Eco-group to take on bottled water makers

NEW YORK: PR pros, Eric Yaverbaum and Mark DiMassimo, have collaborated on a campaign to promote the environmental benefits of tap water.

NEW YORK: PR pros, Eric Yaverbaum and Mark DiMassimo, have collaborated on a campaign to promote the environmental benefits of tap water.

The objective of "Tappening" is to raise awareness about carbon emissions from bottled water manufacturers, and to engage consumers. This week, the campaign launched its "Message in the Bottle" initiative, an effort that asks consumers to collect and insert environmental messages inside empty water bottles. Organizers plan to deliver the first million bottles to Neville Isdell, the CEO of Coca Cola, the parent company of Dasani bottled water.

"It's not for the point of the stunt or novelty, it's to make a statement about wastefulness," said Yaverbaum, president and founder of Ericho Communications.

Tappening is targeting Coca-Cola because the company has yet to publicly identify the sources of Dasani water. Dasani's Web site states its water comes from the local water supply, and is filtered through reverse osmosis.

Lisa Manley, director of environmental communications at Coca-Cola, said the company is unaware of the Tappening initiative. "If someone were to send us one million empty bottles, we would welcome the opportunity to recycle them," she said, adding the company recently invested $60-million in what is expected to be the world's largest bottle recycling facility. Yet there are no plans to change the way it labels Dasani water.

"The label states very clearly that it is purified water," Manley said.

Tappening's PR efforts include working with environmental bloggers, broadcast media, and extensive outreach to short-lede consumer, business, and marketing publications. The next phase of media outreach will target radio and long-lede publications. Additionally, the Tappening Web site and MySpace page instruct people how to participate and purchase its water bottles to spread the campaign message, Yaverbaum noted.

"The bottle's making a statement that 'I care,'" Yaverbaum added. "It's not that I care whether people buy the bottle, I just want them to stop drinking bottled water."

"From a communications perspective this is easy," he said, referring to the media interest in bottled water backlash. The biggest communications challenge is engaging consumers who are not motivated to join the eco-movements or who are skeptical about the effects of global warming, he said.

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