‘Green Washing’ in Cincinnati

Everywhere you turn you hear about this or that being “green.” So what does it really mean to be “green?” Are these products, services and projects really “green” or are they using the term unjustly to help promote their particular item?

Green Washing‘ is the unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government, a politician or even a non-government organization to create a pro-environmental image, sell a product or a policy, or to try and rehabilitate their standing with the public and decision makers after being embroiled in controversy.

Hybrid vehicles, LEED certified buildings and recycling seem to top the list of popular “green” friendly activities. But what are these initiatives really accomplishing? William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of Cradle to Cradle, might argue that these are simply initiatives aimed at making these things less bad instead of actually making our community more good.

At the same time, the most ridiculed initiatives seem to be the ones that McDonough and Braungart might appreciate a bit more. Eating less meat, living in walkable communities and rethinking the way in which we design our everyday products would all be examples of making our community “more good.” So why aren’t these the initiatives our community is grabbing on to?

Maybe it is evidence that this new “green” movement is really just a reflection of economic opportunists looking to capitalize off of the mass appeal of being “green.” I’m not quite that cynical as I do believe we are becoming more environmentally conscience. I’m just a bit weary that the majority of being are being educated by pop culture, instead of being educated by the environmentalists out there.

I guess I’ll take a LEED Certified office building out in Blue Ash over one that is not LEED Certified, but wouldn’t renovating an existing building that currently stands vacant in our center city be the most “green” thing we could do? Or how about ditching that commute in your hybrid vehicle for a daily walk or bike ride to work?

So what do you think…are we doing enough, is the label of “green” being diluted and how can we improve the current situation to remove the confusion and get back to the core issue of being environmentally responsible?

Also check out The Sin of Greenwashing on the thoughtscreen

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.