For a person, "going green" is as simple as recycling more, wasting less and always, always, always behaving like an insufferable prick in social situations. But for a corporation, "going green" can be a much harder task that costs million of dollars, thousands of hours of manpower and often painful company-wide cutbacks.
Or, they can opt to do jack shit and just spend all of their money and effort convincing the public otherwise. This is what is referred to as "greenwashing," and it works like this:
Listen: India is a beautiful, ancient place with a rich and storied culture and we don't mean to knock it, but it's pretty damned overcrowded. They're practically breathing other people right now, and as a result their resources are stretched taut. Water actually still means life over there--as opposed to the Western world where it's just something that needs to be enhanced with electrolytes or thrown on the t-shirts of girls who hate their fathers.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU DO A BETTER JOB RAISING ME, DADDY?! I mean... um... I'm all wet, teehee!"
So when Coca-Cola came to India and started sucking up thousands of gallons of the nation's precious life-sustaining water each day to make their bottled acid-baths, it kind of rubbed a few (billion) people the wrong way. So to balance out this horrible misappropriation of resources, Coke tried to prove they were environmentally conscious by setting up a donation scheme to help save polar bears... which, of course, aren't native to India.
"Save the bears, they're dy- well, OK, not this one. He's uh... he's doing pretty good."
Then at a San Francisco business conference, Coke also pledged to go water neutral. Well, actually they said they "aspire to put back" what they "take out." Aspire. You can aspire to anything; take a poll of a first grade classroom and you'll get 18 kids aspiring to be astronauts, four aspiring to be policemen, two aspiring to be president and one special child aspiring to be a motorcycle.
Wait, it gets better! Part of the their plan is that if they take all of the water out of one village's wells, they can become "neutral" by putting the water back... into a different village. You know, like how instead of paying back your loan to your bank, they'll allow you to just give the money to some random person instead. As long as you're paying somebody, right?
In a thousand management meetings across the globe, the same idea takes shape:
"Hmm. Environmentalism = Green. Green is a color. Let's color our products green. Holy shit! Done! That's lunch, motherfuckers. Cocaine bisque and vodka sandwiches on me!"
For sheer, clanking brass-balled initiative, we have to admire GM the most for this kind of thing. Producer of the "gets-one-mile-per-Middle-Eastern-skirmish" Hummer, GM desperately needed a way to clean up its name and get some green cred. So, did they go for fuel-efficiency? A desperately needed push to hydrogen power? At least recycled paper in their sales flyers? Nope, they just changed their logo from blue to green. That's it!
"Welp, Earth solved, gentlemen. Earth. Fucking. Solved."
Insiders said the new color was intended "in an effort to show consumers that [GM] is leaner, greener, more focused on fuel efficiency and better able to make quick decisions."
...wait, by drawing something you can make it reality?! We had no idea this Harold and the Purple Crayon-like power existed! Hold on one second!
...and you laughed at us, Mrs. Warburton! YOU LAUGHED!
But it doesn't stop with just a color change on the log. Since there are no laws against outright lying about new-age bullshit buzz words, it was only a matter of time before somebody got the brilliant idea to advertise their products as "green" without having a single green feature.
For instance, it's generally agreed that cloth diapers are more eco-friendly than the disposables. So how do you make people buy the landfill crowding, disposable kind? Use fewer trees? Minimize packaging? Nah. Just color the package green and print some meaningless eco-phrases on it.
New! Gaia-conscious packaging process!
Organic cotton? Yep, it's mentioned - but how much? Is it certified? A deafening silence on that. Recycled packaging? Why yes, a full 20 percent of the packaging is from recycled materials! 20 percent! How green! A full fifth of all of their diapers are- wait, you mean just the thin packaging is 20 percent recycled? Umm, how about the actual diapers inside? Made from pulverized bald eagle genitals? That's... less friendly. That seems downright unnecessary actually.
"Oh, we'll give you something to cry about, Captain Spangle McFreedomwings."
And then there are "Earth-loving" materials companies can say they've converted to, like bamboo. Super fast growing, requiring no cultivation and can grow anywhere... hell, bamboo is the sustainable material of the future, if you believe the ads for products like bamboo clothing.
And, making clothing from bamboo would be pretty damn eco-friendly, except that most mass-market bamboo materials first have to be crushed, ground, dissolved in lye, mixed with carbon disulphide (which is a neurotoxin), then washed in battery acid and spun into fibers. So, on the downside that "natural" bamboo material you're wearing basically took a trip through the toxic waste dump.