A lesson from the gospel of greenwash


In the beginning there were words and the words were many and the words were warm and they were well meant.

However, the actions that followed the words were few and some of the direction was backwards and the progress was tiny..

But the people liked the words and the warmth and they didn’t listen to the ones who pointed out that style over substance was not good and they voted for more.

And the people got more words and the words were strong and they spoke of an emergency and they foretold doom unless a declaration was made.

And so a declaration was made and a cloud of hot air rose as policy was announced.

Verily the servants of the public shall drive vehicles powered by electricity and it matters not that the prophet who knows the science says electric cars are good fun for wealthy virtue signallers, but a dreadful way to save the planet and the rich world’s drive to electric cars gets us nowhere.

Some heard the prophet and they declared that science was essential and that policy must have a positive impact and to beware of the devil in the details.

But the people didn’t heed the prophet and his followers. They shut their eyes to the detail and their ears to those who said that planting trees could not offset emissions from fossil fuels but they could offset methane from stock for they were listening to the words and the words were warm and they were well meant.

And the people were comforted and they knew that if they kept listening they could feel virtuous and they would not need to do anything because the one with the warm words and fine feelings had spoken and they believed that the words could turn back the tide and they felt safe.

Need to be in black to be green


The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) shows that many New Zealand businesses would like to  adopt cleantech principles but the economics just do not add up.

Eugene Sparrow, partner, Privately Held Business for Grant Thornton New Zealand, said:

“It’s a tough environment for many companies and until these businesses can see a cost saving they will be reluctant to adopt cleantech options. Many look upon green philosophies and cleantech principles as discretionary and something they will only adopt if there are clear economic advantages.

“Unfortunately our size is also against us. We are a country of small businesses without the scale to benefit from the adoption of some cleantech options. There is no doubt that these businesses are all mindful of being green and clean, but if it is going to cost, then it will have to wait,” he said.

Businesses have to be in the black to be green and they’re not going to invest in new technology if it doesn’t make economic sense.

I think there is another factor involved – a lack of good research which enables businesses to differentiate between products and practices which do make a positive difference and greenwash.

That said, there are some simple ways in which being greener can be good for the bottom line too. Fonterra has been working with dairy farmers to reduce energy consumption which has both environmental and financial benefits.


Apropos of greenwash, Green is good at the Fundy Post is a good read.

Saying it doesn’t make it “green”


Quelle surprise – a label saying something’s  green doesn’t necessarily make it so:

Eco-friendly labels are becoming more ubiquitous, but they may be misleading.

Six cases of alleged “greenwashing” – the use of environmental claims that are unsubstantiated, misleading or irrelevant – are being investigated by the Commerce Commission .

“Green” is the new black but it’s very difficult to know what’s greenwash and what’s not.

[Commerce Commission competitions manager Greg]Allan said there had been cases when “biodegradable” and “recyclable” had allegedly been used for products, when there were not facilities in New Zealand able to do the biodegrading or recycling.

Even if the facilities were here how would we know what the environmental impact of the biodegrading and recycling was and if the cost of doing it was justified by the benefit?

The cost might not matter to the well-off but it would make the difference between affordability or not for many others.

That is not a justification for environmental degradation but a reminder that sustainability is the balance between economic, environmental and social concerns.

Not as green as they’re painted


The Dog & Lemon Guide says that electric cars aren’t as green as they’re painted.

That can be said of a lot of claims about things which are supposed to be better for the environment.

Many are just greenwash based on feel-good factors rather than fact.

It’s a bit like “lite” foods which may have less fat but use a lot more sugar than the supposedly less “lite” foods with which they’re competing.

The only way to counter spurious claims of healthier options, for the planet or people, is with proper analysis.

It’s time the people and companies making green claims were made to back them up with science.

We’ve got only one world and we all have a responsibility to be good stewards of it.

But if we let the greenwashers get away with their campaigns making the effort to be environmentally friendly might be making matters worse.

Celebrating neither Earth nor Edison Hours


Worshippers of the green gods will be turning off their lights for Earth Hour tonight while others will be powering up to celebrate Edison Hour.

I’ll be doing neither – using no more and no less electricity than I normally do.

The greenwash of Earth Hour doesn’t wash with me but deliberately wasting resources as Edison Hour will makes neither environmental nor economic sense.

I know what it’s like to live without power, albeit only part time. I spent 10 months on Great Mercury Island the diesel generator which provided our electricity ran for only eight hours a day.

I much prefer having power 24 hours a day but I’m not going to waste it.

How green is my bottle?


The label proudly proclaimed this was an eco-bottle because the plastic was made from plants, in contrast to most other plastics which are made from oil.

It didn’t say whether the total impact on the environment of producing the bottle was greater or less because of that but as it was the only bottle available and I had left home without water to take on a walk I bought it.

I drank the water but kept the bottle to re-use it, thinking that would be the right thing to do with an eco-bottle.

But alas, look what happened when the plastic met hot water:


It’s called Charlie’s Honest Water, but is it being honest about the eco-bottle? The PR  says it’s good, but how good is it if it can’t be reused?

I know that it’s better to use tap water in a reusable bottle, but for those occasions when that’s not available should I opt for a one-use eco-bottle or a plastic-from-oil one which doesn’t collapse when it’s washed?

Or is it true that the ones that don’t collapse leach nasties into the water so shouldn’t be reused anyway?

Kermit was right, it’s not easy being green – especially when you don’t know whether what you are doing is good for your health and that of the planet and what’s simply greenwash.

Earth hour smoke and mirrors


The Fire Service has issued a warning about the dangers of candles during earth hour.

This makes me wonder:

 * What impact will all those candles have on carbon emissions?

* Does this mean that earth hour will literally generate more heat than light?

* Is earth hour, like many other sacrifices to the green gods, really just smoke and mirrors?

In support of the last question, I read somewhere yesterday (but can’t find the link anymore) that several businesses which supported earth hour actually increased their carbon emissions and their association with the cause was just greenwash. *

So the lights in my house will be on or off as normal tonight because I’m not interested in campaigns based on emotion rather than science and feel good efforts which at best do nothing and may even make the problem worse.

Apropos of this:

Not PC  has something to keep in mind during earth hour

Whaleoil spots the idiots

No Minister has some earth hour fun


Keeping Stock is keeping his lights  on from which I learned about M& M  and their anti-earth hour.

Mickey Muses has hot news on hot tips on hot air.

UPDATE 2: * the bit about businesses increasing emissions was from The Age  via Quote Unquote:

An analysis of the key sponsors of Earth Hour (among them Fairfax Media, owner of The Sunday Age) reveals that most have reported increased emissions in their most recent figures.

Just as I said – it’s greenwash and it’s inciting PM of NZ to use even more fuel and electricity.

Ecologic to counter greenwash


Green is the new black and environmentalism has assumed elements of religion so that anyone who questions it risks being accused of heresy.

But every religion attracts false prophets so how do we know if we’re being led astray from the path to a cleaner, greener planet or at least fooled into thinking we’re doing the green thing when we’re not?

Kathryn Ryan sought some answers to these questions and others on the dangers of greenwashing from Brian Clegg, the author of  Ecologic: The Truth and Lies of Green Economics.

Brian’s most recent book is Ecologic to be published by Eden Project Books in January 2009. He has written seven other science titles, including The Global Warming Survival Kit (Doubleday), and Upgrade Me (St Martin’s Press). His earlier book, A Brief History of Infinity reached #1 on Amazon in Popular Science (General) and Popular Maths, staying at #1 for ten further weeks.

Born in Rochdale, Lancashire, UK, Brian read Natural Sciences (specializing in experimental physics) at Cambridge University.  After graduating, he spent a year at Lancaster University where he gained a second MA in Operational Research, a discipline developed during the Second World War to apply mathematics and probability to warfare and since widely applied to business problem solving.

From Lancaster, he joined British Airways, where he formed a new department tasked with developing hi-tech solutions for the airline. His emphasis on innovation led to working with creativity guru Dr. Edward de Bono, and in 1994 he left BA to set up his own creativity consultancy, running courses on the development of ideas and the solution of business problems. His clients include the BBC, the Met Office, Sony, GlaxoSmithKline, the Treasury, Royal Bank of Scotland and many others

He has a blog, Now Appearing.

You can listen to Ryan’s interview here.

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