Author: kmhowitt

tree-hugger at the university of mississippi

Greenwashing and How to Avoid It

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is used to mislead consumers into believing what they are paying for is safe for consumption and even protective towards the environment.  Effectively, they are painting over something that is not environmentally-friendly with environmentally conscious (green) paint.

Many times, the product is actually doing considerably more harm than good.  The companies who invest significant amounts of money in marketing and green paint tend to be the very same companies that are polluting the water we drink and the air we breathe.

One example I saw a few weeks ago is this Chevron commercial from 1980.  Most of us do not think of Chevron when we are thinking about eco-friendly, but after this commercial, people survived did respond saying Chevron was eco-friendly.

These days, greenwashing is becoming fairly subtle.  Many times commercials of not so natural products (such as sodas and skin care products with way more chemicals than you would ever want near you) will be displayed with green grassy fields.  This implies the product is natural to the environment and therefore healthy for you and the Earth.

Another example is the sign in many hotel bathrooms where they request you hang your towels and reuse them to help them save the environment.  This is likely just a tactic to save money on their water bill.

Organic Food Takes the Cake

We have all heard that organic crops are healthier, tastier, and better for the planet. Unfortunately, studies show that these claims are overwhelmingly blown out of proportion if not completely false.

For example, organic farms take up significantly more land than conventional ones, which means it might even be worse than conventional farming.

This does not mean organic food is terrible for the environment, but it is important to look at both sides as well as realize that other choices could make an even greater impact.  Buying local, decreasing meat consumption, and not wasting food might be better ways to go.

Do Your Research

 

People are becoming more conscious of their choices and their effects on the world.  It is not enough to believe what the advertisements and the media tell us.

Many times it can be as easy as scanning the packaging of products.  There is often this handy dandy Ecolabel on the product.  They are different by region and product, but a quick search will tell you if the label is reliable.


Let me know if you think this is a problem or am I blowing it out of proportion?  What other examples of greenwashing have you seen?

Plastic might be convenient, but is it worth it?

plastic microbeadsPlastic is everywhere in our lives these days. Water bottles, microbead skin products, disposable razors, shopping bags, and red solo cups.  It’s amazing how much of this ends up in the water systems, my dear Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.

When debris like these end up in the system, they all get pulled around by the currents–typically ending up in the same place, if not in an animal’s throat or around their neck first. This place is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This “patch” is more than twice the size of Texas. It’s not surprising considering a study released in 2015 estimates that 8.8 million tons of plastic waste ended up in the ocean in the year 2010. I keep having this nightmare that the garbage patch is going to grow until the whole Earth is one large garbage patch!

plastic-bottle-in-water

Before we get to that point, too many animals will die from plastic. In 2013 in Spain, scientists found a dead whale, whose cause of death was intestinal blockage. The digestive system contained 59 pieces of plastic waste totaling 37 pounds in weight. Sea turtles are now ingesting twice the plastic they were 25 years ago. In total, it is estimated that plastic ingestion kills 1 MILLION marine birds and 1 HUNDRED THOUSAND marine animals every single year!

Plastic-Pollution-Seabirds

Other than ingestion, plastic can also ruin an animal’s life by tangling them up; this can make movement and growth difficult or impossible. Some species happen to inhabit areas where plastic pollution is more of a problem, causing them to be more susceptible to entanglements and ingestion caused by plastic. This fact proves true for species like the Hawaiian monk seal, which swim and feed in areas close to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

turtle-caught-in-plastic-ring

Not only can plastic hurt them in its full state, but also in later states. Although plastic does not biodegrade, it does break down and the chemicals that break down impact animals as well. The toxic chemicals really mess with the hormones of marine animals. In the long term, this can affect humans as well because many people are consuming the animals affecting by these pollutants.

 

So what can you do?

Of course, recycling can be a big help and not littering, but the only way to completely prevent these problems is by decreasing your plastic consumption. The best thing you can do is to completely eliminate plastic from your life! Convenience is not worth possibly living on a garbage planet.

Another great way to help is to pick up trash before it makes its way to the ocean like this inspirational guy!