Greenwash = Deceptive marketing used to promote the perception that a policy or products are environmentally friendly
Ethical awards: green wash or genuinely recognising sustainability? – The Guardian
Are you being green washed by the travel industry? – Observer
Have you been greenwashed? – Guardian Travelog
Tourism Greenwashing – Green Traveller
Sneaky ‘green’ marketing: the world of greenwashing – G Magazine
Responsible Travel Say that Observer Should look at own green travel purchasing – Travelmole
Greenwash meeting puts tripadvisor under microscope – Travelmole
Are We Being Greenwashed? Essay by Ron Mader (response to ‘Are you being green washed?)
Travelers should be aware not just of greenwash within bookings but within other components of the tourism industry as well, including government agencies, NGOs, donor institutions, media and academia. It’s good to see the Observer’s article ‘Are you being green washed by the travel industry?‘ with its promise of a review of the travel industry, but the focus ought to be more inclusive.
Simply put greenwashing occurs at all levels.
What is needed most now is more transparent communication and more engaging conversation in the natural world AND online the Web. If Trip Advisor can counsel travelers on good deals, then why haven’t we seen any social media travel site explore sustainability issues in depth? The answer seems to be two-fold: 1) it’s complicated, and 2) there’s more money in booking operations and traditional tourism. Exploration and dialogue denied.
Some background. For my part, I created a website called Planeta.com in 1994 to foster a global dialogue on ecotourism and responsible travel. Planeta.com features a World Travel Directory — guides and operators — but instead of handling the sales, we allow individuals to make contact directly with the providers. In my view the best tools that promote direct contact between traveler and tour provider. What Planeta.com provides is as much a service for the traveler (yes, these operators are doing something ‘eco’) but just as much we provide some guidance and technical assistance for the operator. Many operators have good intentions but are just learning how to green their operations. Planeta.com helps to share this information.
Beyond promotion of individual operations we have hosted 20 online conferences since 2000, topics ranging from the sustainable development of ecotourism to ethical marketing and the environmental impact of transportation.
My view is that if we can focus our attention and share information publicly, we can nudge ourselves toward sustainability. This is part of the experiential learning cycle provided we reflect and share what we experience. The challenge, again, occurs mostly in terms of governance as local, state and international leaders don’t wish to be questioned, rarely document anything that’s not a 100% success and frequently slide into greenwash themselves.
I would take issue with the claim that ‘eco’ has lost all power and meaning. It makes more sense to view the ‘shades of green’ aptly described in a book of the same name. This book sets out a practical sliding environmental scale from deep green to not even a little bit green. We should apply the same to tours, to individual places, to government offices, to NGOs and to tourism events. Our objective should simply be how we can work together to make any of these elements a shade greener.
NGOs would make a greater impact not by stating what is and is not ‘certified’ or ‘eco’ but creating being more transparent themselves. We need to work together to create spaces for informed discussion manifested locally and connected on the Web. Otherwise, the talk of labels and ‘fair trade’ is simply an invitation for more disagreement and more confusion by locals and travelers alike.