Can we turn back the tide of greenwash?

Advertisers have long been accused of brainwashing the public. Over fifty years ago, when Vance Packard published his famous book The Hidden Persuaders, people were already worried about the extent to which we’re manipulated by subliminal messages.

Today, the worry is that we’re peddled a load of soft soap on the environment by a bunch of skilled PR practitioners and experts in so-called ‘corporate social responsibility’. This greenwashing phenomenon has been nicely parodied by two students I taught this year at Kingston University in south-west London. Eleanor Goodwin and Sarah Burnett have created a range of eco-friendly packaging for distinctly unfriendly products such as weedkiller and rat poison. You can now destroy vermin safe in the knowledge that you’re doing your bit for the planet.