Earth Day - a greenwash?!

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"Greenwashing - a term describing the deceptive use of green PR 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 (Wikipedia).

                Upon studying many, many different items for greenwashing I found that most items I looked at could be accused of at least one of the six sins. It was on my way into our local hardware store that I realized what I wanted to include in my blog. Earth Day! Yes, Earth day is becoming more and more of a greenwash. At the hardware store, you had the option to buy a t-shirt for Earth Day. (You needed to buy early so that just enough could be made with no waste.) Ok, not such a bad idea, I was intrigued. As I looked at the shirt I noticed that it was lined around the folds with a piece of tissue paper, it was wrapped in a plactic bag and sealed with tape. Not a very eco-friendly choice of packaging. The proceeds would be forwarded to the WWF. Not so bad...wrong. As I read I found that .5%, (½ a percent) would be forwarded to the WWF. I was approached to buy a shirt for $20 and only 0.10 cents would go to the WWF! I couldn't believe what I read. I pointed it out to the gentlemen selling the shirts and he was flabbergasted. The man truly thought he was doing a good thing (or he was a good actor).  I told him he could keep his shirt and I'd go home and donate my $20 to the WWF directly. He agreed.

                I decided to recall and research last years' Earth Days and found the following:

·         Ford Motor Company bought the title "Habitat Defender" for $2500.00 (but didn't do anything to stand up to it) (Huffpost)

·         Walmart bought "Global Conservationist" for $10,000 in an Earth Day campaign(Huffpost)

·         Many other "buy a t-shirt and we'll donate or plant a tree" scams

·         A snow globe with an Earth inside of it! (Inhabitat)

·         Win a trip to celebrate Earth Day somewhere else! (Is the transportation a bird or mule?!) (


Tru Green was an exclusive sponsor of Earth Day. This is/was ChemLawn with their trucks full of chemicals to spray on the lawns and contaminate. (Had a neighbor once tell me that after they came she couldn't let her dog on the lawn for 24 hours!) Thankfully and rightly so, they were dropped as an Earth Day sponsor. (

Earth Day is not another shopping day. Companies have begun to use the phrase and day so heavily that they've greenwashed the concept and day. People are assuming that they just did a great deed when they buy a t-shirt stating in large print Proceeds forwarded to WWF when in reality all they did was buy a shirt, promote the cutting of more trees and another plastic bag in the trash can. Reusable shopping bags are another example of a good thing gone greenwashed. I'm a user and supporter of reusable shopping bags. However, when companies have them made and hand them out like candy at an Earth Day celebration, they're not doing too much to save the Earth unless people actually use them. If they're thrown away the outcome is much worse.

With comparison, I found that most Earth Day "efforts" were committing 1, 2 or 3 of the six sins. Most seemed to fall under 1 or 2 and in some cases both.

Earth Day is a day that we should stay home, be outside and enjoy the Earth and most importantly, teaching our children about the Earth and conserving it. Not traveling, shopping for something "green" or doing something that will have a negative impact. Some ideas would be to plant a tree, go to a class about recycling, composting or sustainability in your community, attend a community cleanup or pick up trash alongside a road (carefully). I hope that society will see through these outrageous acts of greenwashing as Earth Day approaches this year.

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My initial reaction to your post is that this is just so sad! How much more depressing can you get than the greenwashing techniques that you have researched and describe. After this initial shock of sadness and apathy, my batteries recharge a bit - so, then what can we do about this? Is there anything that a individual can do? or, is collective action needed? These types of behaviors should not continue to go on 'under the radar' should they?



I believe we, as consumers, need to be aware of what we're spending our money on. As the money is in our hands it is our responsibility to spend it appropriately on more levels than one. Yes, our checkbook balance is important, but so is our environment. We need to be aware of what we're buying and how ethical the product/company is.


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