For about a year and a half, Vancouver’s regional government has been running a pretty innovative initiative to discourage bottled-water consumption. Here’s a deliciously subversive decal from the tap water campaign that I spied on the back of one of Metro Vancouver’s trucks this morning.
The large type reads “Tap Water. Drink it.” and the secondary copy says “World Class Water: Mountain Fresh and Pure.” Here’s to truth in advertising.
Now, I haven’t yet seen this on a billboard anywhere; Metro would have a hard time coughing up the cash for an outdoor campaign. But how great would that be, if the kind of money that Pepsi and Coke pumped into Dasani and Aquifina, instead sold some of the finest water on earth, the stuff that’s piped straight to your house? Does anyone else out there know of a local government that is actively marketing its water like this?
Last summer, Metro Vancouver also partnered with Pacific Cinematheque’s Summer Visions Film Institute for Youth to produce a series of public service announcements about drinking tap water. They’re all pretty good, but here’s my favorite of the bunch:
Metro has been working on other programs as well. During the Olympics, Metro parked a Kewl Earth Water Wagon outside the Main Library downtown, and offered refills of fresh tap water to visitors and residents. According to corporate communications division manager David Hocking, some 4,700 people took the “tap water pledge” during the two weeks of the games, compared to 3,700 who did so during previous 17 months.
The regional government also developed a program with the new Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel. The property offers co-branded reusable Metro Vancouver water bottles for sale in guest rooms, for visitors who would prefer not to use the one-off bottles in the mini-bar when they head out on daytrips into the city.
This is all classic community-based social marketing. Metro isn’t trying to educate residents or drown them in brochures or make them feel bad—it’s working to build new social norms. How is it going? In 2008, as part of its Zero Waste Challenge, Metro set a goal to reduce the sale of bottled water in the region by 20 percent by the end of this year. Hocking says they’ll do a survey at the end of the year to find out how they did. I’ll let you know when he does.
It’s tough to dis the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show. After all, they’ve “gone green !”
I’ve been doing some “greener electronics” research over the past couple of weeks. The client is looking for leads in the way of eco-laptops, eco-LCD-televisions, eco-printers, etc. So I’ve been poring over EnergyStar 3.0 spreadsheets, digging into Greenpeace investigations , and doing a lot of surfing and searching and calling. Conclusion: There is a ton of useless crap out there, and a few great paradigm-shifting ideas out there going nowhere, like GreenPlug — which appears to be semi-stalled because laptop and mobile makers just make too much money off their crappy proprietary AC adaptors. And a lot of greenwash.
Enter CES, which just wrapped up in Sin City. I went to one of these shows a few years back, and it was absolute madness and chaos and light and sound and noise. It was a swirling crush of traffic, energy, and raw resources. I’ve been to a lot of trade shows over the years, and this one was by far the most exhausting and overwhelming of the bunch. But this year, it was greener than ever ! Or so they hoped. Treehugger reports that the offerings at the show’s “Sustainable Planet Zone” were razor-thin . A couple of solar backpacks. A few other gizmos. A handful of tiny exhibitors. In other words, fuck-all.
There were a few hints of green to come. A laptop with the casing made of corn-based plastic. And Sony is evidently promising a TV that will shut itself off when nobody is watching it. I predict the latter innovation will prove a major eco-fail: How many times have you been to the bathroom and left the set running within earshot so you can still listen to the program even though you can’t see it? Sony’s new innovation will power it down off as soon as you exit the couch. People will disable it in droves.
By the way, the mobile-device makers have next-to-nothing to offer those looking for a more responsible handset. Hello? What year is it again? Can we please get our shit together, RIM, Moto, Nokia et al?
I’m torn here. A side of me recognizes that any effort to make a difference matters. But when confronted with the Las Vegas light and noise, the other side of me fears that the scale of change required is just so gigantically huge – so paradigm-thrashingly scary — that a few programs not printed, or a few signs done up with soy-based inks, or a forest freshly planted with baby trees, might not amount to a damn.
It’s the same old wild oscillation unspooling between my ears: Over here, Mr. Optimist says “Hey, at least they’re trying! They’re working to make a difference!” But over on the other shoulder sits another little imaginary character, Mr. Realist. And this guy tells me, in a very calm voice, that nothing is changing. The ground is getting bigger every second, and we’re just not gonna pull out of this dive in time. Discuss.
The arch online magazine of politics and ideas has just posted an excerpt from Almost Green. The section in question is a bit of a romp — after obsessing over my neighbor’s exterior floodlamps for many nights, I launch a devious social-engineering campaign to convince him to turn the damn things off.
Salon will leave the piece up over the Thanksgiving weekend, which is awesome, because I figure we Americans will be turning to our computers in droves to escape our families! Take a look.
File this under ‘sad and funny at the same time.’ Here’s an embossed aluminum pen that my parents recently received in the mail at their house; a promotional-products company sent it to me, hoping to score a new account.
The info on the ballpoint dates from a few years ago when, for the space of a couple months between real-estate transactions, I temporarily moved my family in with my parents who live in a suburb just east of Vancouver. At the time, I was doing some contract gear-writing work for a since-shuttered Conde Nast men’s shopping magazine called CARGO.
I got a good chuckle out of the fact that some far-off privately held customer-leads database thinks that this once-glossy title is not only still in business, but headquartered in Burnaby.
Then it sunk in: How many thousands of these things went out on spec to similarly obsolete firms and addresses? And beyond that, how much logo-crested crap is presently churning its way through the warehouses and shipping channels, into the grateful hands of business people and consumers, who extract whatever utility and joy they can before ultimately handing these items off to the landfills?
Quite a lot, it turns out. According to the Promotional Products Association International, a trade group representing the fine people who make, import, distribute and sell mouse pads, stress balls, magnets, umbrellas, footballs, calendars, plastic coffee mugs, nylon tote bags, watches, ball caps, this is a $19.4 billion industry.
Sigh. If you believe the group’s research, consumer demand keeps the schwag engine running at top speed. Apparently, lots of us still love getting something for “free.” Utlimately all this marketing momentum needs to move into the digital realm, the atoms need to turn into bits. But when’s that going to happen?
How long can this madness continue? Anyone care to weigh in here?