Bright Lights, Big City

November 16, 2008

Bright Lights, Big City

I've lived in the suburbs of New York City for more than 40 years, so the novelty of skyscrapers, Broadway and other landmarks has worn off a bit during the past four decades. But next month, I'll be sure to look up at the Ricoh Americas' billboard in Times Square. No, I'm not shopping for a new office copier, I'll be checking out Times Square's first environmentally-friendly billboard powered entirely by wind and sun.
Construction on the 35,000-pound sign begins this month across the avenue from the building where the ball drops on New Year's Eve. The sign, featuring 16 wind turbines and 64 solar panels, is expected to save $12,000 to $15,000 per month in electricity costs. Moreover, the sign is expected to keep 18 tons of carbon out of the environment.

All good, right? But there is some concern that the billboard could go dark after several days without sun or wind. Still, a Ricoh spokesman noted that "there are ways to being environmentally friendly to the planet, even on a billboard."

The Ricoh billboard, even with all its potential, underscores a dilemma that all marketers of household and personal care products face. Namely, how much of a tradeoff in performance are consumers willing to accept in order to be environmentally friendly? After all, it may be okay for a billboard to dim a bit, but what if whites don't seem as bright when washed in a "green" laundry detergent?

I'm heading down to Alexandria, VA tomorrow to cover a conference on green cleaning. It will include presentations by some of the leading marketers and suppliers in the segment. Be sure to read about it in the December issue of Happi.


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