At EnviroMedia, we’re fortunate to meet a lot of people with great stories as we work to improve public health and the environment. With the help of our staff, I’ve compiled a top 10 list for 2008 of our best ‘make-a-difference’ moments.
10. Helping E. Texas school kids post-hurricane Ike
Four of the elementary schools in Beaumont ravaged by the hurricane received a fun, interactive tobacco prevention outreach program from the cartoon DUCK mascot, courtesy of the Texas Education Agency. One of the school counselors tearfully expressed her thanks and said “No-one does anything for these kids. Thank you for coming.”
9. Climate Change Diplomacy with Brazil while lost on a train in Poland
A few weeks ago, four EnviroMedians (author included) thought they were starting their journey from Poznan, Poland back to Austin. They were leaving a successful UN Climate Change Conference, boarding a direct train for Berlin, Germany. Or so we thought. Turns out we boarded was headed 200 miles in the wrong direction, northwest to the Polish-Germany border.
Another UN delegate named Milton Noguiera, from Brazil, made the same mistake we did. He saved us by helping us figure out how to catch a 1.5 hour shuttle from the Polish border to our intended destination.
While riding the train through Poland, Milton shared his opinions on what Brazilians thought about America and our reluctance to fight climate change. We spoke about Brazil’s success of using sugarcane ethanol to fuel 90 percent of their vehicles, and also their country’s terrible problem of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. He asked us about American politics and the strength of environmental groups here.
8. Tackling Dipping and Racism in West Texas
We saw lots of young men throwing their cans of Skoal into the trash, in order to receive a free “Spit-It-Out” hat at the Future Farmers of America convention in Lubbock. This is the newest tobacco prevention campaign for the Texas Department of State Health Services. Everyone loves the new hard-hitting jackelope TV ad we produced.
A young, white teen from San Angelo had his horizons broadened by interacting with our staff/talent emcee, Terrell, who is African-American, “Mr. Terrell, I always heard black people were cool, but I never knew it was true until I met you!”
7. Empowering Gulf Coast Families post-Katrina and pre-Ike
The State’s “Ready or Not?” campaign seemed to give people an outlet to talk about their emergency preparedness experiences. Our ad campaign and helpful Web site drew lots of people to our outreach events at dozens of Wal-Mart and H-E-B stores across the state. Many people shared stories of 2005 Hurricane Katrina evacuations, house fires, heart attacks, etc. This campaign empowered thousands of people to be prepared when Hurricane Ike crisis hit the Galveston area earlier this year.
6. Fewer Deaths Among Lake Travis Partiers
Our crew of trained lifeguards heard lots of, “Throw me a t-shirt!” when they visited Devil’s Cove on Lake Travis this summer. Not until they answered some trivia questions about water safety. This year, we added outreach to Spanish-speaking visitors. LCRA’s “Nobody’s Waterproof” campaign continues to help reduce the number of drowning deaths on the state’s most deadliest lake.
5. Litter Force K-900 Mascot Dog-napped in Houston
On April 5, our Don’t Mess with Texas road tour crew went out to their van parked in a Houston hotel parking lot, only to find it was vandalized. Even worse: K-900, the kids’ favorite mascot of the Litter Force, was stolen! Our media relations team quickly turned lemons into lemonade, getting the full story about the new elementary school litter prevention program on almost every TV station in Houston (which is a huge coup). The culprit was never caught (had to be the “Evil Trash”) but that publicity led to greater awareness of the problem and the new Texas Department of Transportation program.
4. Drought Reinforces Importance of Water Conservation
“I saw your ads, and now I know my water comes from Lake Lavon,” one man told our outreach team at a Lowe’s store in Plano. Our team convinced him to buy drought-tolerant plants, and to check his sprinler system for leaks. Thanks to some trendy new Water IQ give-a-ways, we’ve helped make conserving water the cool thing to do in many parts of Texas.
Central Texas faced a year-long extreme drought. Through years of bridge-building between local governments, we convinced the Lower Colorado River Authority, city of Austin and city of Cedar Park to collaborate on the Water IQ campaign. This year, they promoted new, consistent lawn watering rules for the region.
3. West Coast Expansion: New Office in Portland, Oregon
After meeting with dozens of business, government and environmental leaders, we determined there was a great need for our social marketing services out West. We chose Portland, Oregon to mine for new business opportunities. We were so impressed with the work of the Oregon Environmental Council, we made a sizable donation to the non-profit group. After just seven weeks, our initial prospecting paid off, winning two competitive contracts, one promoting alternative fuels for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and another promoting healthy food choices to food stamp recipients through the Oregon State University’s Extension Service.
2. Reducing Greenhouse Gases, One Home at a Time
Thanks to a huge wave of awareness about climate change, and some unique advertising strategies, our clients at Green Mountain Energy announced they had a 70 percent increase in sales of renewable power in 2007. We also helped them expand to South Texas by producing their first-ever ads targeted to Spanish-speaking Texans.
In 2007 these facilities generated more than 319,000 MWh of new renewable energy. All of these facilities together have been responsible for avoiding the use of more than 530,000 tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Green Mountain Energy should also be commended for top honors for its customer satisfaction rating in a survey of electricity competitors by J.D. Power & Associates.
1. Fighting HIV with Family Portraits
A mother of 7 was able to get a family portrait for the first time ever. She’s never been able to afford it before. Thanks to “Fight HIV”, a DSHS outreach event at Kwaanza Fest in Dallas, it was free.
2008 Was our Best Year at EnviroMedia
Working with the University of Oregon, giving birth to the Greenwashing Index (www.greenwashingindex.com) was risky last January, but it was well worth it: Together we catapulted our national reputation through news stories in TIME and Newsweek magazines, on NBC’s TODAY Show and dozens of other media outlets.
We also gave birth this year to a new subsidiary company, Green Canary Sustainability Consulting. We have great hopes for consulting with new corporate clients to help them get their green house in order and improve their own sustainability efforts before they could even greenwash.
We once again saw the excitement that makes EnviroMedia special. We headed off to Poznań, Poland as delegates at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, establishing new business contacts, blogging for multiple media outlets and enhancing our credibility as one of a handful of U.S. business leaders in attendance. We represented the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development.
WALKING THE TALK
Our staff did all of this amazing work, while picking up hundreds of pounds of litter on three roadside locations in Travis and Hays counties, six times throughout the year, organizing a building-wide e-waste recycling collection on America Recycles Day, distributing thousands of dollars in cash to strangers for the seventh annual Pay It Forward 9/11, and delivering 750 warm lunches to seniors through Meals on Wheels.
Yes, all of this, doing good for the world, while having the best financial year in our 12-year company history. We are all truly blessed with great clients and great staff.
Tags: Best of 2008, climate change, Department of State Health Services, Don't Mess with Texas, drought, emergency preparedness, EnviroMedia, environment, Green Canary Sustainability Consulting, greenhouse gases, HIV, Hurricane Ike, LCRA, litter prevention, Portland, Poznan, public health, UNFCCC, water conservation, water safety