How To Avoid Greenwashing Sin #5: Lesser Of Two Evils

by Owner on May 27, 2009

Let’s take a look at Terrachoice’s Fifth Sin of Greenwashing: the lesser of two evils. Terrachoice’s research into green claims on products found that about 1% commit this sin.

Ever hear of an organic cigarette, which lets you “help the environment” at the same time it’s killing you? How about “green” herbicides and insecticides, which claim to be eco friendly while at the same time disturbing the natural order of anything they touch?

The common theme of these product claims is that they play on the feelings of consumers to make them feel good about doing something that’s harmful or unnecessary. If you must smoke, after all, you may as well do it in an environmentally friendly way by buying cigarettes made of organic tobacco. If you just can’t stand those weeds and ladybugs on your lawn, you may as well take the easy way out by conveniently eradicating them with “green” chemicals.

Can we say “rationalization,” people? The environmental claims of these products are dubious at best. There are also usually far better ways of doing good for the environment.

Instead of “going green” by smoking overpriced organic cigarettes, how about quitting smoking instead? Less demand for cigarettes means less tobacco grown, organic or otherwise, and therefore less demand on the Earth’s resources.

Is it really necessary to coat your lawn with chemicals? Just mow the weeds over and leave the lady bugs alone! (They’re harmless.) If you do have a serious pest problem, then use one of the many natural methods available (the subject of a future post.)

There are situations where using these kinds of chemicals is unavoidable, such as in the agricultural industry. In these cases it’s good to use the greenest option available. But don’t mistake necessity for choice; the less these substances are used, the better.

Here are a couple of tips for avoiding this greenwashing sin:

  • Ask yourself,Do I REALLY need this, or am I just trying to rationalize using something harmful or unnecessary?” There’s probably a guilty voice in your mind telling you you’re just fooling yourself into using the product. Listen to it.
  • Ask yourself,is there a better way to help the environment than using this product?” The most eco friendly tobacco is that which is left ungrown. The best garden is the one that is allowed to thrive in its own natural ecosystem as much as possible, with minimal intervention from artificial chemicals.

When in doubt, don’t use bad products that are cloaked under a veil of good (and green) intentions. You’ll do yourself and the environment around you more harm than good.

Fifth in a series. The full list:

How To Avoid Greenwashing Sin #1: The Hidden Trade-Off
How To Avoid Greenwashing Sin #2: No Proof
How To Avoid Greenwashing Sin #3: Vagueness
How To Avoid Greenwashing Sin #4: Irrelevance
How To Avoid Greenwashing Sin #5: Lesser Of Two Evils
How To Avoid Greenwashing Sin #6: Fibbing
How To Avoid Greenwashing Sin #7: Worshiping False Labels
Is A Greener Product Green Enough? Our Greenwashing Series Wrap-Up

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: