Something else that we’re going to see more and more in the future is called greenwashing. I looked it up in the dictionary, and it says:
“greenwash – a superficial or insincere display of concern for the environment that is shown by an organization.”
Sounds like something you’re not stupid enough to fall for right? Wrong! I’ll bet you a lot of stores that you shop at already does some form of greenwashing.
I always imagine a CEO sitting there with a staff of people who also have other 3 letter acronyms for their job description saying: “Why don’t we say we’re doing something good for the environment, while in fact we’re not? We’ll get some nice press for free, and people will think we’re the best company in the world. A little twisting of the truth will bring us a rash of positive publicity, and more business equals a bigger bonus for us. The shareholders will love this trick!” Of course, his CFO, COO, CDO or CCO will applaud him in the boardroom, the directors will be impressed with the plot, and the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) will quickly draw up a plan for the brilliant greenwashing scheme.
All the big boys do it. Take for example Britain’s most unsustainable company around, British Petroleum, also known as BP. They’ve launched a couple of big greenwashing PR projects after spilling millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. BP is really proud that they have “helped” business along the Gulf Coast with almost £15 billion. The true story is they parted with the money only because they are required to do so by law, and not because of the generosity that is in their hearts.
Did you know that the word “natural” is totally unregulated, every brand can use it if they like. Take “Cif PowerPro Naturals” for example. According to Unilever UK, its “made with 98% naturally derived ingredients.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well that’s where greenwashing comes in, the product is 95% water. Pure H2O, so only 3% of the ingredients that clean are natural and 2% is chemical. What a nifty way of saying you have a 98% natural product.
Do you buy “eco friendly” products? Good for you, but you’re wrong again. A recent study shows that some popular consumer cleaning products such as laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, and hand soap that claim to be eco-friendly are not 100% petroleum-free as claimed. The study employed a carbon-14 dating technique, which is traditionally used in archaeology to determine the age of bones, cloth, fossils and other artifacts. The scientists used the technique to determine the origin of carbon in the cleaning products. The study showed incredible variation from brand to brand, and not one product being 100% “green,” or derived solely from plant based materials. Now, you’d say but that’s wrong… Wrong again. Mr. CEO and CMO aren’t lying to you. There just simply isn’t a legal definition of “sustainable, natural, or renewable” in product carbon content. So they can safely wash themselves green, and say they are not doing anything wrong.
Dubai is another classic example. They say that they have some amazing “sustainable” projects going on there that will definitely make the world and the city a greener place. They build the city in the middle of the desert with no big fresh water sources around!!! Seriously, sustainable?! What is sustainable in generating so much power for osmosis filters so you can water plants in the middle of the desert? Ahhh, gotcha – your oil is still cheap and flowing freely, so that makes it sustainable.
Even Britain’s beloved salmon is in danger of greenwashing. Much of the salmon in the market today is farm grown or cultivated, because the wild salmon is becoming scarce. Did you know that they color the fish with the use of astaxanthin, a dye associated with retinal damage used to make gray farmed fish various shades of “wild” pink. Without this chemical, that lovely pink salmon in the meat counter would actually be light grey. How can something you have to dye to sell be sustainable? Remember this the next time you see non-wild salmon labeled ‘sustainable’ or ‘green.’ At least you’re wise to what’s going on.
Greenwashing happens everywhere – even in your local hydro store or garden center. For example, organic bat guano (otherwise known as bat pooh) is not sustainable, however, it is 100% organic. Bat Guano must age in an arid location, such as a cave, for decades before it can be harvested. The harvesting process disrupts the delicate ecosystem of the cave, and deprives the other creatures living in the cave of an essential source of nutrients. Additionally, shipping bat guano from Jamaica, and other faraway places requires a great deal of fossil fuel.
As its name suggests, rock phosphate contains a high concentration of phosphate, which makes it a popular organic fertilizer. However, it’s found in only a few places around the world, and is harvested by strip mining. The resources are quite limited. Not only is rock phosphate not a renewable resource, collecting it isn’t ecofriendly.
Last, but not least, our politicians are the biggest greenwashers of them all. They promise you dreams of a green future, while putting their hands in the greasy pockets of big oil and other major industries. They are the ones allowing the companies to greenwash. My prediction for the future? They will keep their greasy hands in the pockets of big company’s 3-lettered managers, because otherwise they will not raise the $1,000,000+ for their campaigns. No matter what country you live in, he who is owned by the biggest pockets wins.
[alert type=white ]This article was written by Mike Nivato. It was originally published in Garden Culture Magazine, Issue 2, under the same title.[/alert]