Neal Pargman is a philosopher and a man deeply committed to peace and to this planet. He is also, by background and training, a marketing man, and he appreciates that the use of symbols in a commercial accessible way calls attention to a cause and, when successful, reaches millions of potential supporters who would otherwise remain uninformed and untouched.
He came up with the concept in 1972. It was a time when this country was resting from the upheaval of Vietnam and Watergate, for the most part putting energies into finding the perfect temperature for hot tubs and into launching what has been aptly named the Me Decade, forever to be recognized as one of the most embarrassing periods in the social history of this country.
Pargman, however, knew that something else, something infinitely more important, something that would affect the entire population, was just around the corner – – the environmental movement. After a serious drowning accident off the California coast in which he nearly died, he decided to devote his considerable talents to helping spearhead this movement.
Slowly over a period of time, Pargman developed his plan for the foundation: He would create a logo and a slogan that would eventually symbolize everywhere the coming global effort, the inevitable urgency to save the ultimate resource, the planet itself. He would license manufacturers to use the art and the phrase as long as the products were earth-friendly and socially acceptable.
The public would buy the products and display the symbols to create awareness and the cachet of chic for the movement. The manufacturers would pay license fees and the foundation would take these fees and recycle them into grants to researchers to help find solutions to the problems.
The plan was brilliant in its basic simplicity. Colleges and universities get funded to solve the crisis. The public advertises the need while enjoying a new, healthy fashion trend. Corporate America foots the bill and makes a profit at the same time.
Born in the Bronx, New York and raised in the San Fernando Valley just north of Los Angeles, Pargman attended San Francisco State University in the ‘60s and even then was walking both sides of the line – – developing a social conscience at one of the most radical, student-active campuses in the whole anti-war movement and at the same time earning a degree in marketing.
After graduating, he went into the shoe business, first for a company that had great samples, but sadly, no shoes, and then for Genesco, a large manufacturer. It was for them that Pargman created the “Captain America” jungle boot complete with American flag insert that became the foot fashion rage of the year. He had found a way to incorporate commercial viability and a philosophical statement in one concept, something he would do again with Save the Earth.
In 1972 Pargman was living in Watsonville, California, raising and training horses, doing some outside consulting and carefully plotting the basics for the Save the Earth Foundation. The plan – – to market the logo and use the proceeds for research grants – – – was in place even then. But it took fourteen years – – – until 1986 – – to really get the momentum going. It was then that Pargman went to acclaimed commercial artist Robert Krogle to develop the new Save the Earth logo and then he began selling stickers and t-shirts featuring that artwork. As expected, the products were soon selling themselves.
What was needed was a way to gain media exposure and that opportunity presented itself when Meryl Streep wore the Save the Earth Flag Shirt in her hit movie “The River Wild” and also wore another Save the Earth Shirt on Good Morning America. John Ritter was also a supporter and wore the shirt in a Daniel Steele Movie of the Week, and also on The Jay Leno Show. Save the Earth was also a main story line on the Young and the Restless when they featured the “Save the Earth” concert.
Pargman has the pieces in place and serves full-time as president of the foundation from his office in Palm Desert, California. He works with manufacturers, designing and approving new products, the sales of which fund the grants – – just like he planned. He also works closely with the scientists and researchers to whom grants are made, keeping an eye on programs and progress. The remainder of his time is spent studying the environmental movement in general, coming up with new ideas for raising funds and deciding who might be the next recipient of a grant.