Eat a slice of pizza, help save the environment

At $1.85 a slice, the daily pizza special at Guido's Restaurant in Boise, Idaho, delivers more than just a mouth-watering taste of sage, thyme, and mushrooms, slathered in olive oil and white sauce.

The Owyhee National Monument Pizza is also cooked up to make a statement and give hungry patrons the opportunity to vote for landscape preservation with their stomachs.

A percentage of the money goes straight from the cash register to a grass-roots campaign aimed at securing greater protection for the rugged cliffs of the Owyhee-Bruneau Canyonlands.

Certainly, the phenomenon of businesses teaming up with nonprofits in support of a cause isn't new. But increasingly, smaller shopkeepers and midsize corporations are taking responsibility for their own backyards.

Moreover, with national public-opinion polls showing that most Americans firmly back environmental protection, businesses are finding that these partnerships are not just good for charity, but also good for the bottom line.

"The companies and shop owners sponsoring these efforts see them as being good for business rather than costing them money," says Michael Carroll of The Wilderness Society in Durango, Colo. "They're making it possible for their loyal customers to feel good about getting involved."

A cause for every occasion

Pick virtually any green battleground and there's usually a way for shoppers to show their support by eating, listening to, or wearing a product for the occasion.

It's a movement that began in the 1950s with picture books from the Sierra Club and that spread through the 1980s and '90s with dolphin-friendly tuna and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Now, scores of small businesses are adopting the idea.

* Mountain bikers and other outdoor recreationists seeking relief from the scorching desert sun in Moab, Utah, can buy two scoops of ice cream, knowing that a portion of the proceeds will go toward a campaign aimed at draining the man-made Lake Powell.

* With a clear conscience, consumers can save grizzly bears, wolves, and coyotes by purchasing a "predator friendly" wool sweater - meaning that predators weren't killed to protect the flock.

* Seattle residents who drink coffee are encouraged to buy "bird friendly" brands that promise not to destroy bird habitat in the rain forest. In other words, buy the right blend and save a feathered friend. Called the Northwest Shade Coffee Campaign, the project is led by the Seattle Audubon Society.

* A new CD titled "Slick Rock and Sagebrush Songs for Utah Wilderness" is aimed at bringing in money to win protection of 9.1 million acres of mountain and red-rock desert. It's produced by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

Likewise, one of the most successful local environmental partnerships has been based on music.

In Seattle, one of the city's leading classic-rock radio stations releases a special CD every year whose proceeds go toward the protection of old-growth forests and salmon habitat in the Pacific Northwest.

The 2000 version, which includes live performances by the Counting Crows, the Indigo Girls, and 14 other musicians, has been so much in demand that for several days it outsold U2's new critically acclaimed album.

"We're not radical, but we believe you have to stand for something," says Chris Mays of the station, called KMTT (The Mountain). "The businesses that succeed are ones that have a clear image of what they believe in."

The six-year effort has sold tens of thousands of CDs and raised $360,000 for The Wilderness Society, which has also partnered in the past with organizations that highlight the potential perils of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Selling point

Even though Seattle's prosperity was long influenced by the logging industry, Ms. Mays says her radio station has never hesitated to promote conservation. Indeed, support for conservation is often identified as a top concern of the middle-age demographic KMTT tries to reach.

"Whether you're airing Rush Limbaugh or playing environmental songs by Sting, you have to develop your identity and take a stand," Mays says. "The environment is a selling point for what we do, and our audience has come to expect it."

Selling music, good food, and attractive clothing are alternative ways of reaching people who otherwise might be turned off by contentious debate or be hesitant about becoming a member of a group whose views and efforts they support, says Mike Reberg of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

View from a Boise pizza parlor

Even in Idaho, known for its political conservatism, pizzeria owners Glen Fiertl and Mike Mikesell believe that newcomers to New West cities like Boise are coming not for the community's traditional ideology, but rather for their pretty views of nature.

"Sure, they wear their suits to work at high-tech jobs, but a lot of them spend their free time on mountain bikes or jogging through the foothills," says Mr. Fiertl, a transplant from northern New Jersey. "It doesn't matter how conservative they are. They want their special places saved, and if they can get it done by eating a piece of pizza, all the better."

"We've had a lot of positive response," he adds."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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