THE BLOG
06/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Eco-Hitched

President Obama recently commended House Democrats for their "extraordinary progress" in their discussions on global warming and energy legislation now at the core of his national environmental plan claiming,

This is a major step forward in building the kind of clean energy economy that will reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. I once again call on Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution, which will then drive intent for the kind of innovation and dynamic, new, clean energy economy that can create jobs and new businesses all across America...this is an example of the extraordinary productivity that we're seeing over in the House right now.

The Sierra Club, the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States, also chimed in with their support of the legislation,

Chairmen Waxman and Markey have done heroic work in reaching agreement on the Energy and Commerce Committee around a comprehensive clean energy and climate plan, a critically important milestone that has faced seemingly insuperable obstacles. Their leadership has been truly remarkable. But it is clear that Big Oil, Big Coal and other polluters are still holding out for a Congressional bailout. They will continue to try to riddle this legislation with loopholes, water it down, and load it up with hundreds of billions of dollars in giveaways. They don't want it to deliver a recovery fueled by the clean energy jobs that America needs. These polluters are trying to strangle the clean energy economy in its cradle, steal the benefits of the clean energy future from the American people, and keep us addicted to oil and dirty coal. As this bill moves through the many remaining steps in the legislative process, we will work to strengthen this bill, so that it meets President Obama's challenge to Congress and the American people. Only a bill which accomplishes these three things can really jump-start the green recovery, build the clean energy future, and end our addiction to oil and coal.

That's very powerful support for the President and the legislation coming from the Sierra Club -- and they are to be commended -- but which side of their public mouth are they speaking, and why should we continue to care what the Sierra Club has to say?

As America's most influential naturalist, conservationist and self-described "poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist," John Muir, considered "The Father of our National Parks," "The Wilderness Prophet," and "The Citizen of the Universe," founded the Sierra Club, and once stated, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

Because of its pedigreed origins, its longevity, and longstanding level of respectability even when tree-hugging wasn't chic, we've somehow come to honor and value what the Sierra Club has come to stand for, and what they say and what they do, because they've held such a high place of eco-distinction for almost a century.

But unfortunately, as Muir predicted, even his beloved Sierra Club wasn't immune to "hitching" itself to one thing forgetting how that thing was "hitched" to everything else in the Universe. Last year, the Sierra Club "got hitched" to the Clorox Corporation and gave public support to their "less-bad" line of eco-cleaning products, Clorox Green Works™. In return, Clorox Corporation (which in 2007 received multiple fines from the Environmental Protection Agency) as seen on their website for Green Works™, proudly and financially supports the Sierra Club. You'll not only find the Sierra Club logo slapped on every Green Works™ product, but, you'll also see the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Design for the Environment" logo proudly displayed as well -- yes, the same EPA that issued multiple environmental fines against the Clorox Corporation. I know that politics makes for strange bedfellows, I just never had any idea how big that bed was!

OK, sure, Green Works'™ claim is that all its products are 99 percent "natural." But even if you found a complete ingredients listing on any Green Works'™ products, on average, 85% have never been tested -- "natural," "green," or not. In my opinion, their "natural" theory of safety is a "greenwashing" of major proportions, just to win a niche market of loyal consumers who are actually looking for products to use so that their families, pets, neighbors, and planet are safe -- and the Clorox Corporation has the money and power to exploit that market. What really gets to me, just because of the beautiful irony of it, is that the Green Works™ web site talks all about being "natural," and yet every flower photographed is fake or computer generated.

Now here is the remarkable part. No matter how much they promote, market, advertise, pay for endorsements, and somehow even got the government agency that two years ago sued them to now sponsor them, the entire eco-cleaning market is about $50 million. And yet, for fiscal year 2008, Clorox Corporation reported net earnings of $461 million from manufacturing all of its non-eco-friendly (and mostly petrochemical-based) chlorine bleaches; air fresheners; aluminum foil; auto-care products; über-poisonous bathroom and household cleaners; artificially infused scented candles; cat litter; cleaning utensils; disinfecting sprays; disinfecting wipes; fabric refreshers; environmentally unsound insecticides; plastic storage and garbage bags (which by the way, can take 1,000 years to decompose); plastic containers and wraps; water-filtration systems and filters (they bought Britta); waxes, and among other things -- yes -- their new-fangled "less bad" brand of "natural" Green Works™ cleaning products for which they receive the smallest portion of their revenue. (Cute band-aid, wouldn't ya say? "Pay no attention to the poisons behind the curtain -- look at our clean and shiny "natural" products instead, 'cause that's what we're pushing this year.")

And now, once again, that "hitched" Universe has come into play. At the time of the original endorsement, the folks at the Sierra Club thought their shared tactics were a win-win for customers, industry, and the environment. Fast-forward a few months, however, and we see environmental groups -- including The Sierra Club -- taking the giants of the Cleaning Industrial Complex -- including Clorox Corporation -- to task. Biting the hand that feeds you... ouch!

President Obama needs the Senate to pass his Environmental legislation so that his green-economy plans can begin in earnest. I hope that the Sierra Club continues to support the new proposed bill more enthusiastically than they have the "greenwashing" efforts of their shot-gun bride, Clorox Corporation.

When we try to peg the Sierra Club -- as of late, why do they seem to be hitched to just about anything in the Universe? Uhm? Weird karma, wouldn't ya' say? John Muir must be spinning!