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Guest Adam Brown

Greenwashing...... A Good Side?

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Guest Adam Brown

Hi all,

I'm currently doing my dissertation, looking at greenwashing and whether companies are actually greenwashing or if their 'green' claims are true and supported.

I'm currently looking for an argument for greenwashing and was just wandering if anyone on here has any opinions as to the benefits of greenwashing??

 

Also if anyone knows or any case studies, of products being marketed as green when in reality they are not, it would be great for me to research these further.

 

 

Thanks for you time and help

Adam.

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Guest seurban

The only way I can construe greenwashing as a good thing is that it might ease some consumers into buying "green" products. They start off now making few sacrifices in cost or quality to "go green," because they're buying mostly greenwashed products, but get used to being environmentally conscious in their purchasing decisions. Then later when standards are (hopefully) raised they're already in the green buying groove and might still buy green even if it now means paying a little more.

 

Still, I don't think that at all balances out with all the downsides of greenwashing. It takes away the incentive for companies to really make a change and takes away the reward for companies that do, it deceives consumers into buying and supporting things they don't want to support, it confuses and frustrates conscientious consumers who are trying to make sense of things (making it more likely they'll give up), and does not achieve the goal of a better environment. It's like trying to put some nails into a board, but hitting pictures of nails instead of actual ones. It just ain't gonna work, and wastes effort.

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When you get right down to it EVERY product is non green (what is the opposite of green? pinky purple? Sorry an aside!). If you want to buy a green product - don't buy anything. Repair what you have, buy second hand or reuse something else. But then if we all did that we would all be out the job right?

 

The whole green product movement is based upon consumption. if we do not consume, we are by definition green. What we are actually saying by a green product is a new product that is less damaging to the environment than the equivalent was a few years before. That is the reality.

 

The fact of the matter is that if I were to replace my TV or washing machine with a new product now I would be hard put to not have a so called green product. My current TV is a cathode ray 28" (imagine that!), so buying any new 42" LCD TV would be better. My current washing machine is 4 years old and AA rated. My local Comet ( a UK electrical chain) doesn't stock anything that is not AAA rated now.

 

There is such a lot of crap out there about green products and green this and green that that people choose to overlook the simple reality that we in the western and developing worlds are consumers. We consume resources. Accept it.

 

If we want to be truly green we need to rethink the way we design products and design them for a longer life cycle. here's a thought. If products were more expensive, manufacturers would stay in business, designers would get just as much work, but consumers would not be able to afford to constantly replenish their homes with this year's mobile phone, or this year's new playstation or whatever. If we could upgrade consumer products rather than replace think how much that would save?

 

Food for thought?

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Interesting topic,

 

Adam Brown,

 

Washing action can be categorized into 4 main under categories. The first two categories can be named as consumption of energy and water. In addition to this, the feature of fabric and chemical treatment( Detergents etc..) can be named under greenwashing.

 

For an school project,in 2005, i made a small research about laundry chemicals and i found www.sevethgeneration.com . Maybe you can check their internet site.

 

Also, there are some fabrics built with nanotechnology that is not getting dirty easily. In one research in Clemson University, researchers developed a coating method for fabrics with silver(Ag) particles. I am sorry that i couldnt find the web link but you can find it easily.

 

There are some white goods companies that produce energy and water efficiency washing machines. Some of these companies also focus on the warranty time in order to show the other side of sustainability and green concept in their commercial. For instance, Vestel ( a Turkish Manufacturer) gives 5 year warranty while the others generally give 2-3 years.

 

As KQD said, green- blabla can turn into a kind of consumption movement. On the other hand, i believe that these kind of products has great influence on the user. Changing behavior and habits will always take time. It is not only just fixing your product or using biodegradable toilet papers.

 

If user will care about their clothes and wear his clothes more carefully, not having sports (?) or forbidding kids to jump in mud (?) or being naked (?). It will be good for green-washing. The main problem is we need to decide logically where we need to stop and open-minded for technological improvements.

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Guest Adam Brown

Hi again everyone.

Thank you so much for all your responses, they have all been really useful and interesting.

 

KQD, I totally agree with you on a vast majority of what you've said in your reply and it is most definitely 'food for thought'.

I'm currently studying a 'futures' based course, which aims to teach new designers to design more sustainably and think through the entire product life cycle and the way in which it is recycled etc. This is why I've chosen this particular area for my dissertation.

 

Do you think it could be argued that a large part of the problem within 'green design' is that a majority of designers are not fully aware or educated within the area of sustainability (which by all rights is a science?)? Maybe this is a large part of the problem?

 

 

seurban, Once again i agree with your point of view in that green washing does raise awareness but also increases naivety. This is mainly down to the "human imperative for the desire to 'do good'" so people want to try and be 'green' despite not having suitable knowledge to support their purchasing choices.

 

Also what is everyone's views on the ways in which the current trend for being 'green' is simply promoting a 'less bad' approach?? With the methods everyone seems to have a desire to use (such as recycling) simply reducing the impact of their lives or offsetting it, which does not solve the problem at all.?

 

 

Thanks again for all of your posts.

They're all of interest and will help me greatly with my debate

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Yes I think it is fair to say most designers and people involved in new product development have very little understanding of sustainability. In my experience sustainability is a bit of a grey area rather than a green one. Nobody really understands it. Even fewer understand the concept of the carbon footprint.

 

It is not helped that the legislation that surrounds environmental issues is often incomplete, difficult to understand and sometimes just plain daft as it was rushed through with little long term thought (which in itself is ironic). For example, every supermarket I visit now in the UK tells me not to use plastic bags, but instead buy their "bags for life" and that they now charge for plastic bags "to help the environment". They of course forget to mention that they are saving hundreds of thousands a year in costs, and that the bags for life have something like 20x the volume of plastic, and most consumers buy a bag for life every time they come shopping.

 

At the end of the day it comes down to the harsh reality that to be truly green you need to consume less. Much in the same way if you don't want to get fat, eat less. We are consumers and our modern lifestyles promote consumption. We fill our homes with stuff and then pat ourselves on the back because we filled the recycling box.

 

I'm not trying to be a killjoy. I'm as guilty as the next person. I drive a big car that most of the time just has me in it with the air con running all summer. I use budget airlines a few times a year. I leave all my office lights on all day, and all my computers running all day, and set the central heating so that it comes on at 6am so when I get up at 6.30 the house is nice and warm.

 

I think we in the West are very arrogant, having all these benefits, and yet we tell developing nations to not do this and not do that. If I lived in the tropics, and I could afford it, I'd want air conditioning. Who are we to dictate when countries like India and China help keep us in cheap products?

 

If we really were responsible consumers we would choose our purchases with more care. Be prepared to spend more for genuinely sustainable products and products that have a long life cycle. Product design is one of the more damaging professions to the environment. We make a living by developing new products. If we move to a sustainable future where we focus more on reuse rather than replacement, manufacturers do not have to redesign so often. Should we actually want this scenario?

 

As a professional designer it does worry me. But as a father and someone who does consider others I have to say this is the path we need to start moving down. My entire career as a designer and engineer has been about change. Change from manual development processes to the IT centric systems we use now. Change in consumer tastes, fashions, needs, change in the legal framework that we operate in.

 

This is just another change process. As a designer I see it as an opportunity to move into new areas. I see it as a new challenge to my design abilities, being able to think of a product that is intended to last 10 years instead of 2. Being forced to consider all the changes that might affect it during its life cycle. Does that not excite you? It should.

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Guest Adam Brown

KQD,

Once again i couldn't agree more, this is an area which 'excites' me greatly and that i am particularly interested in (hence specializing within sustainable design for my degree).

 

It actually annoys me when i walk round shops and see people picking up ' sustainable' products and being like "ohhh i'm saving the planet". No your not love, your just falling for the same 'green washing' everyone in the queue is.

 

I think one of the most irritating things for me as a design student is looking at people driving Toyota Prius, and GeeWizz (little electric cars) and then having the audacity to say "oh I drive a Prius" as if it is something to be proud of. When in reality, the Prius has a battery which is made of many hazardous materials which are shipped around the world endlessly in production until finally put into your car for its (relatively short lifespan) until you come to get rid of your car to find that proper recycling facilities for the batteries are few and far between. Then if they take into consideration the effect of the Prius being supplied with low drag tires when first purchased, then the fact that a majority will naively hand their car into a garage for new tires and have standard tires fitted, resulting in that nice low fuel consumption going sky rocketing back up.

 

Also with electric cars, whilst i can see the benefits of these in that they have no emissions during its use and this is obviously beneficial. But once again, I would assume this car runs on a nickel based battery of some sort?? and is it often overlooked that the car has to be charged?? Where does the electricity come from..... for most people the answer would be the plug. Not the grotty coal fired power station 50 miles away in the middle of the country with the "out of sight out of mind" approach.

 

For me personally, design has to take a radical approach to solve these issues and it is ONLY designers (and subsequently the corporations in which they work) which can make the difference. Rather than designing in weaknesses within products to ensure consumers will purchase another product from the company, designers should (as you rightly said) design products to last. Give the consumer an emotional attachment to the product, make it amazingly efficient and easy to use and fun to use. For example the iPhone or iPod, whilst i am not a fan of the product range everyone i know who has one of the range loves using it and cherishes the product. If apple were to design their products to truly last or even included a modular aspect so users could 'update and upgrade' (as this seems to be the current desire within the technology market) they could quite easily make products to last a vast amount of years but equally they would be making far less money.

 

Whilst some of the design theories i've studied rant on about how the designer should put the environment before their economical desires, this would simply not be possible because clearly a business needs money to operate and be 'successful'

I personally believe that designers should be trained (at the level that i am currently at , 3rd year Product design) method in which they can design products which appeal to consumers for their sustainability and their long life and as you said, encourage the consumer to pay more for the product. Within this, if there was enough design sense it would be relatively simple for a majority of products to be kept 'upto date' with modular updates, where the old modules could be recycled when the new module was purchased. Clearly this would not work for every product and it may be my youth and naivety raging out but for a market such as mobile phones and laptops this could solve many problems.

 

 

P.s. Sorry about the rant. I feel i got a bit sucked into it there.

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