When out shopping for groceries or household products it’s easy to get confused about which products are good for the environment and which ones are merely pretending to be. Many companies have jumped on the “Eco-friendly” bandwagon in the last few years and are taking advantage of consumers’ interest in environmentally conscious products. This act of capitalizing on the popularity of the environmental movement is known as green washing and is sadly a common sight in supermarkets around the country.
As consumers, we have the responsibility to purchase products that are in line with our own moral guidelines. We also have the right to know how our products are made and if they were created through environmentally friendly means. We must be careful not to be confused by companies trying to green wash their customers.
Luckily there are a few organizations out there trying to help make the choice easier. Good Housekeeping recently announced a new green seal to designate products that are less harmful to the environment. Green Guard also serves to inform customers about which products are truly good for the planet.
But even with standards like these it is not easy to be sure that the product you are about to buy is as green as it says it is. NSF International, The Public Health and Safety Company has put together a list of tips to help consumers determine what products are really living up to their claims.
Here are just a few points to keep in mind next time you are at the store;
- Be aware of products that make vague overgeneralized claims such as “all-natural” or “fully organic” on the box. These buzz words can mean a lot of different things and to varying degrees. The more specific the packaging is the better.
- Avoid products that try to exaggerate their green-ness. For example any product that touts “CFC-free” is trying to trick you. CFC’s have been illegal for over a decade and thus this claim is no longer worth mentioning.
- Examine the ingredients list. Look for heavy chemicals or ingredients with names that are hard to pronounce. Odds are high that if it has a long scientific name it’s not natural or good for the environment.
- Also check out the directions and warning labels. Any product that warns against using the product in enclosed areas or to keep away from pets and children is probably choke-full of harmful chemicals. Remember if it’s bad for you it’s bad for the environment. Try to pick products with low amounts of warnings or use restrictions.
- Look at the packaging. A product that’s Eco-friendly could still be sold in a box or wrapper that isn’t. Make sure what you are buying is all over Eco-friendly not just the insides but the outsides as well. Look for products that have paper or cardboard packaging and avoid items in heavy plastic containers that will be harder to recycle.
- Finally don’t be fooled by simple images of trees, flowers, the sun or other symbolic displays of nature on the box or packaging. I feel this should almost go without saying but I know I have been lured in on more than one occasion by a box that appeared greener than it really was.
For more tips check out the NSF Web site or any of the green standard sites such as Good Housekeeping or Green Guard.
Shopping in a green way can be challenging but the reward of actually finding Eco-friendly products is certainly worth it.