Greenwashing

Going green at home has never been easier!  there are a ton of products out there that are eco-friendly, natural and green – right?!  Well, maybe.  Greenwashing can be described as misleading marketing claims, product names and packaging that suggest to the consumer that their products or services have environmental benefits. This is really a grey area in marketing in my opinion.  Many of the big multinational companies have jumped on the eco-friendly bandwagon, but are their “green” products any better for the environment?  Some of the products have changed one or two ingredients from their regular line and then re-packaged it as “green” or “natural” when in reality the ingredient list is pretty much the same.  It kind of ruins the “natural” qualities of a product when all of those lovely botanical extracts are preserved with parabens.  So, what’s a shopper to do?  Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any regulations in Canada with respect to greenwashing or labeling of products.  Consumers really must do their homework and educate themselves on what is eco-friendly and what is toxic.

As a concerned (and somewhat annoyed) consumer and eco-friendly advocate, I decided to call out one of the Canadian home retailers that has recently been promoting a new “Eco” line of products for building and home care.  After visiting the local store, and examining the line of home cleaning products I decided to ask some questions.  I first approached the store staff to inquire if they has product ingredient lists for the cleaners.  My answer was “no”, and no one seemed to know much else about their product line.  “OK – I’ll talk to the customer service at head office”.  So, off I went.  I promptly sat down to write an email inquiry at home as I wanted to know what was in the product line.  I was already doubting that the products truly were eco-friendly (I know, skeptical at heart), my reasoning being that if they were, they would have all of the product ingredients proudly displayed.  I did receive a prompt email reply with some information for one of the products in their line (which was pretty green, so great!).  However, one product does not make the entire “Eco” collection a “better choice”.  The company would not give me any further ingredient listings, somewhat confirming my suspicion that their “Eco” line is not really that great.

Thankfully, there are places to help!  Check the following links for some valuable information:

http://sinsofgreenwashing.org/

http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/lousylabels/

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/projects/whats-inside-that-counts/

http://www.cosmeticdatabase.com

The morale of the story?  Do your homework.  Know your ingredients.  Ask questions.

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