Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

What a beautiful, sunny, happy Earth Day!

How has the last year been for you, is your brain ready to explode from hearing about how "green" everyone is becoming? I want to take a second to talk about greenwashing, just for a moment. According to my best friend Wikipedia "greenwashing" is:

Greenwash (a portmanteau of green and whitewash) is a term that is used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.[1] The term Green sheen has similarly been used to describe organisations which attempt to appear that they are adopting practices benefical to the environment.[2]

With every tv show, magazine, celebrity and company talking about "going green" it can get a little confusing. How do you know what is really and truly green? I'm no expert by any degree, but I keep my eyes and ears open, and here are 2 things that really bug me:

- Flashy or literally GREEN COLOURED packaging. Come to think of it, how can a product with packaging on which to print actually be that green at all? Yes, some items must be packaged in some way but if the packaging looks exactly the same as the old packaging, and it has a swoosh of text saying "now greener than ever!", be a wee bit suspicious.

- Magazines touting new green products that you MUST buy! (clothing, furniture, cups, shoes, etc.) While it's wonderful that these products are being made, just remember that it's excessive consumption in the first place that got us into this mess. Don't go out and replace perfectly good items. And if you do, please remember to give your old items to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. Useable items should NEVER go in the trash!! I want to buy your old items at the Goodwill anyways!

Here's a little recap from Wikipedia on what to watch for in regards to greenwashing.

In December 2007, environmental marketing company TerraChoice gained national press coverage for releasing a study called "The Six Sins of Greenwashing," which found that 99% of 1,018 common consumer products randomly surveyed for the study were guilty of greenwashing. According to the study, the six sins of greenwashing are:

* Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: e.g. “Energy-efficient” electronics that contain hazardous materials. 998 products and 57% of all environmental claims committed this Sin.

* Sin of No Proof: e.g. Shampoos claiming to be “certified organic,” but with no verifiable certification. 454 products and 26% of environmental claims committed this Sin.

* Sin of Vagueness: e.g. Products claiming to be 100% natural when many naturally-occurring substances are hazardous, like arsenic and formaldehyde (see appeal to nature). Seen in 196 products or 11% of environmental claims.

* Sin of Irrelevance: e.g. Products claiming to be CFC-free, even though CFCs were banned 20 years ago. This Sin was seen in 78 products and 4% of environmental claims.

* Sin of Fibbing: e.g. Products falsely claiming to be certified by an internationally recognized environmental standard like EcoLogo, Energy Star or Green Seal. Found in 10 products or less than 1% of environmental claims.

* Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: e.g. Organic cigarettes or “environmentally friendly” pesticides, This occurred in 17 products or 1% of environmental claims.[10][11]

So what's a person to do?

Well, research actually. It's your job as a consumer and human being to figure out which brands and products are good for the environment and which are not. All you have to do is actually care a bit and pay attention, and you'll start noticing hints all over the place. I good tip I read is that if your great-grandma wouldn't know what it is, it's probably not all that great for you. Obviously a few things are exceptions, but it's kind of a nice rule. Grandma didn't have saran wrap, or yogurt in a tube, or a Swiffer and she did just fine.

So what am I doing? Well, here are a few things I'm going to work on:

- Focusing on buying organic cotton for all my basics (tanks, t's, etc.) There are a lot of companies now doing organic cotton basics, so I really have no excuse. American Apparel is one of those companies, and I get most of my basics there anyways, so why not?

- Switching my bathroom towels to organic cotton or bamboo. We have 2 dogs, so our towels turn into rags pretty darn quick. Organic cotton and bamboo towels are available at many large scale retailers at this point, so again this is an easy one.

- Homemade dog food. This is really more Tyson than me. That's right, I can't even really cook good dog food. It's mostly better for our dogs, but it does reduce packaging, and is made with all natural items with no preservatives or additives. The dogs seem to like it A LOT better too.

- Buying more local produce. Food that has travelled less obviously creates fewer emissions. Now I just need to convince my fruiterie not to use styrofoam plates to put their food on. Are those things REALLY still allowed?!?!?!?

- Try convincing my local noodle place to let me use my own dishes/containers for takeout. This might be a tough one, but it would be amazing!

- Finding a brand of biodegradable doggie poop bags that I can buy in Montreal. We found some once but couldn't find them again. 'Cause really, putting biodegradable poop in bags that will not degrade or allow the poop to degrade, it's kind of stupid.

- REMEMBERING to bring my own tote bag to get groceries with. Why can't I remember!?!?!?!

- Switching more lights to CFLS, both at home and at HQ

- Switching some of my magazine subscriptions to online versions. Readymade magazine is now available online (with a subscription code). It will reduce paper, but will also reduce clutter in my house, an extra bonus.

- Convincing people that bottled water is the craziest thing in the world. I understand that you may need to buy a bottle of water when you're at some music festival or something and your hydration is at risk, and they won't let you bring in your own water, but in your office? at home? at the gym? Come on people, bring your own water!!! Does no one realize that the REASON people think we need to drink bottled water is because people think tap water is not clean enough? Because of pollution from, oh I don't know, WATER BOTTLES?!?!?!? The irony people, the irony...

- One last tip I just read is that The Home Depot is now offering FREE recycling of all your broken or dead CFL lightbulbs. This may sound like a small thing, but it is AMAZING. Not sure if everyone realizes this, but CFLs have mercury in them, so you can't just chuck them out like a regular bulb. Thank you Home Depot!

Happy Earth Day everyone, here are a few links to check out if you're interested in learning more:

Wikipedia page on Greenwashing



Allison said...

You must listen to Evalyn Parry's awesome spoken-word piece about bottled water, Bottle This: http://www.evalynparry.com/2007/10/29/bottle-this/

You can also drop off used CFLs in the lighting department at IKEA.

I posted some of my earth-friendly activities on my blog for anyone looking for more ideas.

d said...

Thank you for this post. Yes, my brain is ready to explode from hearing about green this and green that! We cannot consume our way to a healthy planet. We must make substantial changes to our lifestyles -- which for sure is not easy, and that's why green products are touted way more than green lifestyle choices.

One thing for you to consider if you can't remember your tote bag for groceries: you can get the kind that is made out of lightweight nylon or something similar that folds into a tiny envelope or a little roll and easily fits in your purse or even your pocket. If it's always in your purse, it's hard to forget. And I believe that a nylon bag is preferable even over an organic cotton one if it means that you actually use it.

Happy Earth Day to you and good luck on your eco-quest! :)

Anonymous said...

i work near a mall so i often end up at the food court and the amount of styrofoam waste really started to bother me. now i bring along a tupperware or container instead and no one has given me any trouble about using it. in fact they're saving 2 cents or whatever by not having to give me one of their disposable plates. i bet the take-out place near you won't mind.

The HQ Duo said...

Thanks for the comments everyone!

allison - I'll check out the link, thanks!

RE the grocery bag: The only problem is that since we don't have a car I usually don't bring my whole purse when I go grocery shopping, just my interac card. So who knows why I forget to bring the bag, it's really stupid! Just need to get into the habit. But the nylon bag is a great idea anyways, just to keep in the purse for last minute things to pick up

RE the styrofoam plates: I really hope they agree! I asked one place once, and they wouldn't do it because they said my container was too small and the food would be all squished and not look nice!! WTF?!

sarah said...

dog food recipe please?

The HQ Duo said...

I'll but Tyson and see if he'll send you the recipe via Flickrmail. Also, I didn't even know you have a blog! Awesome! You vintage scores are AMAZING!!!!