have you been washed?


Green∙wash (gren’wosh’,-wôsh’)– verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

The (very considerate) husband, once again, pointed me in the direction of a truly interesting article.  If you didn’t catch this story on Slate.com let me paraphrase.  And expand.

TerraChoice, a science-based environmental marketing firm created a study of environmental claims made by manufacturers of products typically found in major retailers across the nation.  I don’t think we can expect a performance by Brad Pitt (so unfortunate), but the findings can be categorized into seven sins.  Or at least TerraChoice thinks so.  They have created The Seven Sins of Greenwashing.  It used to be six sins, but then a seventh was found.  I sure hope that’s the last addition.  The Eight Sins has no ring to it.

The initial study was completed in 2007.  TerraChoice just released the 2009 study.  More claims are being made and an insignificant decline in greenwashing practices has been noted since the earlier study.  The study does not include names of exact products.  Apparently TerraChoice isn’t into pointing fingers.  It’s a darn shame, I’d love to know some of the worst offenders and what sins they are guilty of.

Thankfully, the group over at Slate was curious too.  They found four green products and rated them on an enviro-scam meter.  Maybe the movie will be a combination of Spiderman and Se7en.  Maybe that only made sense to me.

Back to Slate.  The products listed were:

  • Clorox “Green Works” Products – scam factor: 4 out of 10…My favorite bit is from Company representative Aileen Zerrudo.  “We tested products without fragrances and dyes,” said Zerrudo of the marketing research the company conducted.  Turns out test subjects were put off by fragrance and dye-free formulas’ resemblance to water, she said, and perceived them to be less effective.  Perhaps, but Seventh Generation’s “Free and Clear” line seems to be doing just fine.

  • Gas Saving Magnets – scam factor: 10 out of 10…I had never even heard of these before but apparently I’m not missing much.  Companies are really trying to capitalize on the financial crisis as well as the green movement by promoting magnets that ionize the gas in your car making it easier to vaporize.  I assume that means it would burn cleaner or last longer, or something.  How about a product, green or otherwise, that just doesn’t work.  At all.
  • Sephora “Natural Standards” Initiative – scam factor: 6 out of 10…According to Slate, Sephora’s manifesto claims that products sold in their stores that bear a green seal meet “high internal standards” with “the purest, most efficacious ingredients Mother Nature has to offer.”  The Web site astutely observes that “the term ‘natural’ is not regulated by the FDA,” and thus they “created [their] own standards for the natural products at Sephora.” I love that.  Can I create my own standards too?
  • “Green” Hand Sanitizers – scam factor: 6 out of 10…Hand sanitizers are convenient, portable, hygienic, healthy.  Or are they?  New green products claim to be.  The organic options might sound better for you, but the reality is that organic alcohol is still alcohol—and that’s the biggest threat to safety and health in the products.  In the meantime, stick to CleanWell, the 100 percent biodegradable, alcohol-free line. Yup, I double checked, that’s what’s in my bag.

So what do you think?  Are these the worst, or do you know of some pretty greenwashed marketing campaigns.  Go ahead, point your finger.

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One Comment to “have you been washed?”

  1. Thanks a lot for this great info.

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