Category - Greenwashing

1
When is a “Green” Truth not Actually a Truth at All?
2
What is Organic Certification?
3
When “No Flame Retardants” Doesn’t Mean “No Flame Retardants”
4
Soybean Foam Isn’t Made Of Soybeans
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Greenwashing, Mattresses and Rutabagas
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Is Your Crib Mattress Really Organic? And How About Your Food?
7
What’s ‘Greenwashing’ and How Can I Tell if Something is Really Green, Natural or Non-Toxic?

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

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 “greenwashing” 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[…]

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What is Organic Certification?

What is large? Bigger than a mailbox? An elephant? A gymnasium? The word “large” holds no value without a reference point. A sandwich the size of a dachshund is large. An alligator that size is not.  The same holds true for “organic.” Alone, the word “organic” is of questionable value. If you’re trying to sell me a product, I have even more reason to question the value of that word, as it will often be contorted to imply elements that simply are not there. WHAT DOES ORGANIC MEAN? If a mattress contains “organic” cotton but has a cotton fabric cover treated with a chemical flame retardant, is the mattress organic? What if the mattress is waterproofed with chemicals like PFCs? You probably don’t want a mattress off gassing fair amounts of VOCs regardless of whether there is organic cotton there or not, so how do you know what “organic” actually means on a label? How do you know if the[…]

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When “No Flame Retardants” Doesn’t Mean “No Flame Retardants”

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 green-washing marketing suggests otherwise, and you’re going to need to guess what they are. 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[…]

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Soybean Foam Isn’t Made Of Soybeans

I’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. 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[…]

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Greenwashing, Mattresses and Rutabagas

Consumers are hit with “green” claims everywhere.  An organic rutabaga, or a cup of Costa Rican coffee supporting sustainable business practices, or a “natural” face lotion, or a green … fill in the blank. Sometimes the message is sincere.  That rutabaga may have been grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Sometimes, not.  That “natural” face lotion may be made with synthetics and chemical additives. To be organic, sustainable, green or eco-friendly in any industry (and those labels mean very, very different things to different people) takes commitment, veracity, diligence, and more commitment.  If a company isn’t committed, they may find it easier to market themselves with words to convince you they are “green” (when they really aren’t). Greenwashing, or marketing a product as natural or green when it isn’t, is bothersome to legitimate businesses like ours. Companies, though, have always tried to take sneaky shortcuts. For consumers, however, greenwashing is confusing, obnoxious and frankly unfair. We want to help you better[…]

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Is Your Crib Mattress Really Organic? And How About Your Food?

Have you ever seen the word ‘organic’ on a product you bought only to find out later that it is not actually organic? I’ve had that happen plenty of times. The label says organic, I read the ingredients or materials list – if there is one – and see that it contains a certain amount of organic materials but, otherwise, is basically the same as any other product I could have bought for half the price. Sometimes the label correctly reflects the ingredients and is not misleading; and at other times the manufacturers are trying to take advantage of the selling potential of organic products by making things look a little more organic than they actually are – this is known as ‘greenwashing.’ Figuring out whether or not a manufacturer is greenwashing can take quite a bit of research. But even with those manufacturers who are right up front about their products, we can still be confused. That’s because we[…]

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

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[…]

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