Earth Day: Businesses increasingly go green to get green
The perfume company Bond No. 9 would like you to celebrate Earth Day by buying a new fragrance that celebrates NYC's "environmental smarts." Bistro The Tea Set would prefer you toast Mother Earth with a "fun Earth Day special," such as the "Pachamama Bloody Mary."("Respecting the planet never tasted so good!")
If you prefer to cook your free-trade organic Earth Day dinner at home, you can do so in Xtrema Ceramcor cookware - described in its Earth Day news release as "made from natural materials derived from the Earth's crust."
When environmentalists who were distressed by vanishing species, excessive pollution and general planetary destruction decreed April 22 as Earth Day in 1970, they used it as an environmental teach-in. But with the annual event now in its 40s, marketers have increasingly co-opted the day to make some green for themselves.
Retailers will use "any excuse to have a special promotion or to try and get people out to the stores to buy more," said Herb Sorensen, scientific adviser to TNS Global Retail & Shopper Practice. Earth Day is a natural for eco-exploitation, observed Sorensen, as "it's in the middle of a holiday wasteland" on the calendar between President's Day and Memorial Day.
"A lot of people are cashing in," on the public's environmental concern, said Lydia Zepeda, consumer science professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
"It's a bandwagon effect," she added.
But jaded, relentlessly pitched consumers are becoming increasingly alert to "greenwashing" ploys and eco-correct advertising, according to a national study released last month by the Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker. While 69% of consumers claim to consider the environment when making purchases, only 44% said they trust companies' green claims - and 71% said they wished companies would help them understand the environmental terms they use.
Increasingly gimmick-allergic customers know that "seeing Earth Day as Christmas defeats the purpose," said Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, marketing professor and an associate undergraduate dean at the Rutgers School of Business in Camden. Environmentally conscious consumers don't just want green gibberish, but proof that a company hews to best practices 365 days a year, she said.
Information regarding ingredients, processing, byproducts and sustainability can usually be found on company websites "in the social responsibility section," Kaufman-Scarborough said.
Some people celebrate Earth Day by taking a holiday from consuming anything at all: Individuals can help the environment not just by choosing products from environmentally conscious companies, but also by buying less, said Kaufman-Scarborough.
An eco-friendly NYC weekend
Even an urban jungle needs to be kept green.
With the 42nd Earth Day on Sunday, New Yorkers have ample opportunity to show off just how eco-friendly they are at events around the city.
So if you're looking to paint the town green, here's a sampling of what's in store:
Passport to Green New York
A borough-wide eco-scavenger hunt will highlight the city's greenest places. Participants will collect stamps that can be exchanged for prizes at over 50 locations. (Friday-Saturday, times vary, participating locations listed at earthdayny.org)
Earth Day in Times Square
A tribute to Mother Earth, the event will include live musical performances, kid-friendly activities, freebies and other festivities. (11 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, Times Square, earthdayny.org)
CO2 E Drive
A fleet of eco-friendly vehicles will be tracked online as they drive an E-shaped route around the city. The final stop is a Green Vehicle Fashion Show in Times Square. (11 a.m. Friday, locations vary, co2greendrive.com)
Earth Day Celebration in Central Park
NY's biggest park celebrates Earth Day with Maria Sangiolio's Growing Green Concert. After, visitors will have the opportunity to plant their own mini-gardens. (Noon-2 p.m. Sunday, Great Hill at W. 107 Street, support.centralpark.org)