In a recent ad campaign from one of the largest grocery store chains in Europe, German-based REWE Group, Icelandic waterfall Gullfoss is being used as a symbol for green energy to be harnessed. The campaign has caused surprise among conservationists in Iceland.
“This must be some sort of a mistake,” chairman of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association Árni Fridfinnsson told Fréttabladid. “Germans will hardly start buying hydroelectricity from Iceland, even if Gullfoss were harnessed.”
A photograph of the waterfall—which is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Iceland as part of the popular Golden Circle tour—is used as a backdrop for a poster which reads:
“The Green Energy Planner REWE Group puts the switch to green energy to protect the climate.” On the right-hand side of the poster is a huge green on-off switch, indicating that the flow of water in Gullfoss can be turned on and off at will.
According to Fréttabladid, the purpose of the campaign is to enlighten customers that all REWE-owned companies will from now on only use eco-friendly energy. But conservationists like Fridfinnsson do not believe Gullfoss is a suitable symbol for the REWE campaign in the context above.
In the early 20th century there were ideas to harness the waterfall and sell the electricity to foreign investors, and later ideas surfaced to harness Hvítá, the river which forms Gullfoss, which would have changed the waterfall forever.
Icelandic environmentalists, especially Sigrídur Tómasdóttir who allegedly threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if her demands were not met, put a stop to such plans and the Icelandic government decided to protect Gullfoss by law in 1979.