eating are locally-sourced, but grown in a hothouse, it probably takes less carbon to grow and ship them from some warm weather climate than it takes to heat a local hothouse!
"Here’s my plea to the Earth Day organization and environmentalists everywhere; pick two things and keep hitting them until those two things are better. Then move to the next two things on the list. America is better off environmentally than it was on that first Earth Day 41 (now 42) years ago. And it can get better still."
But it's gotta be messaged smarter.
And smarter messaging means fewer concurrent goals.