Enlightened Capitalism

Essays about how to harness people's natural desire to create wealth and improve their quality of life to solve global problems such as war and poverty.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Environmental Activism Idea

Today I had a new idea (at least new to me :).

There is a site that shows which toilet paper to buy to have the least damaging impact on the environment.


Toilet paper is a great product to start with because it's use is almost exclusively determined by "need", there is very little danger of excess consumption, no matter how much is available. And to my knowledge there is no viable reusable alternative.

Here's my plan. Find a store that sells a "good" brand of toilet paper. Make sure this store is also a strong store overall, i.e. not overshadowed by much larger and more popular supermarkets nearby. Draw a 1 mile radius on the map, around that store. Find all other grocery stores in that same area, and make an official photographic record of what brands of toilet paper they sell and how much shelf space they give them. (This will be our baseline).

Ask the manager of each store in the area to add more good brands of toilet paper, and increase the ratio of good/bad brand shelf space. Explain to them if they decline, that you are going to promote their competitors to the local community.

Then call the manufacturers of the good brand and ask them to donate 10,000 rolls of toilet paper for this promotion, designed to increase their sales and market share, and raise awareness for their particular brand's key advantages. If they won't donate it then buy 10,000 rolls (this should cost less than $3000 wholesale, which we can easily raise).

Next we call the local newspapers, radio programs, environmental newsletters, and other media that might be interested in this groundswell effort, and tell them our plan.

Then we go door to door in a spiraling path around our target store, delivering to each resident a roll (or 4-pack) of good toilet paper along with a card (printed on recycled paper) that has a brief explanation along with the list of good and bad toilet paper brands on one side, and a map of the target store on the other side, along with the phone numbers of all the store managers in the area, and instructions to call them and request that they carry more good brands.

We then go back to all the stores each week for the next 4 weeks (while people are using the toilet paper we distributed, there should be a drop in sales of competitive brands), ask the managers if they noticed anything different, measure their good/bad shelf space ratio again, and report the results to the media.

If we succeed in having any measurable impact, I believe the good toilet paper manufacturers and environmentalists will be all over it, reproducing our results in thousands of markets. I bet a point of market share is worth millions of dollars in that industry.

The bad brands will have to respond, at least by pretending to make progress, but possibly also by making actual progress in producing a less destructive product.


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