In recent years, in both construction and other industries, we have seen the rise of ‘green’ or sustainable products. Consumers have never been more aware of the impact of their purchases and many people work hard to select products that contribute fewer carbon emissions to the environment, in order to affirm their sustainable values.
Many large corporations seek to take advantage of this demand and claim their products are greener or more sustainable than they actually are. In some cases, they might even make claims that they are green when there’s no evidence of this whatsoever. Using creative marketing tools to imply that products or services are green is known as “greenwashing”.
Because there is little to no industry regulation, greenwashing is everywhere, which means you need to do more research about the product before you decide if it really meets your expectations.
The term greenwashing was first used by New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986. He wrote a university essay outlining the way a hotel was encouraging people to re-use their towels, but simultaneously expanding, with more properties being built on the site.
He believed that given the resort was growing, the reduced frequency of towel washing would make little difference to the company’s carbon emission output, although it created a sense of environmental care. “It all comes out in the greenwash,” he wrote in the essay, which is still widely referenced today.