The Spectrum Condominium in downtown Falls Church markets itself as “a vibrant new eco-friendly condominium.” They tout the benefits of living in a walkable downtown with good bus service and near Metro:

Living in the center of the city between East and West Falls Church Metro stops and along GEORGE, the clean diesel local bus line, will make getting around a breeze—all while reducing traffic, emissions and pollution. ... So come home to Spectrum where you will find a greener, healthier and more exciting way to live.


The site also touts the building’s green roof and eco-friendly appliances. Someone in their marketing department didn’t get the memo, however. An ad in the Post offers not a free month’s rent, or a free Metro/GEORGE pass or Zipcar membership, but extra free parking. We’re not just talking about one free space but a second one for a two-bedroom.

Now that green living is trendy, developers are touting environmentally friendly features in many new buildings. That’s great. But if the marketers then just default to the same gas-guzzling promotions that assume that more cars and more driving is always a draw, it undermines not only their message but the purpose behind it. Many of those two-bedrooms will go to couples who want a spare room, or families with babies, and they don’t necessarily need two cars even in Falls Church.

The same car-centric marketing blindness underlay Safeway’s recent “free gas” promotion. Despite a strong commitment to purchasing renewable energy, Safeway teamed up with BP to give free gas cards earlier this year. Even in stores like the one on 17th Street in Dupont Circle, which has no parking and to which a very small percentage of shoppers drive, cashiers would always ask “do you want free gas?” upon checkout, large “free gas” banners hung around the store, and at one point the cashiers even all wore “free gas” t-shirts. Sorry, my folding grocery cart doesn’t need a fill-up, and neither does the bike ridden by the shopper next to me. Free food might have been nice, though, to help power those shoppers on their walk or ride home.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.