• Carmen Marie Fabio

It's not easy being green


As a community newspaper editor, I’m on the receiving end of a number of emails from national and, occasionally, international corporations who’ve piggybacked themselves onto trendy, environmental initiatives in an eff ort to a) make themselves look like good caring corporate citizens, and b) glean some free advertising in small, independent, community newspapers.

And if the latter weren’t actually true, it’d be kind of funny. So when I recently received a glowing endorsement of a multi-billion dollar, multi-national retail outlet (no, I won’t name them) from a smooth-typing communications shill describing all the wonderful, altruistic good they’d done by writing off just enough to satisfy their harshest critics in the form of some community tree-planting event where, yunno, the other people actually get dirty, I had an involuntary eye-roll.

When I suggested that this corporation put their community betterment money where their mouth is by actually buying an ad, I was first commended for my “great work in bringing out the community news” before being gently chided for failing to recognize that the pitch was actually about, and I’m quoting here, “a community group that had an idea to build a garden - or a way to connect citizens and bring nature into the city - that they execute and bring to fruition. It’s about those people who want to transform their community for the better.” Cue the harps. Sorry, there’s that eye-roll again.

Though Mr. Communications Outreach offered to inform me of all the good work done in the Hudson region (an area of which he’s very fond, by the way) by his corporate meal ticket, I opted to do the research myself. Closest I could find was an undisclosed donation amount made to the Morgan Arboretum in 2008. I beg forgiveness if I don’t quite grasp how that merits free publicity.

While our newspaper publisher was at his bank recently (nope, won’t name them either) he was handed a double-sided colour-printed sheet describing all the ‘green’ initiatives taken by head office in funding local environmental tree planting, education, and energy conservation projects, and asking him to please “pass the information on to the editor.” He did. It’s on my desk somewhere.

While I don’t deny that some of the work done through these partnerships benefits both the respective communities and the environment, it’s especially galling that corporations of this magnitude would expect small media outlets to blow their collective horns free of charge.

Tell you what, guys. Redistribute some of the wealth you’ve gleaned in the form of ridiculous service charges and fees back into the small businesses that actually make up the communities you’re trying so hard to look like you’re helping without seeking a pat on the head.

Buy some advertising if you’re so proud of what you’re doing. I can assure you, we won’t charge you anywhere near $6 billion for it.

You may think of yourselves as “green” but no matter what you call it, meeting tax credit quotas simply by grudgingly funding community endeavours is nothing more than whitewashing.

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