Posted by keith on 1st June 2009
Greenwash takes many forms, but you don’t expect it to come from a web site that doesn’t appear to have any great commercial pretences, and seems to want to do the right thing. As we have come to expect, sadly, some good intentions do often go terribly awry, leading to moral contradictions that are so obvious that you can only gape at the stupidity of whoever thought up the offending item.
Take green airlines.
What? Exactly. There is no such thing as a “green” airline, never has been and — given that Industrial Civilization is going to collapse long before anything like sustainability will truly be on the agenda (it’s a logical minefield out there) — never will be. All aircraft require vast amounts of fuel to get them in the air, generate the thrust necessary to keep them at cruising speed and simply to transport the great hulk of metal around. Fill the plane up and you still get a very environmentally unfriendly transport system; that’s just the way it is.
So when I get an email from a “green consumer” website (actually, forget what I said about good intentions — they also promote “green” cars, “green” large appliances and even “”””GREEN”””” OIL COMPANIES!!!) saying they have a chart of the 10 Least Environmentally Harmful Companies, my Greenwash Radar tends to go off the scale.
Dear Fellow Green Blogger:
We all know fossil fuels are on the way out, but until we all have electric cars powered by local solar/geothermal/small hydro your choice of gas station CAN make a difference to the environment. That’s because there are significant differences in the impact that oil companies have, from carbon footprint for extraction, to hazardous waste produced to water used. Greenopia utilized a six-part analysis method including greenhouse gas emissions and oil spill efficiency, to rank the Top ten major oil companies for their environmental impact…
Whoops! Sorry, that was the email I got in April about the oil companies…I wonder if the airlines one is any different:
Dear Fellow Green Blogger:
If you love to travel but hate that flying the friendly skies isn’t so earth-friendly then you should check out Greenopia’s newly released Greenest Commercial Airline Rankings Guide, when choosing your next airline carrier. [Ed: My next airline carrier! What kind of person claims to be green and is a frequent flier? A hypocrite.]
Topping the list are Virgin and Continental. Both airlines have fairly new fleets which tend to be more fuel-efficient, and have completed flights using biofuels [Ed: Great, biofuels. Food shortages and deforestation for flights.] . Both also offer carbon offset services and Virgin serves fair trade coffee on flights [Ed: Oh, FFS! As if that makes a difference.].
See where the other airlines ranked here: Greenopia Airline Ranking Guide
See our editorial on the subject here: “Greener Airlines? 10 Least Environmentally Harmful Companies”
“It’s a dilemma,” commented Greenopia founder and CEO, Gay Browne. “People are going to travel. Whatever method they chose will impact the planet. Our readers want to know how to get to their destination with the smallest environmental footprint, especially if they are boarding a jumbo jet [Ed: …then they know it isn’t green!]. We appreciate those airlines like Virgin and Continental that are taking great strides to green their passenger miles.”
Using an extensive list of criteria including fleet age, fuel consumption practices, carbon offsets, green building design, recycling programs, and organic, local and sustainable food items available on flights, rankings were determined.
Let me know if you’d like to interview Doug Mazeffa, our Director of Research, or if you would like us to put together a guest post on this topic tailored to your blog’s audience.
Associate Editor, Greenopia
Here’s the response-counter-response thread, for your enjoyment:
This is hilarious! Airlines being “green” – that’s the best joke I’ve heard all year. You can be guaranteed this will feature on The Unsuitablog.
P.S. It was meant to be a spoof, wasn’t it?
Fair Enough. No one’s saying they’re green, but unless you completely abstain from flying (which not many of us do) you might as well spend your money with one that’s making strides to reduce the harm to the environment, while we’re all waiting for better solutions.
You *are* saying they are green:
“Greenopia has released its rankings of the 10 greenest commercial airlines operating domestic flights across America.”
I don’t fly – that’s my solution. What’s your excuse, Ayana?
It’s great that you don’t fly out of principle, but the reality is that I doubt air travel is going anywhere any time soon. If you disagree, with the use of the term “greenest” to identify which is the lessor of the evils, that still doesn’t diminish the guide as a consumer tool that allows people to make an informed choice, and at least vote with their dollars as to which companies they will and won’t support. Information is powerful and promotes change.
It doesn’t promote change if that “change” is the difference between two things that are just as bad as each other or, worse still, makes people think that it is ok to continue doing the very things that have led us to the brink of environmental catastrophe. In effect, you are saying that if you want to fly then it is “green” to fly with these companies.: IT IS NOT, and you know it.
You are responsible for greenwashing of the very highest order, and cannot be allowed to continue in this way – it is totally unethical.
I didn’t receive a response.
Don’t forget, one of the best ways to kill greenwashing is to tell the offender that they are a hypocrite, in public. Why not write to Ayana yourself and I’ll publish the responses here.