Makower: Do you think people have overreacted to bottled water?
Jeffery: There are real environmental issues in our society, Joel, and then there’s the ones that we make up. And relative to our four walls of doing business, we have a carbon footprint that’s half of a carbonated soft drink.
So I would tell people, “Our packaging is lighter, the ingredients require less carbon. We’re half the carbon footprint of a soft-drink bottle.” Sometimes people’s eyes would glaze over, but slowly but surely, we started getting traction.
Makower: So if this is an emotional issue for people, how much do facts really matter?
Jeffery: I’m fond of saying that everybody’s got opinions, but most of us don’t have really great facts. It couldn’t be truer in the environmental world because you know yourself that there are very few silver bullets out there. Things we do that we think are intuitively right, sometimes have the reverse impact from an environmental standpoint.
So, okay, let’s go back to glass or steel packaging instead of plastic. The carbon and the transportation and all the other aspects of glass or steel — they just don’t make sense. We can have these emotional opinions, but we need to start dealing with facts, and it’s critical in the environmental arena because we’re going to continue to do things that aren’t too smart if we don’t really understand lifecycle the analysis of the decisions we’re going to make.
Makower: Given that facts are challenging for some people, and emotion is high, what did you learn about how to engage with critics?
Jeffery: I like doing it, frankly. I know that when I walk into a room where half the people don’t like me, I’m starting out about three feet deep in a hole, and I’ve got to pull myself out. I’ve waded into that discussion in the recycling area where, initially, when I started proposing extended producer responsibility-type legislation to deal with all of the recyclable materials that we have, people initially thought, “Well, he’s just trying to get out of a bottle bill.” It was almost like, “I know you're trying to screw me. I just can’t figure out how.”
It took me a while, but over time, Joel, I would say that when I go into a room where I’ve got naysayers, I may not convince everybody, but I’m going to give people more to think about than they came in the room with.
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