Give your produce the green seal of approval

04/19/2013 09:36:00 AM
Denise Donohue

Denise Donohue, Donohue AssociatesDenise Donohue, Donohue AssociatesI had my epiphany on produce sustainability while staring at bottles of bright-blue fluid in the grocery cleaning aisle.

I’ve been buying said blue window cleaner for nigh on 25 years now. It reeks of ammonia and may be spritzed onto all manner of surfaces to wipe away my family’s detritus.

So I was picking up some more when I noticed the package had been changed. Suddenly, it bore a green leaf proclaiming it to be a green cleaner.

Well, what have we here?

The blue fluid was slightly — very slightly — less blue. Everything else looked the same.

But, suddenly, it was “green.” Don’t know how I was supposed to verify that. Oh yeah, I wasn’t.

Like most marketing, I’m asked to take it at face value.

And then it hit me: The product is as green as its manufacturer says it is. Presumably, the mondo-manufacturer isn’t putting a worse product out there, but how would I know? There’s no universal green seal or green police out there.

Imagine! “Green police” looking like Batman’s Green Hornet: Flashy green suit and a green mask with a pointy nose piece, searching your grocery store for fake environmental stories.

But I digress. Of course, I took the product home — I had detritus to clean.

This instance spurred a line of thought that I could not shake: Why are we in the growing business so reluctant to toot our green horns? Most growers, and their packers and shippers, have a bona fide good-for-the-earth story to tell.

Are we suffering inappropriate guilt? Cowed by environmentalist-inspired lawsuits that force the EPA to outlaw chemicals for no real reason?

Most of the time, it’s like our mouths are glued shut about the many good things horticulture does for the earth because we must combat some aspects of nature to harvest perfect produce.

I will pause right here and say in all seriousness that I believe in being truthful, honest and transparent. Those are the ethical credentials I’ve pledged to uphold as an accredited and practicing public relations professional. If you don’t have ethics you’re nowhere.

If you can’t honestly tell consumers you’re doing well for the earth, then better to be silent than to make false claims that will be your undoing.

And if you are knowingly damaging the earth or environment in some way, I hope you clean up your act or get caught.

For the other 99.9% of growers, let’s toot the green horn this season.

Green products — sustainable products, environmentally friendly products, ethical products (this category meets certain standards — whose I don’t know) — are what young shoppers prefer to buy.


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Belinda Fitzpatrick    
Lansing  |  April, 22, 2013 at 04:52 PM

It's kind of like the clean thing. We don't notice it until it's not there. When we are doing the right thing we kind of don't notice it. We should take notice, give ourself credit and explain to people why what we do makes a difference. Somethings we cannot quantitate. Kind of like that Christmas movie about the man/woman who got to see the difference they had made by living their life. God only knows exactly what difference we made, but we know when we are working toward the right direction. When I can tomatoes I think of the money I save, but I don't think about the decrease in externalities. I know I caused someone to loose some profits by keeping money in my pocket. These profits are generally viewed as doing good for our economy. We don't consider how much waste there is associated with this profit. Fresh Produce, which is walking the talk of having traveled the road less traveled by not traveling, does so much good by what it doesn't do that it is difficult to notice something that isn't done. Thanks Denise for causing us to think about this.

Kathy Means    
PMA, Newark, DE  |  April, 23, 2013 at 02:53 PM

Yes! Let's tell our industry's sustainability story, one company at a time. We're always looking for such stories. Packaging, conservation, innovative processes, energy/water reduction, community engagement. Check out the stories we have at http://bit.ly/15GuBa6. Then send us your story so we can include it. You deserve credit for your sustainability activities.

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