Debunking Some Green Myths

Debunking Some Green Myths

Not all “natural” products are natural. And not all “green” corporations are as environmentally friendly as they would have you believe. In fact, phony green companies have inspired the term “greenwashing” – a term that piggybacks on such concepts as “whitewashing,” which means intentionally obscuring some unfortunate, possibly illegal and likely immoral action or event (i.e., former president Richard Nixon and Watergate).

Fortunately, corporations have shareholders, and shareholders have more clout than they were led to believe in the fat years between 2000 and the recent recession. This belief was further hardened by the mistaken impression that they (shareholders) didn’t have to do anything and the party would just keep on going.

Well, the party is over, and a large number of shareholders, seeing the damage caused by exploitive resource acquisition, are using their power singly and jointly to vote down environmentally unsound business plans via proxy voting, and cutting the party short for overpaid executives – a group President Barack Obama once called “fat cats,”, describing their pay as “obscene.”

It couldn’t have happened at a better time, or to a more deserving group. The initiative which aims to tie executive pay to performance has gone mainstream, as shareholders seek to override boards of directors determined to see that the CEO is the best paid man in the world (the only individual paid more is, I believe, a star quarterback).

And once shareholders start voting with their conscience, they also vote to unseat ineffective CEOs and institute truly sustainable business policies – the latter because the last few years’ weather patterns have convinced the majority that global warming is real. (The next hurdle is proving that the change is primarily anthropogenic, or human-caused)

For example, 25 percent of Coca-Cola Company shareholders voted, in 2011, to remove bisphenol A (BPA) – a chemical toxic to both humans and the environment.

At the governmental level, in April of this year the U.S. Treasury Department decided to freeze the pay of executives at AIG, Ally Financial and General Motors, three firms that   tanked during the recession (2007-2009) and had to be bailed out with government funds – meaning American tax dollars.

Financial experts, who are calling this emerging social and environmental consciousness on the part of shareholders a “stakeholder summer,” say the movement started in Rio. Called Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the gathering didn’t accomplish much of anything. Peripheral conferences, however, saw many accords, the first being that business needs to mature into something more significant than simple revenue enhancers, and the second that global business leaders need to recognize the intrinsic value of environmental resources.

These movements, or conversions, don’t simply involve giant international corporations. From Johnson & Johnson, the biggest of the “Big Pharma” dozen, to a small company like Melaleuca, which operates, like Amway, with individual representatives. Forbes has called Melaleuca a pyramid selling organization, along the lines of Amway. The difference is, Melaleuca admits it.

I cite Melaleuca because some of the most egregious greenwashing techniques today seem to be coming from pharmaceuticals or health and beauty firms. In Melaleuca’s case, it’s natural, environmentally friendly laundry soap contains a breakdown product of linear alkyl sodium sulfonates (LAS for short). This LAS releases benzene, a reproductive toxin, into the atmosphere. The LAS itself biodegrades over months, or years, releasing its destructive chemical load with such slowness that environmental deficits are not observed until a lethal burden has been achieved.

Whether it’s over-the-counter (OTC) medications, or health and wellness supplements, or – like Johnson & Johnson, a whole spectrum of health care products and services – the simple fact of compounding a cure from synthetic ingredients violates the first law of greenies: if it isn’t direct to your bathroom or kitchen from Nature (like moisturizer from plant oils and natural waxes instead of crude oil), it may be as useless or even as dangerous as the ailment you are attempting to treat.

One example makes my point. Native Americans used to isolate alkaloids from white willow bark by either chewing the bark or brewing a tea. The bark is loaded with salicylates, from which modern aspirin is derived. You can take bottled, pharmaceutical aspirin, which costs about 0.10 cents per unit, and reduce a fever in exchange for a really bad stomach ache if you have stomach or bowel problems. Or you can chew willow bark without incurring a stomach ache, and the willow bark ingredients last longer.

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