Archive for the ‘Greenwashing’ Category

[This post was written by Sam Medina, Charlie Zigmond, and Thomas Yabrough.]

The codependent pillars of sustainability (equity, environmental, economic) are typically not focused on as a whole, and therefore sustainable practices commonly fall short of their intentions or adversely affect another pillar. This concept of “sub-optimization” is a poisonous characteristic of haphazard attempts at being sustainable. People and organizations tend to focus on the environmental pillar of sustainability, with notions of the other less known pillars. In addition to this misconception, many systems of “sustainability” have been created, further “greenwashing” (having the appearance of sustainability without actually being sustainable) the public into thinking a specific set of actions will create an everlasting lifestyle that can be perpetuated for generations after.

This is a critical mistake for anyone to consider one pillar over another when making decisions about our lifestyle choices. Recycling electronics is simply a facet of sustainability, and the current definition needs to be reshaped in order to ensure that the goals of recycling are quantified, qualified, and are in common use to lead to the three-pillared version of sustainability. For example, (more…)


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[This post was written by Teresa Celestine, Scott Demming, Stephanie Lewis, and Stephanie McCarthy.]

Sustainability is not only defined in terms of how things should be done in order to reduce material consumption and waste, but practical in ways that are actually being put to use by various individuals and organizations. Speaking from a purely academic point of view, ideas about how to be sustainable are endless. People can dream up an infinite number of ways to reduce consumption and waste. Most definitions of sustainability are subjective, correlating to the perspective of individuals and their experiences. Moving beyond personal interpretation toward a common language would improve the general acceptance and commitment of individuals to further advance the cause of creating more sustainable behavior individually and by organizations. There are an equal number of infinite applied sustainability practices that could be placed into effect. The key component for sustainability in business operations is to strive for this common language and understanding about what is real and what is not. The last thing a start-up business needs is to commit to a sustainable idea that is not real, but is simply green washing. The costs for running a business are only magnified when considering the additional time; effort and money necessary to navigate a business with the additional layer that sustainability questions add to the endeavor.

The definition of a sustainable business today is not the same definition of a sustainable business ten or twenty years ago. (more…)

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In the face of complexity, many people conclude that sustainability is impossible to define, or that the use of the term is so broad that it means nothing. The SHP holds that sustainability certainly is a complex topic but that it is not at all beyond comprehension or definition. One way to attempt a definition of sustainability is by describing what sustainability is; another way is to determine what sustainability isn’t.

How do we do attempt the latter?

One interesting project to help us evaluate claims of sustainability is the Greenwashing Index. This web-based tool is a project of the Enviromedia Social Marketing and the University of Oregon, and has three goals:

    1) Help consumers become more savvy about evaluating environmental marketing claims of advertisers.
    2) Hold businesses accountable to their environmental marketing claims.
    3) Stimulate the market and demand for sustainable business practices that truly reduce the impact on the environment.

Greenwashing is “whitewashing, but with a green brush”: businesses that inflate their environmental credentials to obscure environmentally harmful activities.

The Greenwashing Index is a forum where anyone can contribute to evaluations of business practices. Through this community input, these practices are rated on a 1-5 scale of “Authentic” or “Bogus” green claims. This project achieves some of the critical elements of the SHP’s definition of sustainability because it provides quantifiable metrics and because it’s open & participatory.

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