What Colour is This Laundry Supposed To Be? — Greenwashing


I got a flyer from a drugstore chain touting its new plastic carry-out bag as 100% biodegradable. The ad goes on to list many uses for / benefits of the bag, e.g., 100% recyclable, 100% ideal for weaving into a rug, 100% great for truce flags, 100% perfect for your trash can, 100% better for flowers (??), and on and on. It’s a cute ad, reminding us of the many things you can use a plastic bag for and reinforcing how wonderful biodegradable bags are for the environment.

Cute or otherwise, ads like this drive me crazy. Two percent truth and 98 percent male cow droppings! Real biodegradable bags are designed to break down in a large-scale composting operation, so you have to have access to one of those to get any environmental benefit from the bag. Biodegradable items are considered contaminants in most recycling systems, so how can they be 100% recyclable? Then there’s the glaringly obvious — if you brought along a reusable shopping bag (or if the store had some to buy — kudos to the stores who do), you could have avoided the production of ANY plastic, biodegradable or otherwise.

I know green is very sexy right now and everyone is crowding the platform trying to get on the environment train, but why can’t we make REAL changes instead of token ones (and exaggerating / lying about those). Real changes — actual waste reduction, true energy conservation, real water savings —- not only preserve the environment, they also make for a better bottom line. Why is this such a difficult concept?

Meanwhile, this trying to get people to buy stuff that’s only green on the surface encourages consumers to believe that they are saving the planet by using a paper towel that divides into smaller pieces (give me a break! Have they never heard of an old-fashioned cloth?), OR turns the rest of us into cynics that distrust every environmental claim.

Either way, the planet (and therefore all of us) loses.

[Source: August 2008 WasteWatch ]