An overflow of green marketing

A bag of SunChips

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: President Obama was in Iowa today. He was plugging wind power and promising that the days of the United States dragging its feet on climate change are over. The House Energy and Commerce Committee debated legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions. And union and environmental groups launched a $3 million ad campaign promoting jobs for the clean-energy economy. If you happen to find yourself today with a severe case of green fatigue, don't worry about it. Earth Day's almost over. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Jennifer Collins takes a look at the hype.


JENNIFER COLLINS: If you're looking to go green this Earth Day, you've got options. You could buy a ticket for Disney's new movie "Earth," from Fandango. Then the two companies will plant a tree in Brazil. You could win a year of eco-friendly cleaning products from Seventh Generation. And there are these ads from one of PepsiCo's brands.

SUNCHIPS AD: SunChips from California are made with solar energy.

PepsiCo plans to roll out a chip bag you can throw on your compost pile by Earth Day next year. Spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez says the marketing has already begun.

AURORA GONZALEZ: We showed the decomposing bag on American Idol last night. I'll tell you that people are excited to hear about our steps in packaging.

But environmentalists say Earth Day has become a commercial free for all, just like Valentine's or Mother's Day. Green-marketing expert Scot Case says some products, including that chip bag, may not be as green as they sound.

SCOT CASE: These kinds of compostable bags do not decompose, they do not compost in a landfill. And so this is a situation where consumers think that means a lot more than it actually does.

And he says that's dangerous as the market for sustainable products balloons. He says most of the year ads for earth-friendly products account for 4 percent of advertising. But every April that spikes to around 10 percent. Chip Giller is the president of the online environmental magazine Grist.

CHIP GILLER: Too many people kind of tokenize Earth Day, using it for an excuse to maybe hug a tree one day and ram it with their SUV the next.

But Giller and other environmentalists say corporate efforts do make a difference. They just don't go far enough in cutting emissions.

GILLER: It's going to take a hands-on effort, and it actually might mean consuming less. And I don't see that message spreading across society.

To find if it might, tune in next Earth Day.

I'm Jennifer Collins, for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.

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