There are different definitions of the term “greenwashing” floating around.  It is interesting, and instructive, to examine these definitions.

The original, and I think the more appropriate, definition of greenwashing is along the lines of the one in

A false or misleading picture of environmental friendliness used to conceal or obscure damaging activities.

One example of this approach is groups with names sounding environmentally friendly or benign, but which in fact actively fight environmentalists on different fronts.

One insidious form of greenwashing has involved attempts to put environmental groups out of business by filing costly legal action against them. The idea is, in effect, to wash the green groups away by making them spend all their money defending themselves.

Another, broader, definition is being put forward these days. A marketing firm, Terrachoice, is making some hay by defining the term in their report, “The Six Seven Sins of Greenwashing” (available here), as follows:

Green∙wash (gren’wosh’,-wôsh’) – verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

This definition is being used in criticism of practices by some food producers, which appear to be getting on the gravy train by making invalid claims about the organic nature of their products.