Greener than thou

Norway’s consumer ombudsman is coming perilously close to madness in telling automakers they can’t market their products as “green” or “environmentally friendly”:

“Cars cannot do anything good for the environment except less damage than others,” Bente Oeverli, a senior official at the office of the state-run Consumer Ombudsman, told Reuters on Thursday…

“If someone says their car is more ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ than others then they would have to be able to document it in every aspect from production, to emissions, to energy use, to recycling,” she said.

Trouble is, this is true of any product of human hands — if somebody says something is “green” in some way, you can always ask, “Greener than what?”

  • ChevyVoltA hybrid is greener, on the road, than a Hummer.
  • But a small hybrid is probably greener than a larger one.
  • A bike is greener than the hybrid.
  • Walking is greener than biking.
  • Walking powered by having eaten a tofu salad for lunch is greener than walking having eaten a hamburger.
  • Not going at all is greener than walking having eaten a tofu salad.

Where do we stop? Singling out cars is a decision of ideology, not fact.

(Via WorldChanging. Photo credit: Flickr/jurvetson.)

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4 responses to “Greener than thou

  1. Conforming Iconoclast

    Nothing is greener than huddling in a tree eating fruits and insects.

    This is why I’d like to see ‘Carbon Credits’ become a smaller standard. My understanding is that they’re all measured in tonnes or something. What if a Hummer came with a 200000CC rating and the hybrid came with a 50000CC rating to reflect the carbon emitted to smelt the steel, the toxins for the batteries, and the carbon expected to be emitted during the products life?

    I dunno…something like that. Then again, the corps would screw with the figures till we were all going to hell in a green hand cart.

  2. I do appreciate that Norway is attacking standards in marketing. If by ‘firmly documented’, they can say that this year’s coupe outperforms environmentally that these 4 competitors in their class, then that’s an improvement over the slogans and word-smithing.

    So I wonder if the descent into madness was more a ‘get-with-the-program’ overstatement…

    And heck, the carmakers are happy with the stricter guidelines in marketing.

  3. I suspect the carmakers are happy because the guidelines effectively remove environmental friendliness as a basis f0r competition.

    It seems to me that the technical complaint here, aside from the ideological issue, is that ads claiming that certain cars are greener than others are vague. I don’t think you can ban vagueness from human communications, even if the vagueness is intentional and potentially misleading. Just as long as it’s not actually fraudulent.

  4. That’s a good point. Reminds me of the Pepsi/Coke taste tests, or doctors approving Bayer’s or Tylenol. “They” are always clever enough to be vague.!

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