The Greenwashing of America
Colorado Springs – I received a couple emails yesterday from a friend in New Mexico, pleading for people to protect the environment. I got the impression that my Deaf friend had suddenly understood the light that is clouded by pollution around the world. It was his newfound passion dripping through in his many emails about the environment and what’s being done (or not) to save our Earth that compelled me to write about greenwashing.
At first, I wanted to email my Deaf friend back and explain to him that not everything is what it seems. Ethanol, many Americans seem to think, is a cure-all to our country’s dependence on oil. That may seem logical to think, but what many people don’t understand is the fact that ethanol producers tend to grow corn, and of all the crops currently utilized for production of biofuels, corn generally encourages more pollution (think of all the fertilizer that farmers require; think of the water resources needed to grow corn; think of all the gas/diesel that tractors require; and all that to make what is essentially moonshine.)
I suspect my Deaf friend is somewhat late to the environmentalism aspect of our society, but people are slowly starting to understand the consequences of many corporations’ efforts at trying to promote “green” products/services or approaches that end up contributing to pollution – still. In Aspen, the environmental engineer there had this to say about the Aspen Ski Area’s attempt at being increasingly”green” in it’s marketing and operational focuses:
“Who are we kidding?” he says. Despite all his exertions, the resort’s greenhouse-gas emissions continue to creep up year after year. More vacationers mean larger lodgings burning more power. Warmer winters require tons of additional artificial snow, another energy drain. “I’ve succeeded in doing a lot of sexy projects yet utterly failed in what I set out to do,” he said. “How do you really green your company? It’s almost f—— impossible.”
For many of us long involved in environmental and corporate issues, we’ve long known the hypocrisy of ethanol production in terms of environmental pollution. What many others in the general public, including my Deaf friend, seem to not be aware of is the term, “greenwash.” Greenwash is simply the marketing efforts of a corporation aimed at promoting allocation of significantly more money or time spent advertising being green (environmentally friendly), when in fact, the corporation acts in the opposite way.
In fact, one critic has stated that ethanol production will do more harm to the environment than good, and yet, many Americans jumped on the ethanol bandwagon without understanding the consequences of ethanol production. Corn farmers and other ethanol producers have been loudly proclaiming the biofuel as a healthy alternative to fossil fuels, such as oil and gasoline – in otherwords, they are engaging in greenwashing Americans into believing ethanol is the one of the better alternatives to fossil fuels.
Today’s modern corporation is focused on selling and marketing itself as an environmentally-friendly organization that consumers can buy products that they believe will help the environment. Sadly, the stark truth remains that few corporations exist that are completely green from top to bottom simply because of the nature of being in business (it’s virtually impossible to make a profit while protecting the environment completely). Greenwashing has prevented many Americans from understanding fully how and why renewable fuels are currently so difficult and expensive to produce, and yet many continue to jump on the ethanol bandwagon in misguided attempts at protecting our Earth.
Algae as a biofuel
I bet you didn’t even know that algae may be one of the better alternatives to both ethanol and fossil fuels. That’s right – algae. Studies demonstrating algae production reflect the fact that algae is far easier to grow than corn (for ethanol production) and without as much environmental waste and damage. Factories in Arizona and New Mexico are beginning to use algae to trap and consume carbon dioxide emissions from plants to create biofuels from algae.
So, why haven’t we heard more about algae? Well, probably because most of the special interest groups that exist and circulate around environmental issues are funded by ethanol producers (such as corn growers), as well as biofuel distributors. As algae is further refined, other alternative fuels may also become available without the high costs passed onto the environment.
The next time you see a corporation advertise itself as “eco-friendly,” or a “green” corporation, it may be worth your time to dig deeper to make sure that greenwashing isn’t taking place. Don’t be fooled by all those marketing gimmicks out there – for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction, especially in the environment.
If you really want to help preserve the environment, then it may include a greater understanding of the costs and consequences of many of the proposed alternatives to fossil fuels. I won’t be rushing to pump ethanol into my truck anytime soon, and instead, will eagerly await how the algae plants may help solve at least a portion of our energy problems here in the United States.
And by the way, you should know that in Brazil, they produce biofuels using sugar cane. Sounds good until you begin considering the rain forests have a new threat to their existence: alternative fuel producers (sugar cane growers). Imagine creating alternative fuels that promote poverty in Brazil – all in the name of greenwashing.
Finally, to my Deaf friend in New Mexico – you’re on the right track. Keep digging and learning as much as you can to be an informed and educated consumer. Don’t fall victim to greenwashing attempts by major corporations who pretend to be eco-friendly and add to the pollution of the world. We can save our Earth, but only through diligence, knowledge and an understanding that the drive to find renewable fuels that do not harm the Earth will be a long-term and on-going process.
Have a great Tuesday.