Last week marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day - a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for our environment. Judging by our observations, however, it looks like 2010 also marks the year when Earth Day went full-blown commercial. Rather than press coverage of this international landmark day, we saw ads suggesting that we celebrate Earth Day with some decidedly non-environmentally friendly products and marketing schemes. There was so much stuff out there it was overwhelming - so here is our top 10 round up of the Earth Day promotions and events that completely missed the point:
1. Target gives away 1.5 million cheap reusable bags - We've said it before and we'll say it again: You get what you pay for -- low-quality freebie bags quickly end up in the waste basket or sitting in a closet, contributing to more wasteful consumption.
2. Lowe's celebrates Earth Day with toxic chemicals - A great find by one of our Ambassadors, Lowe's offered big Earth Day savings on non-Earth friendly products Spectracide (killing plants with toxic chemicals)!
3. Procter and Gamble's "Future Friendly" campaign - Another Ambassador find, P&G's efforts at greenwashing their chemical and paper products were not convincing."...we created Charmin MegaRoll, which features four times as many sheets per roll than a regular roll of Charmin. ... the product requires the use and disposal of fewer cardboard cores..."
4. CVS pushes its Green Bag Tag - Spend $1 on this plastic tag & have it scanned every time you BYO bag to CVS. After 4 scans, you get a coupon (printed on your already too-long receipt) for $1 your next purchase. Why not just knock a few cents off your purchase when you BYO bag? Green gimmick.
5. Free totes and genetically-modified foods! - Rather than giving away low-quality free tote bags (emblazoned with their logo, of course) we'd like to see this cereal company vow to no longer use genetically-modified foods in their products - a truly eco-friendly move.
6. Disney's "Friends for Change" nonsense - We're all for teaching out kids about conservation. Unfortunately Disney's efforts seem misguided. Trade in six disposable water bottles and get a free hat? What's the point?
7. Pepsi's "Dream Machine" - A big, ugly robot that eats your empty Pepsi bottles and rewards you with points to, presumably, use to purchase new bottles of Pepsi. Great.
8. Walmart's "Earth-friendly products" - Walmart isn't going anywhere anytime soon - so we'll ignore the fact that their commitment to low-low prices takes it toll not only on the environment but also on the human beings making these products for next to nothing. Let's talk about some of these goofy Earth-friendly products they're hawking in honor of Earth Day. First, wtf is an "Earth Pan"? Secondly, a host of reusables so inexpensive, you have to ask what corners were cut to produce something that cheap? How much does the quality suffer? How long will it last?
9. McDonald's introduces the Earth Shake - OK, this one was just an April Fool's joke - but how many of you saw this Associate Press practical joke and thought, "Oh cool, McDonald's is going to start making their shakes out of real milk and ice cream...wait, what the heck are they made out of now?" It just goes to show you how prominent these lame "green" efforts are.
10. The Earth Day freebie extravaganza - while scouring the net for events actually celebrating the 40th anniversary of this important day we were astounded to see most major news sources focusing on the free crap you could get from stores rather than environmental news, stories about the legacy of Earth Day or even guides for "going green." Giveaways ranged from cheap non-woven polypropylene bags to cheap-o baseball caps to plush dolls commemorating the holiday - a bunch of plastic commemorative junk.
Picking on companies falsely profiting from the green movement is like shooting fish in a barrel - but we felt compelled to point them out because for the most part, their messaging goes against the very core of our mission: to reduce consumption of use and toss items.
But for every 10 or so campaigns or press releases that made us exclaim "you've gotta be kidding!" we did see organizations that seemed to really "get" the real purpose of Earth Day. Here are a few:
Green America's 10 Ways to Shift to Green - Smart, straight forward tips for using the economy to support business and products that are good for people and the planet.
Yahoo! Lists 5 things to Avoid this Earth Day - A great article that points out the flaws in our tendency to rush out and buy the latest eco-friendly gadgets.
Care2's Top 5 Household Tips for Earth Day - Easy tips anyone could put into action right now, no purchase necessary.
Earth Day for Cynics - An even shorter list of only three things anyone could do and should do to cut back on consumption.
10 Simple Ways to Cut Down on Disposables - Our own list of the top ten disposables you can easily replace with reusables to waste less on Earth Day and every day.
Did you spot any really great (or really terrible) Earth Day actions? Tell us about it in the comments section!