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Green/Sustainability

Famous Chefs Protest Against Seafood Fraud

Everyone loves the name Chilean Sea Bass. But when you think about it for a while, it begins to lose its appeal.

Chile, after all, is damn far away. Where in Chile was this sea bass caught, and by whom? How was it transported all of those thousands of miles only to end up in an alley behind the restaurant you are currently sitting in as a candle flickers on your table next to a hip Italian clay pot of fresh rosemary growing beside a bubbling indoor waterfall? It all seems so contrived.

That’s because it is. For starters, at home, the Chilean Sea Bass is also known as the Patagonian Toothfish, which sounds like something out of Jurassic Park III. Secondly, the fish has been the center of controversy among chefs, foodies, purveyors and environmentalists for a decade because it represents a much broader problem: seafood fraud.

Chances are, if that Chilean Sea Bass you just ordered could pull up a chair and join you for dinner, his version of his journey would differ greatly from the waiter’s version. Officially, all imports of Chilean Sea Bass should be accompanied by an official Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, which chefs are supposed to check upon purchase.

But with so many customers craving that full, buttery taste–and so many restaurateurs and seafood providers willing to look the other way in order to remain competitive, the situation is ripe for corruption.

Now celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Thomas Keller and others are protesting for change by signing a petition demanding that the U.S. government prohibit illegal seafood from entering the marketplace by enforcing stricter regulatory policies regarding imported fish. The public should applaud this effort. Read more

How Is IBM America’s ‘Greenest Company?’

After reading The New York Times expose about the incredible amounts of energy wasted in the data centers of “environmentally friendly” Internet juggernauts like Facebook and Google, we have to admit we’re a little surprised to learn that tech brands dominate Newsweek’s list of the “greenest” companies in America year after year.

This year, in fact, IBM and Hewlett-Packard retained the top two spots, followed by Sprint Nextel and Dell. We had to check our calendars: Is it 2012 or 1997?

How did IBM achieve its somewhat enviable position atop the green heap? We won’t get into Newsweek’s extensive methodology, but the report notes two particular projects: The Smarter Planet initiative helps IBM clients analyze their consumption of resources in order to make for more environmentally efficient businesses, but we’re more interested in the company’s Zurich Research Laboratory.

In 2008, the Swiss techies pioneered a “zero carbon emission data center” that works by redirecting the massive amounts of waste heat generated by all those buzzing hard drives and using it to regulate the temperatures of buildings and create a “municipal heating network”. Most importantly, the system uses the heat to more efficiently cool the chips themselves–so IBM truly recycles its own energy.

OK, that’s pretty cool.

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Axe ‘Showerpooling’ Ads: Shameless and Sexist or Provocative with a Purpose?

Every member of the ad team responsible for promoting Axe grooming products clearly attended class on the day their marketing professors told them that “sex sells.”

Take, for instance, their ad featuring a stampede of half-naked women converging on one lone man (who apparently smells awesome) as the words “spray more, get more” appear on the screen. Not blunt enough for you? How about the shampoo bottle tagline that promises, “the cleaner to you are, the dirtier you get”? All this professional copywriting work sends one very clear message — use Axe, get laid.

Axe’s latest ad campaign, however, ventures into uncharted territory. In this case, the product’s ultimate benefit (sex) lies hidden beneath a very thinly veiled pseudo-PSA about water conservation. “Showerpooling”, as the company calls it, encourages young men to save water by showering with “a like-minded acquaintance or an attractive stranger”. While it’s pretty clear what might appeal to guys about this idea (and we don’t mean the eco-friendly part), Rob Candelino, vice president of marketing for U.S. skin care at Unilever (Axe’s parent company), swears the campaign really is about water conservation. Sort of.

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Will the FTC’s Revised ‘Green Guides’ Keep Marketers Honest?

We recently discussed consumers’ growing cynicism about products marketed as “green” or “environmentally friendly” — turns out that people are sick of having their well-meaning efforts to better their environment exploited by advertisers and corporations simply looking to cushion their bottom lines. In the wake of many dubious claims, consumers are now understandably hesitant to believe earth-friendly marketing messages.

Today, in its continuing effort to keep the marketers of “green” products honest (or at least discourage them from telling bold-faced lies), The Federal Trade Commission released its revised “Green Guides“, a set of guidelines meant to help advertisers make claims that are “truthful and non-deceptive”.

While the guides aren’t technically regulations, they describe the types of environmental claims the FTC may or may not find deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. The Act allows the FTC to take “enforcement action” against deceptive claims, which can lead to Commission orders prohibiting deceptive advertising. If a company then violates these orders, it would be subject to fines.

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Food Nuts Say ‘Local’ Is More Important Than ‘Organic’

The food world has been reeling in the wake of a recent Stanford survey concluding that “organic” food may not be as special as it’s cracked up to be. Many have rightly pointed out shortcomings in the methods and data involved in the study, but it has certainly sparked debate.

Among certain food world vets, however, the question at hand was answered some time ago: While organic is always preferable, buying locally produced food is more important than buying items that meet certain FDA regulations (the fact that neither model is sufficient to feed billions of people is another can of worms altogether). How do we know that this isn’t a new debate? “Locavore” was Oxford’s word of the year for 2007.

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The PR War over Fracking

Fracking, which is a shorthand term for hydraulic fracturing (not a polite replacement for a colorful expletive), is a process that utilizes large volumes of high-pressured water, sand, and chemicals to fracture shale rock deep underground in order to extract the natural gas locked beneath it. While natural gas itself is the cleanest of the fossil fuels, and is often presented as a “green” solution, the safety and environmental impact of the fracking process has inspired increasing controversy and conflict. A PR war now rages between the energy companies that want to expand their fracking activities and the people and organizations who oppose the practice.

Oil and energy companies have invested a substantial amount of resources into natural gas, touting its viability and abundance while also attempting to reassure skeptics (especially those living in areas atop large shale reserves) that they are taking every precaution to ensure that the gas is being harvested responsibly and safely. However, a lack of regulation and disclosure rules regarding the chemicals used in the process haven’t exactly endeared fracking to opponents; it seems like folks would prefer to know exactly what these energy companies will be pumping into their land (and may potentially end up in their immediate environment via air and groundwater). Gee, who would have thought?

Some specific and well-documented concerns include chemical contamination of potable groundwater, surface water pollution from the dumping of salty post-fracking wastewater into rivers, air pollution near fracking sites, and methane leakage. Yikes–we can see why the energy companies may have some trouble spinning this to their advantage.

Negative environmental impacts notwithstanding, fracking can have a positive economic effect on the communities in which it takes place–and that fact is the primary selling point behind the energy companies’ PR efforts.

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America’s Perplexing Relationship with Food

Food is very big business in America, and that means companies and brands with immense advertising and PR heft competing for consumer dollars. On the surface, this strikes most Americans as harmless; it’s capitalism, after all: It’s the way things work.

But on a deeper psychological level, most consumers perceive food not only according to their specific likes and dislikes, but within the context of an unnatural vacuum created by decades worth of marketing campaigns from food growers, distributors and sellers.

For example, we like our food to be flawless; why else would so many supermarket customers spend time examining melons, tomatoes and onions as if they’re precious stones? Our trained eyes also like big, colorful displays of food lining the aisles, and we don’t see overwhelming portions as sources of waste but ways to get more for our money. So a little excess occurs every now and then; no big deal, right?

Well, consider this quote from a recent article in The Washington Post:

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New Study: Energy Efficiency Critical to Building Positive Brand Image

We know that going green is important for the environment and can help curb energy costs, but might it also be an imperative ingredient to building a positive brand image? According to a new Deloitte report, improving energy efficiency at America’s businesses is as important to brand building as it is to growing the bottom line.

According to the study, reSources 2012,  85 percent of companies say that electricity cost reductions are essential to staying financially competitive, which isn’t too much of a surprise. But the eye-catching part is that nearly an equal majority (81 percent) feel that reducing energy costs is critical to brand building. In fact, more than three-quarters of the organizations surveyed say that they are actively promoting their energy efficiency efforts to their customers.

“Corporate America is coming to a clear consensus: Energy efficiency is an important competitive advantage,” said Greg Aliff, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and the report’s co-author. “It is no longer just the purview of plant operations or building management. Senior leaders are beginning to view it as a strategic business driver.”

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As Environmentalists, Most Parents Fall Short

It looks like green is the new color of parental guilt.

According to a new survey by iVillage and Today.com, a huge number of parents admit they could do more to help the environment, but don’t have enough money to go greener, inducing “green guilt.”

The survey found 94 percent of parents want to do more to help the environment, but almost half (43 percent) say lack of money keeps them from being their greener selves.  For the record, we would buy everything organic at Whole Foods if we could, right? It’s just that all those sweet peas and pesticide-free artichokes really add up.

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An Easy Way to Go Green: Work From Home

Did everyone have a great Earth Day? The Washington Post has gathered some images from Earth Day celebrations around the world. And while the world has been introduced to the $60 eco-friendly LED light bulb, Perkett PR has designed a way for employees to actually save money while doing good for the environment: Staffers work from home.

Perkett PR has full- and part-time staffers working in 10 states across the U.S. However, all staffers telecommute. According to the firm’s website, this “virtual agency” saves money on overhead and passes that savings along to the client. The infographic above shows how the agency is also saving money for staffers and doing good works for the environment.

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