The greenwashing of products and lifestyles can be seen as an illustration of how corporate strategies attempt to pacify criticism of unethical corporate decision-making strategies. These strategies are intended to divert public attention away from unethical environmental practices and thus seek to legitimize decisions that would otherwise expose corporations to intense public scrutiny. The Transnational Resource and Action Centre, for instance, highlight how corporations continue to pay lip service to eliminating fossil fuel use whilst using renewable energy investments to give themselves a ‘clean and green’ image.
Has society become more environmentally-friendly and ethical over time or are the masses more susceptible to the public relations techniques adopted by big business whose actions undermine the science that informs the environmental cause? The fact that human actions have resulted in a planet that is warmer now than it has been in the last 100 years and that the public appear to be indifferent to the likely catastrophic consequences, would suggest that corporate greenwashing is indeed shaping public opinion away from the core mass consumerist and economic causes towards issues of displacement activity.
The following commentary involving an incident at a British shop, posted to the Neil Young Times by an anonymous writer, highlights the extent to which this greenwashing propaganda supports the above hypothesis:
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”
The cashier responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.” The old woman replied: “You’re right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.
We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
“We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.
“Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
“Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the county of Yorkshire . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.
Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.
“We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn’t expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world. We actually cooked food that didn’t come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.
“Back then, people took the tram or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint. “But isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?”