‘Greenwashing’ is the word to describe companies that say they are ‘green’ when they’re not. Many companies claim to offer biodegradable goods, but it depends how long it takes – balloons biodegrade in six months, but drop to the sea before that and harm marine wildlife. Read Is It Really Green? for answers to 140 questions like whether you should wash-up by hand or use the dishwasher.
modern examples of greenwashing
- ‘Local food’. Big supermarkets use central distribution houses to store food (often hundreds of miles away) then ship it back, and after paying staff (and donating a pittance to the community) give all other profits to shareholders. This is not supporting ‘local food’.
- Against animal testing. The law has now changed to ban animal-tested cosmetics for sale in the UK. But companies can still sell to other countries that do test, and could refuse if they wished on principle.
- Green cars. You can be a greener driver by having your mechanic use a funnel to change oil and toxic antifreeze and avoiding chemical air fresheners. Joining a car club is greener, but companies don’t want you to do that!
- Farm welfare labels. Some (like Red Tractor) are better than nothing, but Compassion in World Farming says their welfare standards are way below what’s required (free-range, certified organic). Meat may still come from factory farms, promoting it as ‘British’ is not good enough.
- Meat from ‘happy cows’. Fast food outlets have poor records on both environmental and animal welfare. The American actor who played Ronald McDonald felt so guilty at promoting unethical junk to children that he went veggie, and now campaigns for animal welfare.
- Ethical fashion. Most brands subscribe to Ethical Trading Initiative, which is self-policed and nowhere near the standards of Fair Wear Foundation.
- Sustainable Palm Oil. There is no such thing. Again the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil is self-policed by industry to keep importing cheap saturated fat, in place of paying more to British farmers for rapeseed oil. Meanwhile, orangutans and other creatures are killed, as old-growth forests are burned down to build fast-growing plantations to make junk food and bars of soap. Even ‘vegan companies’ claim this.
avoid greenwash – choose local!
The best way to avoid greenwash is to live a local simple life, and avoid as many ‘processed brands’ as you can, then you are not supporting greenwash. Make your own food, visit indie shops for alternative brands, walk or cycle or car-share over buying new cars, and learn how to mend your own clothes!
Grow your own food (make your garden safe for pets), choose filtered tap water over bottled water, support small local charities (over big ones that spend money on animal testing and company cars), choose reusable goods from zero waste shops and only buy what you need (apart from the odd splurge on a gift). Spend time with loved ones (or alone sometimes) rather than at the mall!
When people are invested in their local area, they have their voices heard and have a personal interest. When the assets are owned by people far away and when decisions that affect that area are taken by people not affected by those decisions (just a row on a spreadsheet), then the people of that community have far less chance of creating their future together, and far less reason to work together, to make that happen. Patch of the Planet