Chili's Chalks Up a Quiet Win For Green Signage

Chili's Chalks Up a Quiet Win For Green Signage

 This has been a year of great green stories, and most of them have been extremely positive and encouraging. Our attention is naturally drawn to those who demand it with press conferences and public announcements touting products, programs and policies designed to save our planet.

Fortunately, for every one of those high-profile organizations and people, there are many more whose efforts are meaningful and at times even innovative, but don’t ask for or get the credit and praise they deserve. 

Green Where You Least Expect It

A Chili’s restaurant is conveniently located halfway between our home and office so we have eaten there dozens of times over the course of the last few years. I have always noticed their colorful chalkboard signs (above), but I assumed they were printed and not hand drawn as they appeared. Recently I asked the location’s manager about them and he confirmed they were indeed hand drawn by a talented artist in Texas named Sean McAfee.  

Here is the green part of the story: The chalkboard signs are re-used over and over again and shared between the 800-plus Chili’s locations. When changes need to be made, the old signs are not thrown away to end up in a landfill; they are sent back to Sean McAfee for redesign and reuse.

Reusability: A Great Solution for a Huge Problem

If you consider all the promotional and usually-temporary wall signs, window signs and posters used by all the retail stores and restaurants in the country, it would not be a stretch to say there are probably millions used on a yearly basis, and it’s a good bet that most of them end up as landfill waste. These Chili’s signs, on the other hand, are reused over and over again, so you can imagine the amount of board or paper that is saved and the waste that is eliminated.

What I find most interesting is that neither Sean McAfee’s website nor the Chili’s corporate website even mention the buzzwords sustainability, eco-friendly or green. I suspect they are probably doing it because these chalkboard signs are attractive, unique and save money compared to most disposable options. They’ve figured out what many others have not yet learned, which is usually if you do the right thing for the environment, sustainability programs tend to reduce, not increase, costs. 

Sustainability remains a hot topic for print and digital media, so there are thousands of stories published each year. Many of them are about the good things companies do and some are unfortunately about the bad things others are guilty of doing. Occasionally it is good to hear a story about a company that, without a lot of fanfare, is doing the right thing, because it simply makes sense. It isn’t always the companies making the biggest news that are having the greatest impact or set the best example.

Have a great Earth Day!