This is SO Wrong – Greenwashing Your Food

I’m far from perfect when it comes to protecting our planet. I fly a lot, for one thing. And I relish things like air conditioning and a long hot shower. I didn’t lay out enough money to buy a hybrid car. But I at least try to be honest with myself and others about whether my efforts are making a difference or just making somebody feel less guilt. Greenwashing—the act of making something appear more eco-friendly than it really is—grates on my nerves.

1) Like many of the first-world people who can afford to spend double the normal price for some food items, we often have a fair bit of organic fruits and vegetables in our house. If done right and not shipped too far, this can be good for the planet. When done wrong, however, it’s just plain annoying. Like these cantaloupes.

They went from California to Florida, first of all, with who knows how many distribution center stops in between. That’s not the worst of it though. Here’s a pair of perfectly fine pair of organic melons wrapped in…a piece of plastic! Every single one of them in the store had this sticky wrapper. Plastic meant to inform us that this organic fruit is—wait for it—more healthy! Too much irony for two poor pieces of fruit. I feel sorry for them.

2) Next up, Bear Naked cereal and Terracycle. You’ve probably seen the Bear Naked product lines if you’ve shopped in Whole Foods. They make all-natural granola and the like that has plenty of crunch without any pesky additives like vitamins.  It’s hard to read this label when it’s reduced down like this, I know, so here’s the condensed version of what it says, with my additions in parentheses.

When you finish with this bag, return it to us (using a an odd-sized envelope, extra postage, and lots of postal service gas) so we can transform it (using more energy) into “umbrellas, shower curtains, and tote bags” (after which we use fossil fuel to distribute them). If you return enough of the bags and a shipping check, we’ll mail you a free tote bag or t-shirt (using more petroleum).

After all that, burning the bag in my back yard seems downright earth-friendly in comparison. 

3) You can read all about the Coca-Cola company’s new Dasani “PlantBottle” here. The PR-speak story is that 30% of this new lighter bottle is plant-based, but it’s still recyclable. Never mind that even my math-challenged daughter can figure out that means 70% of it is still plain ole toxic plastic. A far cry from the plant they’ve surrounded it with in this photo to throw us off.

Sure, 30% is better than nothing and they get credit for at least making some effort. But since some 3/4 of these single-use bottles never get recycled anyway, the whole Dasani business revolves around generating garbage and getting suckers to pay a premium for it. If they could figure out how to make the bottles 100% plant-based like some food packaging material is, the bottles would biodegrade eventually in the sun. These won’t. Cause they’re still plastic, made from petroleum and chemicals. Coming soon to an ocean gyre near you.

Feel free to share your own greenwashing rants in the comments below.

  1. Henry Williams

    I agree wit the dasani section of the post they use anything to entice customers to buy

  2. jim johnston

    My father, who just turned 91 yesterday–and is doing just fine, refuses to eat anything organic. “I think it’s all a bunch of baloney,” he told me.

  3. Marcus

    Thanks for the comment about being able to afford to pay extra for organic food. Most people in the world don’t have that choice and would starve if they had to shop at Whole Foods prices. The only reason we’re able to feed 7 billion people is because of genetic engineering, fertilizer, and industrial farming. (I do grow my own tomatoes though—supermarket ones are awful!)

  4. Devey

    What is the point in the Dasani bottles? If it’s 30% organic, it’s still 70% plastic, so it won’t diodegrede any easier or sooner so it’s a kind of nonsense to invest into such a thing.
    Of course, people will buy it and thus CC will make more money… very noble of them…

  5. Vorin

    Excellent piece. It seems like the big companies treat people like they’re idiots, but then people buy this stuff anyway, so perhaps the companies are right?

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