This week, Sendle and Allbirds launched creative for Earth Week that remind consumers of the vast environmental costs of our addiction to instant-gratification retail and shipping.
Sendle’s ‘Grizzly Truth’ installation illustrates environmental cost of online shopping
Image credit: Sendle
Today, Sendle — a Certified B Corp and 100 percent carbon-neutral shipping carrier for small businesses — unveiled a 10-foot installation of a grizzly bear, constructed of recycled cardboard boxes, at Seattle’s Lake Union Park. The sculpture, by Canadian artist Laurence Vallières, aims to highlight the environmental impact of the 165 billion packages shipped in the US each year.
In the United States, Sendle’s package volumes increased by 124 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year — after two years of pandemic-induced online shopping and demand for next-day delivery. The installation is a reminder to consumers that there’s an environmental cost to our online shopping addiction.
The artist chose the threatened grizzly bear as an inspiration for the installation; there are only 1,500 left in the US, outside of Alaska, as a result of the impacts of habitat loss and changing climate. The public is invited to interact with Vallières’ grizzly bear while taking a moment to reflect on their online shopping and how it impacts the planet.
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While the pulp and paper industry isn’t directly linked to habitat loss for grizzly bears, many other species and huge swaths of forest are impacted by our endless need for cardboard boxes. Thus, Sendle has a few additional challenges for consumers, small businesses and the shipping & logistics industry to fight habitat loss and the climate crisis by conserving cardboard.
"Whether or not we shop online isn’t the question. eCommerce is here to stay. But we can all do our part to make online shopping more sustainable,” says Veena Harbaugh, Sendle’s Director of Sustainability. “As consumers, we have options. Who we buy from and how we purchase and ship are powerful choices that have a cascading effect along the supply chain, and can either harm or regenerate the world around us."
As part of its ongoing initiatives to educate the public about sustainable practices, Sendle invites consumers to think before they ship and shop from sustainability-minded businesses that are working to mitigate the negative impact of ecommerce on the planet.
Sendle is the only 100 percent carbon-neutral shipping service in the United States and Australia, and has offset 19.5 billion miles of carbon to date. The company is once again calling for an ‘environmental awakening' across its highly polluting industry — echoing the sentiments of co-founder James Chin Moody, who said in 2021: “Every product sold online and shipped to a customer represents a vast web of carbon-emitting activity,” he said. “It’s so important that right now, our industry comes together to acknowledge our growing footprint, and that we work together on long-term solutions. With the way things are going, failing to grow sustainably carries too many risks for a business’ operations, its bottom line and the planet.”
Following the conclusion of the exhibition, the sculpture will be broken down and recycled by Republic Services’ cardboard recycling center.
Cheeky Allbirds campaign urges consumers to support ‘the Amazon you truly can’t live without’
Image credit: Keep the Amazon Prime
Also unveiled this week, Allbirds’ KeeptheAmazonPrime.com campaign uses humor and consumer love for nostalgia to poke fun at society’s materialism and need for instant-gratification retail, even at the expense of one of our most critical resources (the Amazon rainforest).
With a spoof, early-2000s-era website and infomercial, Allbirds is calling for users to “subscribe” to ‘Keep the Amazon Prime’ and collecting donations for Amazon Watch — a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the rainforest and advancing the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. Along with the creative platform and infomercial is a full-page ad in The New York Times, paid social support, and targeted outdoor display ads in Seattle.
The infomercial features short clips of the real Amazon, advertising the rainforest as a “service” that offers “unlimited streaming – of actual streams” and “complimentary removal of CO2.” The tongue-in-cheek video serves as an icebreaker with ridiculous (yet, relatable) examples of the quick-purchase products advertised to us daily — before a rug-pull brings attention back to the Amazon rainforest, and its importance to the planet’s health.
“We were drawn to the insight of ‘remember when the word Amazon meant the rainforest’, and began building on this idea, which led us to keeptheamazonprime.com,” explains Kate Ridley, Allbirds’ Chief Brand Officer. “We worked with Wrestler as our creative partner and together we wanted the content to be engaging, and entertaining, while highlighting the important message of protecting the Amazon. We hope this campaign resonates with our community in a thought-provoking way and reminds them of the other Amazon, encouraging all of us to think about how we can be better environmental stewards.”
Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, has made bold commitments to rein in its massive carbon footprint — it co-founded The Climate Pledge in 2019, and in 2021 launched two fulfillment programs designed to extend the life of returned or overstock inventory — but there is evidence that the ecommerce giant has been undercounting its carbon emissions. Regardless of how these factors shake out, it’s a reminder that only substantive action — not creative corporate accounting — will save us from the climate crisis.
For its part, Allbirds has been working to walk its sustainability talk by building supply chains for regeneratively farmed and renewable materials and developing an open-sourcing its Carbon Footprint Calculator to drive an uptick in climate action by the fashion industry.
Though the Amazon rainforest has long been considered the world’s largest carbon sink and a critical tool in our fight against catastrophic climate change, devastating fires and continued rampant deforestation from industry in recent years have severely affected the forest’s ability to sequester carbon — a 2021 study found that the Amazon released about 20 percent more CO2 into the atmosphere than it took in over the period from 2010-2019.
‘Keep the Amazon Prime’ challenges the greater retail industry to do its part for our natural ecosystem, using comedy to bring attention back to our duty to protect nature through more thoughtful consumerism. Allbirds will be matching all donations up to US$50,000 and will be hosting education content from Amazon Watch across its social channels.