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Natural Awakenings Boston

Caring About the Environment

Sep 26, 2013 02:07PM ● By Maisie Raftery, Publisher

Years ago, people that cared about the environment were called hippies; today, it’s hip to embrace a lifestyle that focuses on sustainable practices and taking care of the planet. Most states now have rebate programs to encourage everyone to use less energy. Plus grocery store aisles stock scores of products claiming to be better for the environment.

But the principle of “buyer beware” applies here as everywhere: A growing number of pioneering companies are making good strides toward sustainable practices. But more are spending a lot of money to make themselves appear to be “green” in the public eye when they aren’t even close and are, in fact, flagrantly denigrating the environment. It’s a practice called greenwashing.

Because the leading challenges of climate change explored in Christine MacDonald’s feature article are too important to us to allow ourselves to be distracted by lies, it’s vital that we learn how to recognize greenwashing. A good rule of thumb is when a business or organization spends more time and money claiming to be green through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact.

A classic example is an energy company that loudly touts a sustainable energy technology they’re working on but that represents only a sliver of its notso- green business. This sometimes occurs on the heels of an oil spill or plant explosion.

Or a hotel chain may promote itself as eco-friendly because it allows guests to choose to sleep on the same sheets for a few days and reuse towels, but does little to save water and energy use on its grounds, with appliances and lighting, in the kitchens and with its vehicle fleet. While we applaud every baby step, it’s time to get serious in big ways.

GreenWashingIndex.com is a great resource to visit to become betterinformed and see how to easily recognize greenwashing in media campaigns. Avoiding culprits is one way we can help support real environmental change.

Buying food locally is another way to benefit the environment. Wellmanaged farms provide ecosystem services: They conserve fertile soil, protect water sources and foster plantings that sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Their farm environment is a patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings that provide community wildlife habitat.

In choosing local products, we cut down on the consumption of packaging materials, transportation fuel and long-distance refrigeration. Many small-scale, local farms focus on sustainable practices, such as minimized pesticide use, no-till agriculture and composting, few food-miles to consumers and light to no packaging for their farm products—all positives for the environment.

Don’t miss the fourth Annual Boston Local Food Festival on Sunday, October 6 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. This annual event presented by the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts (SBNMass.org) transforms our Greenway and the city of Boston into the nation’s largest local and sustainable food hub (details on page 8). It’s nutritious and fun.

As always, thank you for supporting our advertisers; their participation allows us to bring you this free healthy living, healthy planet magazine each month. We are grateful.

Enjoy the foliage!

Maisie Raftery, Publisher

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