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Opinion: Greenwashing

For 70 years, Americans have been conscious of the damage that modern industry poses to the health of the earth. In 1953, beverage manufacturers founded a campaign focused on recycling that was marked by the advertising slogan, “Keep America Beautiful.” In a way, that may have been the first attempt at “greenwashing.”


Greenwashing is using the powerful influence of deceptive advertising to convince the public that a corporation’s products and policies are environmentally friendly. It occurs when a company or organization spends more time and money on marketing themselves as being sustainable than on actually minimizing their environmental impact. The term was first used by Jay Westerveld in a 1986 essay about hotels that asked guests to use as few towels as possible in order to limit the amount of water that would be used to wash dirty towels and the addition of extra detergent that would be added to waste water.


As he examined the operation of the hotels that had adopted this message, he noticed the vast amount of waste that was developed in the rest of the hotels’ operations, and there were no other signs of effort being made to achieve sustainability. He said that hotels were simply trying to reduce laundry costs and making the process appear to be part of an eco-friendly program.

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