Catch ‘Em Doing Something Right

Catch ‘Em Doing Something Right

I’m angry. I don’t often write angry posts here, but here goes.
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Here's a challenge: instead of crying "#greenwash," let's catch big companies doing something right. via @Greenopolis
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 2:01pm


There’s 11 people missing and an oil rig sunk in the Gulf of Mexico. There are 29 miners dead in a West Virginia coal mine. And Greenopolis has been getting heavy flack amidst the kudos for partnering with companies to take the plastic bottles from soft drinks and water back and bring them around again so we don’t need another trip to the coal mine or wellhead.

It would be wonderful if every drink that ever passed our lips was pure and healthy and all water just flowed clean and fresh from the ground into our mouths. And it would be great if there were a local glass company in every town so all that heavy glass, too “fuelish” to ship long distance, could be remade in every area instead of landfilled or put into roadbeds. And if pigs had wings, they could fly. Maybe. Plastic and Aluminum are ubiquitous because they are light and strong and energy efficient to ship all over. I drink the occasional cola or bottled water or juice. I even grab a bag of chips sometimes-the salt and vinegar kind. Most of us do, even if we eat free range, fair trade, shade grown, local, organic healthy most of the time.  For those who never let a chip or soda or bottled water pass their lips, congratulations. Virtue is its own reward.

One of my rabbis taught me that failure to do what is good because it is not perfect insures that evil will triumph in the world. PepsiCo is not perfect. Nestle Waters is not perfect. WM is not perfect. Greenopolis is not perfect and neither am I. I’ll let you pass judgment on yourself.

Think of how we too often greet announcements by big companies who are trying to do something right. Nike addressing labor issues.  Wal-Mart promoting CFL bulbs. BP calling out climate change. Some appreciate it and applaud. But too many simply cry green washing, trotting out past sins that the company or others like them have committed to show that these really bad people, as if the missteps of the past precluded any hope of change in the future. “You are bad, you were born bad, and nothing you ever do will ever change that. Please die.”

What if we treated our kids this way? Berated them ongoingly for all their past errors, looking at everything they did with suspicious, disapproving eyes. And when they did something right, dismissed it by pointing once again to their past wrong doings.  At best we’d raise neurotic kids, fearful and angry, with the self esteem of a whipped dog. At worst we’d raise twitchy hockey masked serial killers. 

Companies are made of people, people not so different from anyone else. They change and evolve continuously, just like any living system, because they are living systems! Just like all organizations, whether churches, non-profits, trade and ethic associations, labor unions, activist groups, they grow and mature, age and decline, respond to internal and external stimulus, and even learn. Nike addresses labor, toxics and waste. Wal-Mart promotes energy savings and packaging reduction. BP pulls the lid off climate change denial by oil companies. And Pepsi and Nestle Waters are walking a path toward closed loop recycling of bottles and cans so we can stop going back to the mine and oil well for more plastic. Is it sufficient by itself? No. But it’s a necessary step in the right direction. Gandhi said. ”Whatever we do will be insignificant, but it is vitally important that we do it.”

It’s vitally important that we praise and bless companies for the good steps they take, hold them to task for errors and harm, and insist they tell us the truth. Tough love, like you’d give a child. Just remember to catch ‘em doing something right, too. If we keep nudging each other in the right direction, with praise and correction, we might see the day when that coal and oil can just do their original jobs-holding up the Earth above it. End of Rant.

To weigh in on Joe Laur's argument, click here to see the original post. is dedicated to our users. We focus our attention on changing the world through recycling, waste-to-energy and conservation. We reward our users for their sustainable behaviors on our website, through our Greenopolis Tracking Stations and with curbside recycling programs.