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April 02, 2014

Activists to Pepsi: Tar Sands and Water Don't Mix


Have you heard this one before?  A PepsiCo representative walks out of an industry conference...and his buddy tells him that they’re going to hand him over to the Sierra Club tar sands protesters.  

Actually, it's no joke - that's exactly what happened last week at the Food and Beverage Environmental Conference in Napa, California.  

The Sierra Club's Future Fleet campaign, is targeting corporations to slash oil consumption and to stop using tar sands in their gigantic vehicle fleets. Nineteen companies have already made a tar sands commitment, but PepsiCo has been lagging behind its peers.

Last week, we got creative. PepsiCo was sponsoring an industry event called the Food & Beverage Environmental Conference, which was themed around water. Tar sands, of course, spell disaster for clean water and everyone who drinks it, so the Sierra Club and our friends at ForestEthics turned out in Napa to make sure PepsiCo and its peers know that tar sands and water don't mix.

On Sunday, the day that conference attendees were arriving in Napa, Sierra Club volunteers took over downtown Napa - and the opinion page of the paper - to petition PepsiCo to make good on their public commitments around clean water by saying no to tar sands in their vehicle fleets. And meanwhile, our friends at ForestEthics hung a huge banner over the highway leading to the conference center right where conference attendees would see it.

But the action was just getting started. On Monday, conference attendees walked out of their morning sessions to a lunchtime rally outside the conference hotel that made front page news in Napa. With activists of every generation chanting, "Hey Pepsi, listen up! Don't use tar sands in your trucks!" the picket caused a stir among conference attendees, who commented about the conference never having been protested before and joked about handing the PepsiCo representatives at the conference over to the activists.

And the actions just kept on coming. On Tuesday, the Sierra Club released a report called "The Toxic Waters of the Tar Sands Industry" and invited company representatives and the general public to watch a special web session in which guest speakers with expertise on the devastation wrought by tar sands on water, including one representative from an impacted First Nations community, spoke about the issues highlighted in the report. You can watch the session here.
IMG_4366 Protest
Just to make sure the report got into the hands of the industry representatives, early Wednesday morning, a team of activists ensured  it was delivered it to nearly all conference attendees' hotel rooms. That same night, ForestEthics activists in Seattle at the Sustainable Packaging Conference shined a giant light projection onto the outside of the conference hotel that said, "Coke and Pepsi: Stop Using Tar Sands Fuel."

We got word from PepsiCo that last week's actions were definitely noticed. It wouldn't be possible without folks' support in calling on PepsiCo and other companies to step up and do the right thing: Join the call to PepsiCo to get off tar sands here.

-- Rachel Butler is a campaigner with the Beyond Oil Campaign's Future Fleet Initiative. Photos courtesy of Ethan Buckner and Peter Menchini.


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