Earth Day Fail: The worst pitches of 2012

Earth Day Fail: The worst pitches of 2012

Another year, another Earth Day. Like a plague of cicadas (only more frequent and more devastating) this time of year brings us once again an inundation of marginally relevant, cynicism-inducing announcements tied to the one day of the year when, theoretically, a slightly larger slice of the American populace thinks about the state of the planet.

(Don't forget: The rest of the world, more or less, observes World Environment Day on June 5 -- a day that goes unobserved and beshrugged in the U.S.)

When will it all end? Is the question that we ask ourselves as the deluge of emails crests in mid-April -- after building for literally months and clogging our inboxes with more than 300 pitches distinctly tied to Earth Day / Earth Week / Earth Month.

Thankfully, Earth Season 2012 will be a long-distant memory come Monday, and we'll go back to business as usual: witnessing, and documenting, companies make actual progress on reducing their impacts, rather than watching the carpetbaggers try to make a buck off of 4/22.

This "Earth Day Fail" has become something of a tradition here at GreenBiz, a way to blow off steam and pop the cynicism balloon at the end of the silly season. For previous installments, see the following: 7 Earth Day Pitches That Made Us Cringe (2011), Earth Day Fail: Pitches that Miss the Mark (2010) and You're Doing it Wrong: Five Earth Day Pitches That Failed (2009).

And now, in no particular order, we are pleased (I think) to present the weirdest, most off-target, and just plain worst pitches from Earth Day (or Earth Week, or Earth Month, or Earth Year) 2012.

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below, or send us an email.

Shopping Your Way to Sustainability

I wish we didn't have to say this every year, but apparently we do -- and perhaps more so this year than ever before: Tying your sales strategy to Earth Day means you're part of the problem.

• Exhibit A: Eton Corporation is using Earth Day as the perfect time to promote its Soulra XL, because clearly the solution to our environmental problems is ... a solar-powered portable music player. For $250.

• There's only one other phrase that sets my teeth to grinding almost as much as "go green in time for Earth Day," and that's "make every day Earth Day." Though I didn't see it used as widely this year as in years past, we've got some helpful tips from one Dr. Fuhr who wants to "help individuals reduce their carbon footprint and preserve the environment for a sustainable future." Notable among those tips? "Consider purchasing necessary goods, gifts, books, etc. online rather than braving the mall."

• Speaking of "going green for Earth Day," Beverages & More (aka "BevMo!") has managed to achieve this feat -- by launching a partnership to recycle used wine corks into "stylish flip-flops."

• Underlying all of this ill-conceived marketing is the concept that shopping is a good way to spend your Earth Day, and that just because something's organic, it's an unqualified good. Exempli gratia: MyRegistry.com is touting a $200 organic hammock as just the thing that "moms-to-be" need to "go green." Sure, if you were planning to buy a baby-hammock anyway, organic is possibly better than not, but on the spectrum of needs... this just doesn't register.

• I'll just share the top of this pitch verbatim: "Celebrate Earth Day with the Flavor and Philosophy of Crave Brothers 'Green' Cheese." Produced with renewable energy? Yes. Appetizing? No.

Tree Planting is Still All the Rage

Poor Arbor Day. The venerable holiday -- 140 years old this year -- has been completely eclipsed by Earth Day, which comes just one week prior to the Day of Trees. That explains, but doesn't excuse, the vast number of tree-planting pitches rooted in Earth Day lingo that we get each year.

The problem is not the trees; who doesn't love trees? The problem is that these tree plantings are all too often tied to consumption. And because no one celebrates Arbor Day anymore, Earth Day has become the requisite date to announce your tree-planting initiatives. While the trend has been less pronounced this year than in years past, we're still going to see a lot of holes get dug this weekend.

Por ejemplo: The online shopping site Extrabux is promising to plant a tree for every purchase made on its site between 4/19 and 4/22 (time's a-wasting!)

JetBlue is planting one tree for each flight taken on the airline during Earth Day -- an estimated 83,000 trees -- through a partnership with carbon offsetter CarbonFund.org.

• The National Gift Card Company, which seems to have a stranglehold on the small-plastic-gift-card market, also seems to be offering to plant trees for every digital gift card sold through its website on Earth Day. Digital gift cards, of course, are significantly more sustainable than, say, the plastic BK Crown Card (pictured at right), even if you're going to buy the same number of Whoppers with it.

• There's no explicit connection to purchases with this pitch, but by the time Earth Season is finally done, I definitely need a drink. Thankfully, Woodchuck Hard Cider has vowed to plant 22,000 trees in honor of Earth Week.

What the Fail?

There are really just a couple of things that can be said about the following pitches, which would in saner times simply not exist: What? Why? And What? again, just for good measure.

• The Weakest Link: Jewish-focused dating site JDate has gone to great lengths to confirm the things that have been painfully obvious for years to anyone who's even casually followed environmental consciousness in this country: People sure will say they're green in a survey. What the the fact that 66 percent of 18-25-year-old "JDaters" recycle, or that 28 percent of JDating females have switched to compact fluorescent lightbulbs has to do with either dating or sustainability is completely lost on me.

• Also completely lost on me is this pitch from a firm that should prefer to be nameless. It begins: "We've all seen the horrible story on the news when a child is inadvertently left in a hot car and dies." Sold! Whatever you're selling, count me in!

But wait! There's more: "With ChildMinder that will never happen. This easy-to-use alert system notifies a parent within six seconds anytime they have moved more than 15 feet away from their child in a car seat." What? Don't parents know they're more than 15 feet away from their car? Oh, and isn't this some kind of Earth Day pitch? "As a SGS certified product, all materials in the monitoring system are made with environmentally friendly materials." Bingo.

• Green texting. I fail to comprehend the attraction / business model / hopes for success for Zlango, a company that apparently develops "image-rich mobile messaging." But I do know that receiving a text that even barely resembles the one pictured at right -- for the insufficiently visioned, it reads (with graphical captions): "Dude! save a tree, send a text !it's earth-day." -- would be enough to put me off environmentalism, off texting, and put the sender on my block list.

• Last but not least, we have two distinct fails, for distinct reasons, from the Glad Company. First, this: "It's not good for any business -- or the environment -- to create products that generate significant waste."

Somehow, this message, coming from a company that is driven by the goal of selling huge numbers of disposable plastic products, cranks my cynicism meter up to dangerous levels. Of course, Glad is working to make its plastic trash bags more sustainable -- 6.5 percent more sustainable, to be precise. No word yet on the sustainability-ness of their multitude of cheap plastic food containers...

• And I know you've been wondering about that terrifying raccoon picture gracing / haunting this post. Well, that also comes from the good folks at Glad. And this pitch has it all: Celebrities, unintentionally scary imagery and questionable sustainability tie-ins.

You see, Glad has partnered with artist Jason Mecier to "turn celebrity trash into treasure for good," using waste from such notable celebrities as "actress Amy Smart, actor Jesse Eisenberg, reality star Lauren Conrad, actress Emmanuelle Chriqui of 'Entourage' and 'iCarly's' Nathan Kress" to create unforgettable works of art. First of all, it beats having to dig through your favorite celebrities' garbage cans yourself, and secondly, that raccoon is definitely an image that I will not be able to forget -- no matter how much I want to -- for a long time to come.

And with that, we can thankfully bid adieu to yet another Earth Season. Once again, if you came across any cringe-worthy pitches that we missed, let us know in the comments below, or send us an email.

Now, where did I put that Woodchuck Hard Cider...