“Your Environment: A Green Agenda” Greenwashing in Print

Last week, a six page advertising supplement ran in The Washington Post.  In it were good (to excellent) articles about Global Warming and water; ocean power; vertical farming in urban areas; UN Climate talks; making green by going Green; bios of some Global Warming activists; and others.

A good set of articles … interesting, informative, and, perhaps, even persuasive.

And, well, juxtaposed with … advertisements with that ever so climate friendly corporation: General Motors.  

Ads promoting Chevy Tahoe.

Or, that ad bragging that Chevy has eight car models that top 30 miles per gallon.

Chevy Silvaerado offers the best v8 fuel economy of any full-size pickup. And the full-size Tahoe SUV has better standard highway fuel economy than 12 smaller SUVs.



Global Warming heroes.

Who would’ve thunk it?



Greenwash is disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image. Derivatives: greenwashing (n). Origin from green on the pattern of whitewash.  Tenth Edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary

General Motors payed for this six-page section and had six quarter page ads under the slogan

Gas-friendly to gas free.

Five technology / issue areas:

  • Fuel Efficiency
  • E85 Ethanol
  • Hybrid
  • Electric
  • Fuel Cell

The first page has an ad that argues that Chevy is pushing on “technologies that go from gas-friendly to gas-free.”  Then, it lists out the five technology/issue areas which each have a quarter page in the coming pages.  What is the tag line? “Do more. Use Less.”  Guess what, solving Global Warming takes zero sacrifice … a hopeful, al beit likely misleading, tag line.

What is the picture that accompanies this first ad?  Literally, a tree-hugger.  A tree with bare arms (looks like a man) clasping it (all you see are the arms).  What is the message?  General Motors/Chevy:  Treehuggers!  Who, again, who’ve thunk it …

When it comes to fuel efficiency, “the environment and your commute. Can’t we all just get along?” Wow, let us all be friends. No reason to be nasty, hostile, complaining is there? To be honest, great that Chevy feels that it needs to be bragging that

In 2008, every Chevy … will be equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitor that automatically alerts you when your tire pressure is low. Properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by up to 3%.  A little thing, but if everyone in the US had properly inflated tires, we could save millions of gallons of gas each year.

This is a real thing, that can have real benefit.  But, again, Chevy is bragging about its over 30 mpg vehicles while also bragging about its super heavy (but “hybrid”) SUVs and Pickups.  

Turning to E85 Ethanol, “Why pump your fuel when you can grow it?”  Well, perhaps because I need to grow food for my stomach and another 6+ billion people?  E85 corn-based ethanol is a, well, near disaster that we are heading into.  Taking up resources (money, attention, enthusiasm, water, land, etc) for, at best, a marginally better approach to fuel in environmental terms.  

So, we can learn that Chevy is into Hybrids with the focus on the Chevy Tahoe, “America’s first full-size hybrid SUV”.  Reviews from car enthusiasts seem to be positive (Edmunds First Drive) but there is little information on actual gas mileage which looks, it seems, that it might (MIGHT) actually top 20 miles per gallon.  Wow. Getting 20 mpg when driving to get your rental DVD from your McMansion. That will help save the planet. No, really, it will, GM tells us so.

And, well, there is Electric as Chevy calls on us to “Imagine: A daily commute without a drop of gas.” Well, it is something that many us have imagined for awhile.  Okay, this one I need to be upfront about, I want to be on the waiting list for buying a Chevy Volt. If Chevy can get a serious plug-in hybrid in mass quantities in the near term, maybe I’ll give them more , credit than this section motivates me to give them.  “Chevy Volt will use zero emissions and produce zero emissions for someone who drives less than 40 miles a day.” (Italized section was highlighted in the ad.) Zero Emissions?  Well, okay, if you don’t count the coal-fired electricity. But, to be honest, I am a big plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) fan. Again, sign me up … and get one in my driveway! The Volt and Chevy’s E-Flex system is one arena which might, maybe, possibly merit terming “An American Revolution” in energy if they can get it onto to the market in real numbers and have it work (WELL).  

Okay, the praise takes a break, as Chevy finishes with Fuel Cell as they tell us about their “test fleet of 100 hydrogen-powered fuel cell Equinox SUVs … Project Driveway is the first large-scale market test of fuel cell vehicles with real drivers inthe real world.” Chevy is promoting this as “the best emissions strategy is a zero-emissions strategy”. Okay. Sure. But, sorry, can’t take hydrogen seriously as a transportation fuel for the critical near term. Let me state it here: won’t have a major part of transportation for decades to come, if ever. The VOLT/PHEV/electric is far more likely to have a major impact to help turn Global Warming’s rising tide.  It is a chimera, almost like a skeptic, diverting our attention and resources from what can have a real impact, now.  Let’s continue the research, but electrification offers far greater opportunity for radically changing our transportation sector.

Six pages … five (and a half) misleading ads … And, well, the half might be because I want PHEVs out on the market, NOW!

The substance … that provides the green for washing

Let us, quite quickly, look at some of the articles (which are all worth a read).

Living Lightly on the Grid:  A story about Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), a strong advocate of significant action who is also setting a personal example while fighting for policy change. (See Jour de la Bastille: Charting a Climate Revolution.)

Tidwell, an environmental activist concerned with climate change, has outfitted his home with energy-efficient appliances, a corn-burning stove and solar panels. Now, the two-story house sometimes produces more electricity than it needs and sends the surplus to Pepco’s distribution system.

Across the Washington area, homeowners alarmed about utility rates and greenhouse gases are seeking to slash their power use or produce their own energy from renewable sources. Among them, Tidwell and a handful of others have succeeded in creating homes that require only minimal energy from power plants and fossil fuels.

Note: This story has a reduced color (near black and white) photo of another activist warming her hands by Tidwell’s corn-burning stove.  To me, this is a subliminal message photo: ‘watch out, those loony enviros want you to be shivering and in the dark’.  

And, well, Tidwell is the article surrounding the “Fuel Cell” message and, well, Mike is far from a hydrogen-fuel supporter.  

Warming may exacerbate Global Water Conflicts is an interesting discussion of Global Water challenges in a warming globe — and ranges conflict from Western US lawyers to potential interstate conflicts to civil wars.  

“People are really starting to panic for water,” said Arthur, whose father started drilling wells in 1959. They must drill ever deeper to tap the sinking water table. “Eventually, the water will be so deep the farmers won’t be able to afford to pump it,” he said. “There’s only so much water to go around.”

As global warming heats the planet, there will be more desperate measures. The climate will be wetter in some places, drier in others. Changing weather patterns will leave millions of people without dependable supplies of water for drinking, irrigation and power, a growing stack of studies conclude.

Beyond Wind and solar, a new generation of clean energy which discussees interesting developments in renewable power outside the better known solar and wind power sectors. (Note the related diary Energy COOL:  Moving beyond the Sun and the Wind … about ocean power.)

As policymakers promote alternative energy sources to reduce the United States’ emissions of greenhouse gases and its dependence on foreign oil, entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly inventive about finding novel ways to power the economy.

Beyond solar power and wind, which is America’s most developed renewable-energy sector, a host of companies are exploring a variety of more obscure technologies. Researchers are trying to come up with ways to turn algae into diesel fuel. In landfills, startups are attempting to wring energy out of waste such as leaves, tires and “car fluff” from junked automobiles.

This push for lesser-known renewables — which also includes geothermal, solar thermal and tidal energy — may someday help ease the country’s transition to a society less reliant on carbon-based fuels. But many of these technologies are in their infancy, and it remains to be seen whether they can move to the marketplace and come close to meeting the country’s total energy needs.

For the Future of Farming, Look Up discusses the potential for skyscrapers providing food for the masses. (See: Energy COOL: Vertical Farming.)

If you’re a follower of eco-chatter, you’ve probably heard that you should eat locally: The closer the farm, the less fossil fuel required to transport food to your plate. But sticking to a regional diet can be tricky, especially for city dwellers. Farmers markets are a great option but not always convenient. What if you could eat tomatoes and corn that were grown just a Metro stop from home? The idea may sound far-fetched, but it might not be far away.

The “vertical farm” or “sky farm” — a glass skyscraper that functions as a giant urban greenhouse — is an idea gaining traction among environmentalists and venture capitalists. Championed by Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, the concept calls for tall buildings in which each floor would host hydroponically grown crops, including grains, as well as small livestock such as pigs.

Internet Visionaries Betting on Green Technology Boom — Vast Market, Huge Profit Potential Beckon Investors seems, actually, to fit with an advertising section.  

“Greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century,” …

“The green, sustainability movement is going mainstream,” [AOL’s founder Steve] Case told The Washington Post last year, and “we want to ride that wave.”

Getting rich by doing good. Making Green by Going Green.  Better for us all, I think. I hope a lot of people make a lot of money creating a livable 22d century for our grandchildren.  

Environmental Guru Energizes Canadians is about “climate change activist David Suzuki”.

His relentless hectoring on climate change, capped by standing-room-only rallies he held in 43 towns in Canada in February, has helped propel the environmental issue to the top of Canada’s political agenda, already influencing the jockeying ahead of the next national election.

Hectoring? Okay, don’t like that word but he is having an influence in Canada, directly crediting Gore with activising him, an example of the multiplicative effect of Gore’s messaging and approach (as with the Climate Project … by the way, you can request a presentation …).

He bluntly dismisses critics who question the theory of man-made global warming. “I’m amazed you are even bringing this up,” he fumed in a February radio interview when asked about global warming skeptics. “Don’t even get on to that,” he said angrily. “The science is in.”

One real problem … how much do you engage the skeptics, because even addressing their serial truthiness gives it credit. Hmmm … Suzuki’s approach sounds good.

Nor does he shrink from daunting predictions: “I think the future for our species is very, very much in question right now. Maybe pockets of people will survive, but it will take heroic measures.”

Okay, with children, I shy away from these terrifying predictions, although I see them as possibilities and even more imperative to Energize America

He laments what he considers lost years of opportunity, since scientists’ early warning that humankind must reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “If we had done what they said in ’88, we would have been so far past the Kyoto targets,” he said. “The world would be a cleaner, safer place. Instead, it has taken almost 20 years” to regain momentum.

Far past … Well, what if the US had done more of what Jimmy Carter had called for? Peak Oil and Global Warming might have been relegated to science fiction books rather than fundamental threats to us (US) all.

In any event, do you think Suzuki would endorse the Chevy Tahoe?

Cognitive Dissonance

Read the article … read the ad … have a spinning mind.

Story after story speaking to the reality of Global Warming.

Story after story speaking to real options for changing America’s energy path.

And, story after story bookended/paid for by deceptive and misleading GM Chevy “An American Revolution” advertisements.


Do you need to look past this advertising section for a definition?

Ask yourself:  Are you doing
your part to


Are you ready
  to do your part?



One response to ““Your Environment: A Green Agenda” Greenwashing in Print

  1. Pingback: Greenwashing: Chevy Models and Pretty Leaves Falling Off Trees | The Greenwashing Blog

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