Tag Archives: greenwashing

Plastic Wrapped Bananas? Say What?

Yeah, sure, that makes sense. Wrap a banana in plastic and say it’s green because it keeps them fresh longer.

I’m not sure I have words for the idiocy.

I suppose on a business level there’s a certain degree of brilliance. Apparently they’re going to cost about $1 per individually wrapped banana, compared to maybe $0.20 or less per banana if you buy them in a bunch.

The keeping them fresh longer as green line I just don’t buy. Can’t possibly make up for the wasted plastic. Besides, that’s what banana bread was invented for! It’s easy to use up overripe bananas if you want to.

Last I checked, bananas have a fabulous natural wrapper. It decomposes beautifully in the garden. It keeps the part you eat fresh and clean until you’re ready to eat the banana.

It never ceases to amaze me how anything can be greenwashed into an eco friendly perspective if the marketing department tries hard enough.

FTC Changing the Rules on Green Marketing

Greenwashing is a constant problem when you go shopping for eco friendly products. So many product claims have no legal definition. Fortunately, the FTC is in the process of changing that. They’ve proposed revisions to their “Green Guides” that help marketers avoid making misleading environmental claims.

Can I say about time?!

These guidelines haven’t been updated since 1998. A lot has changed since then in the marketing of eco friendly products.

There’s a comment period open until December 10, 2010, after which the FTC will make the final decision.

So what are the changes proposed?

The revised Guides caution marketers not to make blanket, general claims that a product is “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly” because the FTC’s consumer perception study confirms that such claims are likely to suggest that the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits. Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making these claims nearly impossible to substantiate.

The proposed Guides also caution marketers not to use unqualified certifications or seals of approval – those that do not specify the basis for the certification. The Guides more prominently state that unqualified product certifications and seals of approval likely constitute general environmental benefit claims, and they advise marketers that the qualifications they apply to certifications or seals should be clear, prominent, and specific.

Next, the proposed revised Guides advise marketers how consumers are likely to understand certain environmental claims, including that a product is degradable, compostable, or “free of” a particular substance. For example, if a marketer claims that a product that is thrown in the trash is “degradable,” it should decompose in a “reasonably short period of time” – no more than one year.

They’re looking for comments on any of the changes, so if you have thoughts, now is the time to share them.

These changes won’t cover everything. That’s really not a surprise. It’s hard to come up with a good definition for “natural” for example, that could never be used in a misleading way, as it so often is now. I expect that it’s going to continue to be wildly abused since it’s not going to be regulated. Such an easy claim to make, too.

The rules in general may not be terribly specific, but environmental claims are hard to define in general. Hopefully these new guidelines will encourage more use of concrete evidence of claims made. In other industries such as weight loss, claims must be proven, but that’s more difficult  when it comes to the environment and we don’t always know the full impact of what we’re doing.

These guidelines aren’t law, but they do give the FTC a basis for declaring claims to be deceptive or unfair. They can order companies to cease and desist making claims that aren’t reasonable to make, or fine them if they violate the cease and desist. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

But it’s still going to be up to consumers to pay attention and spot the greenwashing claims. These new guidelines should help, but they aren’t going to solve the problem.

Are You Greening or Greenwashing Your Life?

Going green is pretty popular these days. Many people are aware that we need to think about the impact we have on the environment in our daily lives. That doesn’t mean we all get it right.

It’s not an easy thing to make your life more eco friendly. There are a lot of challenges that really complicate things. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best.

Can You Go Completely Green These Days?

Most of us can’t do all of the green things we’d like to do. Going completely off the grid is financially impossible for the average family. Most of us don’t have enough yard space to grow enough food for our families for the entire year. Avoiding all plastic is next to impossible.

Most of us
can’t do all of the green things we’d
like to do.

Just go to the store and look at how hard it is to be green, even when you’re trying to shop with the environment in mind. So many companies advertise their products as eco friendly when they really aren’t. So many basic household cleaning supplies come in plastic, even if you use eco friendly cleaning supplies.

To top it all off, many of the people who want to go green don’t know how to see past the greenwashing practices that so many companies have enthusiastically adopted to make themselves look better. Much of the terminology they use is completely unregulated. They can make claims about their products which sound eco friendly but really mean nothing at all.

What Can You Do?

The most important step you can take in making your life truly more eco friendly (aside from getting started) is to educate yourself. Find great resources that will help you to know when a product claim means something. Learn how to make some of the simple changes in your lifestyle.

Really think about the things you’re changing and the things you’re not. Why does your family need two cars? Is mass transit in your area good enough that you could maybe get by on one car? Is a backyard vegetable garden a good choice in your area or are watering restrictions too likely to kill it off? What can you do about that darn lawn anyhow?

Look at your shopping habits. When do you buy? Why do you buy? Do you ever ask yourself if you should buy? Do you really need more or newer electronics in your life?

Not buying things you don’t need is one of the best things you can do for the environment.

Not buying things you don’t need is one of the best things you can do for the environment, especially once you understand how big the “don’t need” category is even in modern life. If you’re shopping to keep up with styles or the hottest technology, ask yourself why. Be sure you have a good answer.

Sometimes your answers won’t be perfectly eco friendly. Your circumstances won’t always allow you to do what you know is the greenest answer. But try. Find ways to break your non-green habits. Keep at it even when it’s not easy.

The environmental effects of the changes you make usually aren’t apparent. But they’re present, not only in your home but in your ability to encourage others to do likewise. The difference one person can make won’t solve all our problems. The example one person can make can encourage others, who can encourage others, who can encourage others as the ideas continue to be accepted. That’s where the big differences may someday come in.

The Trouble with Earth Day

Earth Day is a great concept. Encourage people to take better care of our planet. Make them more aware of what we’re doing to our environment and how to help make things better.

But this is the real world. And that means corporations loooove Earth Day. What better chance for them to show that they’re wonderful, delightful, responsible corporate citizens who care about the things that we care about?

No matter what they really do.

I’ve been having a lot of fun going around reading various Earth Day posts, and I see that I am far from the only one frustrated with this. No surprise there. I rather liked this video:

I picked that one up over at It’s Getting Hot in Here.

Jennifer Lance at Eco Child’s Play is frustrated with Lockheed Martin recommending green books for kids, and I have to agree with her point, even if some commenters bring up points on where the company makes some green efforts. I find it particularly scary that the study she mentions where they’re paying people to drink water contaminated with perchlorate every day for six months is happening not that far from me. Ewww!

Sometimes I Just Have to Laugh

Not all posts remind me of how much greenwashing goes on. Sometimes they make me laugh because what they want me to do is almost impossible for me.

Take this post on Mother Nature Network about Disney’s hat offer to celebrate the release of their movie, Oceans. All you have to do is six plastic bottles or aluminum cans to your local Disney store on April 22 and you’ll get a free hat made from recycled bottles.

Do you have any idea how long it would take me to save that many plastic bottles or aluminum cans??? I mean, if they take milk jugs I could manage it in a few weeks, I haven’t entirely eliminated plastic from my life, but I don’t buy drinks in small containers if I can help it.

What Can You Do?

If this frustrates you like it does me, just keep trying to be green and encouraging others to do so as well. Don’t let the greenwashers fool you. Speak out when you see greenwashing in action.

Most of us won’t manage to live a perfectly green life, even on Earth Day. But we can keep trying to do better.

How Do You Get Around the Poor Selection of Eco Friendly Products at the Store?

Some days it’s hard being green. You try and you try, but you just can’t find everything you need in an eco friendly variety. And too many products appear to be merely greenwashed, not really green at all.

Simply put, the selection of eco friendly, high quality products available locally sucks sometimes. It’s better than it used to be, but still not great in some areas.

But you aren’t as stuck as you think you are.

Make Your Own Cleaning Products

When it comes to things like cleaning products for around the house, you don’t need to figure out which brand to trust in a lot of cases. You can make your own.

In some areas this is incredibly easy. Just get the big size of baking soda and vinegar and you can do an amazing amount of cleaning around your house with just those two products.

You can find recipes online to make your own laundry detergent from products that are pretty easy to find locally. Be ready to experiment to find the ones that work best with the water you have in your area.

When you make your own cleaning products you don’t have to worry about the greenwash. You know what went into it. You’ll know if anything is even mildly toxic. You’ll know which products you can hand to the kids and make them do the work without worrying that they’ll taste it, no matter how young they are.

That’s the beauty of using things like baking soda and vinegar. No more locking cabinets due to dangerous chemicals. You can let the kids explore.

Shop Online

If you can’t find it locally, online is a pretty good choice too. You can find cleaning products that really are better for the environment. You can research the claims and find out which companies to believe and which are taking advantage of the lack of regulation on most green claims.

And you don’t even have to drive to get to the internet.

You can find eco friendly cosmetics that are also better for your skin. You can find organic or fair trade clothing and home decor items. You can find just about anything you might need.

Shopping online and having things shipped to your home can be more eco friendly than driving around to buy the items. The products have to be shipped to your area anyhow. Buying online means the delivery truck takes them to your door.

The disadvantage is that buying online means you aren’t supporting a local business. But especially for products that you might have bought from a big box store if you shopped locally, it’s not necessarily all bad.

You should of course shop locally for food. Local produce is one thing the internet can help you locate, but it probably can’t get it sent to your door.

Online shopping still requires a good bit of research to get it just right. But once you know what you’re doing it’s really not all that hard to find your way around the greenwash and to the products that really are kinder to the environment.

A Few Sites to Consider

EarthWaveLiving.com offers Modern Homesteading, Sustainable Living, Emergency Preparedness, and Much More…

Green Nest – More natural products for your home.

Only Natural Pet Store – Natural, holistic and organic supplies for your pets.

Greenbatteries – Offers great prices on rechargeable batteries, battery chargers, battery cases and holders.

ReusableBags.com – A critically acclaimed line of reusable shopping bags plus a growing family of smart, earth-friendly products all designed to help you reduce, reuse and save.