Earth Day 2013 will be here on April 22. Organizers say more than 1 billion people observe the eco-friendly event; it was just announced that this year will feature the global theme “The Face of Climate Change.”
Stateside, entities from government offices like the Environmental Protection Agency and the USDA to corporations to communities are commemorating the event, which was started in 1970. In the interim, April has come to be celebrated as “Earth Month,” in some circles, so between these events and the air of renewal that comes each spring, you might want to poke around for green story opportunities on your beat. Try the Twitter tag #earthday; it’s fairly brisk already.
The marketing angle could be fun and apply to many industries and sectors. It’s s ironic and amusing that Earth Day — intended to promote light use of the planet’s resources — has spawned a good bit of merchandise, from artisans on sites like CafePress to “recycled material souvenirs and activities” in the celebration scheduled by the Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park. You might poke around your region for offbeat, unlikely or otherwise eye-brow-raising marketing and promotional tie-ins to the green movement. Disney, for example, is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its Animal Kingdom theme park on April 22. Not to be judgmental, but one wonders if luring the masses to a commercial theme park to be entertained by captive exotic animals is quite in the spirit of what Earth Day organizers had in mind.
Here’s an older (1997) but interesting (PDF) article from the journal Psychology & Marketing about how consumers are affected by “green claims,” and here’s a just-out survey from Cone Communications about consumers and green claims. The survey (you can download free of charge) found that more consumers are keeping the environment in mind when they shop — but that they aren’t following through with proper product disposal and that they want more information from companies about environmental matters.
Other firms are trying to cash in. Here’s a USA Coffee press release and one from a maker of window film which the company says will reduce heating and cooling costs by 30 percent. You could take a market-basket approach — which household products and packaging (or lack thereof) in categories from lumber for backyard decks to laundry detergent to food are the best and worst for the environment — and from a personal finance angle, how much more does it cost (if anything) to be green. At this time of year, organic or pesticide-free alternatives to traditional lawn fertilizing and pest control services might make good small-biz or service-economy stories, as well.
And of course, in keeping with the theme of this year’s Earth Day, you could take a look at how climate change may be affecting business in your region, from drought-afflicted agriculture to how retailers manage seasonal apparel, or how factories and warehouse facilities, or even airport operations, have been affected by the above-normal warm temps of the past few years.
Obviously, taking an inquisitive eye toward any green initiatives touted by companies on your beat is a likely approach; green stories can be difficult because the subject is fraught with contradictory scientific and social analysis, no matter who’s doing what, not to mention the political wrangling over topics like climate change. Sometimes there are third parties that can help you evaluate a company’s claims; check out certifications in your area by the LEED Green Building Program, for example; it evaluates and certifies projects in more than 130 countries worldwide — though of course skeptics might point out that its board is comprised in large part of representatives from multinational, for-profit corporations. And of course the watchdog outfits sometimes end up in the doghouse themselves; here are two Smart Money articles, “Grading the Green Squad” and “Eco-Friendly Product? Ask the Green Watchdogs?” that will help you evaluate organizations rating your area’s companies.