Filling out customer evaluation cards and questionnaires is a small but sometimes surprisingly effective way to get businesses to make local changes to be more environmentally friendly.
There's another way to help the environment beyond simply paying attention to our surroundings. You can make your beliefs known to the business world through a simple but often overlooked process—filling out customer evaluations.
Many places of business have customer evaluation cards right in their stores. Some businesses, such as AT&T and Sears, regularly send their customers questionnaires asking for a company evaluation. What better way to express your feelings about a company's cooperation with the environment?
Here's how one restaurant-goer helped: After enjoying a meal at a chain restaurant, a woman found a card wedged between the salt and pepper shakers at her table. She commented on the good food and her appreciation of the cloth napkins which had replaced the paper napkins, since her last visit. She added, "I notice that your restaurant still uses styrofoam containers for people who want to carry their leftovers home. Perhaps you can think of a more environmentally compatible alternative."
Several months later, the woman received a personal letter from the restaurant's president, who thanked her for her kind words and promised to honor her request for replacing styrofoam.
Here's how another evaluation brought about environmental change. A retired navy man, who made frequent shopping trips to a nearby naval base, was impressed with the base captain's energy conservation efforts. However, during the hottest part of the summer, the navy man entered one of the exchange stores and discovered the thermostat set at 66°F This setting was 10 degrees lower than the base rules allowed. The man found an evaluation card at the customer service counter and wrote the exchange officer a polite note about the extreme setting.
On his trip back to the exchange the following month, the navy man noticed the thermostat in the store had been reset to proper levels. Two weeks later, he received a letter from the officer in charge of the navy exchange thanking him for his concern.
Occasionally, evaluation comments bring unusual results. One company solicited a woman's opinion of its new store built in her town. She claimed that she never shopped there because the tree-preservation laws had been violated. Instead of cutting down only those trees necessary to build the store, the contractors had leveled the ground—in direct violation of the city's law. Through some technicality, the contractor did not have to repair the damage.
The president of the company called the woman and explained that he had nothing to do with the destruction of the trees and had known nothing about the incident.
"Well, you know now," the woman said, and hung up.
Three days later, as the woman drove past the store in question, she noticed nurserymen planting trees and hedges around the store. When the company built a second store in another part of town, the woman noticed that the tree-preservation law was properly obeyed.
Filling out evaluation cards may seem like a microscopic effort to help the environment, but it is effective. The main point to remember is be courteous—kind words carry a lot more weight. And when your words inspire a business to become more sensitive to environmental needs, you can share the victory of other compatriots who stand on the front lines to save our Earth.