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February 28, 2008

What Will Oprah Do to NOT Blow her Brand?

What will Oprah do when the consumption lights fully light up and she has to take a stand and promote only Sustainable products or blow her brand? What's her brand? Oprah Cares. Why might she blow it? Because you can't do right by the world and promote billions of dollars of non-sustainable stuff in the same space - at the same time.

On yesterday's show, Oprah covered the art of Freegan Living with Lisa Ling. (love Lisa's reporting style) Freegan Living takes dumpster diving to a new level - those who can afford to buy anything, yet choose to obtain most of their day-to-day stuff from dumpsters.

It was an important show for many iconic reasons:

  1. It demonstrated how wasteful we are as a society.
  2. Oprah acknowledged the irony of hosting this topic and then cutting to a commercial where someone was going to sell you something.
  3. It introduced the concept that LESS (much less) is "more living" for the society. That concept is being amplified through all the other Green sites.

Then this morning, I'm exchanging emails with Jason from Scream to be Green, and he tells me about LivingOprah. (thanks Jason) Turns out it's a performing artist in Chicago. She decided to try to live the Oprah life at it is featured each week because the culture is Oprah and Oprah is the culture. It's a brilliant concept, kudos for the idea. There is no way to contact the "artist" however, so for all I know it could be one, big setup by Harpo Productions to glean information. There's a survey on the site that asks if you subscribe to Oprah's magazines or not. (hey, I'm a born again skeptic) [Correction: the artist saw this post and assured me, that Harpo has nothing to do with it, and she put up a way to contact her.]

GarbageTwo minutes later, I'm skyping my husband who is working in Naples, Italy and he's describing the ever-present trash in the city. "There is smoke in my hotel room everyday with the smell of burning trash... smells mostly of plastic." Then he described his weekend boat trip to a nearby island. "the boat went through layers of junk, mostly plastic, you could hear it scraping on the side of the boat."

Wow, so much for the amore of Italy. Pretty disgusting. You hear that and it sure doesn't make you want to run to the mall and buy more junk and carry it home in a plastic bag. It doesn't even make me want to be on Oprah's Favorite Things show, the hottest ticket of the year and a show that can make or break an emerging business.

Which brings me to my final point...

I have a big favor to ask you Oprah, since you are culture and culture is you, could you do us all a favor and have a show dedicated to Sustainable Standards? We need a big name consumer champion to keep Wal Mart and other big box stores on track. Educate your world of women and you can single handedly set off a market transformation. Don't talk about green, talk about products and processes that can prove they don't put dioxins in our air, or chemicals into our children and most of all CO2 in the atmosphere. The White House doesn't control the world of consumer consumption - YOU DO.

Here's my wish list line up:

  • EcoMom Alliance (they are probably already on Oprah's radar after the NY Times article)
  • Big Green Purse (Diane MacEachern's scientific and pragmatic approach to shifting buying dollars from pollution to solution - the book and the site)
  • Annie Leonard (her Story of Stuff explains the problem in everyday language)
  • Mike Italiano (SMaRT the solution)  (Sustainable Material Rating Technology, it takes away the problem by providing a standard that is ethical, accountable and greenwash free. Consumers want truth and investors need quanitfied proof.

That's a show in itself right there. Will Oprah do it? It's a VERY scary move for  her economically if she did. She's in the same place the big chains are in, she's a promoter of goods and has to make a living while promoting the very things that cause her female viewers problems. That's not good, but I believe in Oprah. More than not wanting to break her brand, she understands that you either "stand for something or stand for nothing." She keeps saying how she doesn't need the money. This one move would prove that beyond a doubt and set off a tipping point for social change like the world has never seen.


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