Stay Green While Trying to Stay Clean

April 16, 2013
Shawn, Store Green Team Captian

Shawn, Store Green Team Captain

It seems that no matter how hard we try to keep things clean, there’s always some dust or a smudge to take care of.  When you go shopping at Harmons there’s over an aisle of cleaning supplies to choose from to help clean your house, workplace, car, clothes, and everywhere and everything else.

Not all cleaning products are equal when it comes to being green.  To help you decide which cleaning supplies are the most earth-friendly, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, created a labeling program called Designed for the Environment.  There are thousands of items on the market that have been tested by chemists at the EPA.  Those chemicals that meet the EPA’s standards for being earth-friendly, receive the label to help consumers easily know which chemicals they can purchase if they’re trying to reduce harm to the environment.

There are all sorts of Green Labels out there; the EPA’s Designed for the Environment is only one example.  However, there is a term called greenwashing that can be applied to products that claim to be better for the environment, but in fact do less good than they say and in some cases do even more harm.  Hopefully, the chemists with the EPA and other researchers awarding products with earth-friendly labels are taking all of the issues into account before awarding a product.  The old adage “consumers beware” comes to mind.  If you’re trying to reduce harm to the environment by purchasing earth-friendly products, it’s important to be aware of misleading or false advertising.

The most common form of greenwashing takes place when a company talks about a real environmental benefit while avoiding mentioning the ways the product actually harms the environment.  For example, paper can be made with recycled material, but the chemicals used to bleach the paper, clearcutting forests, polluting runoff from paper mills are all ignored.

Another, often used form of greenwashing is to mention irrelevant information.  Dozens of products out there claim to be CFC or Chlorofluorocarbon Free.  The only problem is that CFCs have been banned for years by the US Government; every product out there should be CFC free already.

I mentioned the EPA’s Designed for the Environment label.  There are other labels out there with real scientists and organizations; however, there are also labels out there that are actually industry-funded.  Perhaps these labels are genuine, but there is a real concern about conflicts of interest if not outright dishonesty by the companies and their labels.

Sometimes advertisements are vague.  Terms like green, eco-friendly, and all natural are not regulated and are often overused.  Luckily, most examples of greenwashing are not outright lies, but there is a wide area for companies to use vague terms that encourage consumers to purchase their product when there are other, better alternatives.

Take the time to educate yourself about products that truly are better for the environment.  Know which labels are authentic, third-party labels that really do attempt to help consumers make the right choice.  Most of all, remember that the best product out there is the one not used.  You can reduce your negative impact on the world around you by reducing your consumption and use of these products in the first place.