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A brief history of greenwashing

Saturday 11th May 2024.


The history of paper has closely accompanied the development of humankind over the centuries: from the transmission of new knowledge in science and philosophy to the spread of education and the achievement of political and historical awareness through the invention of the printing press.

We at ECO123 also print still on paper (The new ECO123 issue 34 will be published shortly) and we always use recycled paper, i.e., paper that has already been used and printed on before. Normally this wastepaper is carefully sorted and shredded, then showoered and turned into a mass of pulp, or cellulose, before being rolled and dried again. There is money to be made from paper.

You can also make good money with toilet paper. On 16 April, we wrote an email to the so-called discounter ALDI in Montijo, whose toilet paper we have been using for 20 years. We have always bought recycled paper from SOLO or RENOVA (€2.99). Recently, ALDI stopped selling this. Instead, YOU now sell green-coloured toilet paper from The Navigator Company (€3.99), which is made from eucalyptus wood. You know you can’t call that ‘sustainable’ in your report. You can buy the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) label. This has nothing to do with sustainability.

Eucalyptus is a highly flammable material due to its essential oils. Eucalyptus draws water from the soil. The tree is a type of invasive plant. In order to plant this Australian tree in Portugal in monoculture, almost 10,000 km² of native mixed forest (cork oaks, etc.), more than ten per cent of Portugal’s total area (92,000 km²), was cleared between 1990 and 2020 and replaced by eucalyptus for the (processing of) paper production by ‘The Navigator Company’ (Semapa). You know why there are always devastating forest fires in Portugal…”

The answer from ALDI came five minutes later from the computer. We received the number 02343040 and two more automatic emails by the editorial deadline. ALDI shies away from a clear answer. We decided not to wait any longer for an answer and to buy our toilet paper from the competitor in future, recycled, and of course not from Greenwashing. We are always careful what products we buy. We read the small print and avoid CO2 emissions.

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Uwe Heitkamp (64)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, knows Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123. Translations: Dina Adão, John Elliot, Patrícia Lara
Photos: Uwe Heitkamp

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