Involuntary Greenwashing is a Dirty Business

In an item I blogged and wrote an op-ed about last week, I examined how California environmental activists are using irrational and unscientific arguments to push for an unjustified ban on polystyrene food service items.

Now, we are learning of a new development. An activist group, the Surfrider Foundation,
recently wrote to California restaurants asking them support the polystyrene ban.

It is one thing for a businesses to decide to give their consumers a “green” option, or even to not use a product such as polystyrene if it thinks it makes good business sense. There’s even a term for trying to gain business by touting (usually bogus) green credentials, it is called “greenwashing.”

But for companies to lobby the government for a ban on a product that other companies (and thus consumers) may want to use, strikes me of something far worse than greenwashing. It is an effort to use government force to limit two core American concepts: competition and consumer choice.

In a December 9, 2011 letter to the California Restaurant Association, the Surfrider Foundation writes,

Surfrider Foundation has established this Foam Free Pledge to allow the public to show their support for restaurants that use alternatives to Styrofoam (TM).
Okay, so they want to sow the seeds of a greenwashing effort. Fine. However, the letter continues,

In this vein, we urge the California Restaurants Association to support SB 568 (Lowenthal) as a way to reduce litter caused by polystyrene foam take-out food containers on California’s streets and in its waterways.

This is not in the same “vein.” It is a very different and dangerous vein. It is far more insidious than simply greenwashing. By asking restaurants to lobby for the state-wide polystyrene ban,  they are no longer only  asking restaurants to individually make a voluntary (if not pandering), self-limiting “foam free pledge,”  they are now asking restaurants to demand that the government to require other companies (their competition), and by extension, all consumers in the state, to be “foam free”. There’s nothing voluntary about that.

California restaurants should do what they think is best for their own business, but they shouldn’t agree to the Surfrider request that they ask the government to make decisions for them, their comptetition, and their consumers.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.