WHEN IS ENOUGH TOO MUCH? Well, I’ve got a few recent media-oversaturation-gone-rampant examples, bete noires, if you will, in the Black Keys’ “Gold on the Ceiling” (a cool track, I readily admit) being used as outro theme music + imagery incessantly during NCAA March Madness college basketball coverage to the point where it’s now only infuriating noise to me (and really, truly, I like these guys!), and an annoying omnipresent promo bug (not Black Keys related) futzing up the stellar high-def images of Discovery Channel’s new Frozen Planet series about the arctic and antarctic—this lower-right-situated onscreen bug, complete with distracting motion, was for another one of the network’s shows they’re pushing, which I can’t even remember the name of and wouldn’t watch anyway as its promotion just about ruined the fantastic experience of Frozen Planet‘s two-hour premiere!

So yes, enough can quite often be too much and a downright counterproductive media buy or tool in a world where we are already overwhelmed with the ubiquity of advertising, from our can’t-be-without, continuing-to-multiply mobile devices to entertainment events where sideline billboards constantly morph to increase their shill factor, competing with the game, the very escapist nature of which we lose when Bud Light Platinum looms large again and again in cascading digital-display rotation as our proffered beverage of choice. More-is-better, beat-’em-to-submission media buyers, can we please please please just give it a rest, already?

The story collection from which "Sales Pitch" comes

In Philip K. Dick’s short story “Sales Pitch,” all the way back from the gray-flannel-suit era of 1954 but posited in the far-flung future, our weary, bettle-browed protagonist, Ed Morris, is assaulted by in-his-face advertising on his grueling commute home from Ganymede to Terra: “Ads waited on all sides,” Dick practically sneers, “he steered a careful course, dexterity born of animal desperation, but not all could be avoided. Despair seized him. The outline of a new audio-visual ad was already coming into being.”

Annoying ads and robot salesmen continue the onslaught once he’s at home, of course, and, you’d hope, where he’d finally be able to relax. Morris seeks an exit, literally out of our solar system, to a 100-years’-behind-the-present world: “We’ll have to get used to a simpler life,” he tells his wife. “The way our ancestors lived.” Lots more happens here, but suffice it to say, it does not end well and the story is a downer, depressing parable.

Back to the present. Yeah, there are real ways (as well as well-articulated movements) to “simplify” or avoid this aforementioned saturation bombing, but when you do want to imbibe, to interact with cultural “products” or artistically driven manifestations in the pop arena or learn something refreshingly new or even just chill out and watch some hoop (and who doesn’t, even if it’s not college basketball?), do you need to keep the remote, headphones or blinders handy?

Here’s where I think we, the end-users, tune things out (like talking aloud over those annoying in-movie-theater commercials—Hey, didn’t we just drop $12 apiece to be here for purely entertainment purposes?!*) and muck up the sought-after results, the ROI, if you will, of the media buyers and their clients’ sales pitches. Yep, enough is by far too much here, and unlike Dick’s character Ed Morris, there is no off-planet escape to Centaurus, no matter how doomed the move.

On the marketers’ side, it’s an appeal to think things thoroughly through, carefully consider the time and place for each buy, especially when pondering bunching things up to beat back the competition and win a war of attrition with the consumer. In the green space, where treading lightly is even more highly valued (or has the appearance to be), there’s even a greater danger of backfiring and really irking your intended target market.

Nevertheless, yes, I still enjoy the Black Keys (“Gold on the Ceiling” not so much, despite its killer organ plunking and all-around catchiness) and plan on continuing to watch Frozen Planet (but not whatever show they “bugged” it with). Careful, select navigation and the learned ability to “detune” come with the territory, and in direct regard to these sales pitches, we ultimately vote, that is, have our say, with our wallets and online clicks.

Allen

*Or as Geoff Dyer notes in his new book, Zona, on ADD-enabling, hyperbolic coming attractions, which, in essence, are Hollywood-industrial complex advertisements for its own (often dire) products: “[T]his has become some of the most debased wonder in the history of the earth. It means explosions, historical epics in which the outcome of the Battle of Hastings is reversed by the arcane CGI prowess of Merlin the Magician, it means five-year-old children turning suddenly into snarling devils, it means wrecking cars and reckless driving, it means lots of noise, it means that I have to time my arrival carefully (twenty minutes at least) after the advertised programme time if I am to avoid all this stuff which, if one were exposed to it for the full hour and a half, would cause one’s capacity for discernment to drop by fifty percent (or, conversely, one’s ability to tolerate stuff like this to increase a hundredfold). […] It means that there are more and more things on the street, in shops, on-screen and on telly from which one has to avert one’s ears and eyes.” [Emphasis added]

WITH THE WORLD YET AGAIN MIRED IN INESCAPABLE MISERY, CATASTROPHE AND DESPAIR*, along comes the electro-opiate spread of sheer sporting escapism known as the FIFA World Cup to ease and distract our troubled minds. And better yet, they’ve gone green to offset all that travel—South Africa’s a significant haul for most participants and their fans, after all—and mass consumption that comes part and parcel of such a month-long, multi-city, multi-venue spectacle.

The World Cup’s “Green Goal” program began at the 2006 games in Germany with carbon-footprint-reducing offsets front and center, and has expanded with this year’s event, with commitments to doing more and doing it better, and showing last year’s lackluster climate talks in Copenhagen a thing or two when it comes to taking a united global stand against climate change. Time to make some noise with your vuvuzela—or considering its hornetlike buzz, perhaps not.

The Green Goal program includes offsetting teams’ emissions, more energy-efficient lighting and “green passports,” which I’ll explain in a moment. Over half the 32 teams participating are offsetting the carbon they generate from travel and hotel stays, Reuters reports. PUMA alone is paying for offsets of 18 teams, which wear the athletic company’s uniforms and gear. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF), meanwhile, is behind the smarter lighting initiative, providing energy-efficient lighting in the stadiums and solar street lighting of six host cities.

The green passport is a 32-page booklet encouraging tourism that respects the environment and helps boost the economic and social development of local communities, as well as discussing green goals, plans and accomplishments. The handy guide also includes a carbon footprint calculator and information about green accommodations, restaurants and activities.

But wait, there’s more. Nine teams, thanks to Nike, are wearing jerseys made from recycled plastic bottles. There’s also a new high-speed train, the Gautrain, now online in Johannesburg, providing fast and reliable mass transit—it opened just 3 days before matchplay began at the World Cup.

Okay, so we’re talking sport here, 90+ minutes per match of diversion that often encompasses a nationalistic bent, a rather simple game that’s played the world over (yes, in the good ol’ US of A, too, and on a professional level), but there are some very positive lessons to be learned concerning the efficacious greening of the World Cup, just as there are from the game’s healthy competition, camaraderie and level playing field—just watch a game, if you haven’t yet, and pick up on its effervescent spirit, shared passion, commitment and excellence, the striving for greatness that involves teamwork as much as individual ability, focus and performance. We’re all in this together! seems to be a rallying cry.

And with the games held for the first time in South Africa, and on the African continent, which has certainly had more than its fair share of misery, catastrophe and despair, it’s encouraging to see how smoothly this world-engaging spectacle has unfolded as it nears the end of its glorious first week. We may not have witnessed a simpatico vibe at the Bonn climate talks that ended as the World Cup commenced, but perhaps by the next major climate summit in Mexico at the end of the year there may be some inspired shouting of “GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!”

Allen

*I know, when truly isn’t it to one degree or another?

“Our challenge is to make radical, challenging green stuff that sets new standards normal (it is not enough to make normal stuff seem greener).”—John Grant, The Green Marketing Manifesto

GOING GREEN HITS ITS STRIDE with the bright and buoyant, fast and fabulous Brooks Green Silence racing flats—”racing flats” are performance/competition running shoes for all you non-Runner’s-World-subscribing-I-live-to-trim-seconds-from-my-miles normal folks out there. These foot rockets go a long way (potentially literally) in proving that cradle-to-cradle eco-conscious design doesn’t have to compromise one iota to deliver a championship-calibre performance. Waterproof/breathable/ultra-lightweight hats off to Brooks for bringing these kicks to the finicky (read, I readily admit, elitist) marketplace of outdoor/sports-geek gear.

So what did Brooks do and how did the Green Silence perform when it came to race time? Let me share.

It all started several years ago when Brooks announced it was going to create a truly eco-friendly shoe, utilizing more eco-conscious design, manufacturing processes and sustainable materials; this may not be the full-blown, cross-the-board commitment of, say, a Patagonia (see Patagonia’s “Footprint Chronicles,” for example), but it’s a sizable DfE (Design for Environment) stride in the right direction. In 2008 Brooks launched the BioMoGo midsole, “the world’s first biodegradable running shoe midsole that breaks down 50 times faster than traditional midsoles in an enclosed, active landfill.” That same year Brooks also debuted a new shoe box made of fully biodegradable, 100-percent recycled paperboard. The Green Silence soon followed.

You can take a quick interactive tour of the Green Silence on the Brooks website, but here are the salient facts:

  • Constructed with just 48 percent as many parts as comparable shoes
  • More than 75 percent of the shoe’s materials are post-consumer recycled
  • All dyes, colorants and adhesives are nontoxic, with VOCs lowered by 65 percent
  • Midsoles, collar foams and sock liners are completely biodegradable

What you end up with is a lightweight racing flat—it weighs just 6.9 oz.—that features a minimal 8 mm offset, or drop, from heel to toe: you’re not running barefoot, by any stretch, but you’re low to the ground, and thanks to the compression-molded BioMoGo midsole, I found, well-cushioned. Just add human accelerant and you feel propelled forward by warm jets of eco-conscious good will!

Which gets me to my trial-by-fire race: the annual mid-May Pole Pedal Paddle relay race in Bend, Oregon. This crazy, fun, challenging event features six legs, starting with a downhill skier on Mt. Bachelor who slaps happy with a cross-country skier who fist bumps a bicyclist who quick taps a runner who passes speedy karma to a kayaker/canoer who finally lends spiritual propulsion to a sprinter who then crosses the finish line at the Les Schwab Ampitheater in Bend’s Old Mill District. Sound fun? It is. This year, the PPP’s 34th, had the most participants in its history, 3,005. The best time was posted by Marshall Greene of Bend at 1:44:27.

I was part of one of three teams from Journeys, a highly recommended wine bar and pub in Portland’s Multnomah Village neighborhood, and took part in both running legs. My Green Silence were anything but (and if that vibrant, asymmetrical gold and red color scheme doesn’t work for you, Brooks has more colors in the works), and easily got me under 6-minute miles on a course that included road, sidewalk, some trail, a few small climbs—and all at an average elevation of around 3,625 feet. The Green Silence fit comfortably, provided quite adequate support, created no race issues and had a springiness to them that made running a total pleasure—they totally kicked it. I also tried a little trail run with them, but unless you’re on smooth dirt only, I definitely wouldn’t recommend them in this capacity—nor would Brooks, I’m sure.

Way to go, Brooks, in setting a new standard in radical, challenging green stuff and truly embracing the DfE ethic. It may be “Silent steps to a Greener future,” but I want to make a lot of noise about it now. Looking forward to my next race in the Green Silence.

Allen

I’VE GOT A “MARCH MADNESS” CONFESSION TO MAKE: I’m doing pretty poorly with my first-round Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament choices (the eponymous bracketology in action here); as I write, I’m a paltry 15 and 8, and the day’s not done yet. Plus, my alma mater’s out again in the first round: SDSU falling to Tennessee 62-59 in a Midwest Regional rumble (Pete Thamel described the game as “low on aesthetics and high on missed shots” in The New York Times).

That said, and with scribble-scrabbled brackets flying madly about and determined bracketologists of all stripes filling out and updating their nope, nope, you’re wrong, this is the way it’s gonna be! brackets in sports bars, cafes, restaurants, waiting rooms, on public transportation, in the office, at home and abroad, what better time to consider ecologically sound printing, especially when it comes to such ephemeral, utilitarian uses.

Your best bet, of course, is to forego printing entirely and do it all electronically, on your computer or smart phone/handheld device—yep, there are numerous apps for that! (And I’m hoping Apple’s iPad, if and when widely adopted, can also help a great deal in this print-free, paper-saving realm—plus give journalism, and the quality writers who work in that realm, a boost. Go iPad, go!)

But if you opt for print, perhaps consider yourself strictly old school and want to have that physical piece—a bit tattered, torn and pilsner stained—one you can lord over friends and, well, hoopster frenemies, consider an environmentally friendly font that uses less ink. Case in point: the Ecofont. What the Ecofont lacks in creativity when it comes to its name it makes up for in its simple design: small holes in each letter, which don’t detract from readability; and it’s also sans serif, which means less whorls and curlicues that look nice but require more ink to adorn the page. The Ecofont typeface is open source and free to download and use. Free fonts, not all of them necessarily eco, are also available at ECO Fonts. It’s a little thing, unquestionably, but when applied in volume can make a big difference.

A couple of other tools to consider are PrintWhatYouLike, which helps you optimize a webpage for printing (so you don’t print all that extraneous junk, which can go on for pages!), and Greenprint, freeware which again helps optimize for printing but also works well with non-webpage sources. I also recommend you make smart paper choices; see our Green Dynamind post, “For (All) the Trees: The Forest Stewardship Council,” for more information.

And as for “ecological bracketology,” I’ve got Kansas winning it all this year, on the court and on my laptop + handheld device.

Allen