“Sustainability” is an oft-cited buzzword in today’s society. We see and hear it and its cousins (“green,” “eco-friendly,” “environmental,” “organic,” etc.) every day. In class we learned that some products and services claiming to be “green,” are in fact only “greenwashed.” We also learned that environmental decision making stems from (among other factors) a consumer’s knowledge, and labels are a source of that knowledge.
This paper requires you to find a product that claims to be “sustainable,” critically evaluate its sustainability, and make suggestions for improvement through a revamped product label. The product you select might be something you see in a grocery or retail store, an ad on TV or online, or otherwise. You will need to do some research about the company that offers the product, so make sure the item you choose has some information about it online. You will also need to research the product itself. You may be able to find information on the specific brand (ex: Horizon Milk). If there is no research on the specific brand, search for the generic product (ex: Organic milk, electric cars, green cleaning products).
To get full points, respond directly to each of the prompts below. This assignment is a research paper, and therefore requires you to provide in-text citation to accompany all non-common knowledge. Information you learn from lecture should not be considered common knowledge. You must cite your sources using external materials, and follow up on your citations with your own original analysis.
In your paper:
Introduce the product (15 points)
What is the product and how does it claim to be “sustainable?” (ex: does it reduce carbon emissions? Is it locally grown? Is it organic?) (4 points)
Include a picture of the product showing the “green” label and a link to the producer’s website. (5 points)
Where did you come across this product? Include the city/town as well as the specific store or URL if online. (5 points)
Have you used the product before? Do you always recall it advertised as “green?” (1 points)
Critically analyze the product’s “sustainability:” (25 points)
Where is the product produced? Get as specific as possible in scale (ex: city, county, region within a country). (4 points)
How far away is the area of production from where you personally might purchase the product? Why does the mileage relate to sustainability? Use information you have learned from lecture or readings about the “local” scale for sustainability in your response. (6 points)
Does the product claim to be (1) environmentally, (2) socially, and/or (3) economically sustainable? If so, how? If not, how might the product become more sustainable under that pillar? Be sure to address each pillar of sustainability in your response. (15 points, five for each pillar).
Is the product greenwashed? (35 points)
Define greenwashing from from the EHP article. (5 points)
Based on your product research, would you consider this product to be “greenwashed?” If so, why? If not, why not? Refer to the appropriate “sins” from the EHP article to answer. (10 points)
What new information should be available to the consumer before purchasing this product? Make a one page advertisement of the product with your new sustainability information/labels/certifications for the sustainability-conscious consumer. Explain why you designed the new label as such, and how it will better inform the sustainable consumer (your new product label can account for the photo page of your paper). (5 points)
Where should the responsibility for sustainable consumption lie? With the individual? With the corporation? With the retailer? The government? Others? Explain your rationale. Refer to what you’ve learned about an individual’s capacity vs. responsibility in living a pro-environmental lifestyle based on both the Kollmus/Agyeman and Middlemiss readings (10 points).
How has your research on the sustainability of this product changed the way you perceive other products and services claiming to be sustainable? What, if anything, will you do differently when considering a “green” purchase in the future? (5 points)
Points can be subtracted for the following:
Poor grammar, spelling, and syntax: 1-5 points
Improper paper formatting: 1-5 points
Six page minimum for paper content, with:
At least five full pages of consecutive text
At least one page of photos, tables, figures (advertisement)
Not included as one of the six pages of paper content:
One title page with your name, date, paper title (do not repeat this information on the first page of text content).
Improper paper styling: 1-5 points
Times New Roman size 12 font
1 inch margins
0 point spacing before and after paragraphs
Citations: 10+ points detracted for:
Not having at least two scholarly sources
Not having AAG style citations
Inconsistent in-text citations:
No bibliography page