Filed under: J500 Week 5 | Tags: environment, greenwash, greenwashing, radiohead, sigg
I spent $30 on a limited edition Radiohead 2008 tour Sigg water bottle. Not because I really cared that it would reduce my carbon footprint, but because that’s what they had at the merch booth.
Of course, If Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s lead singer, cared enough about the environment to make a point of it on a Sigg bottle, I knew that I should probably care about it too. So, I went home, googled ‘environmentalism’ and low and behold, I was enlightened.
I became that annoying kid who nagged her parents for not recycling enough and looked down on people who ate meat. I traded candy bars for granola bars, soda for pomegranate juice and Cheetos for Natural Cheetos.
I was so consumed with looking like I was environmentally aware though, that I forgot to understand what it was I was actually trying to do.
I had no idea my granola bar contained high fructose corn syrup, the cheaply produced and widely used sweetener banned in Canada and European countries. I also didn’t know that the makers of my pomegranate juice funded animal testing or that Natural Cheetos had disodium phosphate, found on two federal regulatory lists.
Was I the victim of greenwashing, when companies market products as environmentally friendly despite business practices that are less than so? Certainly, but only because I allowed it. I was just lazy to trust the packaging or what the label said. I never thought I’d get a boyfriend if I bought a particular shampoo or pair of jeans. I don’t know why I thought I could be eco-friendly from buying an aluminum water bottle.
With the organic market explosion, countless companies jumped on the green bandwagon, advertising their products as ‘natural’ or ‘sustainable,’ without having to back up their claim. Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is adopting stricter guidelines for its Green Guide, which defines how businesses should support environmental assertions. The FTC filed six complaints regarding environmental claims since the Obama administration, up from zero during George W. Bush’s eight years.
While the FTC can’t change a company’s business practices, it can change the way it markets a product. Yes, more businesses are getting away with greenwashing than not, but at least it’s a start. In the meantime, consumers who really want to buy environmentally friendly products can do a little independent research or check sites like greenwashingindex.org and corpwatch.org to make better purchasing decisions.
Yes, I started buying organic and sustainable products because it was the cool thing to do. Yes, like in this South Park episode, I was completely obnoxious about it. Now, though, I don’t care what Thom Yorke does. Buying organic is still important to me. So, whenever I find out I’m not getting what I pay for, I probably won’t be spending a dollar of my part-time salary on that item again.
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