Wednesday, January 30, 2013

eco 101: greenwashing

The bakers dozen of sustainable sins.

Greenwashing is the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practice of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. Here are six patterns in greenwashing that every product savvy consumer should watch out for:
1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off:  Suggesting a product is green based on a single attribute, such as the recycled content of paper for example, without attention to other issues such as energy, global warming, water and forestry impacts of paper.
2. Sin of No Proof:  Failing to substantiate a claim by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification, such as a claim that a light bulb is energy efficient, but the product lacks certification. 
3. Sin of Vagueness: Making a claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood, such as the terms ‘green’ and ‘environmentally friendly,’ which are meaningless without elaboration. 
4. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: Claiming that a product, such as cigarettes made with organic tobacco, is green, and obscuring the fact that smoking is damaging. 
5. Sin of Irrelevance: Making a claim that may be truthful, but is unimportant and not helpful for those seeking environmentally referable products. For example, stating that a product is free of chlorofluorocarbons, which deplete the ozone layer. Since CFCs have been banned for 30 years, no products are manufactured with it. 
6. Sin of Fibbing: Making a false claim, for example, that a product is certified when it’s not.
Given that this list of Sins eliminates 98% of products in the market, what should consumers do when choosing products? Which Sins are more forgivable than others? And as designers, what can we do to avoid committing a Sin when we develop a product?

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing that one might not fully understand the amount of propaganda one faces every single day, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. I'm almost dumbfounded that I never really correlated this with green products; these strategies are of course universal across the spectrum of topics and issues. One possible strategy that could aid in this fabrication of factual content would be to simulate the nutrition label found on food and beverage products, and have a break down of its recyclability and other important information that might prove beneficial to be aware of. It would be interesting to see how people react to the extent of its green content, just like when one chooses between two products on its heath content.