Coca-Cola: Nature as a Backdrop
A man peacefully lies in a field surrounded by grass, trees, bushes, and the many insects of grasshoppers, bumblebees, lady bugs, butterflies, dragonflies, caterpillars, and beetles, who are all striving for the sacred, beautiful, tall, refreshing bottled glass of Coca-Cola, the favorite American carbonated drink. As these insects anthropomorphize, taking on human characteristics and emotions, they embark on a journey to steal the beloved Coca-Cola, and mission impossible to open the cap and quench their thirsts. As the bottle rolls down the hill in the park, its bounces off into the river, into a tree, and finally the cap is removed, pouring into a hill of yellow flowers, with the insects flying off into happiness.
The Coca-Cola company is commodifying nature within this advertisement. The advertisement uses nature to sell a product, rather than give it an intrinsic value, and fails to account for the environmental damage that Coca-Cola brings forth from manufacturing and production. This particular commercial is an example of nature as a backdrop in greenwashing advertisements. The environment blends into the natural background, but “the environment per se is not for sale, but advertisers are depending on qualities and features of the nonhuman world to help in the selling message” (Corbett 150). Nature as a backdrop helps to persuade consumers to purchase a bottle of Coca-Cola, but what does Coca-Cola do to nature?
All we consumers can see within this advertisement are the natural insects, a beautiful sunny day, a nature scene in a park, a clear river, and the happiness from drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola. However, the production and ingredients in this American classic can be extremely harmful to the environment and one’s health. The ingredients in a bottle of Coca-Cola (coke) are high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sugar, caffeine, phosphoric acid, coca extract, vanilla and glycerin. High fructose corn syrup is one of the major added ingredients in coke, and is extremely harmful to the environment. Michael Pollan says that HFCS “may be cheap in the supermarket, but in the environment it could not be more expensive” (Hartman). Corn is a highly subsidized crop that is not only energy intensive, but it uses fertilizers and insecticides, causing soil erosion (Hartman). Additionally, corn is a genetically modified crop, which can contribute to food allergies, increased pesticide use, loss of biodiversity, and other unknown long-term effects. Pollan also argues that “the environmental footprint of HFCS is deep and wide. Look no farther than the dead zone in the Gulf [of Mexico], an area the size of New Jersey where virtually nothing will live because it has been starved of oxygen by the fertilizer runoff coming down the Mississippi from the corn belt. Then there is the atrazine in the water in the farm country–a nasty herbicide that, at concentrations as little as 0.1 part per billion, has been shown to turn male frogs into hermaphrodites” (Hartman). [A hermaphrodite is an organism that has both male and female reproductive organs]. This product information is withheld from the commercial for fear of the world audience not purchasing coca-cola. Besides the HFCS ingredient in coke, sugar is also a major ingredient that may contribute to obesity. Phosphoric acid is also an added ingredient, and if the term acid does not frighten you, it may cause shock that phosphoric acid can cause chronic kidney disease and low bone density.
The nature as a backdrop advertisement fails to take into account the harmful ingredients present in the ever so delicious soft drink. But, more interestingly, Coca-Cola and its partners produce more than 3,000 beverage products around the world. Andrew Shapiro of Forbes says the “sheer scale of the business means that it uses significant amounts of water, energy, petroleum-based plastics and other resources in its production” (Shapiro). Additionally, coke has over 275 partners who are responsible for the manufacturing and distributing of its bottled products. Africa has three manufacturing facilities, Eurasia has four, European Union five, Latin America six, North America four, and finally, Pacific wins with seventeen manufacturing facilities. Perhaps the nature in the advertisement would be quite different if the setting were located in India where the company causes extreme water shortages.
The campaign group ‘War on Want’ have uncovered areas where farmers are unable to irrigate their crops because of Coca-Cola’s bottling plant. In 2004, Coca-Cola used 283 billion liters of water. For every 2.7 liters of water, it only produces one liter of product (Mathiason). Within the advertisement, the bottle of Coca-Cola is being poured into the water of a river, and also contaminating bright, yellow flowers. However, we consumers may not notice these harmful environmental effects because we are so absorbed in the deliciousness of the carbonated drink itself.
Greenwashing misleads Coca-Cola consumers regarding the environmental practices of the company and the environmental benefits of the product. This nature as a backdrop advertisement takes the environment and makes it something to sell. Coca-Cola fails to advertise the environmental damages of genetically modified organisms, pesticide use, water shortages, water contamination, and those sugary ingredients that may contribute to obesity. All the consumers may take from this advertisement is the happy feeling that comes with watching non-human and human organisms enjoy the American classic soft drink, with nature as the backdrop to help sell this drink product.
Hartman, Eviana. “High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Not So Sweet for the Planet.” Washington Post. March 9, 2008. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/ article2008/03/06/ AR2008030603294.html
Mathiason, Nick. “Coke Drinks India Dry.” The Observer. March 18, 2006. http://www.theguardian.com/money/2006/mar/19/business.india1
Shapiro, Andrew. “Coca-Cola Goes Green.” Forbes. January 29, 2010. http:// www.forbes.com/2010/01/29/muhtar-kent-coca-cola-leadership-citizenship- sustainability.html
Critique by Caroline Winslow
Fiji Water: “Every Drop is Green”
Despite the aesthetically pleasing background of plants of flowers, within the plastic walls of a Fiji water bottle, this “natural artesian water” all the way from the “islands of Fiji,” is far from having every drop be “green.” The irony of is quite amusing: a plastic water bottle company that is bottled using plastic from China, in a diesel fueled plant- because they use more electricity than can be supplied by the national grid, and sold most heavily in the U.S- thousands of miles away. With a target audience of those wealthy enough to afford a $3.50 water bottle- such as movie stars and other celebrities–the water bottle brand has now not only become an icon of falsely advertised “green” living, but also that of a higher class, yet even further promoting consumerism. Selling long distance bottled water to “green” consumers could not be more of a contradiction, but Fiji still promotes its product as a necessity for the elite that can afford it and appreciate the pureness that comes with “living” water.
It is beyond me to ever understand how an industry that pumps water out of one part of the world, to package in plastic containers, then package again in plastic to ship to another part of the world, and in doing so expending a number of other non-renewable resources, would ever even try to appeal to a “green” audience, or jump aboard the “green revolution.” But Fiji water managed to work their way into this green fad, and despite the irony and simply the contradictory nature of the matter, they have done so rather successfully. An appeal to ignorance is the only way to explain the persuasive logic behind all of this. People buy into this manipulative form of marketing because they simply do not know any better, or are too lazy to apply the simple critical thinking skills needed to realize what a hoax “green” bottled water is to begin with. I laugh at the irony, but at the end of the day this is really a terrifying truth of our generation. People don’t question or even think about what they are told, and because of this, one of the biggest environmental no-no’s has become a must-have accessory for the wealthy environmentally-conscious. Ignorance? Or just stupidity?
The commercial ad features a number of snap shots of different beautiful natural occurrences, with a narrator discussing the cycle of life, and a relationship that feeds the earth, finishing with the line, “with Fiji, every drop is green.” This “greenwashing” here could not be more inaccurate. The only good thing Fiji water does for the planet is provide jobs to the impoverished Fijian people. But because the company is so heavily relied on for jobs, they are able to get around being taxed and ever reprimanded by the government. They are needed, and they know it. The use of green advertising as a ploy for only economic benefit is, in my opinion, unethical. Granted, it is the consumers responsibility to be skeptical, but this is not the mindset of most in this day and age. To tell the general public that as a buyer of this product, you are performing an eco-friendly act is just simply wrong. We should be moving away from drinking bottled water altogether, yet it is the falsely advertised companies like Fiji water that allow consumers believe they don’t have to. It really is tragic, and a shame that so many people fall for the manipulative nature of modern day green advertising.
Gilbert, Sarah. “Fiji Water: So Cool, so Fresh, so Bad for the Environment?” DailyFinance.com. AOL Money & Finance, n.d. Web.
Lenzer, Anna. “Fiji Water: Spin the Bottle.” Mother Jones. Foundation for National Progress, n.d. Web.
Critique by Hannah Kadah