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How Living Billboards Work


Green Billboards or Greenwashing?
In another "living billboard" campaign, Delta Air Lines loaded a plane with 10 passengers in Times Square during summer 1997 in New York. Today, some imaginative designs call for billboards to double as studio apartments in the sky.
In another "living billboard" campaign, Delta Air Lines loaded a plane with 10 passengers in Times Square during summer 1997 in New York. Today, some imaginative designs call for billboards to double as studio apartments in the sky.
AP Photo/Ed Baily

If you're not familiar with the idea of greenwashing, then think of the last time you turned on the TV. Was that bottle of cleaner really nontoxic, or did it just boast friendly earth tones on the label?

Or what about that car commercial with all the animated leaves and chirping birds? Even if the vehicle advertised is environmentally sound, what about the rest of the manufacturer's policies, products and production standards? Might one "green" product merely serve as a means of distracting from all the damage it continues to inflict on the planet? To learn more, read How Greenwashing Works.

As you might imagine, many critics look at an advertisement such as the McDonald's lettuce billboard, and even the "fresh" menu items it promotes, as a form of greenwashing. Yet, many observers recognize that a living billboard is better than a dead one, regardless of the advertiser's motivations. Even the sustainability Web site Treehugger.com admitted to liking the campaign [source: Alter]. TODO Design and Das Studio's plans also met with praise from some environmentalists, for their use of self-sustaining technologies and oxygen-enriching vegetation.

A lot of options will likely come down to billboard location. Even one lush with vegetation is hardly a part of the natural environment out in the countryside. In an urban environment, however, the billboard would likely stand in the midst of artificiality anyway. Planting greens on a billboard can only serve to enrich the oxygen and maybe even reduce urban heat islands, which contribute to solar radiation absorption and, according to some, global warming [source: Rothstein].

Explore the links on the next page to learn even more about advertising and environmentalism.


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