Trending Now: A Green Lifestyle

As the state of the environment continues to worsen, many are beginning to feel as if their small actions to help don’t seem to add up. They’re tired of getting harped on by granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing hippies about recycling, saving water and electricity, or biking to work instead of driving. The feeling I’m describing is known as green fatigue.

Green Fatigue:  apathy and lack of enthusiasm about green issues typically as a result of an overwhelming amount of ‘go green’ culture in advertising and the media; overwhelmed as result of the environment continuing to get worse, regardless of what each of us does to help it. 

However, the key to fighting green fatigue lies in turning environmentalism into a lifestyle.

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Although many feel that their small sustainable efforts don’t necessarily make a difference, that’s not the case. For example, millennials are actively seeking out ways to make an impact on the environment, no matter how big or small. According to recent research ¾ millennials look for lifestyle changes they can make to be greener. These changes vary from changing your shampoo or taking a bike to work or even putting solar panels on your house.  Millennials are choosing brands that care about sustainability and are starting to abandon brands that harm the Earth. Additionally, over 80% of millennials say that being eco-friendly improves their quality of life. Millennials aren’t just improving the Earth, they’re improving their own lives as well. This has the same kind of effect as volunteering, which can improve both mental and physical health. They understand that these small environmental efforts make a difference whether it’s in the world around them or in their own life. 

Millennials grew up in the in middle of the digital age and were raised around digital content making us extremely image-conscious. Half of millennials believe that brands “say something” about “how they fit in” to the world as a whole, and 59% are willing to pay more for a brand that portrays the right image, especially when it comes to environmental impact.

 Because of this, an organization that should be targeting millennials is the International Ecotourism Society.   

Ecotourism is conservation through ecologically responsible travel that:

  • aims to minimize environmental impact
  • build environmental/cultural awareness and respect
  • support local economies of the destination

The traveling and tourism industry is the fastest growing industry in the world, so changing the way we travel can make a huge impact. Millennials are more interested in traveling abroad than older generations and as mentioned earlier, have an incredibly green mindset and are the largest living generation, giving them the most spending power. Ecotourism allows millennials to go to  a remote destination to gain new experiences and enhance their worldview through mindful interactions with their destination. The benefits of eco-tourism are far reaching and tangible, focusing primarily on conserving biodiversity and impacting local communities in a positive way.

Participating in ecotourism, or even just sustainable travel in general, no matter what generation, is a fun and easy way to integrate environmentalism into one’s lifestyle, and the adventure should alleviate any form of green fatigue.

Using Visual Strategies to Save Public Land

Stephen T. Mathers, the first National Park Service Director and special assistant to the interior Secretary of the State in the 1900s, saved the national parks with a massive PR stunt. His job description included promoting use, development, and access to public lands, however Mathers went above and beyond.

After the national parks inception in the early 1900s, there was a brief period where there was a significant lack of use and disrespect of the national parks.  Mathers realized that in order for public lands to flourish, the public needed to love and respect them just as much as they people who created them.  In the coming months, Mathers recruited journalists to publish articles about the park, never went anywhere without alerting the media, and in 1915, planned “an all-out pitch” trip with a handful of influential authors, politicians, businessmen, and publishers.  He gave them the trip of a lifetime, and in turn, they tried to influence public opinion about the beauty of America’s national parks.

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Micheal Milstein, a longtime environmental writer and former park ranger, suggests that it is time for a “Modern Mather’s Party” to once again increase the publics (and politicians-Ryan Zinke, listen up) appreciation for public lands. This is a movement that is already beginning. Periscope, an app that allows one “to go live” and then post onto a social media platform, like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram paired with the National Parks Service to engage their followers and visually show them the importance of protecting these public lands. Periscope allows park rangers to do Q & A sessions with their followers, as well as just generally share the experience of visiting a national park to a larger audience.

In 2016, the National Parks Service launched their “Find Your Parks” campaign, promoting the public sharing their personal experiences through the Periscope app. This past year, both Instagram and Facebook launched their own live features on their respective apps and I’m interested to see how/if the National Parks Service will integrate these features into their campaign.

Brands are also picking up the idea of “going live” to advocate for support of public lands. After Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution challenging the designation of Bears Ears as a national monument by former president Obama, calling on President Trump to rescind the national monument status from Bears Ears, Patagonia has been fighting this resolution using a series of 10 360 degree films. Using Google’s 360 technology, Patagonia is raising awareness about the cultural and recreational significance of the Beasr Ear’s Butte lands through stories from Native American Tribes and outdoor athletes who climb, bike, or run in the area. Patagonia is fighting for about 1.35 million acres of federal land spanning Utah and Nevada.

Visual technology is an incredibly important tool in any public relations campaign. We are a visual society; 90% of the information transmitted through our brain is visual, and we can comprehend visual information much faster. In an environmental communications campaign, using the beauty of nature to sway or influence public opinion can make all the difference.

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Cedar Mesa Valley of the Gods in Bears Ear’s Buttes

 

Music: the best PR strategy out there

America’s first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970 protesting the degradation and pollution of our planet’s air and water after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Silent Spring detailed the effects of pollutants, chemicals and pesticides on the environment in the U.S . It marked the beginning of an environmental movement still happening today.

Singer-Songwriter’s of the 60’s and 70’s flocked to using environmental values as the main themes in their music. Musicians like Neil Young, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell used their music to spread concerns about the state of the environment, and how the public was treating the planet. Music has been agent for change and advocacy throughout history. In itself, music is a form of strategic communication.

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Music uses elements of public relations and other communication skills to relay a certain message to a wider audience. Song lyrics are crafted with the intent of spreading a message in a unique and memorable way. Using message structure and association techniques, similar to what brands use when constructing key messages, artists are able to strategically communicate their opinions, beliefs, or ideas in song. In music videos, this is combined with an authentic and high quality performance that enhances their idea. The performance and the use of visual representation of their lyrics further brings their point home. Music is an honest, open and creative form of strategic communication that can be more effective for their targeted audience.

The music revolution for the environment has continued long past the 60’s. In 1979, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt helped organize Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE), which presented multiple concerts in Madison Square Garden featuring some of the major musical stars of the day, including Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Crosby Stills and Nash and the Doobie brothers. Others collaborated on a CD against fracking, titled “Buy This Fracking Album”.

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In recent decades, other artists have used this progressive folk model to continue creating songs of protest. Now, in the 2000’s artists are doing more than just writing music for activism. Musicians like Jack Johnson, The Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, and Green Day try to reduce their carbon foot-print while touring and producing music. In addition, they play at concerts advocating to protect the planet and partner with non-profit organizations to make their environmental efforts go further. Jack Johnson’s studio, Brushfire Records, is an entirely sustainable building. The roof is comprised of solar panels and the entire building is insulated with blue jeans. His CDs are composed of primarily recycled paper.

As an aspiring professional communicator, when I see the use of music as a strategic communication technique with action that backs up the message in their music, I can’t help but smile. While these artists must have a great PR team behind them, they’re staying authentic and true to their values and  making a difference in the state of the planet.

If Jack Johnson has time to make music, go on tours, and help the environment, then so do you.

 

Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll get a makeover

“If sex, drugs and rock and roll were the holy trinity of the Boomer era, health, happiness and well-being is becoming the trademark of the Millennial generation.” The mindset of millennials has shifted from the Baby Boomer generation. Their focus is primarily on living a healthy, purposeful lifestyle that supports themselves and sustains the planet.   Millennials have become an increasingly important demographic for brands to reach out too. As of 2015, millennials became the largest living generation  in the U.S., representing almost  76 million consumers.

According to Jeff Fromm, a contributor to Forbes, the millennial mindset consists of six over-arching ideas that brands need to stay in touch with when marketing to millennials:

  • Social Circle
  • Self
  • Innovative
  • Trusted
  • Purposeful
  • Accessible

As a millennial, the ideas that resonate with me the most are purpose and accessibility. Purpose encompasses brands that are trying to make a difference in the world and not solely focused on turning a profit. Accessibility entails brands that fit into the millennial consumers lifestyle, successfully simplifying and fitting seamlessly into their consumer’s lives. As a brand, implementing strategies that integrate these ideas contribute to creating a more sustainable and eco-friendly perception from the public. Transparency from the company shows the public that they’re living up to their sustainable persona.

For example, let’s look at Nike and how they apply these ideas to their brand and marketing strategy in order to create a legitimately sustainable company that targets millennials.

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Social Circle: Nike’s presence on social media is great. They utilize all four social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and have even created their own social media platform: Nike+. In addition to a large social media presence, Nike uses influencers to spread information about their products and further their reach toward a larger audience.

Self: Millennials are focused on living a healthy lifestyle. As it’s a producer of workout clothing, shoes, and accessory, Nike’s products are inherently geared toward getting outside and living an active balanced life. Millennials connect with their product because it connects with their own personal values.

Innovative: Nike’s new Flyknit technology  produces 60% less waste than traditional cut-and-sew methods. They use recycled plastic to produce many of their polyester workout clothing, and and their ColorDry technology uses zero water.

 

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Trusted: Nike is well-known, respected, and widely popular company that has built trust with its consumer base. They also release an annual Sustainable Business Report proving to millennials (and consumers everywhere) the impact they’re having on the environment.

Purposeful: In addition to conserving resources through efficient manufacturing and the use of sustainable materials, Nike also tries to make a difference in their community. They partner with Lets Move! Active Schools campaign to help kids lead an active and healthy lifestyle. This provides the business with a greater purpose than turning a profit and continues to align with the values of millennials.

Accessible: Nike’s accessibility is a product that fits seamlessly into the lives of a variety of generations: working moms, college students trying to stay fit, grandparents who want to work out again. They use a good CSR strategy that works for wide demographic, but specifically exemplifies the millennial mindset.

 

 

Changing Communications

Public relations  can often times be seen as proponent for “greenwashing.” Greenwashing is when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact.

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What if public relations was used to make more sustainable changes and create better corporate social responsibility (CSR)?  Rather than simply maintaining a good reputation for the company, communications professionals could act as an agent for change. For example, Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever uses the media to his advantage. His message:  “the big issues the world is facing require new approaches, new business models and new partnerships. Responsible businesses must take a more active leadership role” is spread throughout different media platforms, showing the public and his employees the new direction that Unilever is headed.

However, its not enough to just communicate key messages to the public; the business needs to implement sustainable strategies and practices to back up their messages of sustainability. Starbucks is a great example. Their CSR strategy is broken down into three pillars: community, ethical sourcing, and the environment. They partner with non-profits, support diversity and inclusion, and try to minimize their environmental impact.

In addition to investing in their business and economic profit, Starbucks invests in its’ consumer base, which is why their CSR strategy is so successful. They produce an annual Global Responsibility Report to show the impact their company is having on local communities and the environment. It is hard data to back up their claims of sustainability and provides a sense of trust between Starbucks and their customers.

Andrew Last, experienced public relations professional and  chief executive officer and co-founder of  Saltgives three tips for implementing a communications strategy that pushes sustainable practices to the forefront of an organization:

  • Set and communicate a clear direction on sustainability, which liberates people throughout your organization to talk passionately and freely about what you’re doing. They are your best advocates.
  • Be transparent about your motives. Business needs to pursue business objectives if any initiative is to be sustainable. Don’t let PR wrap your business motives in cloying half stories about the social good your business is driving.
  • Tell the story of the journey. Be open about what’s not working as much as what is. Vulnerability plays surprisingly well with sustainability stakeholders and a cynical public.

Life in Plastic

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Each year, eight million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans. In an article from CNN, “The Ellen Macarthur Foundation estimates that 311 million tons of plastic were produced in 2014, which will double within 20 years, and projects that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.” More plastic than fish in the ocean. Let that sink in.

The main issue with plastic is that it isn’t biodegradable; its photodegradable,which means it is broken apart by the sun. In addition, it has a material lifespan of centuries. The sun beats down on the plastic left in the oceans, breaking into tiny pieces that get swept up in the tides, attracting metals and toxins.

The plastic plague has spread from coast to coast affecting marine life, their environment, and human health. At this point, recycling isn’t enough to solve the problem. While every little bit helps, the main goal needs to be getting the plastic out of the ocean as well as putting less in.

In an article from Global Citizen, Joe McCarthy writes about Adidas new shoes made from 95% ocean plastic retrieved from the Maldives. They partnered with Parley for the Oceans, a non-profit committed to reducing plastic waste in the oceans.  Adidas’ effort towards cleaning up the oceans is more than just an attempt to appear sustainable; soon, 7,000 pairs of the “UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley” will be on sale for $220 each. Adidas strives to discontinue the use of virgin plastics in all of their products, and adopt new ways of producing with ocean plastic. While Adidas’ efforts do help, just one companies sustainable actions aren’t enough.

Like Tesla, Adidas supports open eco-innovation strategies, allowing other companies to implement sustainable business practices. This especially important in making eco-friendly products more affordable for the general public. The more companies that implement and work on methods of eliminating virgin plastic from their products, the less expensive these production methods become. Lower prices create a higher demand and more people will buy products benefitting the ocean.

In their latest press release regarding their new products, Parley founder Cyrill Gutsch adds ,”At this point, it’s no longer just about raising awareness. It’s about taking action and implementing strategies that can end the cycle of plastic pollution for good. Eco-innovation is an open playing field. With the release of the Ocean Plastic jerseys and UltraBOOST Uncaged adidas x Parley shoes, we’re inviting every consumer, player, team and fan to own their impact under Parley A.I.R. and define their role within the movement.”

Pura Vida and Public Relations

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“When you say Pura Vida the facial expression of the person changes and the person smiles. It is a word very meaningful to Costa Ricans. It reminds us of home and its’ beauty.”

Pura Vida, a Costa Rican term meaning “pure life,” represents the idea of having  a holistic approach to life. It involves thinking of people less fortunate than yourself and appreciating nature, friends, and family. Costa Ricans apply this philosophy to all aspects of life, including their tourism industry. Because their country contains an incredible amount of biodiversity and natural beauty, they use eco-tourism as a way to grow their economy and allow others to appreciate their home. Ecotourism focuses on the idea of conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior including sensitivity towards local cultures and biodiversity in the area. It provides support for local conservation efforts, as well as sustainable benefits for local communities.

Costa Rica is a pioneer in the eco-tourism industry and sets the precedent for successfully marketing their destination. In addition to the country’s beautiful scenery and variety of outdoor activities, their positive messaging and dedication to their environment comes off as enticing and honest. For example, from May-November Costa Rica and Panama are subjected to a lot of rain. Rather than referring to this as a “rainy season”, they call it a “green season” reflecting the lush green foliage during this time of year as well “green” in an ecologically-friendly sense. This reinforces their commitment to eco-tourism and is a strategic way to allow tourists to see that regardless of the weather, their trip will still be worth their while.

Again, they use “Pura Vida” as their slogan to create a positive and consistent brand image. This phrase is all over their tourism websites and Facebook pages, so customers and tourists associate this easygoing way of living with Costa Rica, creating a positive brand association.

Costa Rica also targets the right audiences to visit Costa Rica as a tourist destination. Their most recent campaign targets overworked American and Canadian citizens who need to relax and take a break. The campaign is called “Save the Americans” and features singing animals offering travel information through a variety of media channels. It aims to entice adventurous citizens already interested in sustainability and helping the environment.

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Using unique and clever content, Costa Rica was able to target American’s motives for taking a vacation and further enhance their eco-friendly image. Costa Rica is the role model for marketing eco-tourism. They use their biodiversity and positive culture as a means of creating an industry that supports their local economy. Pura Vida, am I right?