Introducing Green Wash & the Sins of Gree Washing…

Greenwashing is a term describing the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company’s policies or products are environmental friendly. My previous blog post can be considered as an example of the term given above.

Thankfully, we have organizations such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc, also known as  UL which  is an independent product safety certification organization that has been testing products and writing standards for safety for more than a century.

Joining UL recently is a company by the name of Terrachoice, a environmental marketing and consulting firm who happens to be the people behind the Sins of Green Washing.

Do check out their website, http://sinsofgreenwashing.org/ for examples of Green Washing as well as annual Green Washing reports. And if you happen to be skeptical about a particular product’s claims on being eco-friendly, do not hesitate to alert the relevant authorities, by doing so, you’re also doing your part for the environment.

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Cashing in on ‘Green’

It is heart-warming and encouraging to see more and more companies starting to do their part in saving the environment. Either by using eco-friendly materials to manufacture their products or by supporting eco-friendly campaigns by donating funds. Companies further reinforce their part played in saving the environment by placing eco-friendly labels as proof.

But just how truthful have these companies been with the public and are the intentions behind going green really meant to save the earth or just another marketing strategy to increase revenue.

The following article is about 2 companies caught misusing the Green Label. It is rather disappointing and upsetting to discover that manufacturers are misusing labels in order to attract consumers and just how many more manufacturers out there are doing the same.

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To feel good or feel green

Organic foods, branded eco friendly bags and big expensive concerts are means of people to participate in a green movement to give people a sense doing a part in helping the earth.

However, what people don’t realise is the negative impact of the environmental movement being mass marketed and slowly evolving into something more consumerist and less like its intended purpose.

While people can claim that they’re green by eating only costly organic foods and recyling what they can and living in eco friendly homes, they forget to consider how the organic produce gets to their local grocer or how they could save energy just by living in a simple home.

This just shows how being “green” really just is a way to boost our egos and feel like we’re part of something bigger.

We’re using quarter measures and making ourselves feel better about our behaviour to fix the problems we’ve caused.

This movement is about money on the part of the sellers, the feel good attitude of the buyers and the desire to keep up with the times

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Dead Earth?

The Live Earth event is a hypocritical fraud. While I don’t doubt the organisers’ intention to save the planet is genuine, the process of having such a big-scale event with more than a hundred performers flying across the world is surely an act of hypocrisy on a grand scale.

“It’s a bit patronising for us 21 year olds to try to start to change the world,” said Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, explaining why the group is not on the bill at any of Al Gore’s charity concerts. “Especially when we’re using enough power for 10 houses just for (stage) lighting. It’d be a bit hypocritical”
Bass player Nick O’Malley chimes in: “And we’re always jetting off on aeroplanes!”

The total carbon footprint of the event, taking into account the artists’ and spectators’ travel to the concert, and the energy consumption on the actual day, “is likely to be at least 31,500 tonnes of carbon emissions”, according to John Buckley of Carbonfootprint.com. This figure doesn’t even include the television audience.

Let’s not forget the waste the concert will be generating. Where do they go?

It seems the potential to influence the world’s population to address the issue and change their lifestyle far outweighs the negative impact Live Earth brings about.

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Charge for Plastic Bags

I refer to a recent article (found here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101128194007.htm) that talks about how China, a country billed as the world’s greatest consumer of plastic bags, managed to reduce bag consumption by half just by charging for it.

I find that to be a simple but effective way of getting your message across: Be environmentally-friendly. Re-use your shopping bags or pay for it.

It would seem that so far, the culture of being environmentally-friendly still has not been deeply ingrained in Singaporeans. The only store that comes to mind when I think of places that charge for plastic bags is Ikea (incidentally, Ikea’s plastic bag consumption dropped by a whopping 95% since its implemented charges for them bags: http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_GB/about_ikea/press_room/press_release/national/plastic_bag_campaign.html), while other places like convenience store 7-11 give you a plastic bag just for buying a pack of mints.

This campaign proves to have the potential to generate results that are far better than your soft-sell ads-and-jingles. After all when push comes to shove, you can’t always count on people recycling with a smile on your face. Add to that the fact that we are the Fine City – people are pretty much used to toeing to line to save themselves pennies and trouble at this point.

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Recyclable Waste

The Sunday Times (Singapore’s Sunday broadsheet) ran a Page 2 story today on the seeming fad of businesses giving away free recyclable tote bags perhaps a little too liberally. It cited how sports events company Hi-Velocity, for instance, gives out an average of 5,000 of such bags at each of their events.

Due to that, consumers tend to end up with more of these recyclable tote bags than they can possibly want or need, thus resulting in wastage, which is ironic given the original intent of these bags. And we have not even talked about the number of people that would bother re-utilising just one of these bags on future shopping trips, given the sheer number of stores that still give away plastic bags for free.

Where consumers are concerned, environmentalism is also not of primary concern. According to the article, shoppers choose not to re-use these tote bags because of superficial reasons like the bags having ugly logos printed on them and (okay, more substantial ones like) worries pertaining to the bag quality and its ability to withstand weight.

Even where the business-owners are concerned, taking to this eco-friendly fad has been spurred on by a less-than-eco-friendly reason. The article quoted a business development manager who had said she preferred these tote bags because they are sturdier than the usual paper bags, which translates into a longer lifespan and hence “longer brand awareness”.

At the end of the day, it appears that the onus would have to lie on consumers like us to Say No to unnecessary consumption – eco-friendly or not.

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Our Everyday Green Devices

I’ve noticed functions and features in devices and utilities that we use everyday that has helped us be more environmentally friendly. From energy saving light bulbs, to energy efficient and Energy Star certified appliances. We may not notice it but developers have been creating products with eco-friendly features.

Energy Star was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that is a standard set by the U.S. Department of Energy. An Energy Star certified product generally runs on 20 – 30 percent less energy. We are able to find this familiar logo on a number of our household products, for example when the computer is booting up, there’s often the Energy Star logo.

On hardware in your device that help save the environment, developers have included the feature of Auto-Brightness in our smart phones such as the iPhone. This feature makes use of the phone’s proximity sensor to detect lighting conditions and adjusts the brightness of the screen accordingly. The proximity sensor is also used to turn off the iPhone’s screen when it is brought up against the face when talking on the phone. Such a simple feature allows you to save battery for your phone, reducing the need to charge it as often, which ultimately means less energy consumption.

On a side note, Apple also takes pride in reporting their environmental contributions as they using selected materials for their products and they use less material for their packaging.

Apple's environmental efforts

 

So if you don’t know what you’re doing to save the environment, don’t worry, the developers of your devices are doing it for you.

 

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