On this Earth Day, a holiday intended to raise environmental awareness, some big name companies are offering deals and making public gestures intended to promote environmental friendliness. But some critics say these deals don’t always match up with the reality of the company’s green practices.
Starbucks: Coffee megachain Starbucks is offering free coffee or tea to anyone who brings in a reusable mug, which can be purchased for 20 percent off all day Friday. While this gesture is an attempt to move away from paper cups, it’s likely people will get their free coffee today and return to disposable cups tomorrow.
Even though Starbucks served 1.2 million free drinks in reusable cups on Earth Day last year, according to Brand Channel, the chain reports that 99.2 percent of drinks served in 2010 were done so in paper cups. This number doesn’t indicate a change in purchaser behavior, which Starbucks admits is the biggest challenge. The company hopes to have 25 percent of its drinks served in reusable mugs by 2015, but says it “will need considerable innovation and customer engagement to reach” the goal. This realistic sentiment is nowhere to be seen in the uplifting ad below.
Whole Foods : Grocery chain Whole Foods seems like a beacon of environmental friendliness. It eliminated plastic bags three years ago, and for this Earth Day will temporarily eliminate all paper bags from stores. Yesterday, the company instituted an Eco-Scale rating system, which ranks household cleaning products. But Whole Foods is still selling unsustainable seafood. Surprisingly enough, Safeway topped the list of Greenpeace’s sustainable seafood rankings. Target and Wegmans tied for second, with Whole Foods in fourth place.Whole Foods has promised to phase out more unsustainable fish by 2013.
Amazon: Online retailer Amazon is offering a $50 discount on some Toshiba laptops if the purchaser recycles an old computer with Gazelle.com before April 30. Gazelle.com works with Cloud Blue, a Basel Action Network e-Steward certified recycler. The BAN certification requires companies to adhere to a strict set of standards that prohibits all toxic waste from being disposed of in solid-waste landfills and incinerators and specifically prohibits the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries.
However, as the Post’s Elizabeth Flock pointed out yesterday, there are other companies that improperly dispose of e-waste, causing toxins to leak into soil and water. Sustainable computing company Redemtech says the Environmental Protection Agency’s R2 certification is not enough to guarantee proper disposal, as it “allows untested e-waste to be exported” and lacks the ability to make sure standards are complied with overseas. The company calls the BAN certification used by Gazelle.com “the choice for truly responsible recycling.”
Greenbiz.com compiled a list of questionable Earth Day pitches here.
Company’s need to walk a fine line on Earth Day, as many plans can be greenwashed — a term used to describe misleading green public relations campaigns. Can you recommend companies doing right by the planet? Let us know in the comments.