Smashing Some Green Myths

Smashing Some Green Myths

We have talked about company greenwashing, and we have also described how to identify a truly sustainable company when it comes to job hunting. One more area, the green myths, fits nicely between (or, in this case after, the first two).

Green is expensive

Business owners, senior management and upper echelon corporate officers confront this myth almost daily. Some have an accurate picture, others simply repeat what is told them from factions who don’t want to see the energy/fuel paradigm drift away from coal, oil and gas.

In fact, the idea that sustainability measures (like recycling greywater, installing building smart meters, and cloud computing instead of racking servers) are too expensive to implement is lost in the mists of the 20th Century. Here, in the 21st, corporate heads are starting to realize that they can’t afford not to get green. Not only does a truly green profile inspire consumer confidence, but a simple lighting retrofit – from incandescents to LEDs, for example, could save large firms up to $4 million a year. If every computer purchased by business this year met new ENERGY STAR requirements, companies could save up to $1.6 billion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3 million cars. The same is true of older, inefficient printers, scanners and other electronic office machines.

Customers don’t care about sustainability

Wrong. As we noted above, consumers buy confidently from green companies because they do care. Even those individuals who feel they don’t have time for composting grass clippings and replacing all their light bulbs recognize the effort as being essential to keeping the planet habitable, and are delighted to see corporate America take up their slack.

More important, large energy efficiency retrofits at big U.S. companies reduce greenhouse gases which will (sooner rather than later) be taxed; Waxman-Markey is neither gone nor forgotten. In the UK, a measure to tax all incoming commercial flights (per the EU ETS, or carbon emissions trading system) has nations like India, Russia, China and the US refusing to buy EU-manufactured airplanes and limiting overflights by altering flight patterns (that’s one memo I hope everybody got!).

If a product says “green”, it is

Not always. Several years ago, even the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, was guilty of mislabeling. The problem surrounded appliances wearing the ENERGYSTAR label, many of which weren’t. The EPA and the U.S. Dept. of Energy, or DOE, agreed to revamp the certification program when a whistleblower team from the Government Accounting Office showed that non-existent appliances were gaining certification and –because they got on the list– were getting calls from firms interested in purchasing the product. One of these was a gas-powered alarm clock reportedly the size of a dorm frig!

If you are wondering about a product’s green credentials, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Internet site and check out “Sorting out Green Advertising Claims.”

Organic food is better for the environment

True, especially if it’s grown close to home. But not if it is a cherimoya which came into the U.S. via Brazil or Honduras. There is, however, a Catch-22; if everyone went organic tomorrow, the U.S. food industry would shut down because conventional farmers, unable to sell their product, would simply walk away from their fields.

In terms of food value or food safety versus the ecopolitical stance, you probably don’t need to worry about bananas. The pesticides and herbicides reside largely in the peel, which you can throw away (though we would prefer you compost). The same is true of melons and oranges; the peeling is the best shipping container ever devised for fresh fruit. Everything else, from strawberries to potatoes, benefits from organic cultivation, which means no chemicals, including fertilizer.

Finally, under the heading of energy, are two myths which are being used like political hardballs by the Republican right. They are:

Wind Turbines Are a Serious Threat to Birds
Not any more, thanks to slower blade rotation and smaller blades. In fact, the real threat to birds, notably songbirds, are cats. And the worst of this species are those which have been abandoned and become feral. Some domestic housecats, fed and cared for, are more likely to watch birds (like their owners) than to kill them. And some housecats even befriend pet birds like parakeets (visit YouTube if you don’t believe me).

Clean Coal Technology Will Solve the Coal Pollution Problem
For the last time; there is no such thing as clean coal. There is cleaner coal, burnt in a coal-fired power plant equipped with the latest and most expensive versions of air scrubbers, or IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) furnaces. There are even carbon dioxide emissions storage power plants, which pump their CO2 into underground caverns (a risky technology as no one knows the ultimate long-terms effects). Unfortunately, this latter does nothing about the mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

Not everything is true because someone says so. If you don’t know whether to follow a person’s advice or not, you can gauge their character by watching their behavior. The good guys don’t have anything to hide, and it shows.


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