The Greenwashing Blog http://thegreenwashingblog.com Greenwashing News and Information: Examine Misleading Claims About Environmental Benefits Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:23:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tar Sands: Ethical Oil? http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/07/15/greenwashing-tar-sands-ethical-oil/ http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/07/15/greenwashing-tar-sands-ethical-oil/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 01:45:27 +0000 http://thegreenwashingblog.com/?p=1255 Greenwashing tar sands is never ethical You wouldn’t think that greenwasshing would ever be a real problem when it comes to the Alberta Tar Sands. It is more or less assumed, or at least should be, that there’s not much in the way of green when it comes to the process of squeezing low quality oil out of tar […]

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Greenwashing tar sands is never ethical

Greenwashing tar sands. Ethical oil? You wouldn’t think that greenwasshing would ever be a real problem when it comes to the Alberta Tar Sands. It is more or less assumed, or at least should be, that there’s not much in the way of green when it comes to the process of squeezing low quality oil out of tar sand.

Ethical Oil – pernicious industrial rebranding run amok

But in fact there is greenwashing. Perhaps some of the most egregious kind because of the devastation tar sands extraction wreaks on the land, the air and the people. Could it possibly be characterized as “Ethical Oil?” Sure, by cynically contrasting the Tar Sands to the politics and norms of Saudi Arabia. It is a fallacy to assert “ethics” in such a comparison.

As author Naomi Klein says in the video below:

“I have never seen anything quite as audacious as the campaign to rebrand the Tar Sands as “ethical oil.” We don’t have ethical oil in Canada, we have tar sands oil, which is like regular oil, but a whole lot dirtier. It ravages the Earth as it is extracted”

Extraction of fossil fuels, in all its forms and from every place on Earth, carries with it the burden of consequences. Claiming “ethics” is the height of cynical manipulation of public sentiment.

Tar Sands production is the most ecologically devastating industrial process on Earth. So much so that it can now be seen from space.

Reclaiming the land

Suncor Energy claims that the devastated land left in the wake of tar sands extraction can be “100 percent reclaimed,” while currently only able to point to 7 percent reclamation from its operations. “It’s a step in the process,” says Mark Boulton, an ecosystems advisor for Suncor. But while he may seem sincere in his efforts, can tar-sand-wrecked-land ever be fully, or even partially, recovered in any meaningful way?

Research suggests not.

“There have been papers that have come out recently,” says Dr. David Schindler a professor of Ecology at the University of Alberta, “showing that you can’t reclaim the aquifers, that you can’t reclaim the wetlands, with the cost of any reasonable reclamation so high that there would be no money made on the oil sands.”

Tar sand and human health

Arsenic is a well-known carcinogen, “it’s a cancer-maker” says Andrew Nikiforuk, author of Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent. 

“It is associated with bitumen production. The more you process those deposits, the more you’re going to bring arsenic and lead and other heavy metals to the surface. If you’re not careful, over time, you will see larger and larger pulses of arsenic and other cancer-makers into waterways.”

Local populations, mostly First Nation communities, suffer from increased instances of arthritis and a variety of cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma and biliary tract cancer explains Dr. Gina Solomon, Professor of Medicine at the University of California.

“I looked into the types of cancers that are particularly elevated for Chippawa and it’s interesting. A lot of them have been linked to hydrocarbon exposures. In other words exposures to oil and petroleum products.”

Among those cancers already listed is a “surprising” increase of a very rare cancer called soft tissue sarcoma.

The fact is that rates of cancer in communities downstream of tar sands operations are 3 to 7 times higher, depending on the type of cancer, than would typically be expected. First Nation communities have already endured the tragic consequences of what some call “ethical oil”

The destruction of the land from this ethical oil can be seen from space. It leaves a scar on the land and the people from which there is no recovery, no full reclamation – not in our lifetime, nor our children’s or theirs. Long after the last drop of dirty oil has been squeezed from the sand, the crippling consequences will remain.

Claiming exploitation of tar sands as ethical is more than greenwashing, it is morally irresponsible.

We may, as a society, chose the short term measure, opting for our own last little bit of the fossil fuel era at the cost of all who come after. But if we do, we should face it honestly, clear in our intent and its consequences. And if we do, we should leave any talk of ethics out of it.

 

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Greenwashing Pushback – the Dangers of a False Green Message http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/07/08/greenwashing-pushback/ http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/07/08/greenwashing-pushback/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 21:16:05 +0000 http://thegreenwashingblog.com/?p=1137 Real businesses understand the danger of greenwashing The meaning of “green” and “sustainable” may be in danger of losing their meaning and impact. These terms are diluted as they become buzzwords for marketers seeking to ride the bandwagon fueled by a growing public eco-consciousness. But not so fast. “I think there’s a a bit of pushback,” says Brendan […]

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Real businesses understand the danger of greenwashing

Greenwashing will become increasingly more difficult as consumers, the media and businesses are more demand real initiatives for sustainabilityThe meaning of “green” and “sustainable” may be in danger of losing their meaning and impact. These terms are diluted as they become buzzwords for marketers seeking to ride the bandwagon fueled by a growing public eco-consciousness.

But not so fast.

“I think there’s a a bit of pushback,” says Brendan May, founder of Planet 2050 and founder of The Robertsbridge Group, a sustainable business advisory firm based in the UK, “Not just from NGOs but even from the advertising regulators saying ‘you really can’t put stuff out there in public that says you’re a green and sustainable company because there’s absolutely no evidence for it.’”

As May explains, this pushback is ultimately a good thing.

“Good green communications is absolutely critical as a mobilizing tool. They mobilize the employees in a business but they also change sectors. …If you’re sitting there watching a competitor going out there with a very bold credible campaign, it does make you think, in your own business, ‘why aren’t we doing this?’”

The fact is that in the supply chain and business-to-business sector being able to demonstrate a legitimate program of sustainability is fast becoming a core criteria for doing business.

“There are companies that have been kicked out of university campuses all over the world because they don’t seem to meet the environmental criteria that student bodies, for example, require.”

May warns of assuming such an example is merely that of “radical activist” students destined to become dyed-in-the-wool conservatives by the time they’re forty. But this is big business, worth billions in revenue.

“If you can’t get your soft drink contract, or your paper contract into thirty universities in the U.S., you’ve got a bit of a commercial problem on your bottom line,” says May.

Being green, or at least greener, and incorporating sustainability as a real component of a successful business strategy is driven by “commercial imperative.” Key to this is actually adopting sustainability first, before attempting to communicate a green message.

“You’ve got to do the work first,” says May. “There’s absolutely no point in premature communication. Never over-claim, never portray yourself as green if you’ve only just started.”

Once there is something substantial to communicate in terms of a real, measurable corporate green campaign,only then it is important to craft an effective green narrative. But for those trying to fool people into believing a false green message, the results will eventually backfire.

“A company that goes out there all guns blazing with a green campaign and you lift the lid on it and see that actually nothing’s going on at all, they’re just going to be blasted out of the water, by the media, by NGOs and by consumers.”

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Renewable Energy Credits: Greenwashing Scam or Sustainable Savior? http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/05/13/renewable-energy-credits-greenwashing-scam-sustainable-savior/ http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/05/13/renewable-energy-credits-greenwashing-scam-sustainable-savior/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 22:14:37 +0000 http://thegreenwashingblog.com/?p=1140 There is an argument brewing among renewable energy advocates that question whether Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) are a greenwashing scam or a sustainable savior. At first, many believe the argument is political, showing yet another divide among left and right wing beliefs, however that is not necessarily the case. In fact, recent criticism has come […]

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There is an argument brewing among renewable energy advocates that question whether Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) are a greenwashing scam or a sustainable savior. At first, many believe the argument is political, showing yet another divide among left and right wing beliefs, however that is not necessarily the case. In fact, recent criticism has come from all fronts, especially after a 2012 investigation that found fraud within the EPA’s program, perpetuated by lax rules in the program and three cunning companies selling bogus RECs. The decision is really yours, so let’s explore further and see where the facts take you?

Renewable Energy Credits: Scam or legit? It depends.Understanding the basics of Renewable Energy Credits

The premise behind RECs is sound, as it provides flexibility for organizations to support the development of renewable energy and protect the environment when green energy isn’t available locally. This means the credits are purchased separately from physical electricity associated to the renewable energy.  The EPA argues that RECs provide the needed accounting for attributes of renewable-based energy production. Thus, one renewable energy credit is created for per 1 megawatt-hour of electricity produced by renewable energy and placed on the grid.

Renewable energy generation provides a positive impact on the environment from reduced carbon footprints and reduces fossil-fuel usage.  The thought is that companies purchasing the credits are helping provide renewable energy into the overall grid, while not necessarily using that particular energy themselves. This continued investment, ultimately leads to greater usage as a whole.

The potential for a greenwashing scam

The EPA even clearly states that, “since RECs can be sold separately from the underlying electricity, the possibility for fraud can exist unless the RECs are tracked from their point of creation to their final point of use.”  This has proven difficult and in some cases has been taken advantage of. There is a case where a Texas man sold over $42 million in counterfeit credits, ultimately buying a private jet and Bentley with that money. I guess the fraud is bad enough, but at least he could have purchased economical cars like a hybrid.

Joking aside, the New York Times reported that over $100 million in fraudulent credits have been identified since 2009 specifically in the refining industry. That accounts for nearly 5 percent of the total production from that industry alone.

Outside of fraud, the other concerns from those questioning the viability of these credits cite that the energy would have been produced regardless of the credits. Thus, buying these credits are not incentivizing the build out of greater capacity, instead it is removing the consumer demand from the local market. Increased demand is what typically drives the U.S. markets, thus opponents argue we should invest in building capacity where demand exists, rather than purchasing credits that allow continued usage of dirty energy.

You decide: friend or foe?

Renewable energy credits are meant to help improve the adoption of renewable energy in America or at least help improve the energy efficiency of our current grid. However, opponents have valid points that the actual implementation may be throwing money out the window that could be producing greater production strength. So this leaves the decision to you…. Are renewable energy credits a friend or foe to the green energy movement?

iFame Media provided this article on behalf of AirFun Games, a company dedicated to the sustainable lifestyle while providing party solutions such as water slide rentals and bounce house rentals in Tampa, FL.

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Biodegradable vs. Compostable: Don’t Be Greenwashed http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/03/17/biodegradable-vs-compostable-dont-greenwashed/ http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/03/17/biodegradable-vs-compostable-dont-greenwashed/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 01:39:33 +0000 http://thegreenwashingblog.com/?p=1134 Look around you. Everything you see right now is biodegradable. From the flat panel large screen TV to the plastic fork in you fast food bag. It’s the perfect term for the greenwasher because “biodegradable” only means that a material will break down “over a period of time.” It could take a year, ten years, […]

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Look around you. Everything you see right now is biodegradable. From the flat panel large screen TV to the plastic fork in you fast food bag. It’s the perfect term for the greenwasher because “biodegradable” only means that a material will break down “over a period of time.” It could take a year, ten years, or ten thousand years. It’s all biodegradable.

On the other hand, “compostable” actually means something. To use that term a product or material must adhere to specific scientific criteria. Essentially, a material must break down into measurably tiny and environmentally benign parts within a specifically limited time frame. The following video from VivBizClub spells out the difference between biodegradable and compostable. Don’t be greenwashed!

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Video: A Greenwashing Public Service Announcement http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/03/11/video-greenwashing-public-service-announcement/ http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/03/11/video-greenwashing-public-service-announcement/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 23:02:34 +0000 http://thegreenwashingblog.com/?p=1120 Some examples of greenwashing A look at some of the more pernicious greenwashing messages in advertising: Can changing your oil change the world? Will buying a Nissan save the polar bears? Will buying water in bottles made from “30 percent plant-based materials” help solve our waste problem? No, no and no. It isn’t that each […]

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Some examples of greenwashing

A look at some of the more pernicious greenwashing messages in advertising:

Can changing your oil change the world?

Will buying a Nissan save the polar bears?

Will buying water in bottles made from “30 percent plant-based materials” help solve our waste problem?

No, no and no. It isn’t that each one of these products may, at some level, reduce some form of environmental impact. It’s just that each one of these ads employ some form of the six sins of greenwashing, confusing the hapless consumer into thinking real, substantive solutions only require the use of their product. Unfortunately it’s more complicated than that. The following video helps explain.

Image credit: Simon A, courtesy flickr

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Video: When Does Marketing Become Greenwashing? http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/02/25/marketing-and-greenwashing/ http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/02/25/marketing-and-greenwashing/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 23:52:15 +0000 http://thegreenwashingblog.com/?p=972 Marketing and greenwashing, and learning to tell the difference The video below is a brief look at a Climate One discussion hosted by the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Speakers include Dara O’Rourke, Co-Founder of GoodGuide.com, William Brent, Executive VP, Energy, Cleantech and sustainability at Weber Shandwick and Aron Cramer, President and CEO at BSR. […]

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Marketing and greenwashing, and learning to tell the difference

marketing and greenwash. What do those green labels really mean?The video below is a brief look at a Climate One discussion hosted by the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Speakers include Dara O’Rourke, Co-Founder of GoodGuide.com, William Brent, Executive VP, Energy, Cleantech and sustainability at Weber Shandwick and Aron Cramer, President and CEO at BSR.

Among the key points in the discussion is how to connect what consumers say they value vs. what they do (75 percent of those surveyed say they want green products, but only 1 percent or less actually consider green labeled products in their purchasing decision). Part of the problem may be in the word “green” and the labeling on products. When a hybrid Lexus  gets less gas mileage than the non-hybrid version, consumer’s are understandably skeptical and confused.

As Cramer point out:

“If it’s not simple and easy, it’s not going to connect.”

But it still must be accurate. To understand critical material impacts “you need real science,” says GoodGuide’s O’Rourke.

Perhaps staying ahead of the greenwashing curve requires a realistic view of the modern consumer society in which we all live and participate. This can start with our language: “greener” instead of “green,”more sustainable” instead of “sustainable.”

 

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Infographic: Greenwashed! http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/02/18/greenwashing-infographic/ http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/02/18/greenwashing-infographic/#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 20:13:58 +0000 http://thegreenwashingblog.com/?p=1089 This greenwashing infographic displays the sad truth that many so-called green products are, at best, not as green as their makers claim, or not at all green or sustainably produced. As well as the “six sins of greenwashing +1″ we also learn about four industries of which to be particularly cautious and some green and […]

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This greenwashing infographic displays the sad truth that many so-called green products are, at best, not as green as their makers claim, or not at all green or sustainably produced. As well as the “six sins of greenwashing +1″ we also learn about four industries of which to be particularly cautious and some green and environmental standards to look for when making purchasing decisions.

One caveat – be cautious of SFI mentioned below – the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. We’ll have a more detailed look at SFI coming soon, but there are a number of companies including Office Depot, Southwest Airlines, AT&T, Allstate and several others that consider SFI as less than a true green standard. Better to look the work done by the sustainable forestry ethics advocacy group ForestryEthics.

Greenwashed

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

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Eco Friendly Companies Enjoy Many Positive Returns http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/02/11/eco-friendly-companies-enjoy-many-positive-returns/ http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2014/02/11/eco-friendly-companies-enjoy-many-positive-returns/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 00:54:13 +0000 http://thegreenwashingblog.com/?p=1066 The primary effect of becoming an eco-friendly business is the obvious one – it helps to sustain our environment, and we’ve only got the one. But researchers are now finding even more positive outcomes for businesses that decide to become green friendly. For example, a 2012 study by professors at the University of California Los […]

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The primary effect of becoming an eco-friendly business is the obvious one – it helps to sustain our environment, and we’ve only got the one.

But researchers are now finding even more positive outcomes for businesses that decide to become green friendly.

The benefits of being eco friendly make business sense. It's about the Triple Bottom LineFor example, a 2012 study by professors at the University of California Los Angeles and the University Paris-Dauphine examined employees at more than 5,000 French companies. The study measured employee productivity by taking a company’s revenue minus expenses and then dividing by the number of employees.

What they found is that employees at “green companies” – those that follow eco-friendly practices – were on average 16 times more productive than workers in companies with no green initiatives. Why? The researchers theorized it is because green companies often promote positive employee relations in a cooperative environment. The fact that green companies also are a draw for investors also could be a factor in high productivity, according to the researchers, as reported in Business News Daily.

Tips for making eco-friendly work environments

In order to become an eco-friendly company, there are many different practices to implement that will help make the workplace greener.

Some of those eco-friendly tips for businesses are listed below.

Use less paper.  Cutting down on paper used in an office is a direct, powerful method to help the environment. The first step is for top executives to commit to the plan and then to communicate it to employees. Have them get together to brainstorm the best ideas for reducing waste – paperless presentations, for example, or banning paper from meetings. This initiative coupled with a recycling program can make a big impact on an office’s environmental friendliness.

Recycle and upcycle. Rather than simply tossing out old equipment, offices should always place old computers, printers and other equipment into the recycling stream. Also, when looking to get new equipment, companies should first look to upcycled goods – older equipment that has been refurbished. This can not only save on costs but also on the impact of manufacturing new equipment.

Form partnerships with other green businesses. Nothing promotes green quite like giving your resources and money to companies that promote eco-friendly practices. The Greener Ideal blog points out that green companies should hire eco-friendly pest control companies, for example.

Carpooling and telecommuting. Some companies will allow employees to work from home at least part of the week. An estimated 5 million Americans telecommute, saving about 10 million barrels of oil every year, according to a study by The Mobility Choice Coalition. If telecommuting is not allowed, offices should encourage carpooling among employees, another move that can save millions each year.

Hit the off switch. Office workers should make a point of turning off unused equipment and lights during off hours. Also, offices with windows can use natural light rather than fluorescent lighting when possible.

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Image credit: photologue_np, courtesy flickr

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Drawing a Line in the Fracking Sand http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2013/08/22/drawing-a-line-in-the-fracking-sand/ http://thegreenwashingblog.com/2013/08/22/drawing-a-line-in-the-fracking-sand/#comments Thu, 22 Aug 2013 14:15:04 +0000 http://thegreenwashingblog.com/?p=1046 New Yorkers come together in song, celebration and defiance against  fracking The documentary film “Dear Governor Cuomo” tells the story of fracking in New York State. The film focuses on a single night in May 2012 in which a group of musicians, scientists and activists and thousands of supporters gathered for a concert outside the […]

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New Yorkers come together in song, celebration and defiance against  fracking

No Fracking in New York!The documentary film “Dear Governor Cuomo” tells the story of fracking in New York State. The film focuses on a single night in May 2012 in which a group of musicians, scientists and activists and thousands of supporters gathered for a concert outside the capital building in Albany to demand that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo not lift the state’s moratorium on fracking.

Billed as a cross between “The Last Waltz” and “Inconvenient Truth,” the film features musical luminaries such as Natalie Merchant, Joan Osborne, Dan Zanes, the Felice Brothers, Citizen Cope, Medeski Martin and Wood, and a host of others. Heading up the “Inconvenient Truth” portion of the evening is actor Mark Ruffalo, a passionate activist against fracking, and Melissa Leo and actress whose poignant reading of an Ohio woman’s losing health battle due to poisoned water from a neighboring drilling operation served as a chilling reminder of the very real consequences of  fracking. Helping to clarify those consequences is environment biologist Sandra Steingraber, whose experiecne with toxins in the environment is not only scientific, but also very personal. The film was written and directed by Jon Bowermaster.

The explosion of fracking has altered the energy landscape in the United States, making for a mad dash to unlock the oil and gas bound up in shale formations throughout the country.  Landowners are coaxed into signing deals for short-term profits on the promise that allowing fracking on their property has about the same impact as drilling for water. In the process communities are torn apart and lives are shattered.

Often touted as a “bridge fuel” from coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels, to a clean energy economy, the fracking boom has no intention of letting up until nothing is left, leaving behind poisoned water, leaked methane and human misery.If fracking can be done responsibly and with restraint, there is little evidence that it will. It is a bridge to nowhere, a double-down promising not a clean energy economy, but the start of the third carbon age.

Thus far, the New York moratorium on fracking remains in place, but Governor Cuomo could change that with a stroke of a pen. Hopefully the efforts of thousands of New Yorkers, some of whom gathered in Albany on a spring night in 2012 to share music and a common passion to stop fracking in its tracks, can prevail.

Dear Governor Cuomo is available through FilmBuff.com

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