Greenwashing: Petroleum and Oil

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It is now popular to be environmentally conscious in American society. It is completely acknowledged by the populace that oil will, indeed, run out within a lifetime, leaving a demand for a different kind of energy source. Hybrid cars, such as the Prius are now mainstream, recycling is day-to-day, finding organic fruits, vegetables, and meat is as easy as walking to the nearest grocery store, and using plastic bags has been deemed unacceptable. Global warming, while debated and questioned by conservative policymakers has generally been accepted as fact by the population. With any movement, fad, or great change, a great number of people –including corporate media -- want to jump on board the Green Revolution. This is a money making opportunity, and while some companies have good and progressive intentions, there are many that do not. Americans are being purposefully mislead and lied to by corporations that use the false advertising method of Greenwashing. Every day, we are bombarded with advertising. Watching television, surfing the internet, driving on the highway, taking the subway, sitting at the bus station, reading magazines, shopping at the mall, and even grocery shopping: no matter what we do, advertising dominates the span of our vision. In her essay, “Framing Class, Vicarious Living, and Conspicuous Consumption”, Diana Kendall asserts, “Because of their pervasive nature, the media have the symbolic capacity to define the world for other people” (341). Millions of dollars are put into the psychology of advertising, and through this, imagery is used to sway our ways of thinking. Different ethnic groups, social classes and gender are generally targeted. In ecological marketing, the target market is the socially and environmentally conscious consumer, and everywhere the consumer looks, this form of marketing is popping up. Greenwashing is a marketing technique used by companies, corporations, and governments to declare their environmental trustworthiness. These claims are usually distorted and vague, depicting small steps towards environmental friendliness as exaggerated progression. To combat these initiatives by corporations, Terra Choice Environmental Marketing created a study called The Six Sins of Greenwashing. In it, they list and discuss what a consumer should look for when purchasing a product declaring itself as green. The first sin of greenwashing is the sin of the hidden trade off. This is when a company states that its product is environmentally friendly because of one feature but does not mention the other negative environmental effects the making of the product has. This is by far, the most employed offense of greenwashing. Oil companies, such as Shell, British Petroleum, and Chevron have employed campaigns that push to advertise small aspects of their ecological efforts, with no mention of the destruction of the environment each company is guilty of. The second sin of greenwashing listed by Terra Choice is the sin of no proof. When a company affirms that it is indeed, a green company, but has no credentials by a trustworthy third party it is guilty of this sin. Until recently, regulations on cosmetic companies were lax enough that some claimed to be “certified organic” without reliable third party proof. Companies, such as Whole Foods have been working with the National Organic Program to disallow these products from being sold in natural food stores. The sin of vagueness is the third. This is when a company or product makes a claim that is so unclear that the consumer easily misunderstands the real meaning. Buzzwords, like “chemical free,” “non toxic,” “all natural,” “green,” “environmentally friendly,” and “eco conscious” are used, without any meaning behind the words. These words have no meaning in the green world. As for the term, “chemical free”, everything on this planet (water, plants, animals, soil, etc) is a chemical substance. Non toxic does not hold any...
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