How greenwashed can you be?

Revised on February 26, 2008.

There is no doubt that in the contemporary society, the media is flooded with facts and propaganda about increasing environmental concerns. Whether you believe them or not is irrelevant in this discussion, but how have they shaped your awareness and behavior? Do you believe that the claims on a product are true? Under the influence of various media exposing the issues of marketing dishonesty, it is hard to find anyone that blindly does. The fact that you are somewhat aware of what you’re consuming, you have already taken the necessary first steps in being a conscious consumer. What if it was exposed that the food you and your family consume is nourished by the acidic rain from industrial and vehicle emissions, or toxic chemicals decomposed into the soil originated from half way around the globe, should you then be concerned ofthe consequences and adverse health effects of your consumptions? The green culture is no longer only about forests and recycling, smog and pollution; it compromises with personal health and social wellbeing. The ethics and values of this aggregate, intricate society can hereby be called into question. Concerned about health care? This is where it should begin.

Greenwashing is a term to define misguidance and false accusation in the consumer market about broadcasted, but not actual, efforts on environmental practices. The color green in fact does not defy an interest in environmental responsibility; the label hybrid does not represent zero fossil fuel dependency. Do you believe that upon consuming an item that is labeled as green or environmentally friendly, that you are exempt from environmental responsibilities and obligations, leaving you to believe that you are morally guilt-free? Just how greenwashed can you be?

Have you ever heard of Blackle, the alternative Google search page claiming to be immensely more energy efficient, 750MWh a year efficient, by being black instead of white? The fact is, black surfing and energy efficiency holds true only for those huge, power demanding CRT monitors of the past. LCD panels that compose of 75 percent of the screens in the world are actually only more energy efficient because they are technologically more efficient in itself. How about the emerging government initiatives and corporate support for ethanol, the biofuel alternative to gasoline? It turns out that the adaptation of ethanol as biofuel could very much be doubling the greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the amount of changes to land distribution, increase in crop prices, and infrastructure changes to grow, process and distribute essentially corn as this novel biofuel. It is not reassuring to hear that the Bush Administration has just passed an energy bill to increase biofuel production to 36B gallons a year by 2020, a policy going hand in hand with GM planning to replace half of its fleet of vehicles to run on biofuel by 2012. How about the truths of organic food? These are just some of the issues the public should be conscious of, issues that have potential influences regarding health, safety, and social welfare. This is why you should, and needs to be, a selective, conscious consumer.

Being a conscious consumer sounds like it would take an immense amount of time and effort. Not only do you negotiate for a balance of desire, and the reality of a financial burden, you need an extended level of knowledge and understanding about the actual market. What is best for you and your family; what is the best for you money. For average individuals who consume without thinking much about the product’s origin and eventual consequences, it is merely yet another hassle one can live without. Things are merely out of their control, or even, they could just care less. However what this means is in fact, the media and the market having a much more influential and powerful position than ever before. The role of the consumer is placed beneath the cloud of branding, trends and perception that is guided by the capitalist society; shareholders seeking for optimistic numbers and upward sloping graphs. Does it worry anyone anymore that the behaviors of our society are engulfed in a lifestyle of packaged and branded mental slavery? Have a read at the sins of greenwashing and see how much it reflects and conflicts with your consumer experience.

What this means for the consumer culture is rather, having a second opinion and decision before making material investments. Be open to question yourself and the product of its origin and source, its potential use and your potential usage, its eventual consequences, and ease of reduce and reuse. Look out for public voices regarding the subject in consideration, and keep an eye out for potential alternatives. Do I really need that gas guzzling SUV, or is the public transit suitable for my commuting needs? Can I better delegate my time and budget by living a lifestyle that deviates from commute and congestion? Is my investment for a government or corporation dedicated to plug-in hybrids the way of the future? Has it ever come across your mind that all things you purchase are potential compost? Interestingly the product lifecycle literally defies the story of trash you obtain gradually progressing into the local landfill. If you really think that the overwhelming issue with climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable development is all about replacing what you have, with green products the market is gradually being offered, then you are wrong, dead, dead wrong. Behind the capitalist curtain, there is more to society than wealth and profit; for one, it is the health of not only ourselves or the community, but the health of our environment, the life sustaining biosphere. Be responsible of your expenses; be conscious of your role in society.

1. LamboCarPark72, robheathcote, Flickr.
2. IMG_0536, basoncia, Flickr.
3. The Vendors, racingsquirrel, Flickr.

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February 9, 2008 · 0 Comments
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