What is Greenwashing?

Photo Credit: wnsr.parsons.edu

If you read eco-news or participate in green communities, you’ve probably heard of the term “greenwashing.” But do you know what it is?

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the deceptive use of green PR or marketing to promote a perception that a company or product is environmentally-friendly.

It’s whitewashing with a green slant.

Hypothetical Examples

The Eco-Friendly Energy Company takes being green seriously. They spent millions of dollars on an advertising campaign to brand themselves as being clean energy advocates—when in reality, only 2% of their energy comes from clean sources. The rest is either coal or petroleum-based.

Yummy Organic Chocolates uses organic, fair trade cocoa in their milk chocolate bites. Good for them! Aren’t they so green and eco-friendly? But they individually wrap each bite-sized piece in non-recyclable. And the milk in their chocolate? It comes from a factory farm where the cows are fed growth hormones.

Real World Examples

Kimberly Clark came out with “Pure and Natural” diapers in green packaging. Although their product contains organic cotton on the outside, the same petrochemical gel is on the inside.

Here’s an odd example from the clean coal industry. Clean coal is a classic example of greenwashing. It may be better than other types of coal, but it will never be green.

Frosty the Coal Man, is a jolly happy soul.
He’s abundant here in America and he helps our economy roll.
Frosty the Coal Man, is getting cleaner every day.
He’s affordable and adorable and helps workers keep their pay.
There must have been some magic in clean coal technology,
For when they looked for pollutants there was nearly none to see.

You can’t make this stuff up.

An electronics recycling company that takes electronics and sends them to a landfill or a developing country is an example of greenwashing. (All Green doesn’t do that, we promise!)

Do you look for greenwashing when you buy “green” products?

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