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Deep Thoughts on Greenwashing
by Stephen Morris
Warning: This is a subject that can arouse great passions on both sides of the arousement. We’ve asked a wide variety of “friends of the environment” to share their thoughts on the subject.
‘Greenwashing’ needs to become yesterday as of today. Tomorrow we need to be speaking about ’outgreening’, that is the drive to be greener than the next person/company for real, in order to achieve the highest levels of personal and corporate success. Greenwashing has become valueless, outgreening will build value for the long term.
Jeff Wolfe, CEO, groSolar. White River Junction, Vermont
... while underscoring the American talent for riding any good trend into the ground while hopelessly commercializing and trivializing it until its own Mother doesn't recognize it. Take Chri$tma$ for example. Greenwashing is the attempt by lazy, greedy, or otherwise "Patriotic Uhmerkins" to make themselves and their products appear to be green by painting them over, but without any thought for the actual greenness of their content, process, message, packaging, distribution, etc. Greenwashing is NOT a good thing. It is (at best) deceptive and confusing, and muddies the waters of the marketplace so you need doctorates in environmental science and organic chemistry to buy cleanser and toilet paper. At worst, I think we should call it what it is: a lie, a damned lie, and an evil attempt by lazy profiteers to profit from distress.
Michael Potts, author of The Independent Home, co-founder of The Public Press, and webster and designer of Green Living Journal.
Greenwashing, all in all, is positive for our business. It separates the real from the charlatans and 'fake green' generally doesn't pass the smell test. It's actually quite encouraging to see the WalMarts and British Petroleums of the world try to be green and shed their toxic legacies. And some of the greenwashers actually make it across the authenticity threshold, and these days we have to embrace the small victories when we can get them. Sometimes it's a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good.
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John Schaeffer, Founder of Real Goods Trading Corporation, Hopland, California
Corporations must play a central role in helping to solve our world's environmental challenges by ending their destructive policies and waking up to the economic benefits of environmentally sustainable practices and products but greenwashing is not helping anyone. Yes, green is the new black, but the top Greenwashers (i.e. Exxon, DuPont, Bechtel, Chevron) are using a slogan as a green curtain to conceal their dark motives, undermining the work of some businesses that are genuinely committed to making the world a greener place. If companies spent as much time and money improving their business practices as they did making themselves look green, they might actually make a real difference.
Ashley Schaeffer, Greenpeace Organizing Term Coordinator, 25, San Francisco, California
Green's the latest fad and everyone's scrambling to get on the green bandwagon. The current interest in all things green could be a good thing -- if the fad turns into a deep-seated trend. I have my doubts about that occurring though. Call me cynical, but in America, we're quick to pawn our dreams and lofty goals for a drink when times are flush.
Daniel D. Chiras, Ph.D., Author of Green Home Improvement, and many other books on green building.
My concern about "Greenwashing" is that it really reflects the "Arm's Length" relationship that our modern culture has with natural biological systems. As a marketing strategy, GW may give a brief nod to concepts of sustainability, but more significantly just invigorates consumerism, which in the long-run defeats the purpose. I think that sustainability has to be about understanding and embracing natural limits, not about developing clever marketing strategies disguised as public education campaigns.
Carl Russell, Forester, Earthwise Farm & Forest, Bethel, Vermont
The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) has been heavily promoting their national green building program. They want buy-in from everyone in the building trades.
At a recent meeting of the International Code Council meeting, there was a vote to increase the stringency of the national building energy code by 30%, called "the 30% solution". That means 30% better energy performance from our buildings (which incidentally are responsible for 40% of US CO2 emissions), 30% less energy use, and 30% lower energy bills. This has the potential to be a great innovation engine that would have meant job creation in a slow building industry.
But the standard was voted down, another positive effort defeated by narrow minds and short vision. Who could possibly vote against such a thing? NAHB. Apparently its too hard for the tradespeople they represent to build anything other than what’s comfortable and familiar.
A big fat raspberry to NAHB for painting green black. If they want to promote green buildings, they need to start with energy efficiency, not bamboo floors. I'm going to send them bagfuls of carbon they can choke on. (Another thhhhbbllllltttt to Icynene Insulation who also voted against the 30% solution - a company so fearful of losing market share to companies that make better insulation products that they are willing to sacrifice my son's health by voting "no" on a clean energy future supported by good energy codes.)
Paul Scheckel, author of Home Energy Diet, Vermont
With greater transparency in the corporate board rooms and behind doors in our nation's Capitol, we the people are wise enough to understand the difference between "energy independence" based on fossil fuels and controlled by big corporations, for example, and energy independence based on renewable energy sources that are local, built with American ingenuity and hard work, and deployed in a way that most Americans can afford.
John Ivanko, co-author, ECOpreneuring and innkeeper of Inn Serendipity, completely powered by the wind and sun. Wisconsin.
If going green is to maintain and increase its momentum, it won't always be for the best reasons, but future generations will bless us, none the less.
Paul Freundlich, Founder and President Emeritus, Co-op (Green) America
Greenwashing makes it confusing for consumers to choose wisely, but it shows the power of the movement that people are trying to fake being green. Fortunately, some of the greenest choices can't be faked...buy local! Certifications such as fair trade, LEED, and SFI are have accountability to counter the greenwashers, and should be encouraged by consumer choice.
Nicholas Moser, Natural Builder and Vice-President of The SHIRE Institute
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