FLORIDA CITY (CAP) - As President Obama marked Earth Day by polluting his way down to Everglades National Park, Mark Jenkins meandered through the gathered crowd pushing his metal shopping cart packed to the hilt with mylar balloons in the shape of the Earth, colorful pinwheels with recycling logos stamped on the leaves, and an assortment of glowsticks that could rival the aurora borealis.
Jenkins was hopeful; but nobody was buying.
"All we heard for weeks was Earth Day this, Earth Day that, a billion people expected to celebrate Earth Day - like it was the second coming of Christmas," Jenkins told CAP News as he crammed a deflated Scooby-Doo balloon into an overflowing trash receptacle. "Hey, I'm trying to go green here - but all I'm seeing is red."
Jenkins isn't alone. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, retail sales for the Earth Day shopping season declined four percent from the previous year and fell close to ten percent when compared to the boon years of the mid-90's. Economists say for all of his efforts to the contrary, President Obama has to shoulder some of the blame.
"After a mediocre Christmas season, retailers needed a fantastic Earth Day to help make up some ground," said noted Harvard economist Marvin Feldman. "But when your president focuses too heavily on the environmental aspect of Earth Day, the economic aspect falls by the wayside.
"I can only imagine what the Independence Day numbers will look like once Obama puts his spin on that holiday," Feldman noted.
Feldman said that when compared to a Christmas or Easter, Earth Day is still relatively new, and as such hasn't had the chance for full commercialization yet. He said it's only a matter of years before people lose sight of the original meaning of Earth Day, and then the economic upshot will be realized. However, he acknowledges that doesn't help retailers feeling the pinch of another disappointing holiday season.
"I'm trying to do my part to help raise awareness, I really am," said Nic-Nac Emporium owner Nicole Ballister as she tossed a box of foam fingers emblazoned with Earth #1! into the dumpster behind her shop. "But I can't move this merchandise to save my life. How is that helping the Earth?"
In Boston's Downtown Crossing, stores normally bustling with last-minute Earth Day shoppers were eerily quiet leading up to the holiday, a scenario now playing itself out again with no throngs of shoppers redeeming gift cards or making exchanges as in years past. A Trifle Of Trinkets owner Adam Greene calls this year a double-edged sword.
"In the years when Earth Day and Arbor Day fall within a couple days of each other, it's like that one-two punch we all need to get us through the spring," Greene said as he prepared to ship six cases of plastic freezer mugs imprinted with Save The Earth logos, all destined for third-world countries. "At least if I can't sell these I can make sure they go to good use somewhere."
But that same sentiment is little consolation to Mark Jenkins, who has little choice but to wait for the next parade or the next outdoor school function to try to make ends meet this year. And if the weather doesn't cooperate, the economy may claim yet another victim.
- CAP News Staff