It has been a hot minute since I have written a blog. Quite frankly there is a lot going on in the environmental community and I have no clue where to even begin, or how to process my thoughts. I have also been feeling extremely discouraged and unmotivated.
Am I really making a difference or impact?
Is there hope for the environment and humanity?
Maybe I should be doing more?
These are all questions that have literally been haunting me for days, to the point where I started feeling hopeless and defeated. My privilege and consciousness of the marginalised, disadvantaged and suffering in society have had me really questioning my purpose and meaning on earth. So many people are being pointlessly murdered, stripped from their families, trafficked, denied access to clean water and safe food and the list goes on. All I can see is a dark, cruel, evil world.
For a long time, I could neither see nor focus on the good, however, I have a friend who always says there is a difference between feeling poor and being poor. Although I may have, those who may not be afforded the same resources and wealth as myself may not feel disadvantaged or less privileged than myself. At the end of the day, it’s all about perspective and while I have been sitting and feeling sorry for myself and others, doing nothing but drowning in emotions is absolutely worse than not trying at all. If I can change the mind or life of one, then at the end of the day my efforts are worth it.
So I dug deep, real deep and remembered the purpose of this blog which is to educate and raise awareness and that is what I have been doing and will continue to do. I, however, needed to take a step back from all the hype and agendas surrounding climate change, global warming, plastic pollution, water scarcity etc. and focus on a dangerous growing trend on the market which is greenwashing.
What is Greenwashing you may ask?
In a nutshell, it is a company pretending to care about the environment through false advertisement. More formally it can be explained as a term used to describe the practice of making unwarranted or overblown claims of sustainability or environmental friendliness in an attempt to gain market share.
It is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice which makes a company appear more environmentally friendly than it actually is.
Ask yourself, have you seen false advertising of a product or company?
The answer is probably endless times, but an equivalent of greenwashing is what we see in the food and beverage industry with snacks, drinks etc. claiming to be healthy for us when in reality it may just give you that heart attack that you definitely don’t want. With certain cereals or nutrition bars, sometimes a fruit is used to market the product as healthy and great for weight loss and we are often fooled by this, but if you turn the cereal box around and read the nutrition value, some of these cereals have so much sugar, it’s best you eat that slice of chocolate cake you really want instead. forget it.
Greenwashing is not a new issue. As environmental consciousness gains ground, greenwashing has escalated sharply as companies strive to meet the growing consumer demand for greener products and services.
An example of this is very dominant in the beverage industry. Nestle, in particular, spends millions of dollars trying to convince the public that their bottled water isn’t only good to drink, but is also good for the planet. Over the past few years, they have claimed that their eco-shaped bottle is more efficient, more environmentally responsible, recyclable and that plant-based plastics are less damaging to the planet.
However, how much of those bottles are being recycled? And where is the water coming from?
Nestle sources their water from areas facing severe drought conditions, restricting and even cutting off the supply of water for many citizens in the California region that are suffering. Since 2000, California has been experiencing the longest duration of drought, which as of October 30th, 2018 has lasted 358 weeks beginning on December 27, 2011. More than 23 million people living in the California region which is more than 60% of the population are affected by this drought thus lacking an adequate supply of water.
The same can be said for Coca-Cola in India as they are sourcing their water in communities that depend on water for agriculture to earn a living as well as to use for their daily needs. Despite this, the Coca-Cola bottle is being advertised as eco-friendly. Think about the water bottles in your country, do they claim to be eco-friendly? And what happens to bottle after? Is it recycled? Where is it recycled and what new product is made from the material?
There are many other examples of greenwashing:
- Grocery Stores advertising their elimination of plastic bags as a green initiative but still using plastic packaging in their products without an attempt to phase it out.
- Oil companies creating ads about the environment such as “Save the Arctic” (Shell) or “We care about biodiversity” when they are using dangerous techniques to extract oil and natural gas such as fracking or recklessly causing oil spills killing marine life.
- Companies using terms like the ‘eco-friendly packaging’ but is that really curbing the waste problem or our consumption problem? Our habits are not changing the products are only spending less time in our landfills because they degrade faster. Moreover, the energy that goes into creating those products is still the same and sometimes more.
- Companies claiming sustainable practices in their manufacturing processes but the extraction of the raw material causing mass deforestation and increases species vulnerability to extinction e.g.: products that use palm oil.
At the end of the day, creating that perfect balance between society, the environment and the economy is borderline impossible and one is almost destined to suffer more than the others. Unfortunately, the one suffering is usually the environment. There is no win-win situation but we can be more aware and conscious of the lies we are being sold? and make more informed decisions about our everyday choices. We should remember not to always take things at face value; marketing strategies are there to appeal to our emotions and the latest trends so it is important that we look beyond advertising claims and ask the hard-hitting questions.
It is truly becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between companies that are genuinely dedicated to making a difference and those that are using a green curtain to conceal dark motives.
If you don’t gain anything else from this blog remember that because something is ‘sustainable, eco-friendly, energy saving, cleaner energy, biodegradable, compostable or organic’, it doesn’t mean that there are no negative environmental consequences.
Here are 7 tips to consider next time you see an environmental claim:
1.The Hidden Trade-off
Many companies claim green products without paying attention to other important environmental issues. e.g. the raw materials for a product may be sustainably sourced but the process may result in the release of harmful chemicals to the atmosphere and water bodies.
There is just no evidence that an environmental claim made by a company can be vetted by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification.
The environmental claim may be extremely poorly defined or board to the point where it creates misunderstanding e.g. the use of the term “All Natural” This doesn’t necessarily mean it is green or good for us or the environment. Mercury and arsenic are “all natural” yet they are poisonous for our consumption.
5.Irrelevant Labels or claims
An environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. e.g. products using ‘CFC-free’ label or claim despite the fact that in the US CFCs are banned by law.
6.The lesser of two evils
A claim may be true within the product category, but risks distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole. e.g. organic cigarettes or clean natural gas vehicles
Environmental claims that are simply false. The most common examples are products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified or registered.
Remember be the change you want to see in this world! One day at a time, one person at a time!