Green Washing and the Six Sins

November 10, 2010 · Posted in Modern Design 

I had never heard of the term “greenwashing” until yesterday, but the data is astounding.

Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

The term greenwashing was coined by New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld[3][4][5] in a 1986 essay regarding the hotel industry’s practice of placing placards in each room promoting reuse of towels ostensibly to “save the environment”. Westerveld noted that, in most cases, little or no effort toward waste recycling was being implemented by these institutions, due in part to the lack of cost-cutting affected by such practice. Westerveld opined that the actual objective of this “green campaign” on the part of many hoteliers was, in fact, increased profit. Westerveld hence monitored this and other outwardly environmentally conscientious acts with a greater, underlying purpose of profit increase as greenwashing. The use of logos such as ‘Rainforest Alliance’ is also a form of greenwashing, where customers think that the item they’re buying is completely ethical, when in fact only a small proportion of the item’s ingredients are. An example of this is Galaxy Chocolate (UK), where the cocoa is ethically sourced but another ingredient, palm oil, is unsustainably sourced leading to a decline in the orangutan population.

The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices. This is often portrayed by changing the name or label of a product to evoke the natural environment or nature—for example, putting an image of a forest on a bottle containing harmful chemicals. Environmentalists often use greenwashing to describe the actions of energy companies, which are traditionally the largest polluters.[6]

Norway’s consumer ombudsman has targeted automakers who claim that their cars are “green”, “clean” or “environmentally friendly” with some of the world’s strictest advertising guidelines. Consumer Ombudsman official Bente Øverli said: “Cars cannot do anything good for the environment except less damage than others.”


2 Responses to “Green Washing and the Six Sins”

  1. trisha on November 10th, 2010 2:04 pm

    We don’t hear enough about how consumers are brainwashed into buying “green” products!! It is almost taboo to talk negative about “green” things! I loved this…..although I am not sure why it is on your architecture blog.

  2. Tyson on November 12th, 2010 7:23 am

    I posted this video because the same hype that has affected cleaning products, clothes and car companies has affected the construction industry too. I’m growing tired of hearing how evil the utility companies are and how this product, or that one, is going to solve some blown-way-out-of-proportion environmental problem.

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