‘Greenwashing’ refers to the disinformation circulated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image and it’s a term that we need to become aware of in these times, when big business is jumping on the green bandwagon, as a means to make more money. True, we certainly need to move towards a sustainable future fast, we must, to survive. Sadly, the fact is that plenty of what we hear from ‘green’ businesses is largely propaganda, presented to make us feel like we are making the right choices for ourselves and the planet – when that might be far from the case.
A good example is electric cars – a regular combustion engine car produces 5.5 tons of carbon during its manufacture, while an electric one makes about 8.1 tons – meaning that the ‘green’ option is off to a bad start. This difference in carbon footprint in production, is mostly due to the minerals like lithium which are mined for the battery of the electric car. According to a recent German study, a mid-sized electric passenger car must drive 219,000 kms before it starts outperforming the corresponding diesel car in terms of CO2 emissions.
It’s important to also remember, that electric cars can only be as green as the electricity they are charged with – so if your’re driving in Sweden or France, where around 70% of electricity is produced from renewables that’s great, but Poland and China still rely almost entirely on coal, while other nations sit somewhere in between. In short, if you run a car on electricity made a by coal fired power stations, you’re not helping reduce carbon at all.
A similar level of propaganda exists around renewable energy, with people thinking that it’s 100% green. It cannot be, of course, because the wind turbines and solar panels need to be manufactured. If that’s done in China that would most likely be using coal generated electricity. Some panels use rare minerals in their construction, and then there is the possible use of slave or prison labour and the transportation of these bulky items across the planet. And, when placing solar panels, if a forest or vast areas of vegetation is cleared to do it, if water course and water infiltration is disrupted, these are negative costs for the planet and its inhabitants.
Greenwashing is in action, when only the ‘green’ side of the facts are mentioned – in the information about, advertising and sale of these items. It can be the case, that much of the truth about a company or a product, is contrary to this. It is simply a marketing ploy, when for example, a company selling solar energy has an image of a leaf as their logo – they are for sure not selling anything with a living leaf on it or in it, but they are selling an idea….
We know that for the good of the planet, small is beautiful and big business has to wake up to this fact too and get community based, to give humanity the best chance for affecting positive climate change. If only 4% of the land area on the whole planet is still natural and wild, it is the case that the other 96% is already denatured by man to varying degrees. If some of the land Cerro do Leiria make up part of the 4%, it also means that there is a better place to locate solar two square kilometres of panels, than this precious and rare natural land.
In a world obsessed by carbon figures, it is wise to keep our eyes open and remember that one issue is not separate from another and that the eco-system of our planet is diverse and interconnected and we must treat it as such. By remaining aware of the wider picture of what we can do to heal our environment, we CAN find workable solutions which don’t cause more harm than good and build companies that don’t mislead us about it either.