J500 Media and the Environment


Greenwashed and Ready! by KaylaReg
February 19, 2010, 3:58 am
Filed under: J500 Week 5 | Tags: , , , ,

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.

Thom Yorke didn’t tell me the lining of my Sigg contained bisphenol-A, the hormone-disrupting chemical found in many other plastic bottles.

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.

-Kayla R.

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Kayla,

I really enjoyed reading your post! I can relate in that I’ve also purchased granola bars thinking it was eco-friendly only to discover the “hidden syrup” that was lurking in my granola bar. My question is, though the FTC is adopting stricter guidelines for greenwashing, do you think companies in violation of greenwashing will be adequately punished or will their names simply be put on a list?

Micole A.

Comment by micolea

Kayla,

I always in Florida a couple of months ago and went to a store called Greenwise. I was walking down every aisle and I about fell over laughing when I saw “Natural Cheetos,” which is a total oxymoron. I am wondering though… do you think Thom Yorke influencing you to buy a Sigg was ultimately a good thing? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

Micole- As I understand it, the FTC can force a company to change their marketing practices of a product if they’re untrue or deceptive, and if they do not, I believe they can be essentially frozen. This, I think, is what happened to the six companies complaints were filed about.
Kristina – I have to laugh because natural cheetos, despite being completely unnatural, are my biggest guilty pleasure when it comes to snack food. And yes, I do think having Radiohead on my bottle was ultimately a good thing. I’d heard about Siggs before the concert and was definitely interested in them but seeing them at a merch booth was the extra push to get one. I think we all have different reasons for why we became interested in environmentalism, and to be honest, mine weren’t all very genuine at first. But then, when you start to understand things for yourself, which I’ve been doing and am trying to continue to do, it takes on a whole different meaning. Hope that makes sense!
-Kayla R

Comment by KaylaReg




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