Recent Greenwashing Examples
September 30, 2019 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Please give me recent examples of greenwashing that I will not find in a simple web search. Especially interested in little-known examples.

I am traveling and I am a monster who bought bottled water because my dad's tap water tastes terrible. I just noticed that the Dasani bottle I bought has the image of a green leaf on the label. The leaf image has the text "plantbottle" below a bastardized version of the triangular recycle symbol. Below the leaf is this text:

*up to 30% made from plants
100% recyclable plastic bottle

This is a Coca-Cola product. This is not an obscure example. It is still annoying. That "up to 30%" is doing a lot of work, and the "100% recyclable" part is as well. Please share any equally or more infuriating but less obvious examples of greenwashing of any sort, by any company or organization, in any place. Ideally within the last five years or so years.
posted by Bella Donna to Work & Money (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
“recyclable where facilities exist” = probably incinerated or landfilled. Also puts no onus on the producer to actually care about the waste stream.

I'm mostly about energy projects, so
  • The 2009 Pickens Plan for USA sustainable energy independence was really just a way for T. Boone Pickens to build more gas plants
  • The Boundary Dam Carbon Capture Project — capturing CO₂ from a coal power plant in Saskatchewan and storing it underground — was essential a $1B+ bung to a private oil extraction company to repressurize their old oil wells.

posted by scruss at 11:51 AM on September 30, 2019 [8 favorites]

McDonalds repackaging of the McFlurry is 100% greenwashing. The cardboard is plastic coated and cannot be recycled. There are also multitudinous examples of double garbage containers with a labeled hole for trash on one side and a labeled hole for recycleables on the other that are both going into the same bin -- these seem popular in malls and schools from the 9,000 photos posted to reddit daily.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:09 PM on September 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

When I worked in printing, corporate customers occasionally submitted print-ready files with "printed on 100% recycled paper" or "made with soy-based inks" embedded in them and, well, maybe the designer originally showed someone a proof that was indeed those things, or maybe it had just sounded good to someone who didn't have anything to do with production, but our machines certainly weren't churning out anything to those specs nor had the orders been submitted that way. When someone noticed in time, we'd try to get the documents modified, but management didn't care so we didn't have any power to insist. I know this is just a random anecdote but it's been bothering me for years.
posted by teremala at 12:16 PM on September 30, 2019 [11 favorites]

Your Environmentally Friendly Lunch Bowl Is Actually Full of Non-Biodegradable Chemicals.

This sets off some of my woo alarm bells ("forever chemicals" is not great branding) but i think it makes a good case that what is sold as recyclable/natural is still highly processed and very questionable "better" than the old versions of things.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:29 PM on September 30, 2019

"Compostable" plastic is usually covered all over with pictures of green leaves, but it isn't particularly green in the metaphorical sense. It's not compostable in your home compost heap. It has to go to an industrial composting facility that will treat it with high heat for a long time. Not all states have the facilities. And if you live in somewhere without a composting facility, you have to throw it away (it can't be recycled) so it goes to the landfill, where it behaves exactly like other plastic, namely it perdures for centuries.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:47 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

"Compostable" plastic is usually covered all over with pictures of green leaves, but it isn't particularly green in the metaphorical sense. It's not compostable in your home compost heap.

I bought compostable plastic compost bags once. They lasted in my compost bin for three years. They might even still be in there because I moved after the three years. I stirred, "augmented", and used a lot of compost during those three years. Everything broke down except those bags. Even crazy things like corn cobs! The only breakdown I saw in the bags was likely a result of my weekly stirring ripping them rather than legit breakdown.
posted by srboisvert at 5:51 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

yeah, NYC municipal greenwaste collection no longer allows you to drop your compostables off in those bags for that exact reason.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:05 AM on October 1, 2019

Kellog's Frosted Mini Wheats box says: "We support U.S. farmers to grow grains responsibly & sustainabily" then expands the context of the contents with the statement that the cereal is "made with North American grains." The linked website,, is full of similarly vague language that sounds good on the surface, but lacks the details to back up, or even clarify, any statements.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:17 PM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

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