2018 was the year the mainstream woke up to the sheer scale of the damage we have wreaked on our planet. As more people became aware of the issues, no longer did bar staff look at you strangely when you refused a straw, a plastic bag, or wanted to use a reusable cup.
Communications play such an important role in raising awareness of the problems and what we can do to help. Slowly, we can begin to change attitudes and behaviours.
As I have written about before, marketing, and particularly copywriting, is often regarded by ethical campaigners and businesses as ‘the evil side’. But without a marketing strategy, and persuasive copy to go with it, many campaigns wouldn’t even get off the starting line.
Read on for my pick of the awareness-raising and ethical campaigns in 2018 that caught my attention.
Straws suck and balloons blow
If you’ve been interested in sustainable living for a while, then you’ll likely be familiar with ‘the big four’. The four single-use items that most of us can easily cut out are plastic bags, disposable coffee cups, water bottles, and straws.
Arguably, the campaign to refuse straws has had the biggest impact, perhaps because it’s the most easily-preventable. They’re everywhere and hard to shake. Every time you order an orange juice, a smoothie, a cocktail, chances are it will be accompanied by an innocuous-looking plastic straw. Sometimes two. But this seemingly harmless straw is far from it, and public consciousness has certainly been helped by the video of a turtle with a straw lodged up its nose.
But we need to make sure that the straw ban isn’t distracting us from other issues. Some people really do need straws, and cannot use metal, paper or silicon ones for various reasons. The solution? Perhaps the food industry should stop producing them as standard, and keep them behind the counter, for use by ANYONE who needs them, without judgement. Sure, some people who don’t really need them will still ask for straws, but most won’t even notice they’re gone.
In the same vein as Straws Suck is Balloons Blow, who raise awareness of balloon releases and encourage the public to stop or report balloon releases.
Encouraging millennials to be an Unfucker
Not mincing their words, Be an Unfucker encourages people to do just that. They argue that changing just one thing is the start of making a difference, and it’s up to us all, not the die-hard environmentalists. Their website and social media presence is full of easy steps we can take to become an unfucker. From refusing vegetable produce bags to ditching the disposables, it’s all broken down into easy chunks.
In their own words, ‘caring can spread. It’s just like the movie Contagion but with less death and mouth foaming.’ Top marks for the millennial-friendly copy!
Conscious-raising stickers have been around for a while. At least, they’ve been slathered over adverts for West End productions on the tube here in London. But what is different about Activistickers is that they provide small snippets of information, which can be placed in highly-targeted areas. An image of a plastic bag and a jelly fish side-by-side, with the words ‘you can see the difference, a turtle can’t’ placed next to produce bags? That’s got to get some people rethinking their old habits.
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Iceland’s banned palm oil advert: bandwagon or conscious-raising?
The victim of over-zealous regulatory bodies, or a clever marketing ploy? Whether intended or not, Iceland’s decision to use Greenpeace’s film as its festive advert certainly helped bring an important issue out in the open.
Palm oil farming is responsible for a whole host of issues including deforestation, destroying the livelihoods of indigenous populations and severe pollution.
As a result of the ban, the topic received a lot of exposure and was the subject of widespread discussion.
I have to admit that, although I was aware of the issues surrounding palm oil, I was not aware of the extent of its use. We don’t buy Nutella. But we were not quite aware of the extent of its presence in many more items, including beauty products.
Let’s make our crafts plastic-free
If, like me, you enjoy making arts and crafts, you’ll likely have felt the frustration at the amount of plastic packaging craft suppliers are encase din. And it’s not just the packaging – a lot of the tools themselves are plastic, when in the past they were metal or wooden.
With the demise of crafts, often there is little choice in our haberdashery departments. If we need a needle, we buy what is on offer, responsibly-packaged or not.
No Serial Number have launched a campaign to pressurise craft supplies retailers to make the move to plastic-free. Crafters are encouraged to share their plastic-free crafting finds, to consider alternatives where possible, and spreads the word on social media.
Turkey may not have yet made it onto our plates at the end of November. But one all-American tradition has: Black Friday. You cannot fail to have noticed the deluge of Black Friday deals and sales on offer. Perhaps you have even taken advantage of a good deal yourself.
Just ten years ago, few of us were aware of this post-Thanksgiving tradition. Since then, awareness has stepped up a dial or two. Now it’s just another excuse for big brands to try to get us to buy more things we don’t need. And a study by Which Magazine found that 87% of so-called deals were not the cheapest price of the year.
Smaller, usually more ethical producers, often cannot keep up. Their decision to ensure fair pay for the entire supply chain, to ensure that packaging is sustainable or biodegradable, and their use of more environmentally-friendly materials often means that slashing prices will make them a loss.
Ethical Hour launched the Shop Ethical Instead campaign. This campaign encourages consumers to explore ethical retailers selling sustainable products and find out more about ethical living.
For several years, Pieminister have run their own twist on Black Friday with their Black Pieday campaign. Giving away their surplus stock in exchange for a donation, the proceeds went to the homeless charity Shelter. A great way to combine raising money for the homeless with tackling food waste.
Just a card can make all the difference
So many independent shops struggle to survive despite the compliments they receive from customers leaving empty-handed. What if, every time someone visits an independent art gallery, gift shop or card shop, they bought just a card? This is the thinking behind the Just A Card campaign. By just buying one card, you make a small contribution to the shop’s future.
This is a topic that’s very close to home for me. Within weeks of the credit crunch hitting, my parents opened a small gallery exhibiting works by local artists. Many people passed through the doors, mentioned how much they loved the products but often left empty-handed. If each of these browsers had bought just a card, perhaps the gallery would still be open today.
A related environmental campaign is the Naked Pledge campaign. Encouraging card producers to ditch traditional cello wraps, they can pledge to supply all cards ‘naked’, without the pesky cello wrap.
Are you a small ethical or sustainable business inspired by these ethical campaigns of 2018? Thinking of running your own? It will need to be supported by persuasive and compelling copy. Luckily that comes easily to me – get in touch if you want to discuss how I can help you.