Greenwashing Greenwashing, is a term that combines the words "green" and "whitewash". The term describes the deceptive use of green public relations



Greenwashing, is a term that combines the words "green" and "whitewash". The term describes the deceptive use of green public relations and/or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company's policies or products (such as goods or services) are environmentally friendly. The term greensheen has similarly been used to describe organizations that attempt to show that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment.

The term greenwashing is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices. This is often portrayed by changing the name or label of a product to evoke the natural environment or nature—for example, putting an image of a forest on a bottle containing harmful chemicals. Environmentalists often use greenwashing to describe the actions of energy companies, which are traditionally the largest polluters.

The term greenwashing was coined by New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld in a 1986 essay regarding the hotel industry's practice of placing placards in each room promoting reuse of towels ostensibly to "save the environment". source 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. Westerveld opined that the actual objective of this "green campaign" on the part of many hoteliers was, in fact, increased profit. Westerveld hence monitored this and other outwardly environmentally conscientious acts with a greater, underlying purpose of profit increase as greenwashing.

A History of Greenwashing

1960- In the mid 1960’s, the environmental movement gained momentum. This popularity prompted many companies to create a new green image through advertising. Jerry Mander, a former Madison advertising executive, called this new form of advertising "Eco-pornography".
1970- Due to public interest in the environment, the first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. This encouraged many industries to advertise themselves as being friendly to the environment. Public utilities spent 300 million dollars advertising themselves as clean green companies. This was eight times more than the money they spent on pollution reduction research.
1980- Chevron Corporation, a large oil company, launched one of the most famous greenwashing ad campaigns in history. Chevron’s “People Do” advertisements were aimed at a “hostile audience” of “societally conscious” people. Their ads lasted for 15 years and they became one of the only oil companies that people trusted in protecting the environment. In the late 1980s The American Chemistry Council started a program called Responsible Care, which shone light on the environmental performances and precautions of the group's members. The loose guidelines of responsible care caused industries to adopt self regulation over government regulation.
1990- A study published in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing (American Marketing Association) found that 58% of environmental ads had at least one deceptive claim. Another study found that 77% of people said the environmental reputation of company affected whether they would buy their products. One fourth of all household products marketed around Earth Day advertised themselves as being green and environmentally friendly. In 1998 the Federal Trade Commission created the “Green Guidelines”, which defined terms used in environmental marketing. The following year the FTC found that the Nuclear Energy Institute claims of being environmentally clean were not true. The FTC did nothing about the ads because they were out of their jurisdiction. This caused the FTC to realize they needed new clear enforceable standards. In 1999 Greenwashing officially became part of the English language.
2000- BP, the world’s second largest oil company, entered the greenwashing playing field, spending two-hundred million dollars on rebranding their company. Part of their rebranding was use of the slogan "beyond petroleum" and a new green and yellow sunburst design for their logo. A large advertising campaign gave BP a greener appearance to the public, overpowering the voices of activists. In 2002, during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the Greenwashing Academy hosted the Greenwash Academy Awards. The ceremony awarded companies like BP, ExxonMobil, and even the US Government for their elaborate greenwashing ads and support for greenwashing.

Greenwashers is a movie slated for release in 2011 which directly addresses the issue of greenwashing and exposes current and past violators. The film focuses mainly on a company called Greenwashers Consulting.

The Greenlife


The LEED'r Corporate Profile

Steven Winter Associates - Q&A with Steven Winters, President

SWA is a 38-year-old architectural/engineering research and consulting firm, with specialized expertise in technologies and procedures that improve the safety, performance, and cost effectiveness of buildings. SWA’s staff that encompasses over 65 architects, engineers, and building scientists works to make buildings safer, more energy efficient, more durable, more affordable, more accessible, and overall, more sustainable.

What made you decide to start offering energy efficiency types of services to your clients?

We were building systems consultants from 1972. The 1978 energy crisis demanded efficiency responses and we provided the service to clients in need. Thing then mushroomed.

As the development of green engineering standards progressed, how did SWA incorporate them into its practices?

We applied LEED and other certifications to projects all around the US.

According to NYC law, all buildings above 50,000 square feet must be benchmarked by May of 2011. As of now there doesn't seem to be much recourse for the city should the property owners not comply with the law. What do you think will happen here?

Madness will ensue.

What are two of your favorite sustainable building designs that your company has produced?

We were the LEED consultants on the Solaire apartment building in Battery Park City and the Clinton Presidential Library.

As one who appreciates sustainable building and design, what are some of your proudest accomplishments in this arena, and who's other work do you admire from a design standpoint, any specific projects? Any specific products?

My proudest accomplishments:
As the Chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council from 1999 to 2003 I oversaw the launch of LEED, the introduction of Greenbuild, and the creation of LEED for Homes.

Admirable work:
Gerald Hines leadership in commercial real estate: Gerald Hines and Rick Fedrizzi’s running of the USGBC; Alex Wilson’s thoughtful green publications.

In terms of green products: I am mostly nervous about greenwashing by manufacturers.

Where do you feel the sustainable building industry is headed? Is this just a passing phase?

It’s here to stay. But in 20 years everyone will be doing it by rote, and it won’t be called sustainable building; just good building.

Where do you feel the sustainable building industry is headed? Is this just a passing phase?

It’s here to stay. But in 20 years everyone will be doing it by rote, and it won’t be called sustainable building; just good building.

Spotlight LEED Project of the Week

Motor Parkway Plaza, Hauppauge, NY

Motor Parkway Plaza; a new construction LEED project is the first LEED-registered shopping center on Long Island. The lush landscaping planned for the site conjures images of environmental consciousness, and much more is going behind the scenes at this project. Some of the main features include:

The entire shopping center is over 30% more water-efficient than a typical shopping center. This has been accomplished through ultra-low flow fixtures, toilets, and urinals.
Preferred parking will be available for those who drive hybrid vehicles or tenants that car pool.
A highly-reflective white roof reflects away heat which in turn keeps the entire shopping center cooler.
An on-site renewable energy system will provide this facility with solar PVC-powered electric power; which will reduce the property’s carbon footprint and also save tenants money on utility bills.
A tighter building envelope, the white roof, and high efficiency HVAC systems will make this shopping center over 30% more energy-efficient than a typical shopping center.
Low volatile organic compounds (VOC) paints, sealants, and adhesives are being used throughout the project, improving indoor air quality for shoppers and workers.
Construction: Over 90% of construction debris (totaling over 9,000 tons of material) was kept out of the landfill through recycling or reuse. Recycled materials and those manufactured locally are being used extensively throughout the project.

For further information please contact The Cotocon Group who operates as The LEED consultant for this project, as well as other projects.


Green News

World Bank fund for new carbon markets - The World Bank will set up a new fund to help developing countries set up carbon trading schemes, aiming to have it bankrolled to $US100m from donor countries. Announcing the initiative at the Cancún UN climate talks, Bank president Robert Zoellick said that the fund would help countries establish carbon markets that would in turn finance clean energy development and forest protection to cut greenhouse on

California Approves Start of $4 Billion High-Speed Rail Line - The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board voted on December 2 to begin construction in the Central Valley of a new high-speed rail corridor linking Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay on


Iberdrola takes a shine to the U.S. solar power plant market - Iberdrola Renewables, the Spanish green energy giant, has jumped into the United States solar power plant market, announcing a deal Thursday with Silicon Valley’s SunPower for a 20-megawatt photovoltaic farm to be built in on

Green GT Unveils All-Electric Supercar for Le Mans Race - Last spring, Inhabitat did a story on up-and-coming Swiss auto company GreenGT’s plans for a fully-electric vehicle. The supercar was billed as the “the most powerful and cutting-edge electric race car ever built,” with the vehicle designed to race in the world famous Le Mans race. Back then the Twenty-4 vehicle boasted two 100-kw electric engines that would provide 350-400 horsepower and a top speed of 171 mph, but now the company has unveiled its working prototype, and they’ve certainly upped the on


The LEED'r is a green newsletter owned by The Cotocon Group that is written and published by Daryl Dworkin. The Leed'r is a weekly publication which reports on a wide range of environmental interests. In future newsletters, we will continue to provide compelling information, relevant news, interviews with industry professionals, and a whole lot of other interesting material. Please enjoy and feel free to contact us with any comments, questions, or ideas that you may have regarding green building or any environmental issues at

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