Save the Earth: Greenwashing or Going Green?

KermitThese days being Green sells. This makes me happy, moreover, this makes my inner nine-year-old happy who was campaigning to save the whales on the local news long before it was cool. However, as Kermit pointed out, being Green isn’t easy, and sometimes, it might not be as profitable as shareholders demand that it be. Especially since being Green has become lumped in with better labor practices and company ethics.

Say I decided that I wanted to start mass selling warming cat beds, I would need:

1. Investors to fund my project
2. Materials to make my cat beds out of
3. A design team to create the product
4. A marketing team to create the packaging and branding messages
5. A factory to produce the product
6. A factory to produce the packaging
7. A warehouse to store my packaged cat beds
8. Shipping to get cat beds to warehouse and then to stores/customers
9. Stores and web site to sell them in

(Okay, I’m sure I forgot something. But this is simplified.)

So, let’s say I make my cat beds out of 100% organic cotton and use an energy saving method to warm the beds. Great, my cat beds are Green, right?

Wrong, when they travel really inefficiently by jet from my factory in China because I have to meet deadlines. Wrong, when I use non-recyclable new plastics in packaging. Wrong, when I mass market them at Wal-Mart and pay my own design team substandard wages so they have to work at Wal-Mart selling my cat beds on the weekends to supplement their income.

While this is a massive simplification of how hard going Green actually is, it’s not an uncommon practice for companies to say they’re Green and then leave some pretty big carbon footprints in other areas or with other products. This is also known as Greenwashing and it all comes down to how much money a company can make by advertising it as Green.

Though my cat warming beds are trying to Green and hopefully getting incentives to become Green in other areas besides materials, they aren’t quite there yet. They aren’t completely Greenwashing, but the packaging needs to be clear that the materials in the product and it’s function are Green while the rest of it may not be.

Traditionally, Greenwashing was associate with more blatant profit mongering or anti-environmental acts being passed off as Green. However, there’s been a move these days to say, “Hey, but what about…” And sites like GoodGuide have popped up to help the prosumer make a decision about how truly Green a product is. Because alone we don’t have the resources to figure it out, but together, we can stand up and say that while being Green isn’t easy, it’s time to start.

The Green Pope, not a new superhero movie

Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday that mankind’s “insatiable consumption” has scarred the Earth and squandered its resources, telling followers that taking care of the planet is vital to humanity.

You can read the rest of the article here.

I think this is beyond wonderful for the Pope to address environmental destruction. While Catholicism may be losing ground in the United States, it is still huge in other countries, especially say down in South America where rain forests are being bulldozed by the acre. I also think it’s a great move for Catholicism back to the social justice-type movements it started doing in Vatican II and were somewhat halted by the more conservative Pope John Paul II.

The social justice movement was always something I greatly admire about Catholicism and while, despite my disagreements with some of the church’s doctrine, I’m more likely to be okay with helping clean a kitchen at my maternal grandparents’ Catholic church when they were getting ready to house the homeless than say hanging decorations for a church social at my father’s Lutheran one.

I think environmentalism is a great topic for them to take as well in that it’s very PR-friendly and not as controversial for them to take on, since I don’t expect the Catholic church to stand up for gay marriage any time soon.

Plus, churches have such a great power to install morals and ethics into people, making the old learn new tricks and young children gain them, and it’s nice to see a truly worthwhile cause of our planet. Instead of just telling followers that life will be better in heaven, it’s time to start making Earth a little more heavenly.