Archive for the ‘Enviro’ Category

Where’s the trees? | What Nobody’s Saying Amidst the Lorax Marketing Fiasco

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

wheres the trees

“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” was a big hit on opening weekend, raking in $70 million at the box office. But it’s marketing tie-ins with nearly 70 brand “launch partners” has caused the Seuss to hit the fan. As first reported by Mother Jones, “people are having a (rather justified) heart attack about the fact that The Lorax is now being used to cross-promote a new SUV.”

So much for “speaking for the trees.” The little orange eco-hero now hocks the Mazda CX-5, disposable diapers and  candy-coated pancakes. Pundits from everywhere are commenting: from the Washington Post to the Huffington Post, from the Wall Street Journal to the Guardian and from thousands of bloggers to the most insightful commenter of them all, Stephen Colbert.

Check out this car commercial, where an ugly strip of asphalt defaces the blissful Seussian landscape:

It’s not wonder everyone is talking about what a sell-out the Lorax has become.

But there’s something nobody’s saying.

It’s easy to focus on the tone-deaf SUV ad, but nobody’s said anything about who ISN’T a sponsor (or WASN’T ever invited to be a sponsor). Where’s the trees? With 70 “launch partners,” how come there aren’t any plants, flowers or trees cross-merchandised with this film? How come the only “green-friendly” product the American consumer can think of is diapers made of recycled material? Would there have been any controversy if the Toyota Prius were the car, not a Mazda gas+oline hybrid? Not likely, but maybe there should have been.

Greenwashing looks bad when it’s done so poorly, but our approach to environmental consumerism is flawed to its core. All these products can only claim to be less bad than they were before--and some only slightly. The single product that can actually claim to be good, not just less bad, continues to go ignored, even when that product is the point of the whole darn film.

But it doesn’t strike anyone, anywhere that an excessively merchandised movie about trees would lack any product tie in for…trees.

For the thousands of businesses and millions of Americans who grow, sell and landscape with trees, the Lorax is just another reminder that they aren’t really relevant to today’s society. When you aren’t invited to the party, and nobody notices, that is the definition of irrelevance.

But look on the bright side, at least you plant folks aren’t sell-outs!




Microsoft Thinks Plants Will Be Popular in 2021

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Microsoft’s video vision of the future came out last week, and its all about plants.

The 6 minute video tells the story of an architect arriving in South Africa. We see her collaborate with different people via amazing-yet-believable technology. The project they’re working on?  A green wall.

According to Microsoft, in the future people will want to use their fancy high-tech “Minority Report” monitors to look at…plants. Whether they actually want to get their hands dirty or strain their backs, that’s another matter. It used to be future visions left plant life completely out of the picture. Did the Jetson’s have a yard? But now that we’ve passed 1984, left 2001 in the dust and are now living in what was once imagined as the “Future age” we see that humanity isn’t comfortable leaving the outdoors--a connection to nature--behind. We need plants. Pretty cool that Microsoft agrees.

Watch the full video if you have the time. Below are some excerpts that interested me the most.

A "confidential" greenwall proposal from the year 2021.

A "confidential" greenwall proposal from the year 2021.

Ever heard of the "gProGreen Wall Panel System?"


Plants heal the sick.

"Having a view of plants decreased sick leave 28%"

The prices range from $0.45 to $1.20 per plant! Ouch.

A room with a view.

Another indication that plain-old green is trendy?

A "nutrient and water uptake" study.

Of all the things...a Mycorrhizal study! I was almost expecting to see them break out a bottle of SuperThrive next.


Earth Day Video

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Here’s the Earth Day video we made! Download a copy by “right-clicking” here. The file for downloading is a 720p mp4 at 30 fps, 15 sec duration. It has all of the titles removed except for “Earth Day…April 22.” If you don’t know how to customize this video with your own words, check out this video. If you want us to customize it for you, send us an e-mail.


When Are We Going To Kick Our Habit?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

There are a bunch of loud whiny voices out there all upset that plants come in plastic pots which may end up in a landfill.

These are the same people who cheer when any other consumer product is packaged in a way that cuts waste 10%, yet they conveniently ignore that the product IN the package (running shoes, laser printers, plastic toys) is itself likely to end up in a landfill within 2 years.

No other product helps the environment at all, and most actually do harm. Plants are the only thing that actually do good: they clean the air, reducing carbon and creating oxygen. They prevent erosion and runoff, create shade and reduce energy costs while providing beauty and wildlife habitat. And they get better at doing it every single year!

So why won’t the whiners cut us any slack?

So what if our plastic packaging isn’t ideal – we aren’t 100% perfect. Big deal. The bad we do is insignificant compared to the good, right?

Why can’t they see that?

Who do they think we are, Mother Teresa?

Where it hung before being taken down.

Creator’s Commentary: I first thought of this analogy at the same time as ”superman,” when at a meeting with the EPA it was obvious that governemnt regulators did not care if the product IN the packaging helped the environment, the plastic pot was all they could see. How serious of an issue is the use of plastic nursery containers?

This particular poster was taken down mid-way through the ANLA Clinic becasue of its offensive imagery. Someone walking through the hotel (not a Clinic atendee) saw it and caused quite a scene, from what I heard later. I was not there. Bob Dolibois diffused the situation by removing the poster. I think he thought I would be upset at the unreasonable censorship and demand that it go back up, but my reply was, “Well, it offeneded me too!” and “Mission accomplished.” There was, perhaps, more discussion about the poster after it was banned than there was before.

I was asked if the photo of Mother Teresa was fake. The answer is, yes, of course. The cigarette and the smoke were added in Photoshop. I thought of putting a Zippo or a pack of Camels in her hands. I apologize for corrupting a religious icon. I am not Catholic, so I do not ascribe anything beyond piety and godliness to Teresa. However, as a Christian, I do not like when artists cheaply debase pictures of Christ to make a point. I would never have considered altering an image of, say, the Last Supper or Jesus on the cross. I see a difference, but maybe this poster should not have hung in the first place?

In any case, this is the only poster that I brought home and it is in my office now.


Plant More Plants

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

This spring the Chesapeake Club is kicking off a campaign called “Plant More Plants.” They are airing TV ads in the Metro DC, Baltimore, Richmond, and Hampton Roads markets. They have produced two 30-second ads that encourage homeowners to aid the Chesapeake Bay by planting more plants, thereby reducing runoff.

Competition: “Yard of the month? Try yard of the century…”

War: Children wage war on runoff with a beautiful yard.

This is amazingly cool for the green industry. Someone has gone and done what we couldn’t do ourselves: made a major media campaign to promote plants. So who is the Chesapeake Club, why are they gifting us this free advertising, who’s paying for it and how can we take this and run with it?

The Chesapeake Club is a public-relations offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay Program, which is a “partnership of people and organizations, ranging from federal and state agencies to local governments to non-profits and academic institutions.” So, who is that, really? The key partners are government entities, including Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and the EPA, as well as many cities and local governments.

The first media campaign by the Chesapeake Club aired in 2008-2010 with the tag-line: “Save the crabs, then eat them.” The purpose of the ads was to convince homeowners to skip application of fertilizers to their lawns in the spring.

“They should perish in some hot, tasty butter…”

When it comes to the “Plant More Plants” initiative, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is coordinating the campaign, which was funded by a $500,000 grant awarded in 2008 by the National Fish and Wildlife grant program.

Aren’t we fortunate they decided to make the center of their awareness campaign the need for increased use of our product instead of the negative aspects of keeping the grass green? The Virginia DCR deserves a thank-you note, but the “Plant More Plants” concept wasn’t the Chesapeake Club’s idea, or the EPAs or any of the partners of the Chesapeake Bay Program. Who do we have to thank?

According to Gary Waugh of the Virginia DCR, the ad agency BCF, of Virginia Beach, created the new strategy based on a very broad directive “to encourage personal stewardship to improve the environmental quality of the Chesapeake Bay.” They thought a positive message about plants might be  better than a negative message about fertilizer. So… thanks, BCF! You guys rock!

Garden Centers and Landscape companies can sign-up and be listed on the “Plant More Plants” website. Those who do will get to have access to marketing materials and may be able to use the “Plant More Plants” facebook page to promote their own “Bay-friendly” landscape practices. But as of this writing, only six garden centers and fifteen landscape companies are involved!

To sign-up, send Gary Waugh an e-mail.

How long will this campaign run? The Chesapeake Club has pretty much spent all of the grant money on producing the ads and buying air-time. As with the “fertilizer” campaign, they will conduct pre-and-post consumer awareness surveys. If the results do not show that the ads are effective, they will try a different approach in the future.

We don’t want that to happen! We as an industry really MUST get behind this and support it, promote it, and blow it up.

So, what do we do? How can we take this and run with it?

Check out this awesome video!

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

What do you think of this video we found? We think it’s awesome. Have you heard about this Auburn tree poisoning thing?

PS. I’ll post my latest video, “Dormancy” very soon. ~A

To change the world, get off the couch.

Friday, February 11th, 2011

This is no time for a nap, Superman.

Hey, there. You’re so comfortable being Clark Kent that you’re too scared to show the world your superpowers. What, are you waiting for an invitation? For the world to come to a sudden stop, for people to come crawling on their hands and knees, begging for your help? It doesn’t work like that. You need to get over yourself.

So you’re shy. You hate self-promotion. Never been one to toot your own horn, and you don’t think much of the folks that do. Yeah, we get it. You’re a real salt-of-the-earth farm boy. Understood.

But you have something that nobody else has. And the world needs you … desperately. Even more so than they realize, and by the time they wake up to the problem, it may be too late.

You see, your product is the one thing–the only thing– that can reduce carbon, purify air and water, reduce erosion, moderate temperatures. And you do it all without breaking a sweat! Your superpowers put all the other heroes to shame, yet you still shun the spotlight. Does that make you somehow more noble?

You have the answer, Superman. So what if the world could care less?

Click to see the full poster.

The Superman poster on-site at the ANLA Clinic.

Creator’s Commentary: This was the first poster in the series, and the idea dates back several years to a meeting that the ANLA arranged at the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) with representatives from the EPA to discuss the problem of plastic containers going to landfills. Their message to growers and pot manufacturers was basically a threat: “Fix this problem because you don’t want us to fix it for you.” At the time I was amazed that these regulators could not see any distinction between our product and, say, a can of soda or an ink-jet printer. It did not matter that the thing INSIDE the packaging was the ONLY THING known to man that actually fixes CO2, creates O2, prevents erosion, produces shade, purifies water…etc.

At that meeting I said something like, “Hey, our product is Superman. This whole plastic pot thing is like we have our cape tucked into our shorts.”

I really do believe that plants are like Superman, and that we in our industry (myself included) act like Clark Kent. We have let every other product brazenly declare their green-cred and environmental consciousness while we quietly sit by and get criticized because we use plastic pots, synthetic fertilizer and necessary pesticides. Who’s fault is that?

For this poster, I first searched for a picture of Superman with his cape tucked into his red shorts. Didn’t find one. (So I came up with the Mother Teresa analogy for that idea, which I will post soon.) I did find an interesting one from the cartoon, Challenge of the Superfriends, of Superman looking into a circus mirror (and this gave me the idea for the “Your Mirror is a Liar” poster).

The photo I used is stolen directly from the poster for the film “Confessions of a Superhero” by Matt Ogens, which is a quirky look at self-delusion exhibited by people dressing up as super heroes on Hollywood Blvd.

In my opinion, the best part of this image is the wallpaper. Wallflower indeed! Get off the couch!


Un-Thankful Turkeys Think We Need to Grow Up

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. As I prepare to sit down to two family meals today, I’d like to thank all the farmers out there who work so hard to produce my food. I’m also thankful to the researchers in land-grant universities and many extension agents for their vital contributions. Also, to all the tractor and combine companies out there. I’m even thankful for the big, “evil” seed and chemical conglomerates. What a bounty they provide us!

There probably aren’t many who are thinking what I’m thinking.

Today, our world and culture are divorced from the soil. We don’t know what it means to plant with hope, to wait for rain, to weed, prune or harvest. So even at Thanksgiving, most Americans are either oblivious to agriculture or even worse, they are hostile to it. 

Which of these do you think is better for the environment? The farm of the left, or the "tower of Babel" on the right?

Here’s an example of an “un-thankful turkey” I stumbled across. Have you heard of “vertical farming?” Dickson Despommier, a professor at Columbia in NYC, has written a book called The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century. According to the Vertical Farm Project website, this concept ”has excited scientists, architects, and politicians around the globe.” I notice that they make NO MENTION of excited farmers, horticulturalists or anyone with any knowledge of agriculture. 

The basic idea is that agriculture is dysfunctional and unable to meet the future needs of our world. Despommier isn’t thankful to our farmers or the agriculture industry. He proposes that we abandon the concept of the family farm and build massive skyscrapers in urban locations to grow our food hydroponically and organically. 

Most of us could poke a lot of holes in this idea, but it’s already been done for us. Check out this interview of the author on the Colbert Report:

Dickson Despommier

Pretty funny, but consider that Colbert’s act is to mock things that he and his audience agree with. Here’s the lesson I take away: an alarming number of intelligent leaders in the fields of education, politics, economics, planning, design and architecture do not understand our world of farming. They think agriculture essentially rapes and poisons the earth. Their ideal world would be one without farms, without tractors, without pesticides, fertilizers, and overhead irrigation. 

I wish we could laugh this “vertical farming” off, but I have a feeling the philosophy at its heart will persist. 

There are many things going on right now that we are inclined to ignore or dismiss. With “Plants vs Zombies” I was trying to point out that a game we think is irrelevant actually reveals our own irrelevance to the current culture. With “Vertical Farming” I want to suggest that when it comes to solving future agricultural/horticultural/environmental issues we are not seen as having solutions…in fact, many think we are the problem! 


PS: I haven’t actually read the book. Think I should?

PPS: One last comment. Think this topic isn’t on anyone’s mind? Go to Google. Type in “farm.” Click “images” on the left-hand column. What I find is that two of the images are of concepts for this “vertical farming.” I believe that this idea is on someone’s mind.