When I walk through the aisles of a store I often have to fight the inner thirteen year old girl inside of me. The bright colors, sleek packaging, unique fonts and environmentally friendly text slapped on the front of packages lures me in. Recently, new baby packaging has tugged at my emotions willing me to almost purchase diapers, when I have no kids. It’s obvious these marketers are good.
Green washing is when companies make themselves look more environmentally friendly than they really are. They throw around green buzzwords that relay a positive message to the consumer yet have no merit behind them.
This past week it was the diapers and baby wipes at Walgreens. Walgreens has pushed to improve their sustainability efforts by offering customers green products and in 2012 launched their own line “Ology” of environmentally friendly products. You can now find household products such as dish and laundry detergent with less harmful chemicals than the name brands. But be careful what you pick up.
Every year Americans throw away 16 billion disposable diapers that last centuries in landfills (epa.gov). My knowledge of this stat, plus my friends questions, led me to notice if there were any new trends in the diaper market for a greener option. That’s when the Naty 100% eco diaper stood out to me, mostly because of their modern artistic packaging. Naty diapers are a Swedish product derived from natural and renewable materials, with the motto “Go green without giving up performance”. After taking a look at the website and finding their score on GoodGuide.com a low 4.5 out of 10 (graded on environment, social and health impact) I’m left concerned that the Naty package tricked me. What does it really mean to derive your products naturally and how many are actually composted and not just thrown away?
The Food and Drug Administration has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. It’s a word that creates a buzz in our heads thinking it’s better for us and the environment. But we have to remember it’s just text, there is no meaning behind it.
It’s not easy to spot greenwashing. It’s everywhere. It’s even in my computer I’m typing on. The marketing of my apple computer was greenwashed. Wired magazine ran a great article in 2012, highlighting Apple products that received high industry standard environmental gold awards, that fell short in being recyclable, repairable and upgradeable. You can probably attest to that – Ever have an ipod, iPhone or mac just stop working after a certain amount of time? Now in 2015, the latest news from Apple is they are building a massive solar farm in California to power its buildings. More greenwashing or real green intentions?
Every industry from hotels to restaurants are jumping on the green fad. Companies will exaggerate environmental achievements to divert attention from environmental problems. It’s inevitable that companies will have an impact on our environment, the problem is the misleading of consumers to exaggerate their green standards. Greenwashing is also spending more money advertising their achievement than actually doing it.
It’s in our hands to hold everyone to a high standard and push for more strict regulations. Rely on your curiosity, be aware, look for vagueness and irrelevance on labels, and don’t be afraid to investigate. Try to keep your gullible inner child who falls for every pretty picture and sparkly color in check in hopes that we can support companies with true environmentally friendly intentions.
As for the diapers… your most environmentally friendly option is cloth diapers. Good news though mommas: you can now find trendy cute ones of all patterns online and in many stores. Cloth diapers also come in a variety of fabrics from bamboo to organic cotton and if you are a little wary of how it works there is a disposable liner option (far less material than disposing of an entire diaper). The cost of the new line of cloth diapers is expensive but when compared to the cost of 8,000 disposable diapers, the average number a child uses, the cost of purchasing and washing is far less.
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.