I went to Green Drinks last night which was hosted by the NM Green Chamber of Commerce– Albuquerque/Rio Rancho chapter. The guest speaker was Carolyn Parrs with Mind over Markets whose presentation was “Kermit is Dead: Effective Messaging in Today’s Green Market”. The talk was both informative but at the same time disheartening. Carolyn explained that green is really mainstream now and consumers expect all products to have a green tint to it. What was so frightening to me is if what we have today is “green enough” then we are still facing serious, long-term problems.
After the talk I spoke with Carolyn and explained how frustrating it is for a company like us to be trying to do the right thing when others just green wash the product to be good enough. I had several examples of what I meant and shared one with her. She thought it was on the mark and should be shared with others so here it is…
A friend’s TV died and he was looking for a new one. He wanted to find an Eco-friendly product so he started to do his research in earnest. He found one major electronics manufacturer who marketed a green TV along with their standard TV. He thought the green TV might have lower power consumption, recycled plastic parts, RoHS compliant components, plant based foam for packaging, etc. After a significant amount of digging around to try and find what makes it more “green”, he found the answer. What made this product different and green was that the manual was printed on recycled paper.
Wow. How underwhelming is that? I was insulted to see a company market their product in such a way when Dapwood goes out of our way to try and produce a truly green/sustainable product. We get lumped in with the deceptive green washing marketers and it cheapens the meaning of green for all of us.
Carolyn also shared a story. She blogged about a large paper manufacturer who is re-branding themselves as green with a new tagline even though one of its main products is throw away diapers. While disposable diapers are convenient to parents, they are not exactly a green product. From Time Magazine’s article Diapers Go Green–
“The Real Diaper Association, an advocacy group founded in 2004, estimates that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used each year in the U.S. (according to the EPA, that translates into more than 3.4 million tons of waste dumped into landfills) and that producing those diapers also consumes huge amounts of petroleum, chlorine, wood pulp and water.”
Carolyn was actually contacted by this company about her post. I asked if this company in any way changed their tagline or made progress on making a more environmentally friendly diaper. Carolyn’s answer was simple- “No”.
Last night I was thinking that maybe the company was suffering in difficult economic times and was unable to put real focus on making a greener product. In looking at their financial info for only the 3rd quarter of 2011 (not year to date), this company had an operating profit of $396 million in the Personal Care Segment alone!!! So much for my concern.
Is Kermit dead? Maybe….but that may be a good thing. What I think we really need is a creature with teeth that will ask the tough questions and hold companies accountable. Not surprisingly, that creature is all of us. So I ask of everyone to think critically about every green message you are being fed and don’t be afraid to dig deeper and get your feet wet. Kermit would be proud.