The Semiotics of Greenwashing

Sami noted earlier that the sponsor for the presidential debates was Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), an astroturfer that is using kids to peddle the message that coal is clean and wonderful. But why kids? Why not adults? In fact, what is behind so much of the imagery and symbolism that is used by greenwashers?

As a recent poll noted, kids are far more concerned about the environment than their parents. Maybe the coal company thinks that if the kids are saying it, then it must be green.

The cement industry does it too. Certainly kids playing is cuter than showing a cement plant belching smoke.


Wind Turbines: the 260 horsepower BMW H7 runs on hydrogen, which is stripped from natural gas. A little of it might come from electroysis, but none of that is coming from wind power, more likely coal or nuclear. So does putting the car in front of turbines make it seem more green than it is?


Hippies: Then there is the egregious use of hippie imagery to peddle countertops with 20% pre-consumer content by LG Eden.

And the Shell ad with the flowers coming out of the smokestacks and the trippy lettering, which the advertising standards watchdog made them pull.

Have you seen any other ads that abuse or misuse children, wind turbines or hippies or other green imagery to deliver a greenwashing message? Let us know.

Tags: Advertising | Greenwashing

Best of TreeHugger