What is Greenwashing?


Greenwashing is a term used commonly by those of us active in promoting the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. LEED is the product of the US Green Building Council. False claims about product or process attributes are considered greenwashing. Such items as energy savings, carbon emission, recycled content and environmentally restorative can all be claimed to be greater than actual.

For example, a product manufacturing process that contributes 100 tons of carbon to the atmosphere reduces that amount to 80 tons might wnat to state that the new process is Green… when in fact, others manufacturing equal products are already controlling carbon emissions at a 40 -60 ton level. That claim of green is ‘greenwashing.’

If a producer increases the recycled content of a product dramatically that is certainly good. However if, in the process, he is doing at an east coast plant and the recycled materials are being trucked across the country it becomes difficult to truly consider the increase in recycled content very worthwhile.

My personal opinion of the greatest greenwash is the current ‘Cap-and-Trade’ discussion and enterprise. If I, as a manufacturer, am creating products and generating an unacceptable level of carbon emission it is an inadequate environmental response to buy forgiveness (or sell my sin) to someone else. The production of my product still produces the same amount of carbon. My opinion; if you don’t reduce your footprint in real terms your are masking just how weak your environment commitment is in real terms.

 ‘Greenwashing is not necessarily acceptable! ‘ It is never acceptable in any form or at any time. If a coal fired power plant reduces emissions by 10%… that is not green. It may be less harmful, but is harmful nonetheless. Greenwashing is fraud, maybe not in a criminal sesne, but certainly in a moral sense.