When Green Wash Won’t Wash – Avoiding Misleading Environmental Claims

Businesses are increasingly keen to present an environmentally friendly or ‘green’ image to their customers. Both large and small businesses realise that it makes good business sense to offer environmentally conscious consumers the option of a green product or service. Customers are often willing to pay a significant price premium for a green product.

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Unfortunately, many businesses, including large businesses, have made fundamental mistakes in their green marketing greenhouse air conditioner. Instead of getting positive publicity for offering a green alternative, these companies have received negative publicity for their “green wash”. In some cases, these companies have had to grapple with unwanted attention from the ACCC.

This article explores some of the green marketing mistakes that businesses have made in trying to sell their green credentials and propose some guidelines that practitioners can use to help their clients to avoid these kinds of mistakes.

As energy prices rise and the threat of global warming becomes ever more apparent there has been a rapid increase in the availability of energy efficient hot water systems. Green water heaters can be electric or gas, run off solar energy or a heat pump system. They can also contain a tank or operate without one. A green water heater is essentially designed to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced while it is heating water for use in the home.

Tankless water heaters are proclaimed by some to be the most efficient form of water heating device available. That is because they do not contain a tank that can constantly lose heat to the environment when it is not being used. Although this is technically correct, a recent study by the Australian Government has shown that tankless units actually take longer to supply hot water to where it is needed. The extra time required to achieve the desired temperature results in more water being wasted, a big problem in drought prone regions. For this reason units with a tank system are preferred, and any loss of heat can be minimised by adequate insulation.

Tankless water systems can use electricity or gas to warm water to the required temperature. While electrical heaters are cheaper to purchase and install, the running costs and production of greenhouse gases are less with gas powered heaters.

Green electric water heaters can also have an integrated tank system that stores hot water when it is not required. The greatest loss of energy occurs when a tank is too big for the household. This results in excessive amounts of energy to maintain the water temperature inside the tank and can lead to higher energy bills.

While electric and gas water heaters are becoming more energy efficient they still rely on a non-renewable source of fuel. Solar hot water heaters on the other hand are supplied by renewable solar power and truly are green water heaters. In Australia there are now incentives and rebates available from Federal and State governments to encourage the installation of solar hot water heaters. It is important to note that many solar hot water heaters do have a backup electric element to ensure hot water in all weather conditions.

Heat pump water heaters are also considered green, containing a heat pump attached to a water tank. It operates like an air-conditioner in reverse drawing heat from the surrounding air and using it warm the water inside the tank. They can operate in fairly low temperatures, however there is usually an integrated electric element because of the long period of time it takes to warm the water.

The huge range of green and energy efficient water heaters now available demonstrates the importance of reducing greenhouse gas production and the reaction to rising energy prices.

Michael Duggan is the Managing Director of the FWR Group [http://www.fwrgroup.com.au], a niche consulting, coaching, education and training business specialising in the emerging sustainability sector.  Mike general manages FWR Group on a day to day basis, ensuring strategic development and business growth. Mike provides expertise in education for sustainability [http://www.ecolect.com.au], sustainable development, business and strategic sustainability.

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