Don’t Be Fooled 2012

On April Fool’s Day, The Green Life is proud to announce the 2012 edition of our report on greenwashing, “Don’t Be Fooled.”

Since the early days of greenwashing, companies have gotten a lot sneakier. But whatever it looks like today, greenwashing is still bad for shoppers and the general public. But, as ever, the truth is on our side. And we hope, with your help, that this report can help bring the truth out, hold the greenwashers accountable, and drive a more sustainable economy in our future. Below, see the top greenwashers, ranked by more than 1000 votes online.

The full report will be available for download soon. Read on to learn about the top 10 picks:

1. Walmart

In the past three years, Walmart has embarked on a bold strategy for sustainability – or so their PR department would have you believe. From solar panels in parking lots to organic produce on (some) shelves, Walmart is touting their green initiatives. But it’s more of a public relations move than a deep change.

And Walmart is as unsustainable as ever. Their products push our entire culture toward cheap, throwaway production. Their stores undermine other businesses and increase driving and oil dependence. Worse still, Walmart spends big money on anti-environment political causes.

2. CAPP (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers)

One CAPP ad compares these tailings to yogurt

Producing oil from Canadian tar sands – or, as they prefer to say, “oil sands” – is a dirty process. It devastates vast areas of land, uses massive amounts of energy, pollutes huge quantities of water, and produces a carbon footprint 20% higher than traditional oil.

But the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers ran a set of ads last fall, in print and on TV, touting the ecological restoration, and comparing their product to both peanut butter and yogurt. Even if you’re hungry, it’s hard to swallow the claims about restoration, and it misleads the public about the overall project.

3. America’s Natural Gas Alliance

Natural Gas has a lot to do with this picture

America is in the midst of a drilling boom, with more than a million natural gas wells being drilled across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other states. And the drilling companies would love you to think the process is healthy, happy, and green. And if you watch their TV ads, which are blanketing those parts of the country, you’d see just that.
But “natural” doesn’t mean green. In reality, the destructive new drilling technique – called “fracking” – involves a range of environmental risks and problems. It’s caused drinking water contamination, pollutes millions of gallons of water per well, releases air pollutants, and in Ohio has actually caused earthquakes.

4. Fiji Water

Is EVERY drop green?

Ads for the “Fiji” brand of bottled water tout the unsurpassed pristine, green, and clean qualities of their water. They’ve alternately claimed both that “every drop is green” and that their water, far from having a high carbon footprint, is actually “carbon negative.”

Both claims resulted in lawsuits – but the bigger picture is that bottled water is an inherently unsustainable product, no matter how you dress it up.

5. SFI, the Sustainable Forestry initiative, sounds like a smart answer to the sticky issue of logging. If we can sustainably manage our forests, then everyone’s happy, right?

Not so fast. SFI is funded and directed in large part by big players in the American logging industry, and it mostly serves their interests. Worse still, SFI funds lobbying and advocacy that undermine other, truly sustainable, labeling standards, like LEED certification for buildings, and FSC, the Forest Stewardship Council, which is a trustworthy label for paper and wood products.

6. CBS EcoAd

Recently, you might’ve seen a TV ad – maybe for a big SUV or a utility company – featuring a superimposed leafy logo. You might assume that the company or SUV was somehow green, or doing good for the planet. But you’d be wrong.
Last year, CBS rolled out the EcoAd program. It allows any advertiser to pay extra, and some amount of that funding goes to eco-friendly projects. But EcoMedia “does not in any way certify, endorse or make any representations about EcoAd advertisers, their products or services” – which is to say, despite the leafy green logo, that product still isn’t green.

7. Mazda
For decades, Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax” has been a beloved beacon of environmental values, telling the cautionary tale of The Once-ler, who cuts down all the Truffula trees, leaving the valley a barren waste of “smogulous smoke.”
But the Hollywood reinvention of The Lorax has more than 70 product tie-ins, including Mazda’s CX-5 SUV. And their ads – even if touting a somewhat fuel-efficient SUV – take the cake: full of flowery images, surrounded by happy animals, the SUV wins the “Truffula Tree-Certified” award.

8. Malaysian Palm Oil Council

In Malaysia, demand for oil produced from palm tree plantations is driving rapid deforestation in some of the most important rainforest habitats for orangutans and other wildlife. But the Malaysian Palm Oil Council – a lobby group for some of the biggest producers – ran a set of ads describing their product as “sustainable.” Over and over, watchdogs have found this to be utterly false.

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