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Green marketing - a thousand flowers blooming, or weeds?

Hardly a day goes by that I don't get email or telephone pitches from public relations folks touting this or that "green" innovation or commitment by their business.

Here's a sampling from the past week:

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"'Tis the Season to Go Green": A press release offering "tips on how to decorate for the holidays while remaining environmentally friendly."  Mixed in among the useful, if not exactly orginal ideas of recycling your gift wrap and using fewer lights on the old yule tree are suggestions that you buy a couple specific brands of window shades.  The precocious release (it's not even Halloween yet!) came from Hunter Douglas, a company that makes window shades, among other things.

"Eco Friendly Car Rental Site ... Announces U.S. Launch":  Vroom Vroom Vroom, an Australian-founded car-rental outfit, has crossed the ocean to offer US drivers "a fast, hassle-free and environmentally friendly" ride while on the road.  In addition to promising quicker, cheaper rentals, the company also offers free "carbon offset" credits with each rental.  I haven't had a chance to vet just how free these offsets are, or whether they truly negate all the carbon dioxide your trip would generate.  There's nothing on the company's home page, though, about how green their rentals are, so maybe they're not that proud of that after all.

"Pepsi Ups Its Online Eco Efforts": Instead of sending me her own press release, the rep this time saved some energy and emailed me an article from a marketing magazine touting the soft-drink giant's unveiling of a pair of "green" Web sites.  One offers consumers "Pepsi Stuff" points for taking a quiz about recycling, redeemable for "green" apparel or even a SmartCar.  The other Web site spells out Pepsi's "Eco Challenge," a takeoff on an old marketing slogan that commits the company to reducing its water, electricity and fuel consumption in making its drinks.  Soft drink manufacturers have been under assault for the health and environmental impacts of their products, in case you hadn't heard.  Check back in 2015 or so to see if they fulfilled their pledges.

These and other business pitches came on the heels of another email, also from a public relations company, Makovsky & Company. The grabby headline on it was "Exposing the 'Green Gap.'"  The release said a recent Harris Interactive survey had found that the vast majority of corporate leaders say they are personally concerned about climate change and the environment.  However, the release also reported that far fewer executives say their companies are actually following their personal convictions.

All of the company products, policies and pledges mentioned above may well be sincere and legitimate.  I have no reason to think otherwise.  But when taken together, I'm reminded that actions speak louder than press releases.  Caveat emptor.

UPDATE: VroomVroomVroom now has a prominent blurb on its home page touting its cost-free carbon offsets.  Maybe they do see some profit in promoting their green-ness.  Their PR account executive emailed me that earlier, "the page was technically up, but there was a glitch adding the link from the home page." I'm pretty digitally illiterate, so I'll take her word for it.

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