Archive for the ‘Green washing’ Category

Making Decisions Monday: Action Items for a Safer Toy Holiday or Birthday

Monday, November 17th, 2014

When beginning your research for safer toys, start here to learn more about wood toys, and don’t forget my key questions to ask yourself before purchasing a plastic toy.

While we can’t replace everything in our house immediately (it’s too expensive for me, even if I could get my kids to give up many of the toys they love at once!), we can strive to make better choices going forward, and holidays and birthdays make a great opportunity to do so.

christmas-gifts

1) Tell your friends and family that you are looking to make more conscious decisions about the toys you’re bringing into your home. Recommend some brands you’re interested in (here and here are some suggestions), and offer key terms they should look for on packaging and websites.

Key terms: Organic, BPA-free, Phthalate-free or nonphthalate, type of plastic (food grade preferred)

Terms to avoid if they are unsubstantiated: Eco-friendly, Green, Natural, Non-Toxic. Ask yourself why they are Eco-friendly, Green, Natural or Non-Toxic. If the company explains that their toys are made with food-grade plastic, or use a certified non-toxic paint, etc, then Yes! Feel comfortable in making your judgment call based on that factual information rather than an unsubstantiated and unregulated claim.

2) If you have a particular brand or toy you’re interested in lacking details about how the toys are made, don’t hesitate to reach out to the manufacturer and ask their Quality Assurance team or Customer Service, but make them aware that you understand that though they may comply with federal standards, you are looking for toys which go above and beyond in chemical safety for children.

3) This is a great opportunity to ask for replacement toys that regularly go in the mouth with safer alternatives. This year, on my kids’ Christmas wish list (which I luckily still get to make for them), I am asking for replacement play food items and bath toys. You may also be interested in replacing things like tea sets, whistles, horns and recorders, and teethers.

Happy shopping!

When is a “Green” Truth not Actually a Truth at All?

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

 

Given the meteoric increase in the market for green products in virtually every industry, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is increasingly examining eco claims for truthfulness. While browsing online or even down a store aisle shows me “green-washing” is alive and well, some recent settlements between companies and the FTC do demonstrate that companies are gradually being held to a higher level of truth.

One interesting guideline issued by the FTC as part of the commission’s Revised Green Guides is the Overstatement of Environmental Attribute. According to the guideline, “an environmental marketing claim should not overstate, directly or by implication, an environmental attribute or benefit. Marketers should not state or imply environmental benefits if the benefits are negligible.”

While this may seem an obvious guideline, the rule goes beyond technical truth into implied truth. Look at the example the FTC provides on its website:

Example 1: An area rug is labeled “50% more recycled content than before.” The manufacturer increased the recycled content of its rug from 2% recycled fiber to 3%. Although the claim is technically true, it likely conveys the false impression that the manufacturer has increased significantly the use of recycled fiber.

strawberry

The FTC’s Overstatement of Environmental Attribute recognizes there are different ways to exaggerate

The above example shows that the FTC looks at the implication of a claim. By saying “50% more” the claim implies a large increase, and even though the rug would technically use 50% more recycled content, the claim likely would now be considered green-washing by the FTC.

While the FTC is a long way away from calling out the many, many green-washing claims out there, they are nonetheless slowly cracking down and hopefully giving some unscrupulous marketers cause to reconsider before implying environmental benefits that really don’t exist.

Flame Retardant Soup

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Do you like soup?

I do. You can put all kinds of vegetable and spices into soup.

When I make soup my kids ask, “What’s in it?” to find out if I’ve added a veggie they’ve identified as one they don’t want.  My youngest has dug in his heels against broccoli and the older one against mushrooms.

They ask because they can’t tell if the offending food is in there.  Do I always tell? No. I sometimes sneak those veggies past them.

Synthetic mattress fabrics can be a toxic soup

Synthetic fabrics can sometimes be a toxic soup

Not too many parents will fault me for my sneakiness. If, however, I was intentionally sneaking really, really unhealthy, even dangerous, ingredients in that soup, opinions would be different.

Synthetic fibers are in one way a lot like soup. A manufacturer can put all types of different ingredients in there and the consumer is probably not going to know.

Take polyester. There are different formulations for polyester just like there are different ways to make vegetable soup. When polyester is being mixed, the manufacturer can add chemicals to change the texture or chemicals to change the sheen.

They can even add flame retardant chemicals implicated as potential causes of cancer / other health problems or learning disabilities.  Flame retardants like chlorinated tris, banned from children’s pajamas in the 1970s due to concerns about genetic mutations but still in many products today.

Even if an added chemical would be restricted (out of more than 80,000 chemicals, the EPA has only restricted six in the past 35 years, and of those a ban on asbestos was overturned!), manufacturers can tweak the formula to form a new, although not necessarily safer, chemical, and again, in it can go. The vast majority of chemicals used in fabrics are untested regarding health.

I’m not picking on polyester. Any synthetic fabric mixed in batches can have undesirable chemicals in the mix.  These chemicals for the most part do not need to be disclosed to a consumer and are virtually unregulated. In fact, if a flame retardant chemical was added to a synthetic fiber as it was being manufactured, a furniture or mattress maker using that fabric can claim NO FLAME RETARDANTS ADDED.  I’m not kidding.

While California is pushing forward with stronger chemical regulations, even if select chemicals do get banned, it will be years before they realistically are out of products, and, as mentioned earlier, other types of similar chemicals not banned could then be legally used.

The bottom line is how much do you want to risk? Because chemicals in fabrics are undisclosed, a consumer has little choice to pick and choose what chemicals are okay and what are not.

At least in mattresses there is a way of avoiding them altogether. A natural fabric like cotton is not a synthetic mix but grown, so it cannot have chemicals added during a manufacturing process. By selecting certified organic mattresses like we sell you can avoid unwanted chemicals being topically added to a fabric. (Unfortunately, non-certified organic products can still sometimes have those chemicals added.)

When Naturepedic formed eleven years ago, we began making organic mattresses not simply to be organic, but because organic was one of the best, most effective vehicles to get to healthier products. By using certified organic materials, we were able let the consumer know what is in their product, without guesswork or games.

Unless you can truly know the chemicals used in synthetic fabrics, the most effective way to avoid them is to select certified organic products.

Otherwise, you just don’t know what chemicals are being added to the “soup.”

 

When Does “No Flame Retardants” NOT Actually Mean “No Flame Retardants”?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

 

Many commonly used flame retardant chemicals are being connected to health and developmental issues.  Want a mattress without flame retardant chemicals?  Get a certified organic mattress.  Otherwise, flame retardants will probably be in that mattress, even if greenwashing marketing suggests otherwise, and you’re going to need to guess what they are.

It's not easy to find out what flame retardants are in your mattress

It’s not easy to find out what flame retardants are in your mattress

Let me explain with a little compare and contrast.

We say “Naturepedic mattresses meet all government flammability standards without flame barriers and other flame retardant chemicals.”

So why don’t we shorten that to “No flame retardants added” and call it a day?  That would mean the same thing, right?

Wrong.

Sure, when WE talk about not using flame retardants, we actually mean what we say.  We mean these chemicals are not in our mattress. Anywhere.

This straight-forward approach is not the case with most mattresses, however.  The loophole occurs with synthetic fabrics.

Now if a mattress maker would take a finished mattress and spray it with flame retardants, the mattress would have a flame retardant “added”.

If the mattress, however, includes synthetic fabrics originally manufactured with flame retardant chemicals, this is different.  Why?  Because the flame retardant chemicals are considered an integral or constituent part of the fabric.  These fabrics can be on the outside of the mattress or in flame barriers on the inside.  Regardless, the mattress maker can state, “No flame retardant chemicals added.”

But, you say, those chemicals are IN the mattress!

Yes, but the chemicals were integral to the flame barriers or fabric from the beginning. The greenwashing trick lies in the word added.  The chemicals weren’t added to the mattress!

Even worse?  These chemicals inserted into the fabric will likely not be disclosed to the consumer, so if you want to know the flame retardant used, you’ll probably need to guess.Flame retardants

Understand, this deceptive practice is not illegal.  I would argue immoral, but not illegal.

Who needs it?

But, you ask, why do manufacturers add (regardless of how it’s “added”) flame retardants into mattresses to begin with?  Who needs it?  Well, here is the bottom line – if you didn’t fill the mattress with highly flammable materials, then, in fact, you don’t need flame retardant chemicals!

But most mattresses are filled – to one degree or another – with polyurethane foam, which is a highly flammable material.  Some manufacturers add some soybean oil or castor oil and call the fill “soybean foam” or “eco-foam” or similar, but it’s still basically polyurethane foam.  And, when ignited, it can reach temperatures of 1400 degrees within minutes.

The only practical way to avoid flame retardant chemicals is to use certified organic products to ensure these chemicals have not been worked into fabrics and barriers.  Organic certification requires a level of disclosure that just doesn’t currently exist for fabrics.

Otherwise, you’re left guessing what flame retardants are in your mattress, and your health shouldn’t be left to guesswork.

 

 

Wait, what? Soybean foam isn’t made of soybeans?!

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

 

soybeansI’ll keep this short: soybean foam is primarily made from petrochemicals, not soybeans.  

You might have also have heard of soybean foam as bio-foam, soy foam, and other names combining soy-, bio-, or eco-.

No forest green lettering, or image of pastoral fields on marketing materials, can change the truth: soy foam might contain 20% soy content but can contain as little as 3-5% depending on the product. The rest is highly flammable polyurethane foam.gasoline

If a consumer is looking for an alternative to polyurethane foam, soy foam isn’t the solution.

Sigh.

But soy foam sounds so healthy … and marketers count on it.

The initial green angle for soy foam was on using renewable plant-based resources* to supplement non-renewable petroleum. Mattress and furniture company marketers, however, soon found that marketing could intentionally lead consumers to make seemingly logical – albeit false – assumptions about what was, and wasn’t, in “soy foam”.

With the addition of green imagery and colors, the trick was complete, and the public assumed that soy foam was made from soybeans.

Seriously. Green lettering can make anything look healthier. Watch.

poison

Now look.

poison logo

 Looks healthier, friendlier and greener, doesn’t it?

Look at the labels on soy-foam products: the implication is clearly that the foam is primarily made from soybeans and is manufactured with fewer chemicals.

This is clearly false.

—————–

*You can read volumes about industrial soy crops. While out of the scope of this post, recent concerns include deforestation in Brazil for giant soybean plantations.  More than 90% of U.S. soybeans derive from GMO (genetically modified organism) crops, and as far back as 2007 more than 50% of global soybean crops were GMO.

Additionally, a story  published March 23, 2014 in The Telegraph claims “The United Nations will officially warn that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices…” Environmentalists have been concerned about biofuel crops and their environmental impact for some time. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to publish the actual report on March 31, 2014. Read The Telegraph’s article at http://bit.ly/1iwMv3K.

 

What’s ‘Greenwashing’ and How Can I Tell if Something is Really Green, Natural or Non-Toxic?

Thursday, January 5th, 2012


It’s time for New Year’s resolutions! The perfect time to get started on going green and natural and providing a healthy environment for you and your family – an environment free of toxic, or potentially toxic, chemicals. But embarking on such a journey can be confusing; you may have already experienced the let down of buying something that is labeled ‘green’, ‘natural’, ‘eco’, or ‘non-toxic’, only to find out that there’s very little difference between that product and its toxic competitors. That kind of marketing is now known as ‘greenwashing.’

‘Greenwashing’ is a relatively new term. It’s an adaptation of ‘whitewashing’, which is defined in Encarta as a “cover-up: a coordinated attempt to hide unpleasant facts, especially in a political context.”

The same dictionary defines ‘greenwashing’ as “bogus environmentalism: public relations’ initiatives by a business or organization, e.g. advertising or public consultation, that purport to show concern for the environmental impact of its activities.”

Examples of ‘greenwashing’ aren’t hard to find:

• Cosmetics that add a little aloe vera or Vitamin E and label their products ‘natural’, even though they have made no changes in the rest of their ingredients.

• Laundry detergents or cleaning products that add baking soda or enzymes to their products and display in big, bold letters on the box that they ‘clean with natural enzyme action’, but they fail to mention that they also contain phthalates, sodium laurel sulphate, and so on.

• With crib mattresses, and mattresses for adults, you might see something labeled as ‘eco-…’ or ‘soy-based’, giving you the idea that the foam they use is made from soybeans – what could be more natural? In fact, the soybean content is minimal, and the rest of the materials are the same as they used to be.

We couldn’t possibly put all the examples of ‘greenwashing’ in this blog, nor can we give you all the information on each chemical and its level of toxicity. But we can give you some information on where to find out this kind of information relatively quickly and easily. Here are some of our favorites resources:

Healthy Child Healthy World – A wealth of data, and a good search engine. Just type in the chemical you’re concerned about, or another question, and you’ll find answers.

Environmental Working Group – This site really keeps you up to date with what’s going on in the world of toxics and creating a safe home and environment. It also has a great menu system and search engine.

Cosmetics Database – This is a wonderful tool for information on the toxicity of the ingredients for cosmetics and personal care products – everything from baby shampoo to anti-aging serums. Lots of detail. You can use this database to find out about the healthiest choices in these kinds of products.

Home Safe Home and Toxic Free – Two excellent books by Debra Lynn Dadd. What chemicals to watch out for in what products, healthy alternatives, and more. Informative, complete, well-organized, fun and easy to read – you’ll want to read them cover to cover and keep them for easy reference.

As for baby crib mattresses and crib mattress bedding, check our website pages “What’s In” and “What’s Not In” for lists of the materials we use and don’t use, and why.

Of course, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of other sources of information, but with the few listed above, you should be able to find out just about everything you need to know. And they will help you cut through the greenwashing propaganda like a pro!

We’re looking forward to a happy, healthy, 2012 and wish the same for you and your family. Let’s make all our resolutions a reality!