Awash in greenwashing

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Beth Daley, the Globe's environmental writer, has a terrifically informative story today whose headline encapsulates it well: "Not as green as they claim to be." 

But before I give examples, note for a moment what the editors did with the story: It has a large footprint in the most prominent spot in the paper, at the top and in the middle of Page 1. I would say that's a reflection that they think we care about this topic, that it will sell papers. The placement probably reflects the widespread interest in green topics, rather than makes a statement of importance, but still, the paper declares it topic No. 1 in the region today. Now, on to the story:

Daley includes several of the most obvious examples, such as the absurdly titled "eco-shape" bottle by Poland Spring, considering that there's nothing "eco" about its shape at all. If PS had anything to crow about, it would be that it uses 30 percent less plastic than it used to. Yes, 30 percent less is better than 30 percent more, but that still ignores the fact that millions of the bottles end up in landfills every year. The only real green solution for PS is to stop selling them.

Daley points out the same sort of better-than-it-was-but-still-hardly-green in the case of the Chevy Tahoe 8-seater SUV, which gets only 20 miles per gallon, even in the hybrid version. Someone named it green car of the year because of its technology, which is supposedly going to ripple right through the SUV category. But even if it's better, how can anyone call the behemoth a green vehicle, especially when another effect of such endorsements is to salve the consciences of people engaged in essentially climate-negative behavior.

Meanwhile, did you know that "Simple Green," a strong name in the eco-cleaning game, uses butyl cellosolve, the same toxic additive that other cleaners use? Well, I didn't, and it could only have been more disillusioning if I'd ever been a customers of theirs. I could go on, 'cause there is plenty more of interest, but it's Daley's story, not mine. You should read it. And you can, here.

BTW, Beth, a friend and former colleague, was a Pulitzer finalist this year for her story series "45th Parallel: Warming Where We Live," which is still featured on the Globe's home page. You can check out the series here.

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