Anti-greenwashing: the Green Mythbusters

Group Projects are central to the Pioneers programme, where external challenge owners bring a problem to a group of Pioneers, who solve it using the systems innovation toolbox. The 2020 Green Mythbusters challenge was one of the Programme’s big successes and has been awarded a micro-grant from EIT Climate-KIC´s alumni community.

This project really motivated us – if you’re putting your energy into something that could make a change and reach wider audiences, you are willing to make bigger contributions. The tools were a great asset during the project and helped our group stay grounded and task-oriented. If you’re passionate about the environment and open-minded you should definitely apply to Pioneers – it is an amazing opportunity to meet new people and learn valuable new skills. There is nothing quite like it out there, it is totally worth doing!

Kadri-Mai Kuldkepp, Mariel Luuk, Karl Pärtel & Triin Killing, Pioneers 2020

While environmental concerns are rising, people are still susceptible to greenwashing and misconceptions about climate action, a.k.a. green myths, which can be difficult to disprove once communicated to a wider audience. Even self-described green start-ups sometimes pitch solutions which can be counterintuitive for solving environmental issues (for example, paper bags are often promoted as a greener alternative to plastic bags – but may have an even larger environmental footprint in the long run).

With this background in mind, four Pioneers worked with environmental non-profit CleanTech ForEst – EIT Climate-KIC´s partner delivering the programme in Estonia – on a Group Project to tackle common sustainability misconceptions. “We chose specific green myths which we found the most harmful and our target demographic was Estonians who were aware of environmental issues – but may not be fully aware of which actions have the biggest impact,” said the group.

The group looked at consumer opinions on waste management, transport, water and energy consumption, food and fashion – and created a marketing campaign for the CleanTech ForEst social media platform. “We narrowed it down to two specific myths – bioplastics and electric cars – as an example of how to build an engaging campaign to reach our target audiences”, said the group.

Once the green myths were chosen, the group conducted surveys over three days in two museums in Tallinn. People of all ages were surveyed and the goal was to compare answers from the questionnaires with scientists’ opinions. 

EIT Climate-KIC’s systems innovations tools guided the Pioneers in this project: “We were lucky to have excellent mentors in our Estonia team and immediately turned to systems innovation tools to get clarity on what we needed to do and where to start – as well as helping us during the creative process. When our goals became clearer, we used the Future Radars tool to check we had not missed anything important.”

The group also said they benefited from each members’ differing experiences: “Between us, we had a nice balance of achievement-orientation contrasting with relaxed learning styles, which led to an easy-going, productive collaboration. Despite being strongly independent workers with limited time, tasks were easily divided and discussions were honest, constructive and effective. Each one of us had something valuable to contribute and got on well. A big challenge was getting scientists involved in the project – and coronavirus also got in the way, meaning we couldn’t meet them in person – but we were proud of our achievements and would be happy to work together again.”

Originally, the group proposed making a video to help consumers make more informed decisions, but settled on a marketing campaign due to resource and time constraints. However, they are hopeful a video will still be produced, following a micro-grant from EIT Climate-KIC´s alumni community: “Although the project has ended for us, we are still hoping to find resources to make at least the first video, to showcase our vision and help CleanTech ForEst continue with the campaign we created.”