Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Green Washing

Sometimes its funny how little thought is put into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. I know of an organization that felt the recycled cups that were being used at the tea/coffee and water dispenser machines were not environmentally friendly. They were identified as not being green enough! And within no time, they came up with a brilliant idea – give each and every employee a ceramic or a metal cup. There it is! We just turned green! And then they put up signboards everywhere saying – “Be Green. Do not use disposable cups”.

Now, I am no expert in “Green thinking”. But I guess, by doing away with the disposable cups there is an inherent thinking that using gallons of water to wash cups everyday is environmentally more friendly!

Lets take the average Jane. She drinks 3 cups of coffee in a day. Now, on an average washing a cup takes around 5-10 litres of water. And if you had forgotten to clean your cup after drinking your coffee last evening, then it takes twice the amount. So 3 cups of coffee equals washing the cup at least 3 times ( that's approximately 20 litres of water per person per day). For a 10,000 employee organization, we are assuming that wasting 200,000 litres of water a day is more environmentally friendly than using 30,000 disposable cups a day (please mind – we are not comparing financial costs here). And if we have to be really accurate then we also have to consider the delta effects of the electricity consumed by excess pumping of water, sewage treatment plant etc etc.

I have read similar arguments about the electric car. If you are using your household electricity to recharge your batteries then you have to account for how your electricity is produced. In countries like India where majority of our electricity is produced by burning coal, the environmental impact might be the same for electric or petrol engines.

I hope you got my point.

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