Opinion: Greenwash damages the credibility and economics of green.
Not an opinion: Plastic damages me.
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As a designer, watching some products marketed as green is a cruel punishment. Most folks see a label that implies green and they trust it. We also hear marketing portray products as "better for the environment" but aren't. When these products are marketed as green, they become greenwash. Here comes the damage.
Greenwash hurts the credibility of green in many ways. After the 2008 Bush Recession, zombie marketers flooded the green market to make their zombie cash by exploiting greens good graces on zombie consumers. The walking dead were feed. This was to be expected and it happened.
Solar powered animatronic butterflies? Tsk-tsk!
The worst part is some groups get tax breaks to make greenwash. A poor investment for citizens and their future environment. With limited resources to build the other side of our green energy bridge, should be polluting the river with said limited resources?
Ethical diamonds? Ya, right!
While marketers exploit the green market with solar powered musical fountains, homemade solar panels, free energy machines and greenwash gimmicks galore, we see marketing firms and greasy manufacturing firms getting government grants, but these investments don't deliver the green. Most don't make any green either, for investors. The net effect is that smart green investments are being limited by gimmicky junk.
An electric luxury car? You are ugly!
As a designer, I see these things and shake my nerdy head. How can we tell if something is green? Good question! To arrive at a smart green label for products would be complicated, and currently unreliable, not to mention the black market in some green resources. But, I do have a good hint: PLASTIC IS BAD. There I said it. Plastic is bad. Not always, but mostly.
Vegan boots that contain toxic lead and generate microplastic? Morrissey is killing me!
How materials are used in a design help quantify its overall performance. There are times when a designers smartest choice of material is one that is toxic. How that material is used in the design matters. How that materials lifecycle is planned matters. If there is a system to do it safely, it is done. A good example is a dentist's x-ray machine. As a whole, plastic is mostly bad, much like Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy classifies humans as mostly harmless. How we handle plastic can make is mostly harmless, if we toss it, it becomes the human mostly harmless again.
What is worse, even worse than the worst part I mentioned earlier, there's no long-term testing on most new materials, or products. New plastics, new nano materials, how can we be green when what we have is potentially toxic? How can something be green if it can't do what it was designed to do? A recent story brings my thoughts into focus: biodegradable plastic. Spoilers, it doesn't degrade as the marketing claimed. Greenwash! There I said it. Or why are our Great Lakes filled with microplastic from cosmetics and cleaners? Is anyone thinking ahead, or do lobby groups just make the politicians rubber stamp for safety. Was this particular biodegradable plastic a good investment?
Will 3-D printing plastic push me over the design edge? Cough-cough!
Plastic is my nemesis. It's horrible. It's made of oil, It breaks, it pollutes, it gets scratched, it harbors bacteria, it decomposes, it weakens, UV light turns it to gross dust, it off gasses, it's not easily repairable, it's biotoxic, it's ugly, and I really don't like it. My perfect world would be free of plastic, so start by using less. Thank you! I have tried to eliminate more myself over the years. It adds up!
Using plastic, even ethical plastic, results in bad things. Please, handle plastic with caution. Ocean scientists are concerned about microplastics impact on our ocean ecosystems. Fish eat the microplastic, birds eat the fish, we eat the fish. Some birds eat the plastic, some people eat the birds, it's a mess! Lots of animals have it in their stomachs. No matter if you use first generation plastic, or recycled, the same bad stuff happens.
A green plastic shopping bag that rips in a few weeks? AHAHAHHA!
Please, stop using plastic. Did I mention it is made from subsidized oil? Maybe another time...