By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL,
When I was growing up in the suburbs of New York, our first local Earth Day was organized around a drive to a town field where families were urged to dump items from their basements for recycling rather than tossing them in the trash. Hmmm. Recycling. It was an eye-opening concept for a kid in 1970.
But as an environmental reporter, I have come to dread the Earth Day avalanche of deals and promotions that arrive via e-mail or (worse, environmentally speaking) in my office or home mailbox. Like Valentine’s Day, Earth Day has become a colossal marketing opportunity – a paradoxical way to promote consumption, sell stuff.
In fact, Earth Day is such a good sales hook that some stores, like Target, have expanded Earth Day into Earth Month.
There isn’t time to give you a full rundown of the Earth Day shopping opportunities I was alerted to this past week. Suffice to say that they included deals on buying bottled water and earth-friendly diaper wipes.
My award for silliest promotion: a plan to “gift 25 of the most environmentally conscious stars with innovative, unique, useful and fabulous “green” products and services,” including skin care products, cat litter, cheesecake and artwork. My guess is most of the stuff will end up in celebrities’ garbage. (Note to Ellen DeGeneres, Orlando Bloom, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Hartnett, Sting, Barbra Streisand – to name a few recipients – please try to recycle.)
Is buying and selling a good way to celebrate and protect the environment? I would argue that Earth Day might be an occasion to consider giving up purchases or habits that are environmentally questionable or that we could happily do without. How about not buying bottled water, but refilling a water bottle? How about not buying foods – even “organic” foods – that are packed in non-recyclable plastic? (Annoyingly, organic eggs sold at my local market come packed in two layers of such plastic.)
Don’t get me wrong. Bridgestone is marking Earth Day by promising to repurpose a spent tire for every tire that it sells. Verizon will plant a tree for each cellphone you trade in. Some coffee stores will even refill reusable mugs at no charge. Target is giving out free reusable carrier bags without requiring a purchase (while supplies last.)
But few retailers are taking the next step — charging a fee at the cash register for disposable plastic bags, a common practice in Europe — to motivate customers to use those new reusable carriers.
Earth Day is transient. If you only showed love on Valentine’s Day, would that really mean anything at all?
(Source: www.nytimes.com )