Greenwashing and the so called “Plant Bottle”

From this week’s discussion on greenwashing, I wanted to focus on a common place item that most people disregard as having such a significantly negative impact on the environment.  Though we briefly discussed the hidden consequences of the plant bottle in class, I wanted to further analyze the Coca Cola environmental campaign in terms of the TerraChoice criteria.  The campaign was criticized on its integrity by a Danish reporter for the International Business Times, stating the the environmental claims associated with the new bottle lacked a “true, balanced and loyal overall impression”.  In the campaign, the advertisement shows a new designed shape of a coke bottle that is depicted emerging from plant leaves.  The ad makes the claim that the new bottle uses “up to 30% plant based material” and is a “100% recyclable” bottle, stating that the plastic is “redesigned, and recyclable as ever”.  The campaign also claims that the new bottle is “environmentally friendly” and has a “reduced carbon footprint”.  This marketing campaign to the public consumer by Coca Cola falls suit to several of the TerraChoice “sins”.  One of these sins is “worshipping false labels”, or making untrue associations and assumptions based on green imagery, symbolism, and backdrops.  Many consumers are manipulated through the images of nature that companies use to cover up a weak claim that they are producing a “green” product; this is seen in the coke campaign through the green leaves wrapping around the bottle, the logo resembling the recycling sign with the green arrow, as well as the naturalistic looking graphic design.  The campaign also suffers from the “sin of vagueness”.  Though the ad states that the bottle is “environmentally friendly” because of the use of “up to 30% plant materials”, one article identifies this claim as ridiculous, as the percentage could be and normally is much lower than 30%. ” The percentage of plant-based material used in the bottle varies for different markets. In Denmark, Øe notes, the bottle contains only a maximum of 15 percent plant material — a percentage he said hardly justifies the designation ‘PlantBottle.'”  Additionally, the advertisement also commits the “lesser of the two evils” sin. While the plant bottle for Coca Cola  products may use less plastic and more green materials, it ignores the fact that despite a minimal reduction in CO2 emissions, the mass production of plastic materials still leaves a severe carbon footprint, as about 6 kg CO2 is produced per kg of plastic.  Also, in terms of the water bottle production with the same bottle from Coca Cola, it notably takes more energy to produce bottled water than it would for consumers to filter the water themselves.  On the website, the Greenwashing Index, consumers’ average rating gave the plant bottle ads an average score of 4.1 on a scale from 1-5, 5 being the most dishonest and false claims.  As consumers we should remain cognizant of the way marketing campaigns can try to persuade us with false claims, trying to identify the “sins” of the TerraChoice model.

images-1 coca-cola-plantbottle-3 Unknown

http://www.organicauthority.com/blog/organic/coca-colas-sustainable-plantbottle-claims-full-of-hot-air/

http://www.ibtimes.com/coca-cola-company-ko-busted-greenwashing-plantbottle-marketing-exaggerated-environmental-benefits

http://www.greenwashingindex.com/coca-cola-new-plant-bottle/

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6 thoughts on “Greenwashing and the so called “Plant Bottle”

  1. I think this entire campaign is ludicrous because using plastic bottles are completely environmentally-unfriendly. Just use a reusable bottle.

    Tessa Ward

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  2. I think you bring up a great point about how inaccurate the plant make up in these bottles are. especially with this example as how green washing has polluted advertising for harmful products. Not that this would happen but I could see a loophole where someone labels plastics as close to 100% plant free because after all the plastic we use came from plants that dissociated and formed oil over years,
    Aras Klimas

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  3. I think the reason this ad is effective is because unfortunately most people don’t understand that most of the plastic bottles that advertise a green design use the tag line made with UP TO __% OF NATURAL MATERIALS and many people don’t understand that means it can have up to __% recycled material but it can also have less recycled material then that. Its a lack of understanding slightly more scientific jargon.

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  4. I just yelled at one of my friends today for buying a giant case of water. He said you can recycle them so he didn’t think it mattered. I think this just goes to show the lack of knowledge a majority of our population has about environmental issues. Greenwashing is definitely a major cause of this issue.

    Megan DeBanto

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  5. I like how you related coca-cola’s ad to the few of TerraChoice’s listed sins. The so called 30% plant material is bullshit. Coke tries to make their products sound so grand to the public, but it’s not tricking me! The carbon footprint in producing plastic bottles is hilarious and coke is trying to make it seem like they’re helping the environment. Hah.

    Joseph Hu

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  6. Plastic bottles are crazy! Everybody uses them, but they are just beyond awful for the environment. Even if the so called plant bottle is “better” how does it help the environment? I guarantee it doesn’t break down not making it any better for the environment, and using less plastic doesn’t really do anything its just a sa;es tactic to get people to buy their product.

    Eli Farmer

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