“By your powers combined, I am …Captain Planet!”

By Nana Marfo, Green Seal Marketing Intern

These are the words of the popular superhero that graced our television screens in the early 1990s in “Captain Planet and the Planeteers.” While Captain Planet may have been, for a vast majority of children that were drawn to it, an ordinary cartoon show, its message and legacy were very pertinent. That is especially true today, at a time when climate change and its accompanying issues of sustainability are some of the truly defining issues of our time. In this blog post, I will explain why, now that we have seen a resurgence in the comic superhero genre in popular culture, there needs to be an icon in the marketplace akin to the Captain Planet of old. I believe such an icon could become a positive symbol for our society just as current superheroes are for our own entertainment; I will start my explanation with a brief background of the show.

Ted Turner, the media mogul behind TBS and CNN, is widely remembered as the show’s creator along with producers and activists Barbara Pyle and Nick Boxer. The program initially aired on TBS from 1990, and continued until 1996- spanning six seasons and 113 episodes, and included star voice cast such as Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum, James Coburn and others. The show was syndicated in over 220 markets throughout the United States and 100 countries worldwide, achieving popular and critical acclaim as well as multiple Emmy nominations and awards.

Captain Planet’s impact certainly resonated with its target audience back then, and even now, many years after it first aired. Show creator Barbara Pyle would go on to establish the Captain Planet Foundation in 1991. Today, it makes grant awards for projects that promote awareness, teamwork and global cooperation for environmental issues. Captain Planet is also a staple at many eco-rallies and events including Earth Day, not to mention it being an inspiration to current millennial activists around the world.

There is at least one alumnus of the Planeteer Movement, Charles Orgbon from Charleston SC, who continues to channel the spirit of the show through his visionary recycling initiative. Indeed, the show deeply resonated with me as well as many children in my home country Ghana for the brief period it aired on television – not to mention the fact that one of the planeteer characters shared a local Ghanaian name: Kwame.

Long after its successful run, Captain Planet remains an icon of the environmental movement. But could we yet think of a different Captain Planet which could be used as an icon in promoting (green) products and services, very much like other superheroes?

Companies have been using comic superheroes to promote their goods and services, a testament to their popularity in so many ways: For one, there’s Chevrolet’s iconic partnership with Hasbro’s Transformers franchise; one which sees the transformers character Bumblebee adapt the Chevrolet Camaro. Bumblebee’s Camaro has since become a popular marketing tool for both Hasbro and the Chevrolet brand. This partnership even features regularly at Comic Cons across the country.

And then there’s Captain Citrus. If you are wondering who or what that is, well that is a new mascot for fresh Florida orange juice. This idea was borne out of Florida’s Department of Citrus paying Marvel Entertainment $1 million to customize the latter’s Avengers characters earlier this year. The deal is part of a promotional effort by Florida's Department of Citrus as they hope this “revamp to a newer, slimmer mascot will help make it a household name among kids”.

And here, in environmentalism, this is an already existing icon – Captain Planet! Green Seal could tap into this fun, educative experiment with its activities and work too. Obviously since it is already at the forefront in this endeavor there is no need for this adaptation to be permanent. It could simply be a part of (if not lead), a broader consortium of green organizations and businesses, using Captain Planet and its famous slogans such as “the power is yours” as a rallying cry. In this effort, students groups, institutions, organizations and others could all join as partners. Green Seal could also try creating distinctions or awards or any form of accolade for companies that diligently answer this call to become more sustainable in their operations, products and services. This approach could be extended to consumers as well. In short, Green Seal could simply adorn a Captain Planet or any other iconic theme to promote environmentally-preferable products and services in some way. I will be the first to acknowledge the technical and structural challenges this strategy is bound to face. But what I am honing in on is our opportunity to channel interest for such a fun icon for organizations, companies, and institutions directly involved in sustainability issues. Captain Planet and the Planeteers run on the airwaves as a form of edutainment. Here, companies can adopt this same strategy to both make profits selling their products while promoting the cause for a more sustainable business or economy and lifestyle.

About Nana

Nana is a recent graduate of Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He originally came from Ghana as a student in 2010, and is looking to get a Master’s degree and hopefully become an entrepreneur in the not-too-distant future. He enjoys reading, television shows, history and is also an avid fan of soccer and tennis. Nana has a keen interest in issues of sustainability, particularly in urban design and development and also a thriving ‘green’ entrepreneurship movement. As such, at Green Seal, Nana hopes to learn how the organization’s standards and certification practices can encourage businesses to become a driving force in this movement for a more sustainable future.