Wash the Planet in Green

As you’re likely aware, today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Much has changed since its creation by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI). The focus early on was environmental toxins, from polluted rivers to acid rain. Those threats have been abated slightly, but not eliminated (according to Friends of the Chicago River, for example, 1.2 billion gallons of sewage end up in the waterway every day). Since 1970, our understanding of the environment has grown, as has our lexicon of menaces: climate change, urban heat island, ozone depletion, VOC, HFC, GHG.

As the public has become more environmentally aware over the past forty Earth Days, businesses have responded with hybrid cars, composting potato chip bags and organic variants of vegetables, t-shirts and shampoo. Some of these benefits are real and some are perceived. The boundary between the two is greenwashing. According to environmental marketing firm TerraChoice, only 2% of products claiming environmental benefits do so truthfully. The remaining 98% mislead consumers about environmental benefits or company practices, fail to back up their claims, offer vague or irrelevant assertions or just plain lie.

Today, let’s return to the educational mission of Earth Day, and inform ourselves on the intricacies of greenwashing, how to not be fooled by it and how to avoid it ourselves. Have a happy Earth Day.

The Seven Sins of Greenwashing.

The Greenwash Awards.

The Greenwashing Index.

The Greenwashing Blog.

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