The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Research green claims

    Renee Rosenow

    We all have seen products marketed as eco-friendly and “green,” ranging from notebooks and napkins to shampoos, clothing and electronics.

    Also, we have seen the cute little purses that scream, “Go Green!” and other environmental slogans, even though the manufacturer has taken no steps toward improving their impact on the ecosystem.

    “So what?” you might say. “At least I’m doing my part in trying to be more environmentally conscious. It’s not my fault these companies aren’t practicing what their products preach.” Well yes, you would be right, but what we are failing to realize is that the idea of environmental stewardship is not a passing trend.

    As we continue to plaster environmentalism all over our designer handbags and T-shirts, we need to remember why we are wearing these slogans, otherwise environmentalism will become just another fad thrown out with last year’s fashion. In the case of household consumer products, thrown out with last quarter’s marketing schemes.

    Story continues below advertisement

    In Nov. 2007, TerraChoice, a consumer advocate group, made a list of 1,018 different household products that claimed to be eco-friendly by claiming to be “all natural” or “100 percent non-toxic” and “organic.” Of said products, only one of the products, a certain brand of napkins, was actually eco-friendly. This paper napkin company was deemed to be true to its claim since it supported ample scientific information to why it is a healthy eco-friendly product.

    TerraChoice has also devised a list of what they call, “The Six Sins of Green Washing” which they used to determine the accuracy of the claims. These are “The Sin of the Hidden Tradeoff,” which occurs when companies promote minute environmental benefits while dismissing many potentially harmful characteristics of that product.

    For example, certain notebooks or paper products say they are made from recycled waste, yet ignore all of the energy that was spent reprocessing and manufacturing the reclaimed paper (which is usually only a fraction of the total amount of paper product in the notebook) and the paper production’s impact on forests’ ecology.

    The second is “The Sin of No Proof,” in which the manufacturer makes a claim but fails to support it with scientific evidence.

    “The Sin of Vagueness” falls in third as the act of promoting an item using overly general terms, such as “organic.” Lead is organic, so is cyanide, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy.

    Fourth of the six is “The Sin of Irrelevance,” which takes place when an irrelevant tidbit is added to a label that is supposed to suggest eco-friendliness. This happens often on aerosolized products that state that they contain no CFCs, which is irrelevant because CFCs have been banned for almost three

    Fifth is defined as “The Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils.” This happens when a substance is obviously unhealthy, but green terms are added to make them sound favorable, such as “all natural pesticides.”

    Sixth is “The Sin of Fibbing,” which sounds self-explanatory, but TerraChoice found that of all the tested shampoos that claimed to be “Certified Organic,” none of them were. Their manufacturers were simply lying to the public.

    Use this list of “Green Washing Sins” to help promote corporate accountability.

    The sense that conservationism and resource preservation is becoming yet another way for large corporations to exploit the innocent and positive intentions of their consumers has, to me, undermined the attempts of many brilliant and important people that know what they buy and how they live can and does impact the world around them.

    You can do your part by researching your products.

    Thompson is a sophomore environmental public health major and columnist for The Spectator. This column appears biweekly.

    Leave a Comment
    More to Discover

    Comments (0)

    The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
    All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Activate Search
    Research green claims