the grass is greener on the internet

Communicating the green message
August 26, 2008, 11:52 pm
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Cutting carbon emissions is the cause du jour – sod the other environmental effects, let’s just measure our CO2 and then cut, cut, cut!

A lot of companies are spending a lot of money to try and tell consumers that they’re doing just that.

Perhaps they should be looking at spreading the ‘green’ message in a ‘green’ way, though…it’s been calculated that marketing communications cause over 500 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year and is likely to increase, according to TrinityP3. (See here.)

What can you do? For a start, include it in your ‘carbon footprint’ when buying offsets. Then have a look at communication delivery methods and how they can reduce environmental impact whilst retaining their marketing impact. Waste paper is an obvious sinner, as are novelty products that require transporting long distances, but internet isn’t entirely blameless either.

It won’t be perfect, but it’s definitely something to think about.


7 Comments so far
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[…] @ 3:50 pm Tags: advertising, carbon emissions, carbon neutral, CSR, direct mail Further to my post yesterday on the concept of making marketing communications greener, the Direct Mail Special Report from […]

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There is no sound scientific data indicating that CO2 emissions have anything to do with the earth’s temperature (which has been cooling since 1998, BTW.) In fact, geologists and climatologists have discovered that most warm periods in the earth’s history have been followed by a rise in CO2, not preceded. Less than 500,000 years ago, when the earth was the coldest it has ever been, the CO2 levels were 10 times greater than they are now. If CO2 was the evil demon that some claim it is, how could that be? The facts simply do not jive with the current CO2 = warming fad.

Also, recycling paper doesn’t ‘save’ trees. It actually reduces the number of trees. Trees utilized for paper production are a crop grown by ‘paper tree farmers’, if you will. They are fast growing trees that are constantly being harvested and replanted. If paper is recycled, the demand for those trees is reduced. Therefore, fewer trees are needed to produce paper, and the paper manufacturers buy fewer trees. As demand for the trees drop, the farmers stop planting as many. So remember, every time you recycle some paper you are reducing the number of trees in the world.

Additionally, have you looked into the terrific amount of energy and the volumes of nasty chemicals that is required to recycle paper? Research the facts and you’ll be amazed.

Your concern for our environment is applauded, but be sure your efforts are worthwhile and not merely ‘feel good’ measures that do nothing.

Comment by robertbarber

Cheers for the comment, Robert. I’ll try to answer all the issues you raised…

Part of the point of the post was to raise the issue that CO2 reduction is a bit of a fad, and that companies trying to tell the world that they’re reducing their emissions but in the process are increasing them and contradicting their original intent.

There is plenty of debate as to what causes fluctuations in the Earth’s temperature and weather patterns, and the answer seems to be; lots of things, most of which we don’t understand. It’s definitely not as simple as popular media likes to portray it.

It’s true that there’s a lot of natural fluctuations. However many scientists think that we may be interfering with natural fluctuations, as we’re reasonably sure that the greenhouse effect exists (that’s how the planet stays warm in the first place) and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. As are SOx, NOx, and in the right places, O3. All of the above are also particularly bad for humans. Visit Beijing and then tell me pollution isn’t a problem.

So I agree that CO2 is taking a lot of rap it may not deserve, but it’s not entirely blameless (after all, why did the Earth’s temperatures have such sudden unprecedented increases directly following the Industrial Revolution?) and has other undesirable effects.

[Something to consider: if it were in fact that simple, would you take the gamble with the health of the planet and not reduce emissions when there’s also no scientific data proving that climate change doesn’t exist?]

As for waste paper, the point is that many marketers do direct mailers and leaflets en masse even though they know that the majority have no effect at all. It’s just waste, pure and simple, of their money and resources.

Yes, most paper is from plantations, but are you asking me to feel guilty that less trees are being planted that were going to be cut down anyway? …

By the way, the process used to recycle paper is actually extremely similar to that used to make paper from wood in the first place… Differences? You don’t need to mill the wood, meaning less energy is used, and you use different chemicals to ensure that paper scraps are clean and bleached, which according to the EPA cause less water and air pollution.

However, if you can point me to research to the contrary, I’m all about looking at the big picture.

Comment by katherineliew

Re the temperature increase after the Industrial Revolution, it got warmer because we were exiting the Little Ice Age. It was officially ‘over’ in 1850. One could only assume that it would get warmer after an ice age. Simply because something happened prior to something else happening doesn’t necessarily mean there is any cause and effect. Using that flawed logic you could say that carrots cause heart attacks because 94% of all heart attack victims ate carrots within 3 months of their death. Again, there is simply no evidence to link them.

As far as recycling paper goes, it is the removal of the ink that causes the problems. If the paper was virgin, it wouldn’t be a problem, but most paper is printed upon in some fashion.

What we really need to get a handle on is Dihydrogen Monoxide. In the US alone, it kills about 4,000 children each year. Inhalation is deadly, and in its gaseous form it causes severe burns. It is also the major portion of acid rain, is found in tumor of terminal cancer patients, and when in contact with certain alkali metals it releases pure hydrogen – an explosive gas. Dihydrogen monoxide is used extensively in industry for the dilution of waste streams by their waste treatment system. DHMO is even found in our milk supply and other foods. Instead of worrying about CO2, perhaps we should all concentrate on that.

Thanks for the interesting conversation.

Comment by robertbarber

Haha DHMO… yes, and O2 is a major contributor to fires. And we could just stop people dying by ensuring that they weren’t born at all. Worth a shot, right?

The Industrial Revolution example is usually cited not because of the temperature increase but the rate – from ice core samples it is suspected that temperatures had not previously increased this quickly. Fair, that fact alone doesn’t prove a link.

Then again, scientific method isn’t about proving something is true…it’s about proving something isn’t untrue to the best of our knowledge. And if we’re going to be honest, human knowledge is pretty limited.

I’m curious though… since you argue CO2 isn’t an issue, what’s the alternative hypothesis?

Comment by katherineliew

The sun.

Comment by robertbarber

…which went on holidays with Alpha Centauri during the last ice age. 🙂

Comment by katherineliew

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