12 December 2018

Making The Earth Happier...

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A brochure for a sustainable solar boiler contains an environmental claim. In summertime, the solar panels heat the solar boiler.
Netherlands Environment
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A brochure for a sustainable solar boiler contains an environmental claim. In summertime, the solar panels heat the solar boiler. For the winter months, a log fire helps to heat the water in the solar boiler, reducing gas consumption by 70%. The brochure's text is enthusiastic, with a quip: "This makes the whole Dutch environment, even the earth, happier". The complainant found this unacceptable: logs give off particulates and are therefore harmful rather than environmentally friendly. A full debate ensued. The advertiser relied on the fact that Brussels was a proponent of timber fuel as a responsible alternative to coal- fired power stations. Wood burners and pellet-fired power stations received government subsidies in the Netherlands. The advertiser qualified the objection based on particulates: logs account for just 0.5% of particulate emissions in the Netherlands. 

And what did the Dutch Advertising Code Committee (Reclame Code Commissie, RCC) think? Logically enough, the RCC ruled that this was an environmental claim. "The earth being happier" may well not have been an absolute claim, but it still presented too rosy an image. Even if the volume of particulates was only around half a percent of total Dutch emissions, burning logs still contributed towards this. 

I think this ruling is really quite severe. The claim is qualified: 'happier'. It's not an absolute claim. And why did the RCC say nothing about the European and Dutch policies of encouraging wood burners as an alternative to coal-fired power stations? Particulates are also primarily a health issue, perhaps more than an environmental one? The RCC could maybe have looked at this slogan a bit more happily. 

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