Surely this must mean the term ‘greenwash’ has become truly mainstream, with a play in its namesake just finishing at The Orange Tree Theatre. A farce set in Bush’s second term, where PR culture has leaked into the very fabric of the US — spin doctors seducing environmentalist activists, and politics swamped by lies and the peddling of greenwash.
Greenwash is a term that has widely been in use for over two decades. It was first coined by an American Environmentalist who was sick of the green claims made by hotels with their ‘re-use your towels’ schemes, which often purported to be for environmental reasons. It has since become widely used to describe companies and organisations who take on green initiatives on a superficial level only.
The expression has its routes in the idea of quickly presenting an acceptable front. Like the description of white washing, it too is a quick fix. But also has the other meaning of one person or team completely beating another, without the losing team so much as gaining a point.
Here’s the interesting connection between white and green wash; the team taking the beating is usually, but not always the weaker, less skilled team. Likewise with greenwash, it is usually applied to organisations taking a weaker, less skilled and less thorough line on green issues. It also tends to fit with companies that are very powerful in their sector and usually — but not always — companies doing the most damage environmentally.
Oh how we white wash the environment with greenwash…