Greenwashers is a documentary film by Bret Malley which was first released last year. It is truly the first film of its kind, as it tackles the truths of greenwashing head-on in a variety of comedic, satirical, and shocking ways, through a "mash-up of real commercials, live events, examples, and both real and fictional characters." To get a general feel for the film, here is the trailer:
This film essentially covered all of the issues surrounding greenwashing that I have blogged about in my previous posts (An Introduction to Greenwashing and It's Not Easy Being Green), plus much more. The main storyline consists of a man and a woman who work for a (fictional) company called Greenwashers Consulting. Bret Malley, the director and lead actor, invented Greenwashers Consulting to represent a firm that actually provides services to other businesses in order to make them appear more environmentally friendly without adopting any real green practices whatsoever. Greenwashers Consulting's motto is "Change YOUR image to change THEIR minds." It is the belief of Greenwashers Consulting that consumers don't actually care about purchasing truthfully green products, but rather they merely want to feel good about themselves when they purchase a product that they believe is green.
Malley and his friend Kelli Pennington play Alex and Vivian, two Greenwasher Promotional Representatives- or "GREEPRs"- of Greenwashers Consulting, who travel across the country to attend a number of different green expos and festivals where they can promote Greenwashers Consulting's graphic design team and eco-writers, as well as scientists, organizations, and lobbyists who can speak positively about a business to give it a good green public image.
Although Alex and Vivian were fictional characters, Bret and Kelli actually attended three real green expos and acted in character as they chatted with and interviewed various vendors and attendees at the events. At the Go Green Expos in Minneapolis, MN and New York City, as well as at the San Francisco Green Festival, the GREEPRs promoted their greenwashing services to eco-conscious businesses and consumers. Bret explains what happened next:
"Through humorously illustrated graphs, bull s#!t "facts" and ludicrous props, we proceeded to sell our wares… We tried to satirically sell greenwash. A funny thing happened then. And by "funny" I mean terrifying. They bought it. Or at least they tried to. The people and businesses loved it. Unfortunately, not in the way we’d hoped they’d love it. They were actually signing up for our greenwash services, regardless of how much we spelled it all out to them and tried to be humorous."
Bret describes the entire experience as "sobering," for it was completely eye-opening to see so many eco-conscious businesses openly welcoming greenwashing into their marketing techniques. Some companies practically admitted to already utilizing greenwashing as an advertising method, and it was more than obvious that most cared far more about making a profit than actually protecting the environment. Very few people even questioned Alex's motives or Greenwashers Consulting in general. It was both extremely comical and disturbing to watch even just as a viewer of the film.
"Even those that knew (or should have known) exactly what greenwashing is about still tried to find ways to help our company succeed at greenwashing... This helped define a central problem more so than anything else that we had done. If these environmentalists, climate experts, and green conscious business owners did not have a reaction to text-book greenwash, what does that say about our general society? It says that they at least don’t know enough about the current culture of greenwash, and that people still do not feel empowered enough to challenge and stand for what they believe," explains Bret.
In addition to the in-character interviews, the documentary also features interviews with renowned environmental activist and author Bill McKibben and Scot Case of TerraChoice who presents the 7 Sins of Greenwashing paired with examples from Alex and Vivian's encounters. A handful of real commercials from companies like Ford, Samsung, Honda, IBM, BP, and Dawn are also presented and analyzed for greenwashing. Here is the initial BP ad, followed by the ad as presented in Greenwashers, with added facts and actual information (I have no clue why they have babies driving cars...)
One case study was provided in the documentary to serve as a living example of the huge implications of greenwashing, and that was the Destiny USA, a retail and entertainment complex/mall currently under construction in Syracuse, NY, not too far from here. Destiny USA claims to be a green building, and upon completion will hold the title of the largest LEED certified commercial retail property in the country. However, as Bill McKibben says in the film, just because a giant mall uses CFLs and has solar panels on the roof doesn't change the fact that it's a haven for continued consumerism, perhaps even on a whole new level. Destiny USA's slogan is "The Future Green Capital of America." Hmmm, that's funny. I never envisioned that the green capital of America would be one of the country's largest shopping malls...
Greenwashers is a provocative film that every consumer should see. It's currently available for "rent" online, and will be out on DVD soon. It definitely made me reconsider the true meaning of "green" and just how far businesses will go to make a profit.