Monday, January 14, 2008

Commentary on the green game

I’m a big proponent of being green. When I’m not utilizing public transportation I drive a hybrid, I try diligently to bring along canvas bags whenever I’m out shopping and I’ve stopped buying bottled water for my home and office (instead I drink tap). In short, I’m making behavior modifications – and I don’t pretend there isn’t more I could be doing. But one thing I will not do is buy my way into responsibility via purchasing carbon offsets. IMHO carbon offsets are the lazy person’s road to good consciousness. And it seems like they’re becoming corporate America’s answer to environmental friendliness. It’s great that so many organizations are trying to reduce their carbon footprints and invest in sustainability (or whatever other buzz phrases they’re using today). Even tradeshows are getting into the action. The Consumer Electronics Show which purportedly created some 20,000 tons of carbon was planning on using carbon offsets to make good on the pollution it was causing. Carbon offsets represent big money. According to a recent New York Times article the US spent more than $54 million in 2007 purchasing offsets. While it can be argued that purchasing carbon offsets is better than doing nothing I’m not sure that we should be praising corporations for taking the lazy way out. Wouldn’t it be more constructive to reduce the behavior creating the carbon? One blog (I would love to give credit but I can’t remember which blog I read it on, sorry…) recently suggested not participating in trade shows, instead communicate your lack of a presence. It’s a strategy that would probably gain more exposure for a fraction of the cost of participating. Or invest in new technology to solve old problems. Stock your store with Badgerland Poly’s biodegradable plastic bags (though Whole Food’s ban on plastic bags is a better approach). The point is, don’t rely on carbon offsets as your participation in the “green” arena. Make the conversation honest and your buyers are more likely to respond. For some inspiration on what your company can do read Marketing Green’s Corporations Foster Dialogue on the Environment post for some good examples of companies speaking honestly about their investment in being green.

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