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Eco-fashion diva passes on $10K Dasani deal
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Environmental educator and artist Nancy Judd makes a living standing up for her values. In March, doing so cost her about $10,000.
The Santa Fe-based Recycle Runway founder says she turned down an offer from water bottle firm Dasani to participate in an “eco-friendly” Facebook page marketing campaign because she doesn’t want to promote consumption of bottled water.
Judd has spent the last decade creating haute couture garments fashioned from recycled materials — including plastic water bottles — in an effort to encourage recycling and environmental conservation. Her Obamanos coat (made from Barack Obama campaign materials from the 2008 presidential election) has been included in a permanent collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. A collection of her clothing made from recycled trash has spent the last year on display in the international concourse of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Her efforts are underwritten by sponsors — in many cases large corporations — whose financial assistance has bought her the time to create her intricate garments. By hiring her, Judd’s clients — including Toyota, Target and Delta — gain street cred with environmentally conscious customers.
Judd uses the platform provided by these sponsorships to weave her “covert conservation message” into exhibits and presentations.
When she was approached by Dasani — the water bottling company owned by Coca-Cola Co. — in March about a possible partnership, Judd said, she needed the money. The company was offering her $10,000 to be one of five “eco-enthusiasts” in a yearlong film series providing “eco-tips,” which would be published monthly on the company’s Facebook page as part of a marketing campaign.
“It was really tempting,” she said Monday. “As a small-business owner, cash flow is a huge issue for me, and the first quarter of this year was really slow. I could have definitely used that money.”
Judd said the company — apparently aware that bottled water doesn’t have the greenest of reputations — had assured her that she wouldn’t have to endorse its products.
But, after running the offer by a trusted “posse” of environmental advisers, Judd declined the deal.
“In the end, I just felt it would be an implied endorsement of bottled water,” Judd said. “It would be contradictory to a specific message I have been talking about for years.”
She listed her five “cradle-to-grave” reasons for not wanting to promote bottled water on her blog (www.recyclerunway.com/blog) last month:
• Concerns about the impact on the water supply near bottled-water plants and the water wasted in the process.
• The use of fossil fuels (crude oil) in making the plastic bottles for water.
• The pollution created transporting bottled water.
• Concerns about chemical compounds leaching into the water from the plastic bottles, which could pose a health risk.
• The litter and trash created by the bottles.
“I did not intend to vilify Dasani or Coke,” Judd posted on her blog Monday, stressing that welcoming all voices to the table is imperative in finding long-term solutions to environmental problems. “It’s so easy to categorize a person, entity or situation as good or bad, but life is much more complicated than that.”
Judd said Monday that she partnered in the past with a plastics trade organization that was heavily involved with the National Recycling Coalition, but she pulled the organization’s name from her list of sponsors after learning the group lobbied for more lax regulation of the plastic industry.
But she has maintained a working relationship with Coca-Cola, Judd said, because she believes the company has made significant innovations in the recycling world, including developing the first method for recycling plastic bottles back into plastic bottles instead of into a different, lesser product.
“Nobody is perfect. But as long as I see actions that I feel like are working toward what I’m working toward, then I can feel good about it. In the case of Dasani, I think bottled water is better for you than bottled Coca-Cola, but I don’t think we should be buying bottle water, and I don’t want to promote it.”
An email sent seeking comment from Dasani was not immediately returned Monday. The company’s website currently features a promotion of the new “PlantBottle” being used by the company that “is up to 30 percent made from plants and is still 100 percent recyclable.”