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Since posting, “Go Green-Earn Big: The Nice Guy Finally Wins“, we’ve been engaged in a lively debate on whether products like disposable “Eco-Shaped” bottles and hybrid SUV’s are positive trends representing a genuine fixing, or setbacks allowing people to feel good without giving attention to the real changes that need to happen.

The Heschel Center’s Dr. Jeremy Benstein fueled the discussion with the following comment:

Smaller labels on bottled water? Solar powered oil drills? Pseudo products make you *hopeful*?!

While it is true that sometimes lip service can lead to real commitments– I hate to be a pessimist- but in the commercial-industrial realm, it seems like it’s much more often the opposite. They do things for image, “greenwash” very detrimental things (SUVs, bottled water, etc.) and use it to avoid doing anything real.

If people think that SUVs and bottled water are now green(er)– then they’ll continue using them, feeling ok with themselves that they are now so environmentally-friendly. When in fact they need to do something else entirely: take back the tap, and boycott bottled water altogether; support mass transit, biking etc– and not use any form of SUV.

Let me phrase it as a question: What should we (citizens) or regulatory bodies do to make sure we, and they, the industries don’t stop there? That their image polishing needs to be based on real improvements?

Respectfully,

Jeremy Benstein

Adding to Dr. Benstein’s critique was Ant, who concluded that:

Sometimes we have to sacrifice our conveniences, not alter our conveniences, to make a real difference.

Countering was Sherri:

Just because companies are greenwashing it doesn’t mean people are fooled. Once they start thinking about these issues they’re not going to stop. The companies involved may just be doing lip service to environmental issues, but people aren’t and will think through the real environmental benefits of products rather than buy the hype someone is trying to sell them.

As another commenter, Donna, exclaimed, “Green is the New Black!”- and there is therefore lots of green “Trash” through which we need sift in order to see what really is good for the world, and what is not.

This is a super important debate, and we’d love to hear your opinion, too.

As Dr. Benstein asks,

“[Are these products] a step in the right direction, which will lead people on to bigger and better- or even the right- things? Or does it give everyone “an easy out,” so they don’t have to take the more difficult, but ultimately more meaningful, steps?”

How do you think environmentalists should be responding to an environmentally conscious world?

How do or can superficial feel good changes lead to more meaningful transformation?

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By Yannai Kranzler

What an incredible time to live in: where the best thing a company can do for itself is convince us not only that a product is good, but that it is good for the world.

I just spent a week in New York with my family for the Jewish holidays. Upon arrival, I was greeted with eco-everything, everywhere. “This is what you can do about climate change!” shout radio commercials. “This is what I will do about climate change!” shout presidential candidates. “These apples were grown by local farmers in New York!” shout produce sections at the supermarket.

Even classic foes of the environmental movement are re-marketing themselves for an eco-conscious public. Hybrid SUV’s (and their hardly inspiring 14 miles per gallon) roam suburb streets. “Eco-Shaped” disposable bottles (30% less plastic!) are new homes for bottled spring and mineral water. I call under a year till we see the first solar-powered oil drill.

It’s these pseudo-eco-products that make me the most hopeful, because they signify how vital positive social impact is to today’s successful marketing plans. As in, even if a product really isn’t all that great by social standards, the company has to find some way to claim that it is. Imagine that doing good has become the parameter for being cool!

Hassidic rebbes tell us that even if we don’t feel close to God, if we want to feel close to God it’s still okay. And not only that, but if we want to want to feel close to God, then still, we’re okay. (They actually say that we can have nine degrees of wanting- wanting to want to want to want to want to want to want to want to want to be close to God and still be on a high level.)

The rules between person and person are a bit different than those between person and God, and we’ll have to get better to for things in the world to be better, but the message of the rebbes still applies:

The desires we have to improve are infinite fuel for our actions. Where those desires go, our intelligence, our ingenuity, our science and art, politics and business and learning and doing will most certainly follow.

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