THE BLOG
12/25/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

GM Asking Students to Help Greenwash

Even as it begs for a big taxpayer bailout, GM is still spending billions on marketing, peddling its giant gas-guzzlers to Americans who want them less and less.

It's even got the cash to try and enlist college students in its efforts to greenwash. My intern, Meg Imholt, is also the president of EcoSense, American University's environmental group -- and happened to be the target of GM's latest cynical marketing attempt, which she chronicled on Greenpeace's StopGreenwash.org blog:

Usually filled with listserv emails, notes from Mom, and reminders from professors, rarely anything stirring appears in my Inbox. However, Saturday brought the urgent subject heading: "PLEASE REPLY--Fuel Cell Car."

Like any eco-minded undergrad, bringing a fuel cell car to campus is the stuff of my dreams. As a member of American University's environmental club, EcoSense, this could be the eye-catching, consumer-educating event I've always imagined sponsoring.

Then, I read the email.

General Motors was using the campus to run its "gas-friendly to gas-free" greenwashing campaign with "Representatives on hand to give tips on how to achieve better fuel economy, info on GM's alternative fuel offerings, and hybrid technology etc."

GM was looking for student sponsors, in this case: EcoSense's green stamp of approval.

Hosting a hybrid and fuel cell car show may be the event of a student environmentalist's dreams, but promoting GM is far from eco-friendly.

As I write this, GM is feverishly lobbying Congress for $25B that it was supposed to get in exchange for fuel economy increases. The company wants the money now, but without the efficiency strings attached. Do a few hybrid and fuel cell cars compensate for such destructive policies? Do they make up for GM's opposition to stricter CAFE standards? Or the corporation's lawsuits against states for limiting car emissions?

Now, GM is asking students to greenwash?

I didn't take the bait, and neither did the rest of EcoSense. Citing GM's culture of corporate irresponsibility, we refused to endorse the auto makers latest greenwashing scheme.

For GM, it seems that "green" is not a movement, but a marketing strategy. If GM wants to profit off a green economy, it needs a green business -- one that puts efficient cars in showrooms and endorses, rather than interferes with, greener standards.