Academic journal article Americana : The Journal of American Popular Culture, 1900 to Present; Hollywood

"Every Drop Is Green": Bottled Water, the Wilderness Ideal, and the Evolution of Green Advertising

Academic journal article Americana : The Journal of American Popular Culture, 1900 to Present; Hollywood

"Every Drop Is Green": Bottled Water, the Wilderness Ideal, and the Evolution of Green Advertising

Article excerpt

"Every drop is green," proclaimed Fiji Water's 2008 marketing blitz. Like its much bigger competitors, Nestle (Perrier) and Coco-Cola (Dasani), the bottler began using alternative energies, lighter plastic, less packaging material, and more efficient shipping routes. Fiji Water, however, trumped the industry. It pledged not just to reduce its carbon emissions, or even merely to neutralize them, but to counteract the net impact of global climate change. According to its official website, FijiGreen.com, the company is offsetting remaining energy consumption by preserving and reforesting the Fiji's lush lowland rainforests, covering its net emissions by 120% and offering native Fijians employment opportunities other than logging.

FijiGreen.com continues to post laudatory praise by earth-loving fans, as well as by b-list entertainers, who tout the company's carbon negative campaign as an exemplary model of sustainable capitalism. The site will direct you to Elle magazine's 2008 green issue, which awarded Fiji Water a 2008 Green Award "alongside fellow recipients" Paul McCartney and Brad Pitt: "people, products and concepts that put energy and our planet in the right place." Spokesmen for Conservation International, the nonprofit group working with the company extol the virtues of compromise and caution skeptics and naysayers to wake up to a "consumer reality," where domestic sales of bottled water exceed those of beer and milk. In the last three decades, annual individual consumption has j-curved from 5.7 to 27.6 gallons. Pragmatism, they assert, dictates using "the economy as it exists to make a difference" (Deutch).

Such promotions are part of a wave of "green sheen" advertisements by long time enemies of the environmental movement, including the ("Clean") Coal industry, General Motors ("It's easy been Green") General Electric ("Using Ecomagination"), Wal-Mart ("Save and Live Green"), and, alas, British Petroleum ("Beyond Petroleum"). While marketers have appropriated environmental values for almost a century, only recently have so many industries asked people to ask themselves what saving nature means in a consumer society. Their unprecedented need to establish their sensitivity to global ecological dilemmas indicates a grudging acceptance of global warming data (a taboo conclusion only a decade ago), as well as a conviction that the carbon imprint of their products will impact purchasing behavior.

Their distortions notwithstanding, green sheens have employed conceptions of nature and ecological responsibility mirroring larger discourses on environmentalism. This is especially true of bottled water marketing, which has long emphasized wilderness ideals historically embedded in environmental protection legislation. In recent years, however, a palpable backlash against the product has forced the industry to alter its strategy. While bottled water companies are still targeting "nature lovers," their new campaigns have proffered a human-nonhuman dynamic that is at once divergent from its previous advertisements and reflective of a wider debate over the capacity of the market to generate environmental reform and, still wider, over the very definition of nature itself. Fiji Water and its competitors are not just combating global warming or the growing revulsion against the intricacies of bottled water production. They are also grappling with an emerging environmental consensus that is deconstructing the very notions of wilderness upon which much of their success has been built.

Fiji Water's new ads raised inevitable ire among activists. Even if the company curbs its own excesses, it will still have limited control over its suppliers of raw material, many of whom are located in China. More to the point, argued the executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, "bottled water is a business that is fundamentally, inherently, and inalterably unconscionable. No side deals to protect forests or combat global warming can offset that reality" (qtd. …

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