By Kevin Tuerff
President and Co-founder
After a business trip to Germany last week, I made a quick side trip to Salzburg, Austria, where I saw the famous mansion where the Sound of Music was filmed. Do you remember the scene at the gazebo where Liesl sings to Rolfe, “I am 16, going on 17?”
EnviroMedia is like Rolfe: today our company is 17, going on 18. Indeed, we are older and wiser.
February 10, 1997: I’ll never forget the car ride to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, with my friend and business partner Valerie Davis. We were on our way to register Tuerff-Davis EnviroMedia, Inc., as a small business. We’d been working on our business plan for months, but we had never discussed what we’d really do if our new venture failed. We agreed we’d commit the next five years of our career to make it work.
We had certainly answered the question from our parents several times, “Exactly who is going to hire you to do public relations about improving the environment?” We knew there was a market. As former employees of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, we sat on the client side, managing an ad/PR agency. But we knew we could do better. We had put in our 10,000 hours working with regulated entities—industries, companies and local governments. By touring landfills, recycling plants, rice farms, oil refineries, and water treatment facilities, we picked up knowledge of the scientific, economic, political and social aspects of pollution prevention and conservation.
Seventeen years ago, our first client was the National Recycling Coalition, and it was our job to develop a public-private partnership called America Recycles Day (Nov. 15). In its first year, we recruited more than 40 states to participate, along with corporate sponsors. The event generated more than 400,000 recycling pledges from Americans as we held a national contest for the “Great American Green Dream Home.” All the attention contributed to the spike our country saw in recycling into the late ’90s. Seventeen years later, this event is being well managed by Keep America Beautiful.
What we didn’t know then is that in 2014, the world’s environmental and public health challenges would be even greater than we could imagine. Back in ’97, the climate was already changing, but it wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. Wind turbines had been around for hundreds of years, but we didn’t know there would be a global renewable energy industry. The US government conducted its first public education campaigns about conservation during World War II, but that was a different era, with different challenges. Today, water and energy conservation are critical strategies for growing cities and industries. Over the years, we’ve developed hundreds of successful behavior change campaigns on air, water, waste and energy issues for both public and private sectors. A healthy environment requires a healthy community, so our focus on public health and emergency preparedness has been just as critical.
In our sixteenth year as a business, EnviroMedia continued to evolve. We moved into a new, sustainability built headquarters in East Austin, we have two EU-based Global Fortune 500 clients, and we opened a new East Coast office in Washington, D.C. to complement our West Coast office in Portland, Oregon.
Our office is closed every February 10th to celebrate Founders’ Day. Yet, Valerie and I are so grateful to the passionate, creative EnviroMedians (past and present) who helped us prove we could produce authentic marketing to keep the planet healthy, and still make a profit as a business.
Hello world, we’re here to help.