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Being Green: Theory Versus Practice

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I must say that I am so tired of getting pile after pile of JUNK mail from groups (that for the sake of this post shall remain nameless … well that and I happen to be a card-carrying member of a few of them) that claim to want to save the planet in some form or fashion, whether it’s dirty coal one day or drowned polar bears the next. They fill your mailbox with pleas for your hard-earned dollar but seem to ignore one of the most basic and vital resources known to mankind as a species—clean air, produced in part by the very trees (some of them OLD GROWTH) cut down so that they could mail out their solicitations, most of which will never even be read, much less recycled, and will likely wind up in some landfill taking up even more space and causing even more problems for these groups to complain about creating a new impetus for them to send out a whole new round of solicitations about these “new” problems to an uninterested public!

Whew! What an opening rant …

Ok, now let’s get serious folks. Yes I may be a hard-core environmental fanatic, but I make mistakes, have my failings, am outright lazy once in a while.(I sadly admit that even I have thrown away recyclable items without a twinge of remorse when tired, in a hurry with screaming toddlers strapped to both hips) But, for the most part, I am working to be a responsible citizen, not just of my community, or even my country, but of my planet. I try to instill in my children the basic moral principles that less is more, and that homemade is from the heart. We avoid the big-box retailers when possible, rarely eat junk, recycle regularly, endure the dirty looks we STILL get as we haul our cloth bags, walk more than drive and bundle up rather than crank up the thermostat.

Despite all these efforts, they can’t seem to avoid the barrage of mail we receive on a near daily basis asking for our support (which means money) and the really slick and cool ones promise that if we respond in thirty days we get a lovely reproduction 1930s explorers backpack! How cool is that??

Just make sure you read the fine print … (you know the one that tells you that in exchange for that awesome backpack, only 5 cents of your $30 donation will actually help save the imperiled penguins, drowning polar bears or whichever cause it happens to be this month.)

Now please don’t assume I am bashing the wonderful work done by such groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy or the World Wildlife Fund. As a contributing member I do receive an annual report each year with an informative breakdown of how their money is spent each fiscal year. I study those charts and graphs ( and I am NO math major)and think to myself that a better use of such a large chunk of the money dedicated to marketing (to gain new members, raise more dues, and other advertisements) could be better spent on actually reaching out to college advocacy groups (the ones that are not afraid yet to write their congressmen and women and march on Washington in protest), providing grants to grassroots groups making real changes in communities, etc.

To me it just makes more sense to spend that large (and I do mean large … well it is certainly many times more than I and probably most of my entire staff make in a single year, but then I am a state employee, so I guess I am probably not the best example to go by)

So for those of you out there … what are your thoughts on this? Even using 100 percent recycled paper, should these organizations cut back their marketing and PR funding and maybe divert that money elsewhere where it might do more good? Please leave your comments below and let me know the following:

 1. Should these organizations reallocate their funding to include more grassroots/ college advocacy movement workshop/events?
 2. Do These groups spend too much on marketing/PR/postage/etc?
 3. Is adequate research being done to ensure quality ROI for money and time spent?

I look forward to your time and answers. And if you feel more comfortable sending a more in-depth but private response, please feel free to email me a personal response.

I look forward to putting together these answers and then crafting a very nice letter to the presidents and CEO’s of some of these organizations, many of which I have faithfully supported in excess for more than 20 years. I want to know just how MY money has really helped (if at all beyond padding his or her salary while I struggle to feed my family) and whether or not they are truly following their own green advice in both practice as well as theory.

Until we meet again …

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