Greenwashed?

Lisa Napoli Mar 30, 2007
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Greenwashed?

Lisa Napoli Mar 30, 2007
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

LISA NAPOLI: Not very long ago someone invited me to tour an eco-friendly yoga studio. Not just environmentally friendly yoga mats, but all the construction materials were green-themed too. Now before you roll your eyes and say “how very Southern California,” take a look at this week’s Business Week. Sarah Rich has written a piece about the greening of America. We talked about whether the term green is now a bit overdone.

SARAH RICH: I think it is. Yeah, I mean the other analogy would be that people started writing “natural” on food products and I think basically the same thing goes for saying something is environmentally-friendly. I mean there’s ultimately no bottom-line standard that dictates what that means. Basically just saying that is something anyone has the right to do without really qualifying what it means.

NAPOLI: You give some good examples in your story about people who really are meaning it, who really do actually follow that. Can you talk a little bit about those?

RICH: Yeah, one really interesting one that I had learned about recently at a conference was this project called Background Stories that someone named Arlene Birt is doing. It actually was a student project, but it’s really looking at sort of what the whole story behind what ultimately landed that product in your lap. What happened from the very beginning? So she was looking at chocolate bars and looking at sort of all the way through from where those cacao beans were grown through the production process and how they were transported and all of that. And so it becomes something that a consumer can understand. That’s a much easier way to make a decision about what you want to take part in.

NAPOLI: Mm-hm, mm-hm. I’ve also heard that there’s an attempt to create a sort of seal of approval the way we now have I guess stricter rules about labeling foods as organic?

RICH: Yeah there a lot of, I hear pretty frequently about people working on creating different seals. The U.S. government created one organic standard which standardized sort of a base level of what organic means and of course there are still ways that certain farmers can surpass that. So a standard is good because it allows you to meet a certain level. On the other hand, sometimes it means that certain people don’t have to go above and beyond that level. So that’s were the question comes to, if you do decide on a standard of what green means, will you be able to surpass that in the future.

NAPOLI: Mm-hm, so in the meantime we take it as a good thing that people are conscious of this sort of thing but again as consumers we have to just be really responsible and read between the lines I guess.

RICH: Yeah it’s hard because you do need to sort of think about ‘well this is good but what’s better.’ I mean we’re always trying to figure out what’s going to be better than the baseline of what’s just good because we have a lot of work to do to improve the way things are produced and sold and transported and all that.

NAPOLI: Great, OK Sarah, I think that’s terrific. Thank you so much for your time.

RICH: Sure, absolutely, no problem.

NAPOLI: Sarah Rich is the managing editor of Worldchanging.com Her article appears this week in Business Week. In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli. Enjoy the weekend.

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