It has recently come to my attention that organizations such as the Weeden Foundation are attempting to garner support for the anti-immigration movement by utilizing a contrived connection between illegal immigrants in the United States and an increase in pollution. The “logic” behind this suggests that when illegal immigrants cross into the U.S they adopt a more Americanized lifestyle and therefore tend to pollute more than if they stayed in their countries of birth and live in poverty.

Impoverished people tend to pollute less, so let’s keep ‘em that way”–fake slogan of groups suggesting connection between illegal immigration and environmental catastrophes.

The culprit is not illegal immigrants as these groups are implying, but American society and the way in which it functions. We are taught from an early age in the United States that consuming products we do not need is not only a luxury to be indulged in once in a while, but an ideology to live our day-to-day lives by. Bigger and better have become almost interchangeable in the American lexicon.

Green washing a human rights issue is not acceptable. You can not argue that immigrants, legal or otherwise, are of concern because of  their being a detriment  to the environment, if that logic were acceptable one could argue that abortions are eco-friendly because they keep the world’s population down, (before anyone gets in a tizzy, I am simply using that as an example of the irrelevance of connecting two unrelated issues in order to gather support for your movement of choice.)

Suggesting that the opposition to illegal immigration is an issue born out of a need to achieve environmental friendliness seems to be a thinly veiled attempt to allure to the more left-minded members of society to support this particular movement. This thinking ignores the fact that the eco-friendly movement is one the encompasses a compassion for the human rights of all people. While illegal immigration is a complicated issue that must be addressed in some capacity, suggesting that families seeking a slice of the American dream are a detriment to the environment as a means to convince people that immigration should be done away with is unfair, heavy-handed and unnecessary.

We need to take a long, hard look at the American dream and revise its antiquated definition. As a society we owe it to ourselves, mother Earth and any future citizens of our country, to no longer glamorize the idea that living in an inconvenient suburb where one has to drive to the nearest drive through to obtain their flash fried supper to return home to their oversized mc-mansion is the idea lifestyle. A more eco-friendly version of this dream–think more bicycles and less Hummers— is one we need to cultivate if we are to continue to thrive not only a country but as healthy planet.

It is hypocritical to sit around and judge immigrants from the seats of our gas guzzling SUVS; thinking that we as Americans have the to use and abuse the environment and that nobody else does is down right repulsive.

Hey, only U.S citizens have the right to litter and eat puppies…if everyone else does not do it, then we are golden!”–Some sick guy who eats puppies while littering. (What a turd.)

As a nation of legal citizens we need to stop being so turd-like ourselves and start focusing on the real issues that we as one of the top polluting nations on this glorious planet of Earth are causing by our over indulgent way of life.

In the age-old notion of whoever smelt it dealt it, we are the ones sniffing out the problem and trying to lay blame on the innocent guy standing next to us.

Not cool, anti-immigration movement. Not cool at all.

-Meghan Hurley


The devil and his horned minions must be flooding with requests for winter hats, mittens and hot cocoa, because the unthinkable has happened: Wal-Mart has gone Green. Ok, perhaps Satan should not retire his bottle of SPF 5,000 or his fashionable flip-flops just yet, because like most events in history, Wal-Mart’s new found eco-friendliness is not as simple as black or white, or as good vs. evil.
Like any good story, we must start at the beginning. In a recent webcast, Wal-Mart pledged to eliminate 20 million metric tons of Greenhouse gas emissions from their global supply chain by 2015.

“Explain it to me like I am a fifth grader.”

Ok, more simply put, Wal-Mart will be flexing its giant megastore muscles to pressure their product suppliers into cutting their greenhouse emissions.

A seemingly noble enough reason to flex your corporate muscles, this effort is not causing unanimous celebrations across the land of the eco-minded (you would be absolutely shocked at the amount of “kiss me, I am organic” t-shirts people sport there). Wal-Mart, which is not-so affectionately nicknamed Sprawl-Mart in certain circles,  has not always shown such concern for the environment and despite these  recent efforts, it is still a company that crushes smaller companies that can not compete by providing products as cheaply for their customers as Wal-Mart can, as well as labor abuses and using questionable factories overseas.

This announcement, has been met with a spattering of praise, a pinch of cynicism, and a  few hundred cups of confusion. Could this green initiative be the biggest case of green washing of our time? Some critics seem to Walmart‘s motivations are not as pure as they may seem at first glance.  Stacy Mitchell offers, in an enlightening piece on this very subject on , “Just a few years ago, Wal-Mart’s ability to grow both here and abroad was in serious jeopardy… Since developing a greener image, Wal-Mart has had a much easier time countering local opposition and winning over city officials.”  This move to “go green” is much like  Wal-Mart’s announcement of going Fair Trade two years ago.  While it seems noble, their overall company ethics and business practices don’t match up with either Fair Trade or Green.

There is no doubt that a little bit of green has gone a long way in gaining a company favor with the public in recent years, but if Wal-Mart lives up to their pledge, is it really “washing” so much as “being truly proactive”? Or do the other negative impacts this Corporation has on the environment -such as the green house emissions coming from shipping items all over the world, as well as from  the endless stream of cars in their parking lots- negate or lessen the positive impact of this green promise?  Is it really such a bad thing that a company millions worldwide seem in no rush to stop shopping at tries to toss Mother nature a solid?

Another, and completely  jarring point brought up by the very same grist article is  that when considering this image make over  in correlation with the recent decision by the Supreme Court to allow corporate personhood, it becomes a little more sinister. Will this reduction in admissions be touted out as a reason that “Walmart is not so bad after all“, come an election time in our not so distant futures?

Then, there is the question of whether Wal-Mart’s muscle are any match for  all of their suppliers, particularly those  based in China. As Douglas Mcintyre writes in an article for, “It’s questionable whether Wal-Mart can force its programs on suppliers inside the People’s Republic both because of their value to the company as low-cost providers, and because the Chinese government has not been very open to substantially reducing carbon emissions.”
“Explain it to me as if I were a third grader.”

Is Wal-Mart’s Rocky Balboa tough enough to beat China’s Ivan Drago? (Hmm, maybe I should not besmirch Rocky’s good name by comparing him to Wal-Mart, he did single-handedly defeat Communism in Rocky IV via a string of stirring montages, after all).

Long story… well already way too long, Wal-Mart’s policy  enforcement and the reason behind its creation remain unseen. This is an unfolding drama, that may very well someday be fodder for a Lifetime television movie. (Which will hopefully star at  the Olson twins, in some capacity.)

The fact remains that Wal-Mart- even if this effort is executed successfully, in the most altruistic, non self-serving manner possible- should still be subject to scrutiny from its potential shoppers for  any and all of its other questionable practices. Cutting emissions should not become a get out of jail free card, or worse yet, a get into public office one.

Perhaps the ends justifies the means, or perhaps we should, as a people,  hold the means up to stronger standard , especially when the ends remain a huge question mark.

Then again, I may be missing something between the ends, the means, the greens and all those Rocky montages swirling in my noggin. Someone, explain it to me as if I were a first grader.

-Meghan Hurley

Original Kermit the Frog Photo By adamfarnsworth“It’s not easy being green”, or so a famous frog puppet once asserted. Perhaps that statement could be reshaped today to read “it ain’t easy understanding just what the heck ‘green’ precisely means in a more environmentally aware society”. In our modern world, terms like “green” and “organic” are sometimes tossed around like any “It” word of the day. They have been uttered so often and written about so much that they somehow they tend to lose meaning in the hustle and bustle of day to day life.

In the 80’s something that was “bad” was suddenly “good”. In the 90’s “Phat” no longer referred only to the girth of one’s waistline, but to the amount of coolness a person or object possessed. Each new bit of jargon caused the mass confusion of parents world wide. Are “green” and “organic” contemporary examples of vernacular that leave not only moms and dads scratching their heads, but also saddle young and old alike with the question, just what does it mean to be green?

Earth (my favorite planet) Photo By woodleywonderworksWe as a society are lead to believe that by purchasing something that is labeled “green” or “organic” that we are somehow doing something good, or “bad” for you children of the 1980’s, without perhaps thinking about the meaning behind the terms. It can not be denied that these words can be used as advertising ploys, as environmentalism has become a hot issue, surely some greedy people and companies will use that trend to their advantage. Slapping a buzz word on to a product in an effort to cash in on its trendiness is not a new practice in consumerism. Only few years back, as Atkins diet mania hit entered the publics collective consciousness, a “carb-free” label meant sudden financial success for an array of barely edible products.

Appleofmyeye Photo By Bludgeoner86So if Green no longer just refers to the color of money, or popular fictional frogs with a penchant for dating pigs, then what does it mean? My own understanding is that for something to be Green, it should exemplify both social and environmental consciousness in action. This is not to say that my understanding is completely correct. There are still the seemingly unanswerable questions, such as what if somethings production is good for the earth but bad for the people producing the product? Or vice versa? Is the environmentally sound option always the most socially aware choice? Is it always worth shelling out extra money for organic food when one can not always be certain what “organic” means, let alone if the product at hand is actually organic? For a person with a fair amount of Catholic guilt, this endless stream of moral queries can become maddening, trust me.

Stacks of books, Seattle, Washington, USA Photo By WonderlanePerhaps the only truth is that life is not easy. Even things that are supposed to be made simpler by the advent of such modern conveniences, such as grocery stores and online shopping, are not as easy as they appear to be on the surface. Of course, they can be simple, one can thoughtlessly buy things and only think of the immediate results, and let’s be honest, most people make purchases or perform actions based on immediate gratification from time to time, and I for one am not here to judge you for things I am myself guilty of. Maybe we should look at the Green movement as a reminder– a reminder to not be lazy just because it is an option, a reminder that sometimes research is required in making our own informed decisions, a reminder to not blindly trust simplistic labels to make our decisions for us, and a reminder that we, like Mr. Kemit the frog himself, must accept that it is not always easy being Green, but most worthwhile things in this life tend not to be effortless.

This article was originally written for eCo Times, the new cutting edge online magazine brought to you by eConscious Market.

Image By Elaine At GreenpeaceThe term “greenwash” is what you get when you combine the words “green” and “whitewash,” or when a company uses environmental trends to its benefit by lying to or misleading its customers. First coined in the mid-1980’s when hotels started claiming that by reusing towels you could save the environment, greenwashing has hit the mainstream. The practice has grown exponentially in popularity as more and more companies are jumping on the environmental bandwagon and bombarding consumers in every way possible with advertisements of their “green” practices. As a result, greenwashing has become a household phrase and has been making appearances all over the media, from local TV newscasts to the Today Show to the new segment on American Public Media’s Marketplace called The Greenwashing Brigade. It’s even caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission which is attempting to protect challenged consumers by updating its 1995 environmental advertising guidelines.

So what exactly is greenwashing and how can you prevent yourself from having it happen to you? Trust me, you’re not alone if you get duped. The power of advertising and multi-million dollar marketing budgets make companies’ green claims easy to believe. Just the other day, I found myself purchasing a shower curtain liner from Bed, Bath, and Beyond that I didn’t even need just because the packaging claimed the liner was eco-friendly and biodegradable. Turns out not a word of that was true – the liner is made from the same old vinyl as all of the others. The company flat-out lied in order to get my purchase!

Indeed, it’s easy for companies to look good and make you feel good just by using terminology such as “100% natural” or “certified organic.” It’s true that the ingredients of certain products may be natural, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy or eco-friendly when so many “natural” chemicals are toxic in nature. And “certified organic” doesn’t always mean that the product was actually certified and properly labeled by an organization such as the USDA. In fact, there is no certification standard for many of the products that claim to be certified.

Take Fiji water, for example, and their new Fiji Green campaign. While making promises to help save the rain forest, help the recycling effort, and reduce their carbon footprint, Fiji’s manufacturing process is an environmental debacle. This bottled water travels 5,820 miles per trip from Fiji to Seattle (the closest Fiji Water destination point in the US), uses 46 million gallons of fossil fuel and 1.3 billion gallons of water, and emits 216,000,000 lbs. of greenhouse gases in a single year. Not to mention that their PET plastic bottles leach Bisphenol A and have a recycle rate of only 12%. Regardless, Fiji enjoyed a 40% increase in sales last year from the Fiji Green campaign and expects to do so again in 2008.

Check out this ad for Shell petroleum that shows pretty little flowers spewing out of a factory rather than the true smog and pollutants. What exactly are they trying to say here-don’t put anything in the garbage ever again and magic flowers will spill from every smokestack?

Greenwashing is so prevalent these days that the environmental marketing company TerraChoice found in a recent study that 99% of the green labels they examined were false or misleading.

TerraChoice is best known for it’s report on the “Six Sins of Greenwashing” which helps consumers wade through the advertising and discover which green campaigns are actually legit.

Other than keeping these “six sins” in mind, what can a responsible consumer do in order to fend off greenwashing? The best advice is to read the label, do your research, fact check any claim that seems too good to be true, and contact the company with questions and comments. If there is enough consumer pressure, companies will make their marketing more truthful and hopefully we can see greenwashing become a thing of the past.

Do you want to join the fight against greenwashing? Take action!

  • Learn how to fight greenwashing from the experts at Greenpeace
  • Rate your favorite (and not-so-favorite) greenwashing examples at The Greenwashing Index
  • Check out the regular post Greenwash of the Week on the official blog of the Rainforest Action Network
  • Share your stories of companies who greenwash, and those that absolutely don’t, in the Comments section of this post

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