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Posts Tagged ‘greenwashing’

As I spend more and more time in green-dom, I realize there is not just a few, but many, many ways to become a green citizen. Problems arise when we are being forced into a one green-for-all carcan. These are some of the most common types I have observed so far:

  1. The extreme greenies, the ones that walk their talk, and some more. I talked about them last week in my post on ‘More Extreme Environmentalists Needed’. They are at the forefront of the green movement, have been for years, and will continue to be, as the need for higher green standards becomes more acute. 
  2. The green moms, who cannot get enough of green tips to keep their little ones safe and organic. Last night, some of the green moms in my group were celebrated in a big rahrah event in Washington DC. The green mamas are taking off!  All of a sudden, there are not enough of them to make the rounds of the networks. Who would have thought, even just a year ago?
  3. The green intellectuals, who spend their time thinking about strategic solutions to the big environmental problems facing us. They thrive on biodiversity loss, deforestation, climate change, overpopulation, peak oil, water crisis, . . . The bigger the issues, the better. 
  4. The clean tech crowd, many of them recovering software guys. They can be found at Cafe Coupa in Palo Alto, scheming their next green venture with their engineering friends, and old VC connections. Many of them are members of Cleantech for Obama
  5. The green political activists, who are into making sure the next green bill makes it to the floor, and gets signed. They work behind the scenes, are on a first name basis with their congressman and senator, and hassles their fellow citizens with numerous petitions. 
  6. The green media people, the bloggers like me, who spend a lot of their time, writing in their own blogs, or commenting on others’ blogs. Up in the stratosphere, are some stars, like Tom Friedman whose words carry so much weight, as in Hot, Flat and Crowded. The good news is, anyone can join. All it takes is a few minute to start a blog and write a post. No geekiness required. 
  7. The green scientists, a select bunch who determines what we should really be talking about. They have become the bearers of increasingly more bad news. No wonder, the Bush administration tried to shut them up. The path to green science-dom is a long and arduous one, but not without rewards. The cleantech types are loving them, and salivating over any new bit of research coming out of their labs. 
  8. The green watchdogs, most often found in non profit environmental agencies. Smart, and under-payed, they enjoy the privilege from being able to cause much grief to environmental offenders. Funding is still an issue though, and they are spending too much of their time chasing after dollars to keep their organizations afloat. 
  9. The green marketers, whose claim to green-ness is met with great suspicion on the part of the green watchdogs, and even ordinary citizens. They live in dread of the greenwashing word, and just want to do good while making a handsome profit. It ain’t easy, but they are getting better.
  10. The good green samaritans, who go about their green lives, without great fanfare, and with the satisfaction from knowing that they are just good. They can be found in unlikely places, in poor neighborhoods, where a single mom can surprise you with her green awareness, despite having to worry about so much more. Or a teenager whose green conscience stands out from his or her otherwise clueless family.

To each, his or her green-ness. What is yours?

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Wal-Mart is getting in the online classifieds business. When I heard, I thought of it as maybe another one of their moves towards sustainability. What better than classifieds to encourage people to ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle‘! Then I went to the new site,

. . . and wondered if Wal-Mart‘ s intentions are as pure as I was initially led to believe. I understand the idea is in beta testing, and they may not be ready to fully integrate it into their main site. Still, this begs the question of will they? If not, they are lending their name to lure in the classifieds crowd to their main site, where of course, it is all about consuming, consuming, consuming.

For now, I am sticking to Craigslist, where citizens rule!

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I was catching up on my reading, going through last weekend’s Sunday New York Times, when the following ad caught my eye:

My mind still fresh from the recent media frenzy around rising gas prices, and still pondering what to do about James Hansen‘s call to action, I was not about to let this one go. And went on the Energy Tomorrow‘s website, for more. As I browsed through the site, I couldn’t help but think, boy these guys are good! The Big Oil guys are masters at twisting the truth, and washing their dirty secrets into bright green. That they are swimming in cash does not hurt either. Slick campaigns, slick website, great copy, seductive images, multimedia blitz, nothing is spared.

Of course, the first step is to expose their lies to as many people as possible, as in writing this post for instance. Next is to take concrete action, to get at them where it hurts the most, in this case the value of their companies. This is where it gets very interesting. Those tens of millions of Americans with a stake in the oil and natural gas industry, that the ad talks to, . . . imagine a campaign asking them to switch to ‘less risky stocks’, stocks that bank on the bright future of renewable energies for instance.

What do you think?

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Earth Day is approaching, and with it, waves of unease in the blogosphere. Echoing one of my earlier posts, ‘Green Festival or Celebration of Green Consumption?‘, an article in Ad Age this morning, raises the question of ‘Is Earth Day the New Christmas?‘.

Consumerism pervades our entire culture, we know that. And Earth Day is not exception. In the absence, still, of strict FTC guidelines, marketers are going to go wild with greenwashing on April 22nd. Newsweek, Target, Banana Republic, Macy’s, Toys’R’Us, Sweet Leaf Tea, Fairmont Hotels, Barbie dolls, Wal-Mart, Clorox, are amongst some of the companies that will ‘celebrate’ green, according to the Ad Age article.

I say, we go back to the original spirit of Earth Day, and we use the day as another ‘no shopping day‘ instead. Will you join me?

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More details came out on the recent Nielsen Online report on, Sustainability through the Eyes and Megaphones of the Blogosphere, leading to some important conclusions about the state of the conversations amongst consumers regarding all green things:

#1 The buzz around sustainability continues to increase -50% in 2007.

#2 The kind of topics bloggers are interested in, is shifting away from global environmental wellness to personal health and practical solutions:

#3 The top greenwashing sins from consumers’ perspective show a concern for consistency, authenticity, and transparency from companies:

This may give us some clues as to the media’s seeming lack of sustained interest in global warming and other global environmental issues. It may be that the conversation is continuing, but under a different form. People like to talk about tangible things, that they have a power on.

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All green marketers would do well to take note of Nielsen Online‘s new report just mentioned in Ad Age this morning. According to Jessica Hogue, research director at Nielsen Online, and author of the report, “Corporations can’t do everything in one feel swoop, but need to be authentic and transparent about the steps they are taking,” She also suggests brands, study Footprint Chronicles, Patagonia‘s recent interactive online campaign, that discloses the company’s both environmental good works and sins.

Nielsen Report Says Green Marketers Better Be Authentic and Transparent

It’s time brands understand that they are in a relationship with their citizen customers.

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Jeff Huggins suggested I take a look at the new, ‘Clearing the Air‘ video from Shell Oil:

My first reaction was, how sweet and clever! What a great way to get people engaged in some otherwise boring, ‘clean’ tech story. The guy looks like Hugh Grant, and frankly, I am always a sucker for good old fashioned romance, complete with intrigue, exotic settings, and candlelight dinners. The entire 7′ film went by very fast, and I could have endured a lot more . . .

Still, I could smell greenwashing, and decided to do a bit of investigation. I did not have to go very far. One can always count on readers to surface the truth. Here, for your enjoyment, are some comments on a recent post on Green Car Congress, that featured Shell GTL technology:

‘GTL is a nightmare in CO2 terms as it wastes so much energy in making it. Don’t go there!!!

‘Yes it is a nightmare, but it requires no worries when using the fuel so a company can pretend they are researching alternative fuel uses while using it. If airbus were trying out bio fuels that would be a different matter. Then they would have to worry about compatibility and other problems. Thus GTL is the safe, easy way to pretend you are doing something.’

‘In addition to wasting energy producing it, if it’s from natural gas, it’s both a fossil fuel (not renewable), and not carbon neutral (so it does nothing about global warming).

Unless they are serious about sourcing second generation biofuels it does look like greenwashing. Funny because the A380 must use immense volumes of fuel.’

You get the picture . . .

Content set aside, the ‘Clearing the Air‘ video taps into an important psychological opportunity for climate fight messaging, and green communication in general. The eco-hero archetype is emerging from our collective unconscious, and elevating the climate fight to new heights, turning it into the mythical adventure of the 21st century.

Al Gore, speaking at the recent TED talks: ‘What we need is a hero generation’

 

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