Greenwashing: A Highlight Reel of the Best Attempts to Assuage Consumer Guilt
Catherine Goodrich ‘20
Companies have long used advertising strategies to make their products appear eco-friendly. Referred to as greenwashing, this tradition of dressing up packaging with imagery of the outdoors and broad claims of being organic, whole, or natural, can take on many forms. Perhaps you’re perusing the hair care section of Target when you spot a green bottle, possibly embellished with images of pretty leaves and boasting an “all natural” or “non-artificial” formula. Regardless of details, these sorts of products are packaged in this manner to give potential buyers a sense of connection to the natural world, misleading consumers to view it as the more environmentally friendly choice. In the spirit of Earth Day last April 22, and striving for a more environmentally conscious and appreciative planet on the whole, here are my all-time favorite greenwashing ploys:
Horizon made the list not for their use of a typical greenwashed aesthetic but rather their deviance from the norm. Instead of sticking to a traditional green or blue toned background, these marketers went with a genre-bending fire engine red. Horizon is owned by Dean Foods a mega-corporation notorious for manipulating and falling short of organic regulations. Despite their fairly terrible reputation they’ve labeled their product as “organic” and slapped a cheerful cow in front of a lovely clip art image of a globe. Minimal effort yet a tastefully unconventional color pallette rounds Horizon to a 6.3/10 on the CGS*.
Similar to Horizon, but in cerulean blue, Stonyfield has incorporated a quaint animated farm and labeled their product as organic. Owned by another large corporation, Dannon, who also has a subpar track record of meeting organic and even FDA regulations. Their stylish graphics intended to distract from a cup of gastric lesions gives them a cool 6.5/10 on the CGS.
Tide’s purclean® detergent line was bound to find its way onto the most prestigious greenwashing list of the Woodward Post. The urine-hued liquid encased in yet another animated allusion to nature, this time taking form of a tree with a purple leaf-flower (a feat of biology!) lands a stunning 7.6/10 on the CGS.
BP Oil is laughably horrendous at conservation considering they’re culpable for what’s considered the largest marine oil spill in 2010. However, they’re logo is still an exquisite artistic rendition of a green flower suggesting an eco-friendly mission. This irony lends itself to a 8.7/10 on the CGS.
I have undoubtedly saved the best for the last. Ladies and gentlemen, you know you are being snaked by corporate america when there is “artisan water” on the shelves of every major food store. This is greenwashing at its absolute peak. 11.2385/10
This being said, I entirely understand most of the examples listed are the cheaper, more accessible options. My unsolicited recommendation is to avoid these products if feasible, but if Tide Purclean is the detergent in your laundry room I will refrain from unleashing my pack of ravenous environmental science students on you. I’m of the opinion the responsibility of sustainability falls on the company before the consumers. This article is entirely intended for personal entertainment with a modest sub-mission of mocking these brands for their advertising tactics.