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05.09.2009 - 04:15PM
By Richie Gerber
Julie and I go back to the first Earth Day celebration in Central Park in the early 1970’s. Since 1980, Earth Day was always a major event at our Natural Foods Stores, Bread of Life. In 1992 we gave away over 600 Laurel Oak Trees to customers and local municipalities, which proved to be a big local media event. We have always expressed our concern regarding the environment.
That first Earth Day celebration was an event by the counter culture to focus people’s attention on the challenges facing Mother Earth. We are truly amazed that this counter culture event has crossed over to become a yearly mainstream ritual. Maybe it is not so amazing. Since Earth Day has become such a huge global media frenzy some individuals, companies and organizations have learned how to game the event to position themselves as upstanding stewards of the environment when in reality they are huge polluters as well as massive hypocrites.
Back in the 60’s we had words like “co-opted” and “sell out” for people who were using counter culture ideas for personal gain. Don’t get me wrong; I am not against profit or personal gain. I am against hypocrites who are only in it for the money.
What I mean by the hypocrites are companies who produce the most toxic substances in mass quantities but use the media to project an image of being extremely green and environmentally friendly. You can see any number of these ads on TV and in newspapers or magazines. In the ads they praise themselves for their exemplary environmental stewardship, when in fact we all know they are involved in huge amounts of pollution. They produce products that are detrimental to the environment as well as use negative manufacturing practices that pollute.
Last night I had a dream about how one of these companies, let’s call it TOXIC INC., might go about doing a snow job to cover up their polluting ways. Welcome to my nightmare, here it is:
TOXIC INC. hires a Madison Avenue PR and ad company to produce a major image changing campaign. Please note that 99% of TOXIC’s business has a negative impact on the environment. They want to convey an Earth friendly corporate image to the public while continuing its detrimental business practices. In order to do this they must downplay the toxic 99% of their business and focus on the less than 1% of their business that is Earth friendly. Let’s call the Madison Avenue PR company SnowJob PR Inc. They first need to create an Earth friendly project to promote. TOXIC decides that since they are destroying large tracts of land in remote areas they will put sod over the depleted areas once they are done destroying them. We must remember that neither the TOXIC INC. executives nor the SnowJob PR guys really know or care about the environmental issues involved as long as they can promote and exaggerate their green initiative. They are only interested in presenting a new clean and green look for TOXIC INC.
So here is the plan. Since this is for such a worthy cause they commission the world-renowned environmental installation artist, GreenGo, to create a huge installation. GreenGo creates a work, which will wrap the entire continent of Antarctica in green polypropylene floating fabric for six days. GreenGo picked Antarctica to highlight global warming as well, in order to get more bang for the buck since it is such a hot issue. Speaking of more bang for the buck TOXIC INC pays to have celebrities endorse the art installation as well as hail TOXIC for its wonderful environmental commitment.
The project is a major hit. The media is all over it. Two hundred celebrities fly to the opening ceremony in 200 private jets, not commercial airlines in order not to inconvenience them and make the experience an easy in and out. Thousand of volunteers prep the material for distribution from airplanes. The entire project is executed flawlessly. The event is in the news for weeks. People all over the world are now raving about TOXIC INC and their commitment to the environment. GreenGo is once again hailed as the great environmental installation artist of our time. Even SnowJob PR is acknowledged as THE cutting edge Madison Avenue PR Company. Meanwhile TOXIC INC continues to pollute the environment in 99% of its business but has created a false image of being grand environmental stewards.
In order to give some balance one can argue that the 1% green program is the first step in the right direction, which I agree with. When we are talking about huge companies changing even a little on such a massive scale it does have a positive impact. We need to help corporate America increase that 1% to a much higher percentage as soon as possible.
Epp-BEE-Log: I know this is crazy stuff but that’s how dreams are. Some things do ring true though. There are many large polluters who manipulate the media and public opinion in order to convey a false image of being environmentally friendly. My dream for this Earth Day is that more and more people see through this hypocrisy and demand an increased proactive approach to environmental issues from corporations or else my dream will turn into a nightmare. Goodnight. Sweet dreams.
Read more blogs by Richie and Julie Gerber here!
About Richie and Julie Gerber
Julie and Richie Gerber, former co-owners of the Bread of Life Natural Foods Market and Restaurant in South Florida have been involved with Health and Wellness since they first met over 30 years ago. Together they have seen the Natural Foods movement change from being on the fringes back in the early 70’s to the universally accepted industry it is today. Julie was a Yoga teacher, Richie a committed vegetarian and Jazz sax player. As their relationship grew, so did their commitment to a healthy lifestyle. In the 1970’s they moved to Maine, started an organic farm, built their own energy efficient home, taught T’ai Chi Ch’uan and vegetarian cooking classes while at the same time teaching in the local schools. After several pioneering years, they moved to Florida and opened the Bread of Life Natural Food Markets which they sold to Whole Foods Market in 1997.
Licensed nutritionists, Julie and Richie started out with a very small, neighborhood health food store. They shared their knowledge with their customers, holding educational events, giving cooking classes, writing wellness newsletters, running a restaurant, and more. Richie was the host of the Natural Grocer Radio Show, a pioneer in South Florida talk- radio for ten years.
And they did all this, while raising their son, Isaac, who has been a vegetarian all his life. Isaac joins the family business as BeeCeuticals’ website designer and webmaster.Julie and Richie, who years ago made their own tofu from scratch, have seen the increase in the availability of healthy food products in the market. But it has not been so with skin care items. Knowing that there is a need for true natural personal care products made in such a way that they are not toxic to our bodies or the planet, they have created BeeCeuticals Organics, a very special body care line.
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