Greenwashing Their Soul

Here’s a follow-up to a previous post about efforts by Whole Foods to fool the public. The company, in the ultimate act of "greenwashing," wants special praise for offering consumers "100 percent" recycled paper bags. The campaign rests on the false belief that plastic bags are more harmful to the environment and costly to produce. Nonsense. And yet, the public continues to be mislead by companies that offer this masquerade of green citizenship. To repeat: Whole Foods has done nothing new here. Zero. But the company wants you to think otherwise.

Ray Haynes writes for the Examiner:

Washington DC (Map, News) – Every year companies pull out their green camouflage as Earth Day approaches. That’s happening now as corporate titans lead the battle to ban plastic bags in the name of environmental protection. But what they really are trying to protect are their profits and greenwash their reputations.

While there are so many meaningful ways to improve the environment, legislators target a symbol – a plastic grocery bag – to try to promote an environmental agenda.

For instance, the biggest paper bag maker in the country is Duro Bag Manufacturing Co. The firm’s interest is obvious: Outlaw its competition to increase its profits.

It’s a wonderful scam. Arguing for a plastic ban allows Duro to mask its self-interest with eco-rhetoric. The company, which might be one of the biggest consumer of trees in the nation, is selling an image more than a product.

A similar game is being played by Whole Foods Market, which made a big, noisy splash announcing that it was phasing out use of plastic bags.

Proclaimed the company press release, the firm was "The first U.S. supermarket to commit to completely eliminating disposable plastic grocery bags to help protect the environment and conserve resources."

Naturally, Whole Foods is selling reusable bags as a replacement. The company also pledged to continue offering paper bags of "100 percent" recycled materials.

It’s all marketing hype. The paper bags used by Whole Foods come from Duro, and only consist of 40 percent "post consumer" content, which is roughly the same as every other paper bag on the market.

Whole Foods has not been clear how it will report its use of paper or its sale of reusable bags. Whole Foods has not been transparent, or honest about the content of its bags in the media or about the harmful environmental impact of recycled paper.

Moreover, in the search for marketing bang, these companies ignore the basic fact that plastic bags can be recycled. Indeed, it costs an incredible 91 percent less to recycle equivalent weights of plastic and paper, and the plastic recycling market is growing as consumers become aware of the option.

Plastic bags, made from natural gas, also are tree-friendly. In contrast, the production of even "recycled" paper bags requires constant infusions of virgin timber. Countless more trees will die so Whole Foods can provide its customers with paper bags.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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