Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Carrotmobs and Greenish Companies

I made the mistake of wandering in to Wal-Mart on a weekend. I’m usually smarter than that, but the dog was completely out of food so I waded in with the masses. Not only was it a zoo because of all the Wal-Mart faithful, but apparently Wal-Mart is doing so well in these economically trying times that they are completely renovating our store. This must prove difficult considering the place is open 24 hours. Do you just shop from the moving skid loader as it rearranges?

Anyway, the dog food was not where the dog food is meant to be. After wandering in circles and being misled by the overhead signs that have yet to be changed, I located the dog food in the very back of the store on the very back wall. Wal-Mart’s new marketing plan worked really well on me. Now that I had been sucked in to the abyss, I couldn’t help but notice all the other goodies around me – things I just might need. I remembered we were out of aluminum foil and I could use some plastic bags for the six thousand pounds of lettuce I’m growing these days.

Conveniently the bags and wraps were located at the back of the store also. They must know that those of us that avoid Wal-Mart as a rule, still troop back there to buy pet food and plastics. Alongside of the traditional Reynolds wrap I found 100% recycled Reynolds wrap. What is this? Another major brand attempting the green thing? Sure enough the box boasted that the aluminum foil was made from 100% recycled aluminum, the box holding it was made from 100% recycled paperboard, and the inks used to paint the box were water based! Wow! Maybe the grinch does have a heart! I snatched up a box because I’m all about positive reinforcement. Works great with puppies and occasionally with children. The best part is that this aluminum foil wasn’t any more expensive than the foil I normally buy.

Next I went in search of plastic bags and lo and behold what did I find but Ziploc ‘evolve’. Noting that the price was somewhat higher than all the other plastic bags, I was still intrigued and pulled a box from the shelf. It claimed that the “ultra light bag was made with 25% less plastic” and that’s not all folks – it was made with wind energy! Not kidding. And of course the carton was made with 100% recycled paperboard. I guess all the big guns have figured out that sooner or later everyone is going to wise up to the importance of preserving this planet. We are having an impact. But you can bet that these companies are going green not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the profitable thing to do and quite possibly the only way to survive.

Time magazine had an article last week about Carrotmobs. A carrotmob is the opposite of a boycott. Again with the positive reinforcement. In a carrobmob, customers swarm stores that use some of their cash to get eco-friendlier. How it works is this, stores submit bids to the carrotmob organizer citing all the ways they will use the influx of cash generated by the carrobmob to make their store greener. There have been carrotmobs in 11 cities in the US, plus some in Finland and France. The carrobmobsters are organized to appear at the selected store on a specific date. Clever. Nothing motivates a retailer to go green like some extra green. To learn more about Carrotmobs check out www.carrotmob.org/faq.

All kidding aside, I do think it’s important to support any efforts to bring about change in the marketplace. Companies won’t become more environmentally responsible for altruistic reasons, but they will change their ways if it means additional profits. That’s where we come in. We must support companies that are making an effort, any effort, to change. Sure, most aluminum foil is made from mostly recycled aluminum already, but here’s a brand that is making it a central feature of their product, plus adding in other green features too. Good for them. Yes, they stand to gain financially. And that is good because the bottomline, like or not, always comes back to the almighty dollar. That fact won’t change, but what can change is how that dollar is earned. Ecologically responsible products and companies that are more energy efficient is a win-win for all of us. Pay attention to the products you are buying – you are much more powerful than you know.

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