Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Green Halloween- Exclusive Q & A with the Founder

Happy Halloween everybody! I have been surprised this year by the widespread acceptance of the Green Halloween concept. This concept originated in the Seattle area and is already supported by sponsors such as Whole Foods.

Here's the Marketing College exclusive Q&A with Corey Colwell-Lipson, Founder, Green Halloween.

1) What motivated you to start the Green Halloween movement?

Please see the about page.

2) How does this change the behavior of parents?

Green Halloween will be of interest to a continuum of parents. Some parents are green to being green and healthy but may think that it is time to start trying. These parents may take one step such as purchasing used instead of new costumes or handing out Play-doh instead of candy. At the other end of the spectrum are parents who are already on the green train - these parents consistently strive to include the health of their children and the health of the planet in their everyday decisions. For instance, they may shop for food locally, eat organically, give preference to petroleum-free packaging and make other decisions as parents and as consumers that are driven by these concerns. Most people will fall somewhere in between these two groups. Green Halloween has ideas and suggestions for people no matter where they fall in the spectrum. Green Halloween is not a one-size-fits-all ideal. It seeks to meet people wherever they are and to make easy and affordable the process of integrating human and environmental health into the most traditionally un-healthy times of year: the holidays.

Green Halloween, as a community movement, changes the behavior of parents by a variety of means. These may include:

- Education (letting people know why making these changes is important, and teaching them how to make the changes)
- Simplification/ ease of use (e.g. busy parents who want to make these kinds of choices can come to our website, find the information and take direct action without having to do their own research)
- Word of mouth/ peer pressure (e.g. "Have you heard about these great options?" or "It's so passé not to be healthy and green")
- It feels good. Studies and experience show us that doing good deeds make us feel good. In addition to being a movement about health and the environment, Green Halloween also encourages people to consider the well being of the people who grow or make the products we buy. In addition, we're promoting the idea of making the world a better place and taking care of others in our community, especially during the holidays. Green Halloween is a great opportunity for people to keep the fun and good memories AND make the world a better place; I think that this changes behavior because the rewards are both immediate and long lasting.

3) How have kids responded to this initiative?

What's been interesting is that when people (including reporters) have asked children, "What would you think of going candy-free this Halloween?" - aside from the fact that this is not what GH is all about, this question does not give the inquirer an accurate assessment of the situation because most children are going to say, "No thanks." What we have found, after meeting thousands of children and parents at various community events since September, is that when children see, touch and feel the alternatives we're suggesting, 100% of them have said they would take the alternative. Hands down. We have yet to meet one single child, of any age - including
adolescents - who said they would rather have traditional treats over the healthy and or Earth-friendly treasures we've had on display.

4) If I am a marketer, how should I respond to this trend? Which marketers would you hold up as role models?

I recently had a conversation with a company who makes healthy (and SO delicious!) "bars" that are not currently packaged in ways that most parents could afford to use them as a treat for Halloween, birthday parties, etc. I mentioned to them that many parents would indeed choose their product over candy if they made it available and affordable and that I was sure that other companies would be meeting this demand at some point soon. My belief is that companies who make products such as these can be leaders or followers, but my guess is that at some point in the future, they will all be taking part in this change.

Many sources report that a significant number of consumers do take into account human/environmental health and sustainability issues when making consumer choices. Further, marketers know that consumers also respond positively to products that give back, for example, through the donation of a portion of sales to non-profit organizations. If I was a marketer, I would rise to meet this demand early on. I would take into account Green Halloween's three criteria by making sure that my product is - and is marketed as - being healthy for children, good or better for the environment, and safe and fair for the people making or growing the product. I would also ensure that my company has a clear commitment to giving back to the community.

I am not aware of any company that is 100% perfect, but I am aware of many who are trying hard to reach this ideal. Companies such as Endangered Species Chocolates sell products that are organic (good for the people who grow and eat the food as well as for the planet) and Fair trade (reducing child slavery - something prevalent on non-fair-trade cocoa farms.) In addition, ES donates a percentage of their sales to a worthy cause. Tully's coffee is now using biodegradable cups to hold their organic, shade-grown, fair trade coffee. Weisenbach Specialty Printing makes fun, quality products out of recycled materials such as recycled paper, plastic, denim and money,
most of which are American made, and gives back to the community by supporting worthy causes such as Green Halloween. Of course, it is also important that companies take pride in the way they treat their own employees and how, behind closed doors, the company operates. Do they say one thing and do another? Savvy consumers may find this important.

5) Are you getting any resistance to this concept?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive from people here in the Seattle-area and from parents, organizations and businesses across the country. I have received 4-5 e-mails from people who were not supportive. A few had issues with some of the suggestions I made and a few others felt I should leave Halloween alone and wondered what's wrong with a little unhealthiness and un-Earth-friendliness once a year. Generally, our message to people is that Green Halloween is seeking to create alternatives for those people who are interested in making a change; if someone's family wants to keep things the same, then our ideas may not be for them. On a larger scale, though, I am confident that the system is changing. Companies and manufacturers will be rising to meet the demands of parents who want to have fun and to create good memories AND to be healthy and Earth- and people-friendly. I also believe that existing companies may have to change their ways or risk consumer backlash. My expectation is that in the future, all holidays, including birthdays, will have traditions that are quite different than those of today.