J500 Media and the Environment

Don’t sip from that bottle by jenh
April 17, 2008, 9:04 am
Filed under: Food + Health | Tags: , ,

At the start of this class, Simran handed out SIGG metal bottles students could use and reuse instead of buying disposable plastic bottles or carrying around more permanent hard plastic ones, known as polycarbonate bottles. We learned about the possible toxins used in the manufacture of polycarbonate bottles such as Nalgenes. Today the New York Times posted that Canada is likely to label a plastic common to sturdy bottles as toxic.

Canada would be the first country to declare bisphenol-a, or B.P.A., a toxin that threatens health. BPA has been shown to disrupt the hormonal systems of animals. According to the article, the chemical is used in the manufacture of Nalgenes, baby bottles and the linings of canned foods. -Jen Humphrey


It’s not easy being greenwashed by jseverin

This morning I hopped in the shower, washed my hair using a bar shampoo that was packaged in only a small amount of paper (not a giant plastic bottle) and used a paraben-free body wash with natural oils & extracts. But I might as well have been slathering myself with green paint. After all, I am greenwashing every day. Despite using these eco-friendly personal care products, I turned the water up extra hot and just stood there for awhile to help relax the kink in my neck that I seemed to develop overnight.

The greenwashing in my life doesn’t stop there. I’m in the midst of remodeling our home office into a nursery as we anxiously await our first born. I’m proud to admit that I used a low-VOC finish on the hardwood floor and no-VOC paint on the walls. We are searching Craigslist and used furniture stores for a crib and other furniture to give new life to someone else’s discards. We are registering for BPA-free bottles, organic onesies and the safest baby shampoo we can find.

Meanwhile, our lives will soon be full of new plastic toys, disposable diapers, and all the other short-lived items and environmental impacts that come with having a baby. In moving our office to the room next door, we replaced our massive old reclaimed desk with a sleek new mass-produced particle board desk that came packed in a 40-gallon trash can’s worth of Styrofoam. And from the smell of things, that desk is probably off-gassing enough VOCs to make up for all the toxic fumes I carefully avoided in the nursery. These are the things I try to keep quiet as I greenwash about our future eco-baby.

To me, thats what greenwashing is about: all of the stories that aren’t being told. To a degree, I’m doing the same thing corporations accused of greenwashing are doing. I brag about my environmental victories but keep quiet about the things that aren’t so green. No one is attacking me for my lifestyle, so why do we have a different standard for businesses made up of individuals just like me?

Perhaps we need to measure the “greenness” of a corporation or business by how much progress it is making and not just by a snapshot of on any given day. That snapshot may show that the company is doing more harm than good, even if the good portion has been increasing over time. There is a big difference between a company that simply absolves itself of environmental sins with offsets alone and one that has made incremental improvements – no matter how small – to reduce emissions in the first place.

I feel I’m making progress in greening my life, and I think the business community is doing the same, even if it isn’t changing as quickly as we would like. True there are companies who are just coating themselves with a thin green wash. But before we accuse a company of such a crime, we need to take a look at their track record, then give them time to prove themselves with continued improvement.

– Jeff Severin