The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Domestic Greenwashing: We’re All At It!

Posted by keith on October 21st, 2008

Woman Recycling

A strange determination struck me while on a run this morning: it was while passing a front “garden” that had been block-paved, leaving a little space for a minuscule flower bed and, get this, a patch of grass four feet by one foot. This was not just any grass, though, it was astroturf! What could have passed through the minds of the people who laid this tiny eccentricity in front of their house:

“You know what, we’re going to have too much paving in the front, we need a bit of greenery.”

“But we need to park three cars.”

“Ok, let’s plonk down a few petunias in a tiny brick flower bed, and some astroturf.”

Maybe the conversation didn’t go exactly like that but, as I say, the thought of this made me determined not to let readers get smug about the various environmental crimes that corporations and authorities are carrying out — your own back, or front, garden is probably not that rosy either: you are probably greenwashing.

- Every time you do the recycling and you think it’s ok to generate waste, you are greenwashing.

- Every flight you take and you offset your emissions, use public transport to get to the airport or do some other act of servitude, you are greenwashing.

- Every piece of electrical equipment or furniture you buy new and then take your old one to the charity shop, or sell it second hand, you are greenwashing.

- Every car journey you take during which you decide not to use the air conditioning to save fuel, you are greenwashing.

- Every tree you plant, while putting your money in a bank that makes money out of deforestation, you are greenwashing.

- Every time you say to someone else that you care about the planet, then go on and do something environmentally irresponsible, you are greenwashing.

- Every time you do something that damages nature and then carry out some minor act in order to assuage your guilt or make you appear “green”, you are greenwashing.

I am not about to cast down every trivial act of environmental improvement, in some cases they may be useful first steps, and sometimes you don’t have a choice in this society but to do something a little damaging; but in many other cases these acts of Domestic Greenwashing simply act to attach you to the way of living that has caused the global environmental catastrophe in the first place. By making yourself feel that trivial positive actions permit major negative actions, you are assisting Industrial Civilization in its relentless grinding down of natural processes in order to fulfil a hopelessly outdated dream.

You don’t have to be part of that dream, and you don’t have to be a hypocrite. You are better than that.

10 Responses to “Domestic Greenwashing: We’re All At It!”

  1. Jayne the Dig Says:

    Wow, you’ve really made me think. Am I just fooling myself in my efforts? How can I do better?

    You know I shocked my council by saying to them I wanted a smaller recycling bin because I was trying to consume less, not recycle more. They really couldn’t get it.

    But how to stop…I’m going away to scratch my head…

  2. keith Says:

    Hi Jayne

    It depends (a) what your efforts are and (b) what motivates you. How strongly do you feel about the way humanity is treating its life support system, and what would you do to stop this happening? I don’t want martyrdom from people (that would be a little extreme), but a little anger and a strong desire not to be led by the system in doing so-called “green” actions are definitely the way forwards.

    If you have time, then read my book online at http://www.amatterofscale.com – if you don’t have time to read everything then start from Chapter 10 (I’m assuming you already know most of what is happening to the planet and humanity) and see what you think.

    I think you’re ready to change.

    Keith

  3. Kate Says:

    I agree with Jayne. Wow, my head hurts now. Everything you said is true, though. What does life look like without greenwashing? I can hardly picture it. Keith, in your book, do you talk about life without greenwashing at all? Do you have recommendations about how you live your life that you can give us greenwashers who want to change?

    Thank you for the great post!

  4. keith Says:

    Hi Kate

    I suppose the best advice I can give for living without greenwashing is, and this is something I say to my own children, “Think to yourself, ‘Who benefits most?’”

    Greenwashing and other state and corporate-approved acts of “greening” are simply ways of salvaging Industrial Civilization. Sure, that may be possible for a while, but at the cost of an increasing proportion of life on Earth. Civilization has always been, and will always be unsustainable – we have no obligation to support it.

    Please keep in touch, the balance of your web site suggests your head and heart are in the right place.

    Best

    Keith

  5. The Sietch Blog » Sweating The Big Stuff: Get Your Priorities Right Says:

    [...] few days ago I wrote an article about Domestic Greenwashing, the kind of greenwashing that we each carry out on a regular basis (some people more than others) [...]

  6. WV Green News » Blog Archive » Sweating The Big Stuff: Get Your Priorities Right Says:

    [...] few days ago I wrote an article about Domestic Greenwashing, the kind of greenwashing that we each carry out on a regular basis (some people more than others) [...]

  7. chiara Says:

    Keith

    it’s all very well what you say.
    But I wonder whether you realise that loading pages and pages of ‘death to civilisation’ blogs on servers which run on oil and rare earth elements recycled by the poors in Bangladesh is also greenwashing?!?!??
    Some of us are trying what they think is their best in their own small environment. OK, it’s probably useless and greenwashing on the large scale and on an universal perspective, but what were we supposed to do, let ourselves starve to deatch in order to decrease food consumption and the word population at the same time?
    I’ll read your online book, promise. I hope I will have some constructive indications as to how to behave more wisely afterwards.

    Thanks
    chiara

  8. keith Says:

    I understand what you say, Chiara, and I wish there were another way of communicating with a mass audience other than via the Internet, but in a world where the problems of civilization are globalized, I have no choice but to globalize the solutions. It’s really a case of deciding whether it is worth the sacrifice, which is why I wrote the article “Sweating The Big Stuff” (see http://www.blog.thesietch.org/2008/10/26/sweating-the-big-stuff-get-your-priorities-right/.

    I have little data stored online, probably no more than 10GB, so there are minimal disks spinning continually on my behalf – that’s the main use of energy and materials; in terms of computer power, online gaming is the big villain – oh, and government agencies and corporations constantly monitoring and sifting through data.

    I’m not sure why you think is necessary to “starve to death”, though: probably more practical to localise your food, dramatically reduce your meat intake, and minimise your consumption of processed and frozen foods ;-)

    Regards

    Keith

  9. chiara Says:

    Thanks for replying Keith.
    I indeed try to localise my food (grow some of it myself, make compost out of my kitchen waste) eat very little meat and I don’t have an air conditioner….as for flying..that’s tough, I like travelling to foreign countries a lot and indeed that is a sacrifice I am still not prepares to make. Perhaps I’ll grow more virtuous with time!

    One last thing Keith…if you want us all to eat less (and I totally agree with you on that), get your numbers right. I believe calories intake for an average man not living in a cave earning a life hunting-gathering should be in the range of 1800-2000 calories and 1500-1800 for a woman. Until we keep fooling ourselves that a man needs 2500 calories and a woman needs 2000 not only we’ll keep consuming too much in terms of global sustainability but also preparing ourselves for an old age complete with love-handles and worse.

  10. keith Says:

    Hi Chiara

    I am not asking people to eat less, I am asking people to eat less of the most damaging foodstuffs – those with a high meat or dairy content, processed foods, etc. My figures are correct: The 2500 calories for men is based on an active, manual life, not the office-bound sedentary lives we commonly lead now: have a look at chapter 16 of A Matter Of Scale (http://www.amatterofscale.com), the section on Eating.

    Regards

    Keith

    P.S. Have a look at the section called “Travelling” too, if you are struggling with flying.

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