Greenwashing 101: Common bullshit terms

The price of temporarily suspending our disbelief while reading novels and viewing films is small. The price of suspending our disbelief (turning off our critical thinking) in matters of politics, economics, technology and religion is immense.
~Earon Davis

Biodegradable:
A landfill is not a giant compost heap. A compost heap requires carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and water. Landfills lack oxygen (because they compact the garbage in order to use less space and then cover it will a layer of fill to keep it in) and water (to avoid leaching pollutants into groundwater). Landfills lack sunlight, which will degrade even plastics…eventually. Throwing your grass clippings and uneaten food into the garbage doesn’t do anything for it. Newspapers from the 60s have been found in landfills…still readable.

That’s not to say things don’t degrade in landfills. There are anaerobic bacteria that will break things down. But unlike a compost heap, landfills are not a friendly place for products to degrade. And even if these things degrade, they may break down into harmful substances. Your best bet if you want to go green is to compost your food waste. Worm bins, compost heaps, or even indoor composting. Or you can be an asshole like myself and just toss your banana peels and broccoli stalks into the unmowed areas behind your apartment complex.

Recyclable:
Seriously. Recyclable. Able to be recycled. Does not mean “recycled” or “made from recycled fuckwhat.” It doesn’t even mean that you can recycle it. It just means that somewhere, somehow, someone has decided that this item could possibly be turned into something else. Yeah. “100% Recyclable!” means precisely dick.

Natural:
Again, means nothing. There are no USDA standards a product has to meet to be defined as “natural.” This one gets used for all kinds of bullshit. It also goes hand-in-hand with “no artificial,” which still allows for bullshit such as high-fructose corn syrup. That’s “natural” because it’s made of corn.

Grass-fed/Free-range, etc:
I only believe this in complete and utter truth if I see how the animals are kept with my own two eyes. Too many stories of animals given maybe two weeks worth of potential free-range that they don’t use because they’ve been held so long under artificial conditions that they fear going outside. If I had the time and the money I would go on a field trip to a few of these places.

As I’ve talked about before, I’m damn critical. I usually don’t believe it until I see it with my own two eyes. I don’t believe industrial organic is all it’s cracked up to be. I don’t believe Energy Star certification really changes anything. You’re probably better off with a Toyota Yaris than a Toyota Prius. Although I do own CFLs, I opted instead of buying more to just remove two of the bulbs in the living room and bedroom four-bulb overheads. I don’t know if that actually helps or not, but that’s the trick. Use your brain and think critically. Don’t believe marketing. It’s all hype. Assume that marketing is at the very least trying to convince you that their product is better than it really is. They’ll do everything including flat-out lie, if they can get away with it. So think before you buy.

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5 Responses to “Greenwashing 101: Common bullshit terms”

  1. Dargon Says:

    With regards to natural, I would like to point out that cyanide, mercury, and kidney stones are all natural.

  2. “Although I do own CFLs, I opted instead of buying more to just remove two of the bulbs in the living room and bedroom four-bulb overheads. I don’t know if that actually helps or not, but that’s the trick.”

    As a BA in architecture, you just hit on one of my areas. You’re not helping much by getting rid of the two bulbs, vs changing them to CFLs.

    Incandecant last around 1,500 hours, CFL’s 10,000, LED 60,000 on average. Energy usage is where you’re likely more concerned vs lifespan or recycling (every part of CFl’s can be recycled and as they come into wider use, more recycling centers come into being). Given that 9% of household energy use is from lights, energy use is a rather decent concern. CFLs consume 20-30 percent the energy that incandecants do. A 13W CFL’s equivalent incandescant bulb is 60W (whats used most often in light fixtures like the one you mentioned).

    The math:
    Incandecant: 4 bulbs x 60W/bulb – 240W in all.
    Rmoving two takes that down to 120W.

    Replacing that with 2 CFL’s would make it 26W usage. Hell, replacing all four with CF’s would still have better energy use than those two incancescants- 52W for four vs. 120W for two.

    Here’s a site that totals the money expenditure, since I don’t feel like typing it out.
    http://www.msiutilities.com/-i-24.html

    Personally, I’d like LED’s to come into better use. They last MUCH longer than CFL’s, produce even less heat and use less energy. I don’t recall all th problems with LED’s but if I remember right they were harder to produce, didn’t get anywhere near the nice range of light CFL’s get and besides being hellishly expensive, they’re hard to find, so no quick replacements if you accidentally break one. I do know that some places are going to solid state lighting (like streetlamps) and I read about another new light technology that was even better than LED’s, but for the life of me I can’t remember where I saw it or what it was.

    I really would like to replace the bulbs in my room with CFL’s but the light fixture sucks- it has a short or something somewhere. It ends up blowing out any bulb thats put in it within a month or two. And CFL’s are too expensive to be replacing every month for that crappy fixture. I put full spectrum incandescants because they’re cheaper and I can still get a good light quality from them vs regular incandescants. *sigh* I’m curious as to replacing all my incandescants with CFL’s and seeing what that does to my monthly bill however.

    • The big problem with the living room lights is that they have a funky base to the bulb. I really don’t want to spend money that I could use on food on buying bulbs that will probably not have a use outside this apartment. The CFLs I bought for the old apartment are currently in the bathroom.

      I’d still like to see the energy expenditure involved in making a CFL vs. making an incandescent. That also has a lot to do with the environmental friendliness of a product.

  3. BUYING MORE SHIT will not eradicate this consumerist culture!

  4. Natural is a biggie! Yuck…greenwashing is terrible.

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