Products hyped as 'green' often fall short
Natural. Organic. Fresh. Clean. Good for the environment.
It seems every company out there is making some sort of reference to natural ingredients and the eco-friendliness of its products.
|About 800,000 of the 1 million travel guidebooks printed annually in the U.S. end up in landfills each year and less than 200,000 are recycled.
Car commercials tout fuel efficiency;
appliance stickers sell energy savings, produce
boasts organic certifications, and everything
from paper towels to cleaning chemicals are
packaged in and made with materials that are
supposedly less harmful to the environment.
Even oil and chemical companies have jumped
on the bandwagon with commercials about preservation
Natural and "green" products abound -- but with so much green advertising, it's sometimes hard to tell what's for real and who is trying to pull the recycled wool over the eyes of consumers.
Shades of green
Despite a plethora of materials and organizations dedicated to green products and services, the definition of "green" can vary between organizations and between consumers. Mic LeBel, a partner at Planet Friendly Public Relations, a firm that represents clients with green products, says "green" is often defined in the minds of the individual consumers. In general, green products uphold the values of fair trade, protecting the environment, supporting sustainable resources and paying workers a living wage.
Joey Shepp, founder and chief executive officer of the green search engine Greenmaven.com, says "green" could apply to any product, service or company that upholds "green values." Examples include organic food, fair trade coffee, organic clothing, renewable energy, LEED-certified green buildings and hybrid vehicles. Shepp says people buy green because they care about the world.
"They can see that by buying this food or product, they're actually helping the environment. It starts with a personal motivation but also moves to a larger environmental and social awareness," says Shepp.
“It's sometimes hard to tell who is 'green' for real and who is trying to pull the recycled wool over the eyes of consumers.”
While the origins of environmentalism
can be traced back to 19th century Europe,
it wasn't until post-World War II industrialization
that people began to take notice of the environmental
damages caused by man. By the 1980s -- with
the Chernobyl meltdown and the Exxon Valdez
disaster -- consumers became more aware of
how corporate decisions affect their lives,
their futures and the planet. As globalization
took hold, stories of sweatshops, human rights
abuses and environmental damages started to
creep more and more into the evening news.
Some corporations, not anxious to alter their operations, instead implemented the use of "green" marketing and advertising as a means to mask or soften their images. Pratap Chatterjee, program director for CorpWatch, an investigative corporate watchdog Web site, points to the oil companies as some of the earliest and most prolific "greenwashers." Chatterjee says that Chevron's "People Do" campaign started in the 1990s is a classic example of greenwashing.
"They ran a series of ads
with birds and wildlife refuges implying that
Chevron was saving wildlife. There is not
much that could be further from the truth,"
says Chatterjee. "Chevron's work in extracting
petroleum involves going into places like
Nigeria where they create a tremendous amount
of pollution, far beyond what they would do