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churches, carbon footprints, and corporate greenwashing

Posted: February 29 2008

carbon footprintThis week's New Yorker includes an article by Michael Specter about consumer pressure forcing large companies to adopt greener practices. Specter claims that "having a large carbon footprint is the modern equivalent of wearing a scarlet letter." It's not just a moral shift in the corporate world, Specter argues, but "the need to placate customers" who have made it clear with their dollars that they would rather make environmentally-responsible choices, even spend more, when given an option. If you're interested in the carbon trade, Specter's article goes into great detail explaining the Chicago Climate Exchange.
The good news is that people in positions of real power to effect large-scale change are now telling consumers they will improve upon their dismal environmental records, like the head of British supermarket chain Tesco pledging to lower the company's carbon footprint and develop a carbon labeling system and Steve Jobs promising a greenerA Greener Apple Apple. These corporate leaders are responding to your consumer behavior in rhetoric, and hopefully soon greater action will follow.
Your dollars matter. The Greenhorns strongly advocate the power you have to vote with your fork.
There's also bad news, of course, as corporate greenwashing continues apace : eco-offenders pay advertisers loads of money to make them look green instead of spending the money necessary to be green. (Here's an interesting post from Gristmill about whether or not corporations should be berated for their greenwashing.)
Equal ExchangeBut, it is very hopeful that the desire to be environmentally-responsible in our consumer culture has reached other trend-setting stalwarts , like churches, who demonstrate their values by buying fair trade coffee and sugar to serve at their receptions. Churches already have the infrastructure for community building, and usually a certified kitchen in the basement to nurture young food businesses.
While those at the top of the consumer food chain may just be posturing for now, if grassroots trend-setters like churches, neighborhood communities, and students continue to vote for more moral and local food production with their dollars and their forks, those at the top will have to follow suit.
post script: read comments from Equal Exchange about this post