Generally speaking, people want to help protect the environment. At the very least, they don’t want to actively harm the planet they live on. As a result, we’ve seen a rise in consumer products labeled “green,” “sustainable,” or “eco-friendly.” According to one poll, 60% of people are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
Overall this trend is a positive one, signaling an environmentally conscious shift in our collective attitudes. However, some companies exploit this by advertising their products as “green” without actually having any sustainable practices or environmentally friendly products.
A play on the word whitewashing—greenwashing refers to the marketing strategy of making a product or service seem more sustainable than it really is. This can look like giving a product a clever name associated with sustainability, or it can look like flat out lying about a company’s environmental impact.
The term greenwashing was coined in the 1980s by environmentalist Jay Westerveld, who used it to lampoon hotels that encouraged guests to reuse towels, but didn’t have any meaningful recycling strategies.
Perhaps the most egregious example of greenwashing comes from very recent history. In 2015, the EPA issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to famed German auto manufacturer Volkswagen after discovering that the company cheated during laboratory emission testing of their turbocharged direct injection diesel engines. It turned out the engines were designed only to activate their emission controls during the testing process and not during actual use.
This scandal that rocked the entire automotive world is a particularly blatant example of greenwashing, but usually, the practice takes a more subtle form and can be as simple as an oxymoronic name like clean coal.
The first step in spotting greenwashing out in the wild is understanding exactly what it means for something to be sustainable.
In the most simple words, sustainability refers to practices that can continue for generations to come. For example, the automotive industry is not sustainable in its current form. Not only are the fossil fuels used to power cars a finite resource, but the greenhouse gases they emit are slowly making the earth uninhabitable for humans.
Compare this to an industry such as hemp farming. Hemp can be categorized in two ways based on how it is grown; indoor-grown hemp and sun-grown hemp. However, not all hemp farming is created equal. Indoor growing operations require a substantial amount of electricity to create and maintain the proper environment for growth. Growing hemp outside directly taps into the natural power of the sun, requiring less resources and producing less green-house gas emissions. Sun-grown hemp is the clear choice if you prioritize sustainable farming practices.
How Sustainable Is Hemp?
Hemp is by far one of the most sustainable commercial crops grown today.
Burning fossil fuels emits CO2, which gets trapped in the atmosphere, where it gradually heats the planet. Plants and trees can capture this carbon dioxide and turn it into food through photosynthesis. When the plants eventually decompose, the carbon returns to the soil. The whole process is known as the carbon cycle.
We often think of large forests as being incredibly vital in reversing climate change due to their potential to sequester large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. While forests are important in this regard, one acre of hemp sequesters roughly 40,000 lbs. of CO2 in only three to four months. Meanwhile, the average acre of forest will only capture around 5,000 lbs. of carbon.
Not only is hemp better at sequestering carbon than forests, but hemp can also help prevent deforestation. Much of the rainforests in the Amazon have been cut down by loggers to satisfy the paper industry’s need for raw materials. By switching to hemp paper, we can reduce the monetary incentives that fuel commercial logging.
Hemp can also be used as a greener alternative to several types of fuel, plastic straws, and cotton. For these reasons, it can be said that hemp farming has an incredibly low carbon footprint.
What Is A Carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint represents the total amount of greenhouse gasses generated by a person or business. It’s a way of measuring the cumulative environmental impact of your actions.
Measuring My Carbon Footprint
The average carbon footprint of someone living in the United States of America is around 16 tons. Compared to the rest of the world, this number is embarrassingly high. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to reduce our impact on the planet. Things like recycling, reducing water use, and eating less meat can have a net benefit on our personal carbon footprint.
Use this carbon footprint calculator to find out just how much negative influence your actions have on the environment and discover the best places to cut back. Together, we can all do our part to ensure the world will be a hospitable place for future generations!