greenwashing and the alberta tarsands

Greenwashing. It’s when a company makes a big deal about being green and being committed to sustainability but in reality doesn’t do much. It’s like goodwashing – where people laud the fact that they give so many crutches out to the crippled – ignoring the fact that their factories and mines are what cripple them.

I live in Edmonton, Alberta and a few hundred miles north of me are the Tar Sands – one of the largest and most environmentally destructive projects on the planet. It’s hard to describe. Think Mordor from Lord of the Rings and you’ve got some idea.

Of course, it’s no good if the masses think that it’s that bad (even if it is). So, a huge campaign has come out to greenwash the tarsands. Much like BP is engaged in a huge campaign to convince people they really care about cleaning up the Gulf.

Luckily, marketing has all sorts of uses – and in this Greenpeace project (sent to me by Mike Hudema) you’re being asked to use your marketing savvy to UNGreenwash the Tarsands. I encourage you to check this out and contribute – and spread the word.

Faced with the grim realities of tar sands oil extraction, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) seems like it would rather take its dirty money and run a huge publicity campaign to make the tar sands look better, than actually address the pressing environmental and human rights atrocities caused by tar sands development.

CAPP is trying to greenwash the destruction that is taking place in Alberta through a series of print and video ads. Check them out here – They must think we’re stupid to believe what they’re feeding us: that everything in Alberta is A-okay. But we’re not stupid; like you, we know that everything is not okay in Alberta. And we need your help to make sure CAPP doesn’t get away with its latest dishonest game.

The truth is that the tar sands are an immensely destructive project. To date, tar sands oil extraction has devastated an area the size of the city of Toronto. If oil extraction from the tar sands continues unchecked, it has the potential to destroy an area the size of England.

Toxic tar sands tailings lakes already span 170 square km, which is an area larger than Lake Muskoka, and they are growing every day. Downstream, primarily First Nations communities, are seeing increased sicknesses in their communities, seeing a traditional way of life becoming further displaced and many are afraid of drinking the water.

Everyday, 11 million litres of toxic tailings leak into the surrounding environment. The current greenhouse gas emissions of the tar sands is equivalent to that of 9 million cars. By 2020, it is projected that the greenhouse gas emissions will rise to the equivalent of the annual emissions of over 26 million cars, which is 1.5 times the greenhouse gas emissions of all the cars in Canada.

The spin campaigns waged by CAPP, as well as the Alberta government, are a direct response to the pressure that you’ve helped us generate.

It is time to show CAPP that any attempt to greenwash the tar sands will not go unchecked.

That’s where you come in . . .  Are you game to help us fight BIG OIL?

We are looking for your help to culture jam these ads:

  1. Like the “Put a CAPP on Tar Sands Greenwashing Facebook Page”
  2. Take a look at the CAPP campaign.
  3. Download one of the videos or print ads.
  4. Have fun!! Construct the funniest or edgiest mash-ups, image swaps, collages, rewrites, or remixes you can think of. Be smart, be edgy, be creative, and most of all, have fun with it! It is time to turn these gross distortions of the tar sands destructive reality against themselves. It is time to fix these greenwashes with the truth about the tar sands.
  5. Once your ad jam is complete:
    a) Post it on our Facebook page wall
    b) Make it into your Facebook picture
    c) Post it on the Facebook page wall
    d) Print it out and wheatpaste it around your home city or town
    e) Post it on youtube and flicker, and
    f) Twitpic it with the hashtag #cappwash.
  • Oh yeah. One more thing. In order to amp up the fun and excitement, we have made the CAPP ad jam into a contest. There will be prizes for the top print and video jams. The winning entry will be published. We will highlight entries on our website as we tally up the top choices. Submit your ad jams on the facebook page wall or email them to



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