It’s really trendy for companies to tell people that an item is “green or “natural” these days. Neither of those words have a standard definition, so how do you know whether the products with these labels are actually safe for you or not? Many of these products have harsh or harmful chemicals in them, and marketers will distract you from that by labeling something as healthy when it really isn’t. Sometimes this is intentional, and sometimes it isn’t. They do this to create the feeling that they are doing well for you and the environment. This is called “Greenwashing”.
Greenwashing is defined as “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.”
The term “greenwashing” was coined around 1990 when an eco-friendly trade fair was being held in Washington D.C. Some of America’s worst polluting companies (like DuPont, Chevron, and others) tried to pass themselves off as environmentally friendly, and the term was born.
A study published in 1991 by the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing found that 58% of environmental ads had at least one deceptive claim. Additionally, one fourth of all household products advertised around Earth Day in April were making claims about being green and environmentally friendly. Why is this important? Studies show that 77% of people take the environmental reputation of a company into their decision of whether to buy a product. We’re talking big business and lots of money at stake here. Advertisers and label designers know what to put on a package to make you feel good and gain your trust.
How do you figure out whether products are actually environmentally friendly and not causing you harm?
This can be challenging, but all it takes is common sense and some tenacity. When reading labels, look for specific claims vs. general claims. Terms like “biodegradable in three to five days” are more forthcoming than just “biodegradable” (because almost everything breaks down over time). Or, when you see a claim that says, “100% natural”, read the ingredient list and see for yourself whether there are harmful ingredients. Greenwashing is not confined to any one industry, but it is prevalent in the household cleaning industry because household cleaners are the only products where manufacturers are not required to list all ingredients under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Take extra caution with these products. However, look for greenwashing in makeup, foods and personal care products (bodywash, soap, deodorant, etc.). Once you start to notice it, you’ll see that it’s everywhere.
Let’s discuss an easy example of greenwashing. Perfumes and fragrance companies don’t disclose their ingredients and claim “trade secrets”. This is just a sneaky way to say that the ingredients don’t have to be included on the packaging. Many synthetic fragrances include chemicals that have been linked with reproductive health and developmental problems such as birth defects, low sperm count and ADHD. Even at the most basic level, synthetic fragrances are known to trigger asthma and allergy attacks. When you see “fragrance” on an ingredients list, avoid that item at all costs. Yes – this means no more perfume, and no more soaps and shampoos that just list “fragrance” as an ingredient. (Read more about the dangers of fragrance here).
This is not me trying to scare you – it’s just a major health issue that I’m passionate about. I’d love for more people to be aware of it and make informed choices for themselves. If you get rid of the Top 10 Harmful Chemicals in our home, you’ll be doing a fantastic job toward preventing hormone disruption and other serious health problems. A major study released this year showed that in as little as 3 days, you can reduce the amounts of harmful chemicals in your body by as much as 44%.
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Click here to watch a video about what healthy products I use in my bathroom and kitchen cabinets.
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