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The Greenwash Brigade

The greenwash lurking across the street

Janne K. Flisrand Nov 3, 2008

A couple days ago, I wandered into my bank – my secondary bank. I’ve been loyal to a local bank that has the most incredible community investment program for more than a decade. But as a new landlord I need easy rent deposit access, so I opened an account in the almost-as-good local bank right across the street.

I had trash, so I asked the teller whether they had recycling. She said, “No, most banks don’t recycle, but we’re going green – I made this poster,” and held up a sheet of paper. “But I’m waiting to put it up until we have recycling.”

In my surprise (how could they go green if they hadn’t long since figured out recycling?) I responded, “Great! What is the bank doing to be green?” She looked around nervously and said, “We close the blinds to keep the heat out, and…,” she trailed off, “Alex could tell you more…”

I don’t recall my exact words, but I said it would be a mistake to post the sign, recycling doesn’t make for a green business, they’d be greenwashing (I defined it), and in our neighborhood people care about that sort of thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I like this bank. But there’s nothing worse than when a business I’m happy to patronize — because they’re local and support the community — greenwash. Most often, it’s because they don’t know any better.

Somewhere in there, Alex wandered over. He mentioned that this branch had won the “greenest branch” competition, and that the building was green. It’s a super walkable/bikeable/busable location and design, and the finishes are green, but I watched the building go up. Knowing it was supposed to be a green building, I predicted a number of shortcomings, including the overheating problem that results in saving energy by “closing the blinds.”

I offering my services if they were serious about going green. I encouraged a sign that said, “Greenest —– branch.” We had a good discussion of what they could do as a business and how to get management on board. I answered some of the teller’s personal questions about recycling in her apartment building.

I hope they don’t screw it up. I’m also wondering how I can help them along, because if they go far enough, I’ll move all my accounts to the most convenient bank location ever.

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