Greenwashing: When Green Just Isn’t Green

by Michael on May 29, 2010 · 0 comments

Wikipedia defines greenwashing as “the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly… It is a deceptive use of green PR or green marketing.” I bring this up because I saw a classic example of greenwashing when I stopped at K-Mart (yes, they still exist) this morning.


Check out the picture below to see what I’m talking about…

Yep, that’s right… Environmentally-friendly propane fuel. Never mind the warnings on the “DANGER” label:

  • Extremely flammable
  • Fire/explosion hazard
  • Contents under pressure
  • Carbon monoxide hazard

And please also ignore the fact that you’re looking at disposable canister filled with a fossil fuel. The only thing green about this product is the paint on the canister and the little plastic plug that supposedly makes it green.

For those that are unaware, the “Green Key” is intended to “durably mark the propane cylinder as empty for steel recyclers.” Don’t get me wrong, encouraging people to recycle is a good thing, but… Your key to being green? Really?

Note that I’m not necessarily condemning the use of propane cooking fuel. After all, it’s almost Memorial Day, and I’ll be firing up the gas grill myself this weekend. But I am condemning Coleman’s attempt at making their product appear green when – let’s be honest – it’s not.

Greenwashing ain’t easy

According to “The Greenwash Guide,” there are ten strategies that companies use when trying to greenwash a product. Coleman employs two of them in their attempt at making their propane canisters look like a friend of the Earth:

Irrelevant claims: Emphasizing one tiny green attribute when everything else is un-green.

Just not credible: ‘Eco-friendly’ cigarettes anyone? ‘Greening’ a dangerous product doesn’t make it safe.

Interestingly, while writing this article, I discovered that Coleman has actually abandoned the Green Key program because it “has not been received well with various recycling agencies across the country.”

While you can still find Green Key propane canisters on store shelves, Coleman is no longer producing them. Sadly, it looks like you’ll have to find another way to save the Earth.


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