Monday, August 10, 2015

Green Branding: Feeling Green versus Doing Green

At a slow and steady pace, society in the United Stated is becoming more "green," from industries backing away from partners that are big polluters to an increase in recycling and composting options in our own local communities. My own grandmother has said that "back in our day, we were not concerned with the environment like your generation is, and it's really good that everyone's into it now." This is also apparent in the increase of organic food sales, which have increased over $22 billion since 2001. With the consistent increase in our green values has also opened the door for better consumer options. Now, grocery stores have designated areas for organic produce, and also proudly mark locally produced items.

For many of us, the coherence with our social values is worth the added premium. But how do we know when the green label is truly better for our environment, or rather a business ploy to charge more money while making us feel better (but not actually do better)? The following are examples of this and information on how we truly can make a more environmentally conscious and health conscious decision at the market:

Organic versus Natural - "The difference between a food with the 'organic' seal and a food claiming to be 'natural' is vast," according to the Cornucopia Institute.

"Simply put, organic food production is regulated by third party, government-accredited certifying agents, who ensure that farmers and processors follow a strict set of federal standards aimed at promoting ecological sustainability and avoiding materials that are hazardous to the environment and human health."

"With the exception of meat and poultry, so-called “natural” foods are not regulated and have no uniform set of standards to which they must adhere (and oversight on natural meat is ridiculously lax). Usually, corporate marketing departments determine whether a food should carry the “natural” label on its package, as a marketing tool to appeal to health conscious and environmentally aware consumers."

Conclusion: look for food items with the USDA Organic seal, or if you have more time research brands online to see if they comply with organic measures but have not yet completed the costly process of obtaining the seal, rather than purchasing foods labeled natural, as the latter can still contain toxic chemicals even though they are being charged a green premium.

Green Cleaners - "Americans spend more than $600 million annually on cleaners that make some claim to environmental friendliness," writes Brian Palmer of the Washington Post. But with ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate, lauryl glucoside and sodium benzoate, covered up by branding scents of green tea and lavender, how do we really know which cleaning products are better than others?

Palmer proposes a three-pronged approach. First, purchase cleaning products at Whole Foods, a company that has an extensive process of vetting the cleaning brands that it sells. Second, and for those with more time and who would like to do research on their own, check out the companies online, reviews, and the meaning of their ingredients. Not enough time in the day to research every product? No worries! The EPA has already taken a head start on this, and you can view their findings at: Third, check the cleaning product's packaging to see if it has certification from Ecologo or Green Seal to see if they are truly green.

Conclusion: just because it says it's green does not make it so. For real life examples, check out the following. In the first, we see Clorox multi purpose cleaner, with harmful ingredients to both humans and the natural environment (once in the water system). So they made Clorox's Green Works multi purpose cleaner. Despite the fancy name and environmentally friendly looking packaging, the ingredients list reveals that it still contains harmful toxins just like regular Clorox. However, unlike regular Clorox, Green Works charges more to take advantage of consumers attempting to be more environmentally conscious. The third is of Method multi purpose cleaner. They can prove their product's greenness with one bold claim: drink it (yes, drink it), and you will not get sick. Compare this with Clorox, which you could drink and have a much worse reaction than getting sick.

This illustrates that just because a product says it is green does not make it so. More research is needed, and their are tools - from grocery store policies to government websites to product certifications - that can all help us as consumers make better choices for ourselves, our communities, and our planets. The best part is, we can start today. For in the echoing words of Bob Brown, "The future will either be green or not at all."

For a report on the growing green movement in small business:

For information on organic versus natural labels:

For more information on selecting the right green cleaning products:

1 comment:

  1. The problem is that advertising and public relations are practically designed to do the opposite of what real green objectives do. For example, how do you fund an ad that says don't buy this exercise machine when you can exercise on your own and eat less saving money and don't give us money to pay for this ad.

    Our political system sells the truth like a commodity so the commercial TV makes the oil companies look like the environmentalists and the environmentalists look like fringe nutcases since the truth is for sale.