Green Printer’s top picks for ‘meaningful’ Earth Day marketing

9 04 2009

Earth Day takes place this April 22nd.

As a green leader or entrepreneur, the day begs the question, what will you be doing?

In a mad public relations world that anchors on events as a tangible “touch point” in lieu of diving into the messier (and harder to track or control) world of ‘awareness’, Earth Day is one of many symbols (i.e. polar bears) we use when speaking to some of the starker and concrete practices of the planet’s ecological anxieties.

It’s a story line straight out of the brilliant book by scholar Peter Van Wyck in ‘Signs of Danger’ on how – and I crudely summarize – the symbol (i.e. a melting ice cap) is an important intervention into the ‘unthinkable’  (i.e. the darker side of the environment), a phenomenon beyond our human capacities to truly come to terms with or even desire coming to terms with.

Van Wyck’s thrilling and haunting ideas are as relevant to the controversial idea that we have already set in motion some of the effects of climate change as much as they are relevant to the idea that we still crave symbolic ceremonies like Earth Day or Earth Hour.

A quick glance at the Earth Day website suggests that April 22nd is a celebration and that it is a ‘catalyst’ and “opportunity for positive action and results.”

This is true and yet the history of Earth Day is steeped in one remarkable senator’s vision, Senator Gaylord Nelson, to bring the “environment into the political limelight once and for all.” Nelson did so by persuading President Kennedy to go on a national conservation tour. However, Earth Day did not happen overnight. It took Nelson and his supporters over seven years to get the event off the ground.

While explicit political affiliations may be elicit skepticism in 2009 more so than they did in 1970 – and sometimes rightly so when power ties go too far – today’s Earth Day has become a ubiquitous day for promotions. And, it’s not just companies who are benefiting: environmental education programs and government initiatives are jumping on the bandwagon too. And, really, why not?

We at Green Printer wanted to highlight some of the more engaging and provocative Earth Day promotions launched by agencies and companies over the past three years since Earth Day has become ‘the’ hot party  to attend.

2006
Haberman Modern Storytellers, a brand public relations firm, created a compelling (and apparently ongoing) promotional piece for client Organic Valley Family of Farms called ‘Earth Dinner‘ that aims to “embrace Earth Day with a meaningful meal.”

2007
The exceptional and entrepreneurial team at Toronto’s Ondah Media previously worked with Earth Day Canada to launch the ‘Sorry 2 Interrupt’ campaign. From the point of view of the political and social climate behind the pace of climate change policy in Canada in 2008, the campaign was expertly executed and nuanced enough to suggest action without ‘environmental militancy’ overtones.

Here is one example of a citizen-created YouTube clip spurred by the campaign. Ondah Media is set to do another campaign with Earth Day Canada in 2009.

2008
Who knew shoes could give back to both people and the planet? In 2008, Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity, encouraged shoe recycling on the big day and beyond. “We feel it’s very important to let people know that we are here 365 days a year and we will always need your footwear,” said Wayne Elsey, Founder and CEO of Soul4Souls in a media release. “Far too many pairs of perfectly good shoes end up in our landfills when they could benefit someone in need. We have made it our mission to find a pair of thankful feet for your gently-worn shoes.”

2009
With just thirteen days left until the environmental ‘extravaganza’, Green Printer eagerly anticipates RPA‘s – a Santa Monica agency who bills in excess of $1 billion – stream of Honda Insight television spots in time for Earth Day as well as the EPA‘s interactive film and photography project.

A few trends we are seeing? Industry has been quick to respond to the public criticism that events like Earth Day or Earth Hour are cynical marketing exercises or ‘one-off’ events.

Wal-Mart, hate it or tolerate it, for instance, has pledged to give $20,000 toward enhancing a winning school’s earth friendly practices through its “Earth Day, Every Day” challenge.

Giving back to education, even in modest forms, so that we potentially avoid the damaging consequences of ecological short sightedness in the future is perhaps the biggest – and yet most overlooked – ‘gift’ an organization can give on Earth Day. Funny how Senator Gaylord Nelson’s idea for Earth Day has evolved over the last 50 years.
In the spirit of the fabulous Core Industries, the age of the ‘PR stunt’ is dead. Your most valuable audiences are watching – make this Earth Day count.

Want to know how much greenhouse gas, trees and wastewater you can save by using affordable, eco-friendly paper products? Find out and keep track of your organization’s environmental savings today by adding Green Printer’s Eco-Calculator widget code to your blog or website.


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