Happy New Year 2014 – and may it be free of GREENWASH

by Tom Turner @ 7:53 pm December 31, 2013 -- Filed under: Landscape Architecture,Urban Design   

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Oxford English Dictionary offers this useful definition of greenwash (n)
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈɡriːnwɒʃ/ , U.S. /ˈɡrinˌwɔʃ/ , /ˈɡrinˌwɑʃ/
Etymology: < green adj. + wash n., after whitewash n.
Misleading publicity or propaganda disseminated by an organization, etc., so as to present an environmentally responsible public image; a public image of environmental responsibility promulgated by or for an organization, etc., regarded as being unfounded or intentionally misleading.
1987 D. Bellamy in Sanity Sept. 28/1 They create a lot of environmental ‘greenwash’, and thank god for it, because they create some very good nature reserves. But they’re also commissioning uneconomic nuclear power stations.
1989 Observer 5 Mar. 14/2 Six Ministers launched ‘Environment in Trust’, a clutch of pastel-shaded leaflets putting a greenwash over the Government’s environmental record.
1993 New Scientist 10 Apr. 22/2 While they can be useful, these sorts of standards are sometimes used quite cynically—as corporate greenwash.
2003 Managem. Today Jan. 45/2 Companies only report what they want to report, and it’s mostly greenwash and PR.


  1. It’s about time there was a proper word for this! All too many opportunities to use it. Sadly.

    Comment by Bridget Robinson — January 2, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

  2. I agree!

    Comment by Tom Turner — January 2, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

  3. Is the city shown above being given a healthy dose of cold broccoli soup? It does look badly in need of greens of any sort.

    Perhaps it would be useful in describing ‘green wash’ to distinguish between 1) the presence of organic green matter in the environment within the concrete jungle and 2) calls for building cities more densely ie. even more concrete jungle.
    [ http://images.rapgenius.com/rhb79wle0bquzm5nla1fducf.800x600x1.jpg ]

    The call for dense cities supposedly will save the green belts around cities [ http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02412/Green_belt_map_2412255a.png ] and prevent urban sprawl into peri-urban areas.

    But, how do we measure whether the admirable goal of saving greenbelts and preventing loss of prime agricultural land is being achieved by urban densification?

    Comment by Christine — January 4, 2014 @ 3:17 am

  4. Not broccoli soup: it is the Green Sauce which landscape architects are expected to pour on and around badly designed development projects.
    What a photograph!!! http://images.rapgenius.com/rhb79wle0bquzm5nla1fducf.800x600x1.jpg Could it be Hong Kong? It would take a good deal of green sauce to soup it up.
    London remains a low density capital city by international standards. My first choice would be to keep its present population size and density but this cannot be done (unless and until the EU changes its internal migration policies, or the UK withdraws from the EU). So my second choice is to raise the density and maintain the green belt. BUT every density-increasing development should have a layer of ‘green sauce’ at roof level. I plan a short video about how to do this.

    Comment by Tom Turner — January 4, 2014 @ 6:30 am

  5. Unfortuneately Green Sauce will not disguise badly designed development projects either, no matter how well made and tasty the Green Sauce is.

    I am not sure if the city is Hong Kong. Hong Kong is actually a very interesting city in an amazing natural setting. But it is certainly not a model for London’s future development.

    Do you think there might be a middle way? Perhaps the internal migration policies could be more like those that existed previously between countries before the Union, but with privileges of membership more like the right of abode provisions that Australians with UK ancestry were given?

    Perhaps this could assist with the governments ability to forward plan for population?

    Comment by Christine — January 6, 2014 @ 5:18 am

  6. I think there are lots of middle ways and would like to see a great deal more diversity between cities. This applies to physical form and to migration policies. British immigration policy is traditionally liberal but the large numbers of arrivals in the past few decades have called this into question. All sorts of deals could be done and arrangements made but many people (including me!) do not like being told by ‘Brussels’ what we have to do.

    Comment by Tom Turner — January 6, 2014 @ 11:31 am

  7. Yes. Perhaps Brussels is not the place to decide this particular issue of migration within the EU. It would be interesting to hear which issues the public of the member states are happy to get directives from Brussels on and which issues they consider should be internal affairs? Is there a difference in opinion on this between destination and departure states?

    Comment by Christine — January 8, 2014 @ 3:03 am

  8. I do not follow it closely but my impression is that the EU does well on environmental policy and other cross-border issues of the same type. Its single great achievement, so great that many people think it outweighs everything else, it that it has brought 2000 years of near-continuous warfare to an end.
    Re migration, the departure states think it is great and there is resentment, at various degrees, in the destination states. At present there is concern in the UK about the right (since 1.1.2014) of Bulgarians and Romanians to settle in the UK. Yet we have often have their foreign ministers on the radio saying we have no right to complain and that it is good for us. About 1.2m Poles have come to the UK since 2002. They have the reputation of working harder than British people and for less money.

    Comment by Tom Turner — January 8, 2014 @ 5:40 pm

  9. Peace is definitely an achievement worth celebrating.

    It is very difficult for individual Polish and Romanian people if British people feel swapped by their compatriots. (Without being told they are lazy and expensive to employ in the own country). I am sure if an equivalent amount of English people decided to buy property in Warsaw using their superior economic strength the Polish government wouldn’t take the line that it is “good for them”. [ http://www.homestate.pl/clientzone.html ] and [ http://www.themovechannel.com/propertyforsale/6-bed-house-warsaw-poland-9521816/ ]

    Instead of policies which promote lose/lose situations the EU should aim for policies which are win/win situations.

    Perhaps there needs some imaginative brainstorming in the EU parliament by the ministers to decide more equitable and beneficial outcomes?

    Comment by Christine — January 10, 2014 @ 4:23 am

  10. I have read that migrants are almost always harder working and more productive than natives, which never does much for their popularity.
    Re the room in Warsaw, I wonder if all-white would make me calm/unproductive, calm/productive, bored or lazy?
    If one is sure that democracy is the worst form of government except, as Churchill remarked, all the others, then the problem with the EU is that it is fundamentally undemocratic: the bureaucrats have most of the power and are convinced, like all bureaucrats, that they have the best knowledge of what is best for the people. Could they change? Not willingly.

    Comment by Tom Turner — January 10, 2014 @ 8:18 am

  11. Did not know that there was a word for that, my friends and I used to call this ‘Congreenient’- meaning the opportunity to be green only when convenient

    Comment by james — January 18, 2014 @ 10:44 am

  12. The problem with being ‘green’ is that there are many shades of green to choose from. One of my first lessons in environmental law was that the profession of architecture was been driven by an agenda of energy efficient due to the Mckinsey cost curve. [ http://leisureguy.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/mckinsey-low-carbon-cost-curve-2009-big.gif ]
    - basically economic pragmatism!

    Comment by Christine — January 25, 2014 @ 4:18 am

  13. Interesting cost curve. I wish it included cycling as a means of CO2 reduction.

    Comment by Tom Turner — January 25, 2014 @ 8:45 pm

  14. Yes, one of the obvious omissions. What percentage of cyclists are accountants or economists? Perhaps a recruitment drive/cycle is needed?

    Comment by Christine — January 29, 2014 @ 12:18 am

  15. In the City of London a great many lawyers, bankers and sharks travel by bike (or, to be more accurate, by Brompton). Some do it in pin-stipe suits. Others arrive in dayglo lycra and don the city uniform (probably without ties) in the toilets.

    Comment by Tom Turner — January 29, 2014 @ 7:57 am

  16. I am familiar with the dayglo lycra accountant type. Perhaps some statistical profiling on cycle culture is in order?

    How popular is the cycle to work scheme?[ http://www.cycletoworkfinance-lhe.co.uk/faqs.html ]

    Comment by Christine — February 3, 2014 @ 3:53 am

  17. A full social survey of cycling habits would be much more useful than some of the crazy surveys undertaken by sociologists.
    The cycle to work scheme sounds good but I have not heard of many people using it. People seem to be cyclists or not cyclists and a little bit of cash here or there may not be a big influence on their habits. What they want is safety – and comfort.

    Comment by Tom Turner — February 3, 2014 @ 5:58 am

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