Thoughts on Greenwashing – Not buying vs. Buying Green

Contributing to our failure to protect the Earth is the idea–promoted by countless marketing campaigns–that buying something made in a certain way or with certain materials helps save the planet. It’s is a simple fact that production produces waste. End of story. A trillion times a day we buy into the fact that the properties of some manufactured good make it less harmful to the environment.


We are all guilty (I included) of releasing our hold of environmental realities on behalf of some plastic green sticker. The sticker (usually a leaf / clear drop of water motif) touts the product’s adherance to one vein of environmental responsiblity. “Made with 10% renewable energy” or “Made of post-consumer recycled materials.” Whether it be related to what it’s made of, what was recycled to become a part of it, or what type of power contributed to it’s construction–it’s still a waste. As a culture, our eco-awareness takes flight whenever we make one of these “responsible” purchases. Only by reusing or doing without can we we ever be honest with ourselves when we say “I’m helping the environment.” No amount of buying newly-produced manufactured goods ever helped the planet. Of course there may be exceptions, but there aren’t many.

Passing on a purchase should provide us with a far greater eco-snobbery than a greenwashed purchase.

Producing things takes enormous amounts of energy. Products made of bamboo–like a rug or a sheet–may be built with renewable resources. But the fact that they were cut by steel, powered by coal, and then shipped on a freighter thousands of miles in green packaging should give us pause. Instead, the intrinsic value of the product grows far higher. We would pay a premium for that sticker. Time to pat ourselves on the back for leaving the store.

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