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This is NOT your Parents' Environmental Movement

This post is part of a blogging series by marketing students at the Presidio Graduate School's MBA program. You can follow along here.

By Rachel Newman

There will be no granola, no Birkenstocks, and no sitting in trees!   Today the face of the environmental movement presents a vibrant array of colors, classes, and backgrounds.  It is springing up on college campuses, political arenas, and in urban centers, and it is growing fast.  With the employment of marketing tools such as social media, celebrity ties, guerilla tactics, and community engagement, young people across the country are getting involved, and I should know…I am one of them.

Today social and environmental causes are finding new ways to reach out and connect with young people and communities who in the past may have been completely left out of conversations regarding water shortages, the economy, environmental degradation, and energy policy. Some great examples of organizations using strategic marketing tools to access and engage these populations include Reverb and Power Shift, who are reaching out to young people, as well as The Hip Hop Caucus and The Estria Foundation who are both engaging urban and disenfranchised populations, which may have been previously excluded from the environmental movements scope.

So what are they doing?

“Half rock tour, half environmental campaign,” Reverb is creating huge buzz from its Campus Consciousness Tours, which bring big name concerts together in partnership with colleges and universities across the country to promote youth education and mobilization around environmental issues.  The tour uses a celebrity to draw and capture attention, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to promote and market the events.  While Reverb’s events generate excitement, and perhaps some real interest in change, Power Shift is developing and training the future leaders of that change.  Started in 2007 as a conference bringing together over 6,000 young people from across the country for the “first national youth climate summit,” Power Shift has grown exponentially and this year they expect well over 10,000 participants.   Again Facebook, Youtube and Twitter have played a crucial role in building support, as well as the active campus engagement used to organize and promote the event.

The Hip Hop Caucus presents itself as a contemporary civil rights organization. Its One Planet One Voice Campaign was developed to assist in addressing the economic and environmental injustices faced by low income communities and communities of color across the country, and to bridge the gap between those communities and the environmental movement.  Much like Reverb and Power Shift, The Hip Hop Caucus utilizes the power of celebrity in contemporary media to garner support, as well as social media, campus connections, and community engagement.  Additionally, they encourage political involvement and are accessing more traditional media as well, with a Discovery Network documentary “Urban Impact” that is slated to air this month discussing the Caucus’ effort to get more people of color involved in the climate change debate.

Lastly there is the The Estria Foundation and their Water Writes campaign, which has taken a slightly different approach to raising awareness surrounding the global water crisis. The Water Writes campaign is creating 10 collaborative murals in 10 cities around the world in…you guessed it…10 months.  Using art as the medium for education and consciousness building, each mural will express some aspect of the water crisis and its relationship to the community.  Estria is also partnering with local youth groups to help “empower communities to express their voice visually through public art.” Los Angeles and Oakland, CA already have their murals, and others are planned for cities throughout the world from Palestine to the Philippines.  Again utilizing the reach of Facebook and Twitter has helped to spread the word and gain some attention on a larger scale, including a recent write up in Fast Company.


Marketing the environmental movement to a new generation, much like marketing any other product, has been instrumental in building a new foundation of support in the gaps that once existed.  I am excited to see what comes next for these organizations, and what emerges out of the work that they do, and I am clearer than ever that this is not my parents movement…it is ours!