Is greenwashing a good sign?

Next time you go to a supermarket, count how many packages feature the words “green,” “eco-friendly,” “natural,” or “biodegradable.”  The number depends on where you shop, but I can guarantee it will be higher than a few years ago.  The average number of ‘green’ products per store almost doubled between 2007 and 2008.  Green advertising almost tripled between 2006 and 2008.

While many of these products are legitimately eco-conscious, a large percentage of them commit one of the sins of greenwashing.  They may make vague claims of greenness with no proof, promote fake third-party endorsements, or simply fib.  Some “green” features are irrelevant (“CFC-free,” for instance), or have a hidden trade-off (sustainably harvested paper bleached with chlorine).

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Then, there is the even bigger issue of corporate greenwashing. Massive polluters, such as oil and utility companies, launch multi-million-dollar advertising campaigns to convince the public that they are commited to the environment.  Some greenwashed companies even sponsor convervative institutes that deny climate change.

climatewash-greenwash-2-0-sPretty bad situation, right?  Well, I’m not sure.  It’s definitely shameful that corporations willingly deceive consumers.  But I think the best thing about greenwashing is that it has become such a problem in the last few years.

Why wasn’t greenwashing as common years ago? Because fewer people cared whether a product was green. The environmental issues existed, but eco-conscious consumers were harder to find.

The fact that companies think greenwashing will improve their sales shows that the green movement is making a difference.  The power of the consumer has produced an abundance of green and lite green products.  Now, we just have to turn that power against greenwahsed corporations that refuse to change.

So, don’t give up.  We are making a difference.

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