Greenwashing beware

In my podcast interviews with various guests, I’ve had several warn my listeners to beware of greenwashing. I’d heard that term before, but I hadn’t realised how prevalent it really was – especially now as buying green is even more trendy.

According to Wikipedia, the words “greenwashing” goes back to the 1980s when hotels first started telling guests to reuse towels in order to “save water for the environment” when it’s really about a cost savings for them.

Example of Greenwashing
Example of Greenwashing

Greenwashing is essentially a manipulative marketing practice to try to sell something including ideas. They suggest (blatantly or not) that there’s an altruistic value related to helping the environment in some way when it’s not really the primary motive or even true.

I was at a Waste and Recycling Expo in Sydney yesterday and got a taste of that as I was looking for more potential guests for my podcast. One particular company insisted that all of their plastic bags were degradable because they put some sort of coating on it to break down “90% faster than other bags.”

I asked if that meant that they degrade in 50 years rather than 500 years, and the guy said, “More like 20, but at least we’re not leaving it behind for the next generation.”

There were a lot of government people there at the Expo looking for municipal solutions. I just wonder how many of them (and others) have fallen for greenwashing stories like this.

For now on, if I’m not sure about a potential guest, I’m going to run their name by one of my other contacts who I do trust. Because I certainly don’t want to accidentally promote a greenwashing story.