A group of UNC students set out last Monday to expose what they say is the real secret behind Victoria's Secret.
Members from UNC's Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) gathered at the Streets at Southpoint mall in Durham to stage a dramatic reading of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax, hang banners reading "Clear Cuts Aren't Sexy" and hand out pamphlets to protest the store's use of mainly virgin paper to print their catalogs.
"I believe the earth's resources are finite, and we are using them too quickly. Victoria's Secret is a huge part of that, and they could do so much less harm," said participant Ben Scandella.
The demonstration is part of a nationwide campaign organized by the San Francisco-based group Forest Ethics. UNC student Jenna Weidig interned with the California group and brought their ideas back with her to UNC.
"It is a nice way to spread our message, without the negative association of a protest," said Weidig.
The Lorax is a children's book that serves as a cautionary tale about forest destruction. It tells readers that unless they do something, forests—and the animals that live there—may be lost forever. Members of SEAC dressed in costumes portraying characters from the book, and brought along props and scenery.
However, the demonstration came to an abrupt end when security guards and mall managers quickly descended. The guards stopped the students and the press from taking any pictures inside the mall, and told the students to stop their demonstration, remove their banners and leave.
Mall officials said the students had not asked for permission to protest. They had no official comment.
"We just hope we got the word out to a few shoppers. We just want to help spread the information to the consumers," said Weidig.
Although they say Victoria's Secret is a large contributor to the destruction of forests, members of SEAC say the store is not alone.
"This is our first one of these. We are not singling out Victoria's Secret; they are not alone in this," said UNC student Hannah Early. "We as consumers have the ability to make change by how we shop."
The national campaign has also included full-page ads in the New York Times, outdoor advertising and the launch of a Web site, www.victoriasdirtysecret.net.
For its part, Victoria's Secret has made some changes. According to Forest Ethics, the store has switched its clearance catalogs to 80 percent post-consumer recycled content and 20 percent content certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, the only credible certification for sustainable logging. However, clearance catalogs account for only about 10 percent of the company's total mailings. According to Forest Ethics, the retailer mails almost 400 million catalogs annually—an average of one per customer every two weeks. The store is also said to be considering a paper change for the rest of their catalogs.
"Every day Victoria's Secret stalls, they do more damage to the environment," said Holly Padgett, an SEAC member, in a statement. "It's time for them to stop 'considering' a new paper policy and start taking steps to implement one."