PRSSA conference in the D and greenwashing

October 29, 2008 at 5:41 pm 5 comments

This past weekend, me and seven other PRSSA Kent officers attended the PRSSA national conference in America’s Motor City. Between taking notes at sessions and dodging the other 900-some students, I took notice of the little green efforts.

  1. Save the planet sign inside my hotel room telling me only towels on the floor would be washed in attempt to save water.
  2. Ecotainer cups at breakfast. The cups were biodegradable and compostable.
  3. During the PRSSA sessions, GM gave us the opportunity to test drive a hybrid Escalade or Saturn Vue.

I was the only Kent officer to notice these minute green pushes. Although the hotel wanted its guests to save water, they didn’t recycle. I guess they wanted to sport the green label without any extra effort. And this got me thinking about greenwashing and green posers.

Greenwash with Swiffer
Jennifer Fehrenbacher, contributor to Inhabitat blog, wrote an excellent eye-opening post questioning Swiffer designer’s Businessweek editorial promoting Swiffer as a green product. Gianfranco Zaccai’s claim is that cleaning the floor with a mop and bucket is:

“a messy and unpleasant job that uses many gallons of water and great amounts of detergent…the water, the energy needed to heat that water and the environmental impact of dumping the detergent into the waste system are terribly costly…”

Fehrenbacher cleverly shoots back saying:

“…the Swiffer is a plastic contraption designed to replace the good old fashion mop. It is sold with a box of dispoable, plastic-wrapped, chemical-soaked pieces of paper that go straight from your floor to the landfill, where the chemicals leach into the ground.”

I’m with Fehrenbacher. Nothing designed to be convenient and disposable is designed with the earth in mind. Disposable means waste. And I don’t know about you, but I surely don’t use gallons beyond gallons of water to mop. Swiffer is a green poser. The bottom line here is to realize consumers will see through false claims.

Tip for future PR practitioners: Don’t make your client out to be something it’s not. It’ll damage crediblilty and image. I had no problem with Swiffer until now. I realize everyone wants a piece of the green pie but don’t stretch the truth. It’s really tacky.

Green Tip #2
Turn off your car’s engine if you’ll be waiting for more than 30 seconds. Idling longer than that uses more fuel than restarting.

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Entry filed under: Detroit, greenwashing, Kent State, PRSSA, public relations. Tags: , , , , .

Environmental Politics – Where the candidates stand and why Obama won me over. Salvage – green fashion and design at KSU

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Deborah Jeanne  |  October 31, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Wow BT-
    I was at conference and you are right—I think you were the only one who noticed these things. I think it’s ridiculous that individuals at houses try to do their best and recycle a bag or two a week, while companies with large amounts of people, such as hotels or banquet facilities, can’t be bothered. I live at a new apartment complex that spent thousands of dollars on a trash compacter. When I asked them in September if they would be recycling, they pretty much said they didn’t want to pay for it. Their answer was they would disperse information sheets to tell us where we could recycle. I have yet to see those information sheets. Do you know of any advocate groups or organizations that would pay for the complex to get recycling?

  • […] be aware of green washing – claiming to be green while not actually being green. Check out “PRSSA in the D and greenwashing” for more info about greenwashing and about greener public […]

  • 3. Nick  |  November 6, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Great stuff!

    I’ve been doing tip #2 for a couple of months now, but I just wanted to give a little warning about it. I’m not sure if this holds in Ohio or Pennsylvania, but some states have laws against turning off engines when your in traffic (red lights, construction, etc.). I dug up the article that brought this tip (and issue) to my attention if you wanted some more info: http://www.slate.com/id/2192187/

  • 4. brittanythoma13  |  November 6, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Nick, wow. It’s been a long time. Thrilled you stopped in. And that’s a really good point about the traffic lights. I can see the dangers of that. And surprisingly, as extreme as I am, I haven’t turned my engine off during construction.

    Tell me about Steeler Country, is it catching on to the green movement on a city level? Are there recycling bins throughout the city? I have my doubts, but perhaps you’ll surprise me.

    Thanks again for your time, Nick.

  • […] It’s good to see the green consideration being carried out through all steps of the event. No green posing […]

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I'm Brittany Thoma, PR pro-in-training. Living greener is my mission. I want to learn, inform and discuss topics cropping up in the green movement and how it relates to public relations.

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