Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wal-Mart Greenwashing Makes Me Sick

Greenwashing or "Green Sheen" is all the rage these days. For those of you unfamiliar with the lingo, large companies try to shine on an environmental message in an attempt to improve their images in the eyes of the newly environmentally-conscious consumer. And a lot of the time, it just doesn't ring true. Want an example? Try swallowing the tripe in this new Wal-Mart campaign:

If all 200 million Wal-Mart shoppers went out and bought an eco-friendly light bulb...Wal-Mart's profits would go through the roof. Incremental sales actually yield HUGE profits (I once spoke with a copywriter who worked on Ragu spaghetti sauce, and her campaign objectives once were to get every Ragu customer to b
uy just one more jar of sauce per year - the revenue growth was enormous).

This ad is actually the least offensive of the bunch, as it actually deals with a product specifically designed for sustainability. The other ads (here and here) are for coffee and soy milk. Whaaa? We're told if we consume more, we're actually helping to foster sustainability. The Wal-Mart web site gives us the equation "You x 200 million = A brighter future." What a load of environmentally friendly fertilizer. AKA: horseshit. Wal-Mart's math is more like an equation for entropy, not sustainability.

While I'm all for green products and initiatives, the concept of telling people to shop to save the environment is almost as disgusting as being told the way to getting back to normalcy after 9/11 was to go to the mall. I was on the fence about Wal-Mart before. Now they've spurred me to sustain disdain for the company.

1 comment:

JamesBedell said...

Walmart and going green. I think I'm going to have to defend the 800lbs gorilla.

First of all, their energy consumption numbers are pretty accurate as to what a compact fluorescent bulb saves in the long term. However, your fundamental premise is accurate. I take it as similar to McDonalds creating a green roof in Chicago to be part of the trend, despite the fact they are THE symbol of the kind of american consumption to blame for global warming.

Speaking as a lighting designer, and someone who gets paid to know a little bit about this. The Incandescent light bulb that we know (and some of us love) is going away. The energy codes coming into place will effectively kill Edison's invention over the next three years. So Walmart, Home Depot and everyone else stands to make a ton of money as it is.

I would also rather see Walmart pushing a green product like CFL lamps, instead of pushing the cheaper incandescent lamps for as long as they can.

One last thing, Walmart has made significant in roads (at least in the lighting world) to reducing their energy foot print. All of their refrigerator lighting is going LED. They already operate near ASHRAE standards for power density.

So I guess in short, I don't like commercializing the green movement, but if that's what gets people using less energy...I guess there are worse things.