Earth Island Institute Files Lawsuit Against Coca-Cola for False Advertising

Global beverage company markets itself as sustainable and environmentally friendly while being the largest plastic polluter in the world

Contact: Sharon Donovan
Communications Director
Earth Island Institute, (510) 859-9161

Washington, D.C. (June 8, 2021) — On the grounds of false and deceptive advertising, Earth Island Institute today filed a lawsuit against the Coca-Cola Company, the American multinational beverage corporation that portrays itself as sustainable and environmentally friendly while generating more plastic pollution than any other company in the world. The filing coincides with World Oceans Day, in recognition of the devastating impacts plastic pollution has on marine life, oceans, and coastal communities, and the dire need for companies like Coca-Cola to take responsibility for those impacts.

On its website and in advertising campaigns on television, in print, and across social media platforms, Coca-Cola claims that “our planet matters.” “Scaling sustainable solutions . . . and investing in sustainable packaging platforms to reduce our carbon footprint,” the company asserts. A “World Without Waste” declares the headline in one marketing campaign. Yet almost anywhere you look there’s a plastic Coca-Cola bottle trashing the public park, washed up on the beach, or piled in a mountain of plastic at a waste processing facility. What these advertising campaigns ultimately amount to is a mountain of greenwashing.

In fact, Coca-Cola was named the number one corporate plastic polluter for the past three years according to the Break Free From Plastic Global Cleanup and Brand Audit report. According to the report, 13,834 branded Coca-Cola plastics were recorded in 51 countries in 2020, reflecting more plastic than the next two top global plastic polluters combined.

“Coca-Cola has long been in the business of portraying itself as stewards of the environment while pointing to consumers as the source of plastic pollution. But it is Coca-Cola, not consumers, that chooses to use chart-topping amounts of plastic for its products. It is time this company is held accountable for deceiving the public,” said Earth Island Institute General Counsel Sumona Majumdar. “The more consumers become aware of plastic pollution, the more the company doubles down on its purported commitment to the environment to appease those concerns, but the actual results of their efforts tell a very different story. The company needs to come clean and be honest with consumers.”

Earth Island Institute has filed the case in the District of Columbia Superior Court, alleging that Coca-Cola is in violation of the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA). The CPPA is a consumer protection law that prohibits a wide variety of deceptive and unconscionable business practices. The statute specifically provides that a public-interest organization, like Earth Island, may bring an action on behalf of consumers and the general public for relief from the unlawful conduct directed at consumers. If successful, this lawsuit will prevent Coca-Cola from falsely advertising its business as sustainable, among other things.

“For 12 years we have advocated for a more just, equitable world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts, driving corporate responsibility to stop plastic pollution at the source,” said Julia Cohen, MPH, co-founder and managing director at Plastic Pollution Coalition, a project of Earth Island Institute and a global alliance of more than 1,200 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders in 75 countries. “We want the Coca-Cola company to stop the greenwashing and false claims, be transparent about the plastic they use, and be a leader in investing in deposit and refill programs for the health of humans, animals, waterways, the ocean, and our environment.”

As a fiscally sponsored project of Earth Island Institute, Plastic Pollution Coalition is at the organization’s core of educating consumers about plastic pollution, including in the District of Columbia, and engaging in advocacy related to environmental and human health impacts from plastic.

Plastic pollution is a global problem and threatens human and environmental health on a massive scale, from the plastic-producing petrochemical plants that disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income communities to the plastic waste that is often dumped in developing countries to the toxic microplastics invading our bodies, which have been shown to contribute to cancer, neurotoxicity, reproductive issues, endocrine disruption, and genetic problems. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of these issues and are too often deceived by companies like Coca-Cola, which claims that they are reducing their plastic footprint on the earth.

Earth Island Institute is represented by Richman Law & Policy, which specializes in consumer protection law.

World Oceans Day is Tuesday, June 8.

More information here.


It’s World Oceans Day, and we are spotlighting our Coalition member Pirani Life, a company on a mission to end single-use and help everyone party sustainably. We spoke with Pirani Life’s founders Brandegee Pierce and Danielle Del Sordo to learn more about the story behind their reusable cups and tumblers.

How have you seen your beaches change over the years growing up in South Florida? 

Being on this beautiful planet and in South Florida 35 years, we’ve seen a steady increase of coral reef bleaching, eroding coastlines, and trash scattered across the sand and in the ocean from both littering beach goers as well as marine debris that washes ashore after storms and on a regular basis.  Brandegee on his 30th birthday was stuck with a needle that washed up on the beach (fortunately after a doctor’s visit, there was no issues but still really scary!)  Sadly, it got to a point where I (Danielle) could no longer go on a jog in the sand without getting infuriated with all the trash on my path.  It would end up turning into a cleanup vs a peaceful workout. We became a part of the #LitterFreeFlorida movement filled with organizations and individuals who are cleaning the coast on weekly and often daily basis, educating beach goers, students and citizens of South Florida to do better, choose reusables and take action for a better planet. 

We have recently expanded to the mountains in Asheville NC, where we see significantly less trash, and different types of litter, although it still exists and all streams lead to the sea.  We can see why not seeing trash directly entering our oceans could be a disconnect for people to think that it’s not that big of a deal to change their lifestyle and choose reusables over single use.  That’s why we are here to continue to create awareness!

How did you come up with the Pirani Party Tumbler?

Stepping outside of our comfort zones was never a challenge for us. We are designers with a passion to make a difference. In 2013, we quit our Corporate America careers in Industrial Design (Brandegee) and Costume Design (Danielle) to travel the world. We lived out of a backpack for 18 months looking for inspiration to start up an eco-friendly company together. Ideas ranged from sustainable swimwear to a healthy food truck, and the list can go on. Fast forward 6.5 years and Pirani Life was born!

Most of our sports take place in the ocean, and we were lucky enough to live one block from it. As South Florida native water babies living an active outdoor lifestyle, we grew tired of seeing litter scattered across our beautiful beaches. One of the biggest offenders was always that iconic red party cup. This fueled Brandegee to design the first vacuum insulated version of it. After countless 3D-printed prototypes created in our home studio (a.k.a. the living room), he was determined to create the last party cup you will ever need and help put a stop to the billions of single-use plastic cups that are tossed every year.

Pirani’s mission is to empower everyday heroes in safeguarding our planet through raising eco-awareness and creating sustainable solutions.  The biggest sense of accomplishment is when people tell us that through our messaging and brand, we made them think twice about using single-use items.  

What does #PartySustainably mean to you?

#PartySustainably is what makes Pirani Life, Pirani. We want the party to carry on without the waste we’ve seen in order to take better care of our beaches, forests, and the planet as a whole. You may see #PartySustainably and wonder where to even begin. Honestly, it’s anything that involves living the good life and taking better care of the environment to help the lives of others and for generations to come. To Party Sustainably means thinking about what you can do better to live your best life without relying on single-use plastics or overlooking picking up after yourself during a good time.

What plastic-free living tips do you have that people might not have thought of?

At Pirani Life, we like to spread the message that living sustainably is not about being perfect and every small action makes a difference.  Here are some of our favorite ways to #LiveSustainably at Pirani Life:

·      Forgot your reusable bags?  Wheel your groceries out of the store and bag at the car!

·      Got your favorite pho takeout but it comes in plastic?  Keep the container and use it as Tupperware!  Giving plastic a second, third, or fourth life is much better than single-use!

·      Don’t be shy!  Ask every barista, bartender, smoothie or juice maker to pour in your Pirani!  You will be surprised at how many say yes.

·      Don’t “Wishcycle”  and NEVER RECYCLE THIN FILM PLASTIC! We spent some time visiting recycling plants and the most important thing we learned is recycling will never be viable if its cost outweighs the benefit.  Thin film plastic like shopping bags clogs facilities and increases the cost of recycling a lot.

We can go on and on with this list, but those are our top 4!

If you could tell the world one message about plastic pollution, what would it be?

Imperfection in masses is better then perfection by a niche group.  Although we respect the zero-waste community a ton, the cold hard truth is the vast majority of people on this planet will never be zero waste.  Instead of shaming people for using a straw, commend them for using a Pirani Tumbler 😁 or a reusable bag or skipping the plastic water bottle.  Eventually as this message disseminates to the youth, we will hopefully have an overwhelming majority of people that care for this planet and be in powerful positions to make legislative and corporate decisions that are needed to improve the health of our beautiful and hopefully forgiving planet.

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Photo by Ben Hicks

It’s World Oceans Day! We invite you to listen, learn, and take action today with the resources below. 

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By PPC Member Oceanum Vela

Kittery, Maine – In honor of World Oceans Day on June 8, 2020, environmental scientist, sailor, and now eco-preneur, Melissa Kalicin has announced the launch of Oceanum Vela, a company that repurposes authentic sails from elite racing boats into all manner of products. Her mission is to bring the global ocean race sailing community together to engage in the circular economy, all while promoting responsible sporting and ocean health. 

Kalicin noticed that a big impediment to the greening of sailing is the discarding of old race sails. Most, including some elite sails that are important parts of racing history, are sent to the landfill or, luckily for her company, are in a holding pattern of hope being indefinitely stored. 

This bag was made from a sail used in The Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009.

Oceanum Vela works with local boutiques that repurpose sails into attractive bags and accessories. By doing so, the company prevents waste, generates awareness of the sail-to- landfill problem, and raises funds for ocean conservation efforts through proceeds from each memorabilia piece sold. 

“It’s exciting and rewarding to develop a line of authentic race sail memorabilia from races such as the Ocean Race and America’s Cup,” enthused Kalicin. “Positive early reaction from racing fans, the sailors, sail makers and race organizations showed we were certainly onto something.” 

One of Oceanum Vela’s first projects involved upcycling the sails from the former Volvo Ocean 70, Ericsson 3 from the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race in Italy. Oceanum Vela partnered with Jean-Martin Grisar, one of the original sail makers from the Ericsson campaign.

“Ten years ago, I had these sails in my hands, when they were new,” said Grisar, owner of JM Sail and Bags in Rimini. “I am very excited to work with them again, turning them into stylish bags and accessories fulfilling a mission of sustainability doing something positive to preserve our oceans.” 

Having enough of a supply of old sails has not been a problem for Oceanum Vela — it collected approximately 3 tons of sail material since beginning operations in late 2018 despite not a having a warehouse. And interest from fans, pre-coronavirus, was building nicely. 

“Sailing the Southern Ocean or racing across the bay at top America’s Cup foiling speeds is usually just a dream to most sailors and sailing fans,” Kalicin shared. “Many fans reached out to us with requests for merchandise from sails from their favorite teams. Feedback on the Oceanum Vela concept and our products have ranged from ‘that’s brilliant’ to ‘a Carbon Race Sail duffle from a Maxi Yacht; I love it!!’ Kalicin is bullish about Oceanum Vela’s prospects to provide real value to racing fans once a post-COVID-19 equilibrium is reached. Despite the unprecedented times, interest in partnering to have race sails repurposed into original sponsors’ product lines and accessories to raise funds for ocean conservation is growing. 

“We have both race teams and sail lofts storing old sails for us in the US and Europe storing sails until the threats from COVID-19 recede and people can safely handle them again,” Kalicin noted. 

In addition to the new projects, Kalicin continues to work on building the sustainable aspects of her business, firmly believing in her passion is both the right thing to do and is confident that racing fans — and other green-minded consumers — will agree. 

Oceanum Vela became a member of the Plastic Pollution Coalition in January 2020. Kalicin, who was recently featured on the GreenSportsPod podcast, operates the company in line with PPC’s mission to “work toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, waterways, the ocean, and the environment.” Oceanum Vela strives to work with like-minded businesses and have a transparent supply chain as we attempt to make our products meet a 95 percent recycled content material threshold. 

Ten percent of proceeds from Oceanum Vela’s sales go to ocean health organizations. This June, proceeds will go toward Clean Oceans Access, a fellow Plastic Pollution Coalition member, based in Newport, RI, with goals to eliminate marine debris, improve coastal water quality, and protect and preserve shoreline access. Clean Ocean Access aims to promote a sustainable sailing community through projects such as Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas, RI, and Shrink Wrap Recycling.

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By Sean Russell

The future of the ocean depends on us and we depend on the future of the ocean. This was the theme of the second UNICEF Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Activate Talk held on the eve of World Oceans Day in New York City at the UNICEF headquarters to share and celebrate the work of young conservation leaders activating to address SDG 14 – Life Below Water. This inspiring evening brought together hundreds of young leaders for a discussion emphasizing the critical role young people around the world play in helping to protect our blue planet.

With remarks from UNICEF leadership, Shannon O’Shea and Olav Kjorven, who shared how children and young people are inspired by and activating around ocean conservation, the evening kicked off with keynote speaker, Karan Jarath of Texas, Young Leader for the SDGs and inventor of a subsea oil wellhead capping device. 

Having grown up working with young leaders in the ocean conservation community, it was an honor to have the opportunity to moderate the SDG Activate Talk panel discussion – Young Changemakers Go Under the Sea, which united an outstanding team of young leaders – Malati and Isabel Wijsen of Bali, Indonesia and co-founders of Bye Bye Plastic Bags; Ben May, Communications Coordinator for the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit and Sea Youth Rise Up delegate; Emil Bilaver, a ten year old student from Montreal, Canada who was inspired to take conservation action by the World’s Largest Lesson initiative; and Fatoumata Cisse, a 7th grade New York City Junior Ambassador working to protect the ocean through community action.

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Panelists took the audience on a journey sharing their stories of their first connections to the ocean and the powerful role it plays in their lives, and communities, no matter where they live. As young leaders, they highlighted how each of them have activated in unique ways to engage their communities and peers in protecting the ocean and encouraged the audience to return to their communities and take action around critical ocean conservation issues. The panelists inspired the audience, emphasizing the importance of individual actions and calling on all present to understand the key role that young people play in the ocean conservation movement.

One of the key topics that emerged in the discussion was the threat plastic pollution poses to the health of the ocean. Regardless of their background and experience, each young panelist shared strong concerns regarding this issue. “The fact brought up by Melati and Isabel that a million plastic bags are used every minute put the current state of the world’s oceans in perspective,” said panelist Ben May.

The discussion went beyond concern and focused on solutions – highlighting diverse ways young people are activating in their communities to address plastic pollution at its source – ranging from working with their school cafeteria to eliminate single-use plastic lunch containers to advocating national governments to eliminate plastic bags. The team showcased how they’re building grassroots movements on a global scale to engage their peers in taking on the challenge of plastic pollution. 

The discussion went beyond concern and focused on solutions – highlighting diverse ways young people are activating in their communities to address plastic pollution at its source – ranging from working with their school cafeteria to eliminate single-use plastic lunch containers to advocating national governments to eliminate plastic bags.

“With the question of how our individual impacts make a difference, I cited two different studies that found that it only takes a small percentage of a population (5-10 percent) to convince everyone else,” reflects May. “I wanted to show that every action can make a difference by paving the way for new people to get engaged.”

This special event also featured guests – artist/designer Bernard Chang and Founder and Executive Producer of Kreative Kontent, Debbie Margolis-Horwitz as they unveiled the Annie Sunbeam and Friends comic, the latest in a series from Comics Uniting Nations highlighting the importance of protecting life underwater. The evening concluded with an energized interactive fair allowing for continued conversations and networking with a variety of youth-serving conservation organizations.

On the eve of World Oceans Day, this talk provided a powerful reminder that young people can no longer be written off as leaders of the future, especially when it comes to the protection of our ocean. Instead, young people are activating and leading the charge to protect our blue planet now and need your support to expand their impact. A special thanks to UNICEF and the SDG Activating Talks team for an outstanding event and their belief that young people can change the world. Happy World Oceans Day!

Sean Russell is a youth engagement strategist and the founder and director of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit. He collaborates with conservation organizations on a global scale to develop initiatives to empower and activate young conservation leaders. You can connect with him online at

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