Green Washing - 3 Things That Are Really Brown Underneath

Vincent DiAngelo
November 8, 2011 — 1,467 views  

We're bombarded daily with exhortations to live green and use green technologies in order to reduce our carbon footprint. (By the way, the debate on greenhouse gasses and climate change is apparently NOT over, since some 30,000 scientists, including the founder of the Weather Channel are all suing Al Gore and associates for fraud.) But have you ever asked yourself, "What is a carbon footprint, anyway?" and "Is it really that bad?" Those answers may surprise you. You may also be surprised to learn that some popular "solutions" amount to little more than green-washing - a term that refers to disguising something as environmentally safe or friendly when in fact, it's the same old garbage (or something even worse) in a green wrapper.

The term "carbon footprint" encompasses everything from exhaling and flatulating to anything made from or that uses fossil fuels, coal, or hydro-electric dams in production, shipment, or both. By that definition, everything on earth leaves a carbon footprint. That's actually the fact upon which carbon dating relies. If ancient civilizations and dinosaurs had been as obsessed with their carbon footprints (carbon residue left behind) as we are told we must be today, there would be little if any evidence of their existence. Additionally, if carbon dioxide was the pollutant that the EPA declared it to be in December of '09, then this planet would have been uninhabitable eons ago and you and I would not be here now to worry about it.

The real inconvenient truth (to Al Gore, GE, the EPA, et. al. that is,) is that unlike carbon MONoxide, which IS a man-made toxic gas, carbon DIoxide is NOT a pollutant. If you'll recall your fourth grade science, carbon dioxide is what every land animal, including humans, exhales; while carbon MONoxide is one of the gases that comes out of the exhaust pipe of most internal combustion engines and natural gas appliances. Carbon MONoxide is why we're told to have detectors for it in our homes so we don't die in our sleep on cold winter days.

When you really analyze it, increasing greenhouse gases is exactly what the term says: green. In fact, greenhouse growers actually used tanks of carbon dioxide to speed up growth and increase production of plants. Having been in many a greenhouse myself, I can tell you they're one of my favorite places to be. I breathe better and feel better in a greenhouse than in just about any other place.

Plants need carbon dioxide to live, so what could be greener than producing it? If we eliminate or drastically reduce carbon dioxide, aren't we killing off plant life? What's more, plants give us oxygen, which we need to live, so if we kill off plants, aren't we killing ourselves? What exactly are the hyper-environmentalist carbon alarmists shooting for here? A depopulated desert planet? Kind of looks that way. It would seem that the exact opposite of their mantra would be true then: continuing to produce carbon dioxide is actually the green thing to do.

According to Al Gore and his buddies, other than figuring out a way to keep from exhaling, certain "green" alternatives are an imperative must: hybrid cars, CF bulbs, and solar panels. These are but three of the solutions I refer to as green-washed. They're promoted to the general public as solutions to a pollution problem that doesn't really exist, and then contribute at least as much, if not more hazardous pollution to the environment as the technologies they're supposed to replace. Not that we don't have a pollution problem - we most certainly do. But carbon dioxide and other so-called "greenhouse gases" are NOT it.

Let's start with hybrid cars - one of which Al Gore had personally delivered to one of his three palatial homes, (none of which are powered by any of the alternative energies he's trying to cram down our throats at great expense to us, the tax-paying public.) For all the fossil fuels that were burned to get it to his ostentatious Tennessee spread, he will never be able to drive that car enough miles to make up for the pollution that was created getting it to him, not to mention the pollution that was created just in the manufacturing process. And that rechargeable battery, 500 pounds worth in each vehicle, will never be a candidate for curbside recycling; not just for the sheer weight factor, but for the toxic chemicals it contains. And then there's the electrical generation. Where's that all going to come from? The same people who want to rip out all the dams, so that leaves what? Fossil fuel? Coal? (FYI, there's no such thing as clean coal.)

While I certainly advocate for alternative cleaner fuels to petroleum, the fact is, there won't ever be a truly clean and viable alternative as long as the industrial governmental complex continues to reap a 25% tax from oil revenue profits. The technology exists to run vehicles literally on water - and has for some time. But for now, there's no tax and power structure to accommodate it, so don't look for that anytime soon.

And then there are those compact fluorescent bulbs that we're all supposed to be using since incandescent bulbs were outlawed by the Bush administration. At an energy savings of up to 2/3, this would indeed seem to be a great alternative to an incandescent bulb. By some estimations, compact fluorescent bulbs, while containing mercury that incandescent bulbs don't have, actually reduce the mercury pollution from the single largest U.S. source: coal-fired power plants. Unfortunately, in the hands of the average consumer nationwide, (and dare I say, worldwide?) that savings may be greatly mitigated to the point of being disastrously UN-green.

According to the Federal Government's 'Energy Star' website, the tiny amount of mercury in the bulbs -- described as being the equivalent size of the ball point on a pen -- can create harmful vapors if the bulb is broken.

Typical packaging on the bulbs simply states that they contain mercury and should be disposed of properly. But the labels don't go into any detail about what constitutes 'proper' disposal or clean up if one breaks. The EPA recommends the following clean up and disposal guidelines:

1. Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.

2. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner. Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands). Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.

3. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it. (That includes the rubber gloves you're supposed to wear to do the clean up.) If your state permits you to put used or broken CFL's in the garbage, seal the CFL in two plastic bags and put into the outside trash (if no other disposal or recycling options are available). Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.

4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

Call me crazy, but I count a recommended FOUR plastic bags for the disposal of just one CFL. So now we've got highly toxic mercury enclosed in double plastic bags. (They have to be doubled, because as it turns out, plastic isn't a very good mercury vapor barrier.) Do we really need more plastic bags deposited into the environment? Not to mention the rubber gloves, adhesive tape, and disposal of a vacuum cleaner bag, which may or may not be full and ready to be disposed of. What do you think the odds are that every single person who breaks or replaces a CFL follows these recommendations? Apparently not very good. Currently only 2% of these bulbs, broken or otherwise, are recycled or disposed of properly from residential sources. Exactly how is that more "green" than the incandescent bulbs that essentially get ground to powder and eventually disintegrate in a landfill?

One of my favorite "green" solutions is solar panels. I won't even discuss the pollution caused by their manufacturing process, so let's just stick to the consumer end. Solar panels are very expensive, but eventually they pay for themselves - just about the time they have to be replaced. Why? Because they've deteriorated and are no longer efficient due to.... wait for it.... EXPOSURE TO THE SUN! Yes, I know they're "improving" on this technology, but we've heard that before. The "improvements" often come with their own set of pitfalls and pollution.

I know the title says "3" things, but I have to include this. It's one of my favorite ironic green-wash examples: the SC Johnson ad that shows the CEO standing between a landfill and an SC Johnson manufacturing facility. We're supposed to be impressed with how environmentally conscientious this company is because they use wind, palm nutshells, and methane generated from the landfill to power their plant.

I suspect that if I had the time to do a John Stossel type expose' on what all the facts really are, the picture would probably be much less "green" than the ad would have us believe. However, it isn't really necessary to look that far or dig that deep to see the "green-wash" in this campaign. Just look at the products that are being manufactured in this green energy fueled plant: Windex, Pledge, Shout, and Scrubbing Bubbles. The combined ingredients in these products include petroleum distillates, solvents, ammonia, dyes, propellants like propane, isobutene, hydrocarbons, polydimethylsiloxanes, alcohol, detergents, etc. And that doesn't include the packaging for these products, most of which are plastic bottles, (ie. petroleum products.)

The overriding message of the ad is that we can help "reduce our carbon footprint" and be more "green" if we switch over to or keep using products made by SC Johnson. We're supposed to feel good that this toxic chemical-soup factory is powered by methane, thereby reducing greenhouse emissions. What happened to reducing our consumption of oil? Do we really need petroleum distillates, propane, (a by-product of petroleum refining,) and hydrocarbons to have clean windows, a clean bathroom, and shiny wood furniture? Wouldn't it be greener if we just used vinegar water, baking soda, and (here's a revolutionary idea) a plain dust rag?


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Vincent DiAngelo