Greenwashing is tricky business. For those of you unaware of it’s meaning (though I’m certain you have encountered it on many different occasions), according to Wikipedia:
[g]reenwashing (a portmanteau of “green” and “whitewash”) is the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly.
(Normally I wouldn’t pull directly from a Wikipedia article, but it mentions portmanteaus and that is something I cannot resist.)
This is something that gets my back up on a day-to-day basis, but I recently attended a lecture on sustainability that made the greenwashing trend even harder to ignore.
It all happened last Thursday in Lunenburg. I was there for personal interest and work obligation. It was a part of an architecture conference and the lecturer in question was Glenn Murcutt. For a bit of context, he is an influential Australian architect who has been practicing since the early 60s.
Among many other things, Murcutt is well known in the architecture world for his early and heartfelt dedication to sustainability in design. I doubt I can convey his earnestness and sincerity in their full glory, so I will try to describe how the experience affected me (as usual).
As Murcutt described his education in the natural world, I was moved by the grace of his language. He spoke on the conditions of his natural surroundings and how they were employed in his design process. It involves a thorough knowledge of the regional environment, weather patterns, cultural needs, and a myriad of other factors. These are factors that you can only know through immersion. In that strange and fascinating way, you don’t know until you know.
It was a beautiful thing. Though he made it clear that sustainability, or responsibility, is endlessly complex, it all seemed so natural, so easy.
The value of responsible, local participation was really driven home. Greenwashing is easy. But the care and holism of truly sustainable design is, I feel, invaluable.