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The Greening of Men

Did I read that right? Eighty-two percent of Americans think being environmentally responsible is “feminine?” Let’s grab a beer and talk about this.

Did I read that right? Eighty-two percent of Americans think being environmentally responsible is “feminine?” Let’s grab a beer and talk about this.

In his excellent piece that appeared in this space on October 12, Frank O’Brien cites the aforementioned statistic from Ogilvy Earth. He goes on to suggest that one way to get more of our hairy-backed, knuckle-dragging brethren into the green fold is through sports. O’Brien makes a good point, then goes on to spotlight some of the ways various professional sports are embracing the sustainability movement. At this point, I’d like to take the baton, and suggest a few more ways we get the green message to men.

First, there’s sex. It’s common knowledge that men think about sex seven times a nanosecond. The opportunity for marketers here is obvious. For decades, we’ve been accused of using sex to sell everything from lingerie to tires. Let’s channel this alleged expertise to support socially and environmentally responsible causes, products and services. If the Swedish Bikini Team (remember them?) were to come out in favor of solar energy, men would be up clamoring on their roofs with solar panels and hammers within seconds.

Next, there’s beer. Men like beer. And, increasingly, men like craft beer. Though still relatively small, craft beer is the one segment of the category that’s shown significant, steady growth over the past few years. It’s also where you’ll find the most progressive attitudes toward environmental responsibility. Brewers like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Great Lakes, Wolavers and Brooklyn have all adopted innovative (and often expensive) practices to reduce their environmental footprints.

Even the big guys are getting in on the act. Both Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors have wonky web sites filled with information on their various energy, water and waste reducing practices. Grupo Modello in Mexico has even figured out a way to turn spent grain into a biofuel.

While green initiatives may be a key part of these brewers’ operations, they’re not a key part of their marketing communications. Perhaps if they were, more men might feel secure enough to go to the hardware store with a reusable shopping bag.

There’s a final piece to the Greening of Men puzzle. It’s not as fun as sex or beer, but I believe it’s far more powerful. It’s family.

All men, especially those of us who are fathers, feel an intractable obligation to protect our families. It’s not a matter of choice. It’s ancient and primal. We’re hard wired for it. It’s in our DNA.

We strike out without hesitation at anything that is posing a threat to the health and well-being of our families, especially our children. As a father, you live by one absolute truth—no one messes with your kids.

And yet the argument can be made that individuals and institutions that harm the environment are, in fact, messing with the kids of the world.

When marketers can draw the parallel between coal-burning electric plants and speeders on your street, diesel exhaust and playground drug pushers, polluters and pedophiles...well, then environmental responsibility will feel a lot less “feminine.”

I’m actually developing an organization that will promote this school of thought, but It’s in the burgeoning stages, so I won’t go into it now. Stay tuned.

Getting American men to embrace greener pastures won’t be easy, but it can be done. And it has to be done. Whew! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for another beer.