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Swinging a Dead Hippie: Greenwashing run amuk

February 25 2008 | Jim's Blog,
by Jim

"You can't swing a dead hippie in a big-box store these days without hitting some sort of green boast on a label. Partially recycled. Energy efficient. Eco-friendly. Natural!"
- David Robert's, "Another inconvenient truth" in Fast Company

Yep. We've taken the aspirational label, "green", and turned it into another smarmy marketing pitch. It's something close to impossible to look past the slick positioning and see things for what they are. Greenwashing is so bad that there are now businesses that help uncover the stretched facts, the spinning... the lies.

Check out the six sins of greenwashing.

We live in a global economy but with a rather limited mindset. So, it's hard to see the truth.

It's as if we're living an inverse of the "think globally, act locally" mantra. We "think locally, (and without even knowing it) act globally".

What I mean by this is that we look at a GM car and somehow still deem it "American." We do this even though GM is mostly a marketing company with a financing arm that oversees a supply chain of suppliers that spans the globe.

We see a bottle of Fiji and don't see the fact that oil had to be extracted in the Middle East, schlepped via tanker to China to be blown into a plastic bottle, sent to the South Pacific to be filled with water and then freighted to a port nearby... then be put onto a series of trucks to finally get to us. All so a child could take two sips of it at a party and throw it away.

From my seat it's not that we, as a global population, are thinking globally... we NEVER think through those kinds of steps when we buy something. Instead we're transfixed on something in our local lives... picking up the kids, being fashionable, convenience.

The challenge in front of us is much, much larger than getting companies to stop doing a bait and switch with us through green marketing and faux-green packaging.

The challenge in front of us is to understand that North American culture cannot continue long term. As China and India ramp up to our level of consumption we're collectively going to need five planets to sustain our lifestyles. That's not going to happen.

Back to the hippies...

"Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore,
My flashlight's from Taiwan,
My tablecloth's from Malaysia,
My belt buckle's from the Amazon.
You know, this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines
And the car I drive is a Chevrolet,
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy makin' thirty cents a day."

- Bob Dylan, Union sundown

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