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Greenwashing 101

July 25, 2021

I want to educate you about Greenwashing today.

Greenwashing is a term used to describe the practice of companies using advertising campaigns which imply that they are environmentally beneficial, imply that their animals live the good life, that their product is "better" or "healthier," often in contradiction to their environmental and sustainability record or in contrast to the way that they raise animals or to the actual nutritional value of their product.

Greenwashing can use images to convey ideas and incorrect assumptions to the consumer. For example, take the image below. It implies that the cow in the image lives on grass in this idylic setting. 

The truth is likely that the cow lives on a ginormous dairy farm with 500 or more cows (small mom and pop style dairy farms have been closing their doors are ALARMING rates the last few years as corporate mega dairies take over). 

She (the cow) likely does not have access to a pasture like that. She may not even have access to the outdoors.

You may be wondering at my assessment. So here's my professional farmer opinion:

  • That pasture has either not been grazed or it's a hay field. My vote is on hay field. 
  • There are no other cows in the background.
  • That cow should be chowing own on all that amazing grass, not looking at the camera.
  • The barn in the background looks like a really old barn - suggestive that this is an old family farm. It's not a milking barn for sure.

Contrast the above image with the one below of an actual modern dairy farm. Notice the following:

  • The dairy cow housing is open an airy, unlike the beautiful old red barn above.
  • There is a manure lagoon right next to the barn! And it's past Olympic sized swimming pool capacity.
  • There is NO pasture. There is corn growing around this facility - they are likely raising grains on the farm to feed the cows. The cows at this facility do not have access to pasture.

I'm not saying that no dairy farm grazes their cows, certainly many dairy farms do. But the implication in this advertisement is that ALL the dairy cows are all grazing happily and grazing daily. The old barn also suggests a small family farm and gives you warm cozy feelings about the country.

Now let's take a look at the header image on Impossible Foods "Learn" page. (Impossible Foods makes vegan meat alternatives that suspiciously resemble real meat... )

The image below suggests an abundance of diversity. Just look at all the green! 

There are wildlife, trees, mountains, a lake, flowers, just lots of green in general. It is a healthy image with a lot of life in it. 

Now, keep in mind that Impossible Foods products are made with soy beans.

And let's be honest. Have you ever seen a soybean field? Here's what one looks like.

Where is the diversity? Where are the trees? Wildlife?? None there and believe me wildlife is not welcome here. It is practically sterile. The soil is mostly dead. There is not even one weed visible in the image. That's because it was sprayed to kill everything before it was planted. It was probably sprayed again to prevent weeds and again to kill any pestilent insects. It was definitely fertilized. It is a mono-culture - that means that only one plant variety is living there. Zero diversity.

Ok, getting off my high horse now! But watch for more. Today I only covered imagery used to manipulate consumers into purchasing a product. There are other means of manipulating consumers! I'll delve further into greenwashing sometime soon!

Amie Herrera

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