Lost in translation: A green-washing guide to words like Renewable, Sustainable, Ecological, Environmental, Organic, or All-Natural

After I posted “Why Are We Draining Wetlands and Destroying Peat Bogs to Fill Flower Pots?” it received many supportive comments in various forums. A few prospective customers even sent me their contact information. One commenter, obviously supportive of the peat industry, defended it as a “renewable resource” and that made me think about the weasel words advertising, marketing and sales executives use to garner green-credibility for their products. I hear words, like organic, ecological and natural a bit differently than most, I guess, like nails on a chalkboard differently. The reference to peat being “renewable” was exceptionally exasperating, maybe because it’s technically true.

Draining Peat Bogs to Fill Flower Pots

In my former convention sales life, there was a story circulating about an east coast destination telling prospective clients that their center was also “green”. No one could quite understand how that had been achieved unless they were referring to the actual color of their building. Green-washing, whether literal or figurative, is telling people your building is green after painting it that color, putting out recycling cans with no real intention of recycling, or using terms like “renewable” when words like “sustainable”, “environmental” or “ecological” would not be true. Renewable, which means to regenerate or regrow, implies that extracting peat from water purifying, carbon sequestering, wildlife nurturing, climate moderating, wetland is environmentally responsible, which of course it is not.

While peat renews itself, growing one tiny millimeter each year, it would take upwards of 10,000 years, at that rate, to achieve meaningful restoration. That’s exactly why the lower 48 states have next to no active peat moss operations any longer. Americans extracted much of our resources decades ago and now import 1.1 million tons of Canadian wetland wilderness annually. The unsustainable exploitation of the commodity at the lower latitudes is exactly why such operations keep marching northwards. That is true both in North America and in Europe.

So, yes, I’ll admit that peat is renewable, just like pure white baby Seal fur, Rhinoceros horn, exotic bird feathers, Elephant and Whale Ivory can all regrow and be considered “renewable”. Despite that, 160 nations have seen fit to ban the trade of such items through an International Trade Agreement, because continued commercial consumption of these “renewable” products would lead to unsustainability and extinction. Once leadership or the consumers in those same country’s finally comprehend that, destroying carbon sequestering peatlands to fill frivolous flower pots has global climate implications no amount of greenwash will stop the momentum to end the peat trade. I have a feeling some peat pusher just heard nails on a chalkboard.


About Mont @PittMoss

Just trying to change the world a little bit before I die & get old. Inventor of PittMoss® & Founder/CEO of PittMoss LLC. Ambridge, PA. www.pittmoss.com
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