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Greenwash Me!

Greenwashing, as defined by the be-all and end-all of scientific resources, Wikipedia:

“Greenwashing was coined by NY environmentalist Jay Westerveld in an essay regarding the hotel industry’s practice of placing green placards in each room, promoting reuse of guest-towels, ostensibly to “save the environment”. Westerveld noted that, in most cases, little or no effort toward waste recycling was being implemented by these institutions, due in part to the lack of cost-cutting affected by such practice….”

The thing about greenwashing is that it always gets a bum wrap. We imagine the big fat CEO at his unsustainably-forested-mahogany desk, sitting in his inhumanely-harvested-leather office chair smoking a cuban cigar rolled by enslaved 4 year-olds — his feet are up on his desk, his laugh echoes in the halls of his smokey chamber as he pats himself on the back, relishing the glory of his latest ruse: The Revenge of the Re-usable Towel! Mua-ha-haaaaa!

The mere fact that the Hotel Industry, in near unanimity, is embracing the concept that a person should use a towel more than once, is a massive step in the right direction. It’s free advertising for the progressive movement toward conservation. You know the old marketing adage that says you have to see something 7 times before you remember it? By that measure, every person in America needs only to stay 7 nights at the Holiday Inn (which, I believe earns them two nights free) before they take the idea home and put it into practice in their own life – saving water, detergent and energy in their own home! It’s the hidden benefit of greenwashing.

Generation “O,” as I believe we’re now referring to it, couldn’t hope for anything more than a corporate environment in which the major players are jockeying to be the next green-thing. A healthy discourse around environmental issues is long overdue in this country and, though there are many of us who have been talking “green” over our cup of fair-trade coffee every morning for years, we need to recognize that corporate America has got all our ears, including the government’s. So let’s let them talk! The long-term effect will be to raise the discourse around eco-issues, and I’m all for that.

Long gone are the days when products were marketed merely on the merits of personal benefit to the end-user. Now, if we hope to sell anything, it’s imperative that we, as marketers, create a more compelling story. The new story is one that speaks of the global good, our families, future generations, and yes, conservation. It’s a story that I’m more than happy to tell whenever I get the chance – lucky for me, the organizations we work with are already telling it, so I don’t even have to lie!

Joshua Lynn, Brand Activist, breathes life into Pure Branding's strategic work, pairing analytical acumen with his passion for promoting companies that create change. An industry lifer in the most literal sense, Josh's formative years were spent toddling around his parents' natural foods store.


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