Green Marketing Machine

Bob Perkowitz, founder of ecoAmerica, on reinvigorating the environmental movement. By Rabia Mughal

This year, Bob Perkowitz launched a new kind of environmental nonprofit. Instead of trying to rally Americans behind issues such as global warming or endangered species, his organization, ecoAmerica, uses consumer research and marketing strategies to move Americans toward a greener lifestyle.

Plenty chatted with Perkowitz about his vision for the organization, the challenges facing the environmental movement, and the best way to convert “environmentally agnostic” soccer moms and NASCAR dads into environmental supporters.

Plenty: What inspired you to found ecoAmerica?

Perkowitz: Protection for the environment has been declining for the last 25 years. There has been no new major environmental legislation passed since 1990, and many of the existing laws, like Superfund, are not getting funded. At the same time, the environmental organizations in America have been growing dramatically. The overall membership and funding for environmental organizations over the last 25 years has grown about tenfold.

With all this extra money and all these extra people that are engaged in it, why is the public less and less engaged? One reason is that the environmental movement has been very effective, and they've cleaned up air and water so it's not this immediate, pressing thing. Also, the current environmental issues, like ecosystem collapse and global warming are big, unfathomable, remote, difficult-to-understand things that people don't get. Third, there is an anti-environmental movement that is very effective. It has emerged to undermine any environmental protection by casting doubts on science, by saying that it's not economically not viable. Lastly, environmental organizations in America are marketing themselves in the same way as they were doing 25 or 30 years ago. The world has changed, the issues have changed. EcoAmerica was formed to support the environmental movement to be more effective at engaging people in environmental protection.

Plenty: Who are the "environmentally agnostic" Americans that you're trying to reach?

Perkowitz: About 80 percent of Americans say that they're environmentalists. But when you really get into behaviors (voting, any proactive way of demonstrating support for the environment) you end up with a small percentage that engage proactively in the environment. In between people that are not engaging because they don't care about it at all and that small percentage that do engage, is the vast majority of the American public. They kind of care about the environment, but no one has given them reasons why they should care about it. Those are the environmentally agnostic people that we're trying to reach.

Plenty: How do you reach those people?

Perkowitz: The environmental movement does not market to average Americans; they are not connecting well with farmers, housewives, NASCAR fans, college students. Our consumer strategy is to figure out why people care about the environment, and then relate to that. Any American can be convinced of an environmental issue. You can convince a Baptist minister, a New York investment banker, that global warming is something that should be addressed. But if you go to the investment banker, you're going to say, "Hey, there are big opportunities in cap and trade. Carbon has a price, and if you invest in new energy sources, you're going to make a lot of money." That's going to appeal to him. If you go to the Baptist, you're going to say it's creation care. You know, it's God's creation and we have to take care of it. If you say 'creation care'; to the investment banker, he's not going to move. You have to have the right message for the right people.

Plenty: What are you currently working on?

Perkowitz: Our NASCAR campaign is in the hopper. We're in an exploratory phase so we have to talk to a bunch of people and see whether or not we can get support for it. But one of the other campaigns we're working on targets college students. When we launch that program in June, college and university presidents are going to be leading the campaign that we're preparing for them to help colleges and universities go carbon neutral.

Plenty: What niche does EcoAmerica fill that other environmental groups don'?

Perkowitz: We are not a membership organization; we're not competing with other environmental organizations for members and dollars. We are out here to support them. We're trying to use world-class consumer research and world-class consumer marketing to figure out how to engage people in environmental protection. We’re taking our research and we are sharing it with the environmental community to hopefully open up their eyes to some new techniques and tactics to make their organizations more effective.

Plenty: What are your long-term goals for ecoAmerica?

Perkowitz: Our goal is to change American personal and public policy behaviors towards greater protection of our natural heritage by preserving the land and keeping it clean. The way that we want to do that is by leverage, but we will never have enough leverage by our self to do it. We want to partner with other environmental organizations, for-profit organizations, and schools and institutions. Our goal is really to preserve American by making the environmental movement more relevant and effective.


There's been talk of Electric Car racing at the Lime Rock race track in Connecticut for a couple of years... I hope EcoAmerica will lend a hand towards that effort.

Bonjour Mr Perkowitz

Your strategic intent to focus and engage the collecitve creative energy on the brand of Climate Adaptation by the marketing sector is a visionary spark of direction.

My 36 years in the international marketing community from Canada and the intimate connections with the environmental sector. Confirm my worst fear .That infact the existing environmental movement is and will detract from the mission of Climate Adapatation behaviour. As they will and are protecting their existing environmental brands not managing their philanthropy purpose.

Fear not Bob and court not the existing environmental protection agencies. As it is NOT the environment we leaders are destined to protect.It is the atmosphere !!!

Focus your energy now on nurturing the new thought leaders and warriors of the Climate Adaptation effort as they are "the ones we have been wating for" and do not fear to speak openly about the TRUTH about Climate Change,if you have the personal courage

Because with the single mention of the TRUTH. You and all that speak its clarity of vision , will instantly engage those American farmers, NASCAR dads, the souls of Africa in their homes, the french in Paris and the most disadvanced,in this single and vital reality.

That the TRUTH about Climate Change is that really is Climate Genocide

Congrats on your efforts and may your visionary energy allow you to tell the TRUTH with your strong and sound Ecoamerica voice

A Human Being