Consumerism: Mucking Up Earth Day?

April 17th, 2008

Way back in 1969, at a conference in Seattle, Washington, then-senator Gaylord Nelson introduced a plan to hold a nationwide demonstration on environmental health. The following spring, Nelson’s vision came to fruition when 20 million Americans took to the streets in cities and suburbs to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment.

From that demonstration Earth Day was born, and the issue of environmental health finally made its way onto the world stage.

Now that I’ve planted a seed of happiness, flash to the present and you’ll find Nelson’s grassroots, well-intentioned festival has been transformed into a marketer’s Christmas.

As Earth Day nears, marketers are using the holiday as a vehicle to push their products. Long gone are the days when Earth Day was strictly a celebration of sustainability and environmental wellness. Today, marketers latch on to any green promotion they can think of.

In response to increasing amounts of green platforms, many companies feel behind in the green game, and are rushing to catch up.

Few would argue that Earth Day itself is detrimental in any capacity, but the same can’t be said about the intentions behind two weeks of eco-frenzied marketing.

“It’s great that people are paying attention. It’s great that companies are starting to do something. But what really drives me crazy is when green marketing is used as a vehicle of greenwashing,” says Steven Addis, CEO of Addis Creson, a branding firm.

By “greenwashing,” Addis is referring to the idea that the public will be more willing to purchase a product if it’s portrayed as eco-friendly, regardless of the truth. What a tricky, and arguably, dishonest, way to sell.

Can consumers see through green messaging? Will excesses of green advertisements force customers to question marketers’ motives? Will green marketing translate into lukewarm feelings for the Earth Day and its pure intentions? I hope, for Mother Earth’s sake, that the answers are yes, yes, and no.

And perhaps most importantly, will our desires to be kind to our environment push marketers to develop products that truly are eco-friendly? Time will tell.

Posted Under: Media & Journalism
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