Chalk One Up for Social Networking: Earth Day Drops ChemLawn
Risa Edelstein didn’t let a moment pass. As soon as she heard in our SafeLawns Weekly Update last Monday, March 15, that TruGreen/ChemLawn had sponsored Earth Day, she posted a Facebook page titled, simply enough “STOP TruGreen from Sponsoring Earth Day.”
Hundreds of other SafeLawns members didn’t hesitate, either. The fan page was soon bustling with comments admonishing Earth Day administrators for accepting money from the the lawn care company with the worst environmental track record in North America history. At last count, the page had 757 “fans,” more than 600 of whom are also SafeLawns members or followers.
“Greenwashing is dangerous to our children’s health and environment,” posted Kristen Hayes-Yearick. “If TruGreen went truly green, I’d be the first to send them a letter of appreciation. TruGreen is using deceptive marketing to sell their product. Pesticides don’t stay just where they are sprayed and effect more than just their targeted pests.”
When the official joint announcement came out Tuesday — and all references to TruGreen were stripped from the Earth Day site — the stated reasons for the change of heart were predictably vague: “Due to unanticipated events, Earth Day Network and TruGreen regrettably announce their relationship for the 40th anniversary event has been suspended.”
The most obvious “event” was the half-million dollar fine handed down last week by the state of New York, which found TruGreen guilty of applying pesticides in the rain and wind and with unlicensed workers. Chances are Earth Day didn’t see that one coming. My guess, too, is that Earth Day would have let that slide had Earth Day president Kathleen Rogers not heard from hundreds of supporters of SafeLawns and other environmental and health organizations.
In the end, Earth Day had absolutely no choice but to send TruGreen packing. With the 40th anniversary barely a month away, the sponsorship would have grown to a major distraction, if not a total national outcry that would have left lasting scars.
And as much as Earth Day leadership is probably seething at the actions of of several hundred “activists” who made so much Internet noise in the past 10 days, the organization really owes you all a debt of gratitude for cutting this off at the pass — before Katie, Larry and Oprah started pointing their microphones in Earth Day’s direction. Now the organization can just get back to its mission of celebrating planetary stewardship. Lord knows we need all of that we can get.
Before this moment passes into a footnote of environmental history, however, let me say this: THANK YOU to Risa and so many others who proved, once again, that our voices still matter. Corporate largesse doesn’t always rule the day.