A History of Greenwashing: How Dirty Towels Impacted the Green Movement

greenwashing green police consumer ally
greenwashing green police consumer ally

At some point in the mid-1980s, a pony-tailed upstate New York environmental activist named Jay Westerveld picked up a card in a South Pacific hotel room and read the following: "Save Our Planet: Every day, millions of gallons of water are used to wash towels that have only been used once. You make the choice: A towel on the rack means, 'I will use again.' A towel on the floor means, 'Please replace.' Thank your for helping us conserve the Earth's vital resources." The card was decorated with the three green arrows that make up the recycling symbol.

Westerveld saw irony in the "save the towel" movement, because hotels waste resources in many different ways -- and not washing as many linens saves the corporation money. He put his thoughts together in a 1986 essay and, as he tells it, coined the phrase "greenwashing" in the process.