Damned if you do, damned if you don't. That's how American business could describe media coverage of their efforts, or alleged lack thereof, to "go green."
Witness Newsweek's Weston Kosova gripe about businesses that couch cost-curbing measures as "green" or Earth-friendly.
In his September 21 "Web exclusive," Kosova slams the hotel industry for dishonesty for encouraging some conservationist behavior that environmentalists have long urged. It seems Kosova is seeing red over the profit-friendly aspects of supposed corporate eco-consciousness (emphasis mine):
Industry groups that advise hotels on becoming more environmentally friendly tend to stress the money they'll save just as much as the benefits to the planet. "Why should hotels be green?" asks the Green Hotels Association's Web site. "Haven't you heard? Being green goes directly to your bottom line." The site explains that by getting guests to recycle towels and linens, hotels can save 5 percent on utility bills. Testimonials from the group's members show that those guilt-inducing cards really work. "Some days, housekeeping staffers, who usually clean 15 rooms a day, don't change a single bed," said one satisfied hotel owner, who estimates that "70 percent of people staying more than one night participate in the program." Another member reports that far fewer guests ask for new towels.
So let's review: We give up a nice luxury to save the hotel money; the hotel congratulates itself on being green for peer pressuring us into giving up the luxury under the pretext of environmental consciousness; the hotel keeps the money. Nice work.
Kosova then went on to gripe about the hypocrisy of these same hotels for other actions that he judged to be harmful to the environment:
Am I making too much of this? After all, even if profit is the motive, the net result is a reduction in the hotel's "carbon footprint," as the vogue expression goes. But here's what gets me: the hotels I stayed in this summer didn't seem all that interested in being green when it came to other things. The lobby of the big resort was decadently air conditioned to meat locker temperatures. All day long, that frosty air rushed out the vast double doors, which were left flung open in the July heat. The resort also had a fleet of big, gas guzzling vans idling at the curb to transport guests around the grounds. The drivers didn't wait for the vehicles to fill up before pulling away; often they would chauffeur one person in a 16 passenger vehicle that would be lucky to get 6 miles per gallon. I'd have felt a lot less skeptical about those save-the-planet towel cards if they had read, "We want to replace our vans with earth friendlier natural gas models. But they're expensive, and we don't want to raise room rates. Please consider re-using your towels and we'll put all the money we save on laundering toward more fuel efficient vehicles."
I find it hard to believe that Kosova would be inclined to lodge at those hotels again if they made him wait long for his shuttle or kept the lobby a balmy 75 degrees.
Indeed, it seems running the lobby A/C at full blast and being quick to run the passenger vans are costly measures -- wait, I thought the hotel was penny-pinching to fatten its bottom line? -- aimed at ensuring guest comfort and ensuring return customers.
Nope. To Kosova, these are just dastardly, careless ways that the evil hotel industry abuses the planet.
So what does Kosova really want from companies that bill themselves as environmentally conscious? Well, aggressive lobbying for more government regulation, of course:
You might think that if Chevron was really worried about problems like global warming, they would spend some of those p.r. dollars lobbying Congress to adopt stricter gas mileage requirements for automobiles. They do not do this. Instead, I'm apparently supposed to praise them as environmental heroes because they tell me to unplug my toaster and think about getting a Prius.
Kosova's Web exclusive makes abundantly clear that folks like him in the media are not so much worried about protecting the Earth -- a green motivation -- as they are at punishing private companies for daring to make some green off a liberal craze:
In the name of saving the planet, my cable TV operator keeps asking for permission to stop sending paper statements in the mail each month. Instead, I'm supposed to check my statement online. The real reason, of course, is that doing so would save them paper, printing and postage. This is a perfectly legitimate reason for them to want me to switch. But when they pretend that it's all about the environment, it just makes me hate my cable company even more than I already do. Despite this, I would still consider switching to online statements if they would agree to use the money they save to hire cable TV repairmen who know how to repair cable TV.