A carol for a cause: asking Target to end plastic pollution

by Rico Sisney

December 14, 2019

What better way to talk about Target’s plastic pollution problem than to sing a personalized carol urging the company to take action?

All we want for Christmas is for Target to end plastic pollution. So we let the turtles do the talking.

Most people’s idea of activism might not include rewriting Christmas carols or performing improv street theater at a company’s headquarters, but this week, Greenpeace USA activists used both of these tactics to pressure Target.

A lot of folks are aware of the seriousness of the plastic pollution problem. Local groups in Target’s hometown of Minneapolis are already campaigning against incinerators and landfills in their communities, which is where a lot of single-use plastic waste ends up. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Target customers have signed Greenpeace and change.org petitions demanding that the company push forward real, time-bound solutions to ditch single-use plastics. 

The holiday season represents many positive things, such as community, faith, and contribution, but the pressure to get that perfect gift for loved-ones leads to a lot of stress and lots of extra waste. Some estimates suggest as much as 25% more trash than usual during the holiday season!

What better way to talk about Target’s plastic pollution problem than to sing a personalized carol urging the company to take action?

Target has taken some positive public stances in the past, like supporting the Federal Equality Act, but as one of the biggest retailers in the U.S. during the biggest shopping season of the year, we need Target to do more to definitively address the alarming amount of plastic pollution filling up our oceans and affecting communities all over the world. Or as Santa and the carolers put it:

“We wish you were more ambitious
We know that you’ve made commitments
But we want some more specifics
of how you’ll improve”

Arts and activism are intimately connected; groups like Theater of the Oppressed and artists like Nina Simone and Fela Kuti have shown that these “roles” are sometimes indistinguishable. For the recording, we enlisted the help of some friends from Chicago. RaxTrax engineer Noam Wallenberg recorded the song and my Sidewalk Chalk bandmate Maggie Vagle, soul/jazz artists Akenya Seymour and Taylor Mallory, and actor Jim DeSelm do their best turtle and Santa imitations and lend some gorgeous harmony to the carol.

Utilizing art and creative resistance in the context of campaigns is one way to, as adrienne maree brown puts it, “engage my own imagination to break free.”

If you can make people laugh, you can make them think. If you can make them sing, you can make them remember.

We’re not just trying to sustain the planet, we’re trying to sustain ourselves, which means we have to bring joy into the work. Getting to address a really complicated issue with improv street theater, puppets and music makes me incredibly happy. I hope you’ll check out the video and enjoy singing the song around the fireplace, under the mistletoe, or perhaps at a Target store near you.

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Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.