- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hug a tree. Recycle. Fret about global warming.

Just don’t forget the, uh, poop bags - the environmentally correct, biodegradable, recyclable, sustainable “green” poop bags, that is. They are guaranteed to reduce a “dog’s carbon pawprint.”

Yes, Earth Day has come to this.

Entrepreneurs and marketers are intent on rebranding America’s most sanctimonious holiday into something a little more down-to-earth - an antidote, perhaps, to the fearful alarmist fare of recent years. Earth Day, which used to fall on April 22 alone, has now blossomed into a week’s worth of events, with a multitude of sponsors.

Poop bags are only the beginning. Biodiversity has taken on a whole new meaning these days.

Those who want to do their part for Mother Earth can assuage their guilty consumer conscience with earth-friendly aquarium cleaners, repurposed handbags, recycled phones, organic lipsticks and sustainable toilet seats. Mega-companies from Wal-Mart to Tropicana and American Airlines are offering Earth Day promotions to help the nation learn to recycle, precycle and have a nice little kumbaya fix.

“We want to elevate Earth Day to major holiday status. There are tons of people who don’t identify with the whole ‘grim tree-hugger’ mindset. That’s just old, mainstream - and boring, too. Where’s the emotional impact? Americans just can’t relate,” said Kristyn Hutzell Moll, managing director of Avalon Communications, a Texas-based marketing agency that represents Poop Bags, Evergreen Candleworks and a dozen other eco-entrepreneurs.

“We’re bringing ecology down to the everyday level. Nice and accessible. Like the poop bags. I have two dogs myself, and the fact I was using plastic baggies to preserve their waste for all time, well, that didn’t make sense,” Ms. Hutzell Moll said.

Indeed, amid all the humorous asides, Poop Bags - a Chicago manufacturer that also offers biodegradable cat pan liners - is big on science, emphasizing the fact that the bags are made of corn fibers and will completely decompose in about two months.

There are so many eco-products now that even the uber-marketers are having a hard time tracking them all.

“Green is the new black,” proclaims advance promotional material for the annual Licensing International Expo, which will take place in Las Vegas in early June.

“Countless brand names from across the globe will turn their attention to biodiversity, creating licensed products and programs designed to educate and assist in the fight to save our planet,” the New York organizers said.

They’re expecting 6,000 exhibitors.

Then there is the Tinseltown treatment. “Earth Day in Hollywood 2009,” a series of events around Los Angeles in the coming week, will offer celebrity gift bags - recycled of course - brimming with goodies that would have been unthinkable when Earth Day was first celebrated almost 40 years ago.

Cork drink-coolers, biodegradable corn-based cat litter and additive-free spice blends are among the little lagniappes to be publicly presented to such eco-conscious celebrities as Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, Justin Timberlake, Bill Maher and Leonardo DiCaprio.

And while the rest of the planet bustles with plans for what is fast evolving into a potentially bombastic eco-event, there are some who disdain the very idea.

“Too many people tokenize Earth Day, using it as an excuse to hug a tree one day and ram it with their SUV the next,” said Chip Giller, founder of Grist, an online source for environmental news and information.

“We say, [expletive] that. One day is for amateurs. We can do better,” Mr. Giller added.

The Seattle group is pushing a campaign called “Make Every Day Earth Day,” and is offering free downloads of Mr. Giller’s new book.

“It’s called ‘Wake Up and Smell the Planet: The Non-Pompous, Non-Preachy Grist Guide to Greening Your Day,’ ” he added.

“Earth Day is lost in eco-babble,” said Jennifer Oladipo, a Kentucky-based writer for Grist. “Every time I look up, someone’s hanging a biodegradable pinata overhead. Purchased, no doubt, with an optional carbon offset.”

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