Eco-friendly prod­ucts are noth­ing but mar­ket­ing gim­micks

Eco-friendly prod­ucts, ser­vices are noth­ing but ex­cel­lent mar­ket­ing strate­gies

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - APARA­JITA SEN­GUPTA

Con­tem­po­rary me­dia is awash with mes­sages on “in­tel­li­gent buy­ing” and how it can save the planet. Buried in these mes­sages are nuggets of en­vi­ron­men­tal wis­dom— ideas on en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and or­ganic ma­te­ri­als and con­cerns about rain­for­est de­ple­tion and chemical tox­i­c­ity. These mes­sages leave no doubt in the viewer’s mind that the up­per and mid­dle classes of con­sumers world­wide are ded­i­cated to the cause of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism. How­ever, this shift to en­vi­ron­ment­con­scious mode is merely an il­lu­sion.

While ad­ver­tise­ments wax elo­quent on the virtues of com­pa­nies that plant 10 saplings for ev­ery tree of “con­scious tim­ber” they bring to the mar­ket, the real cost of felling a large tree is an en­tire ecosys­tem of birds, in­sects, small ani- mals, epi­phytes and so on. But this fact is kept hid­den from the con­sumer. Planet earth has con­sis­tently lost its green­ery ever since hu­man be­ings dis­cov­ered the power of fos­sil fu­els. But our choices in “green prod­ucts” seem to have in­creased con­sid­er­ably only in the past few decades. From “eco- friendly air- con­di­tion­ers” to herbal sham­poos, from “green realty” to “na­ture-wise bot­tled wa­ter” and eco­tourism, there is a green choice in most pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions that we make. Beam­ing with con­fi­dence by this magic of de­mand and sup­ply are pro­po­nents of free- mar­ket eco­nom­ics who claim that all en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­ages can be off­set if con­sumers de­mand eco- friendly prod­ucts and pro­duc­ers oblige them.

But in re­al­ity very few things change be­hind the scenes in pro­duc­tion. Pro­duc­ers la­bel or project ob­jects as “green” with the sole pur­pose of max­imis­ing prof­its through sales, which is dubbed “green­wash­ing”. The scope of green­wash is amaz­ing and its power in­tense at this mo­ment when our col­lec­tive sense of guilt about what we are do­ing to our planet is on the rise.

So what, if we are run­ning up against the lim­its of the planet be­cause we buy too much? Buy again, only buy “green” this time, and all prob­lems are solved. In preach­ing this phi­los­o­phy, green­wash as­sumes a cer­tain im­be­cil­ity in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, and so far, it has got­ten away with that as­sump­tion, of­ten leav­ing us teary-eyed at its im­ages of a green, techno-fan­tasy fu­ture where hu­man so­ci­ety en­joys abun­dance with­out so much as touch­ing the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

Cap­i­tal­ist con­sumerism has long trained our brains into ac­cept­ing that its re­duc­tive logic is the only log­i­cal par­a­digm. People pre­sent­ing such il­logic as re­plac­ing one tree with 10 saplings are aware of the lim­i­ta­tions of these num­bers, but our train­ing as con­sumers has been so in­tense ( an in­di­vid­ual views 3,000- 4,000 ad­ver­tise­ments per day on an aver­age; the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try in the US was worth $153 bil­lion in 2013) that if our con­science is even mildly dis­turbed by the thought that global con­sumerism is trash­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, a lit­tle bit of green­wash al­le­vi­ates it.

Green­wash is im­mensely per­va­sive—

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