What Environmentally Friendly Communications Means to Me

ebashydotcom-kermitKermit was right: It’s not easy being green.

Especially when communicating about it.

As the communications director for San Diego Coastkeeper, I often find myself asking, “Is this the most environmentally friendly option available?” Much like Rachel discovered when she blogged about the new plastics recycling rules in San Diego, I have learned it’s not so clear. Just when I think I’ve hit an environmentally sound communications solution, I learn another way to improve that idea even more.

Let me break it down to you. Let’s say that you want to reduce your carbon footprint for your daily commute to work. You drive an older sedan. Easy, you think, I’ll just buy a new Electric Nissan Leaf, and my gas mileage will improve, maybe double.

Say hello to your shrinking carbon footprint, right? Not necessarily.

A quick search shows that the carbon footprint to produce and transport a new car isn’t necessarily smaller than that to maintain the life of your older car. And did you consider the environmental impact of charging your electric car (Are you using solar polar? And if so, did that come from a roof top or imported from a solar field out in the desert)? You need to think of what type of energy you’ll use to repower your car and the impact of the growing need for electrical recharge stations around your city (Will the city have to build new stations to accommodate the demand?).

So, let’s say you decide to ditch your car and get a bike.

Talk about kicking foreign oil dependence to the curb, right? Wrong.

Most bikes aren’t manufactured in the U.S., and it takes a lot of oil to produce a bicycle. And then add the mileage of worldwide transport of the components and the finished bikes. You also would have to vet the sustainability of each company. I bet you’d hate to find out the manufacturer of your favorite components actually funds opposition to the Marine Life Protection Act.

So maybe you decide to walk to work.

But did you evaluate the environmental impact of your walking shoes? And even if you go barefoot, do you know the carbon footprint of your meat-based diet?

See where this is going? With so many choices and so many hidden truths, we face a challenge to make the most sustainable decisions possible. So, for me, and for Coastkeeper’s communication program, being green means continually improving our commitment to sustainable practices. Some of the things we consider are:

  • Do we need to print this? We switched to electronic fliers for events and a digital annual report.
  • What types of inks can we use? Avoid petroleum-based inks by trying soy-based inks.
  • Where are our vendors located and what are their sustainable practices? We support our local guys (which means riding bikes to press checks).
  • What materials are used? We look for 100% recycled materials and organic options.
  • What’s the end use? We try to minimize landfill-bound items. Better if they can be recycled. Even better if they are reusable.
  • Is this necessary? We try to walk the line between employing strong communications, which sometimes demands printed materials, and acting as strong environmental stewards, who need to think environment first.

Clearly, this isn’t an exhaustive list. With each project, I strive to add more bullet points and improve our sustainability in each category.

It seems daunting. Where should you begin if you haven’t thought about any of these issues? The good news is that taking the right path begins with one step–choose today to improve one environmental standard in your life. And then choose tomorrow to improve another standard. And so on. Eventually, you will walk a marathon of “being green.”

Maybe Kermit wasn’t so right.