An extra day in the leap year – use it to help or harm the environment?

Today is the 29th February a date that is on the calendar every four years (or less frequently in some centuries). Depending on how you do the maths (whether you are paid on an hourly basis, or weekly basis or a monthly basis or a yearly basis), employers might get from the day an extra day’s “free” labour every four years. 

I shall not be giving Genersys employees the day off but the National Trust is giving their staff a day off. Genersys people do not get an extra day off, because their salaries are based on a yearly amount, and anyway they do tremendous things in helping the environment in their work. They are all too valuable. 

I am sure that the National Trust also cherishes its staff. It employs 4,800 people and is asking them to do something for the environment in a campaign that they have called “Leap Forward for the Environment.” They are encouraging employees to switch to low energy light bulbs and make other improvements in lifestyle and in the home to combat climate change.  

I hope that some of them will think about installing a Genersys solar system. The National Trust benefits from some 48,000 unpaid volunteers, who are also being given the day off and are also being encouraged to do something good.  The paid staff must file a report about what they did on their day off, but nothing will happen to them if they report that simply stayed in bed, turned the heating up, put all the lights on and watched television, with the car engine running.

I expect that the National Trust will release a calculation of the emissions saved based on a collation of the reports; I hope they do and I hope it shows high savings. Other businesses are using leap year as a marketing exercise, with special offers and promotions to encourage consumerism which will harm the planet.

Over in San Francisco the Virgin America airline is making a special week long offer of very low air fares, to encourage people to fly.  I do not think that Mr Branson, whose empire includes a quarter share in the airline, will be calculating and publicising the additional emissions that the airline’s initiative will create, although the airline will be counting whether it has created extra revenue from the initiative, and I would be very interested in seeing those figures (fat chance). 

Of course it is possible that Mr Branson might use the profits in accordance with the pledge he made in September 2006: he said “We are very pleased today to be making a commitment to invest 100 percent of all future proceeds to the Virgin Group from our transportation interest, both our trains and airline businesses, into tackling global warming.”  

This got a great deal of publicity and was interpreted as a philanthropic gesture by some and as a publicity stunt by others. I cannot judge because I do not know what the pledge actually means.  Does it mean that the profits will go to anti-climate change charities? I doubt it because it would have been easier to state that. Does it mean that the profits will go to any charitable cause? The pledge gives no assurance on that.

The pledge could easily be interpreted as meaning that the profits would be invested in some business to reduce carbon emissions – just like a company like Genersys does, really.  I suppose that we will only know what it means when we see audited figures.

I must say that I treat with lawyerly suspicion words that are not clear and which do not have a self evident meaning. It’s an interesting contrast; in The United Kingdom the National Trust is trying to make positive use of the “extra” day to help the environment with clear wording of what they mean. Mr Branson is making use of the leap year extra day it as a marketing occasion for cheap fares by a recently formed airline in which he is a large shareholder. 

Of course Mr Branson uses environmental concerns to publicise his various businesses and makes claim to green credentials that to me seem to be in direct conflict with some of his core businesses which include encouraging people to fly as much as possible. He pulls stunts. Stunts by their nature are short lived advertising exercises.  

I do not think that environmental problems can be solved with stunts and marketing, only by education and getting people to think deeply about what they are doing, rather like the National Trust are attempting to do.  

One Response

  1. VirginAmerica=AWSOME but 1 BAD emp#135101 name=IAN

    There was two of us with ONE 75 pound lugage checking in an Over weight lugage in San Francisco (SFO)
    So, I stepped aside to re-packed it, then weighed 68 pounds. Only to be hassle again and then asked to weigh my carry on.

    The carry-on weighed 35 pound for two of us.

    The pushy IAN forced us to check our carry-on in because that too was overwieght. Split between two people would have been 17.5 pounds easily.

    My Question is “Did IAN have a bad day with his boy friend or girl friend?”

    Doing a job you don’t like is worse than losing your job.

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