To avoid being identified as a phony environmentalist, consistency is key. A true environmentalist remains committed to the cause, despite the circumstances. If recycling a jar would require a lot of cleaning effort, a greenwasher may decide, just this one time, to throw it in the trash rather than the recycling bin. In addition, a true friend of the environment doesn’t shy away from organically grown food or other sustainable products because of higher costs. For the truly committed, the extra cost is worth it. In short, letting convenience or cost dictate the degree of your eco-friendly devotion will naturally call into question your sincerity.
In addition, as many legislators have discovered over the past several years as the greenwashing discussion has gotten more and more attention, keeping your political positions consistent will help you walk the straight and narrow as you support the movement.
For committed environmentalists, the primary motivation behind their green-friendly actions is the preservation of the earth’s resources. However, even the most loyal devotees may personally benefit from their eco-conscious efforts in other ways. For example, a family that takes great care to outfit their home with energy efficient materials may experience long-term financial savings in the form of lower utility bills. And an individual who buys organic may experience improved health as a result of the nutritious foods he’s consuming. Even if your eco-conscious actions are motivated, in part, by these beneficial byproducts, you’re not necessarily a greenwasher. However, your sincerity may come into question if the primary motivation for your green-friendly actions becomes something other than the preservation of the earth’s resources.
Take, for example, an individual who drives a hybrid to save on gas and also adorns his car with bumper stickers with environmentally conscious messages. If the fuel efficient vehicle and green statement displayed on it are primarily intended to help him save a few bucks and to create an eco-friendly persona, then he may be a greenwasher. If his main aim is social acceptance by making environmentally friendly statements, rather than to advance the green movement, chances are he’ll be identified as a phony.
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