Urban Fold

300% More Oxygen: The Guardian Examines Greenwashing

In a new weekly column, Fred Pearce of The Guardian examines corporate and municipal claims to sustainability.

"The green claims coming from corporations can be absurdly general. Nearly everything we buy these days seems to be "sustainably sourced" or "environmentally friendly". Sometimes, though, they are crazily specific. Virgin Trains declares: "Our Pendolino trains emit 76% less CO2 than cars or domestic flights." But which cars, which flights, and how full are the trains?

Or plain bonkers. One brand of bottled water says its product contains '300% more oxygen'."

"To try to keep up with the welter of environmental claims, test the green spin and spot the green frauds, the Guardian is launching today a regular online column, Greenwash, and calls on readers to submit their examples of the fraudulent, mendacious, confusing, ignorant or just daft claims jostling for our attention.

Along the way, we may get to the heart of a dilemma that faces us all. Can we shop our way to sustainability? Are some products so green it is better to buy two of them rather than one? Or are our own consumer lifestyles, suffused in greenwash, the problem? Is there really no alternative to putting away our credit cards, pulling on our thickest jumper and heading for the hills?

We won't be limiting our investigations to corporations - we'll have politicians in our sights, too. Scraping away at the green patina on the new-look, Zac Goldsmith-inspired Conservative environmental policies, puncturing Brown's grumpy greenery and unpicking the carbon contortions of the coal-loving Celts. And now that both Barack Obama and John McCain claim environmental credentials, we'll be looking for greenwash at the White House too."

Thanks to Franny Ritchie

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