Let The Buyer Beware

November 16, 2015


I am constantly amazed at the level of ignorance we as consumers display, in the choices we make regarding products and services. Why is it that we simply 'trust' the claims made by manufacturers when we choose greener products, and when will we learn that not everything we are told is necessarily true?


Recently, I had a debate with a respected consumer advisory site about their range of 'green' products. This website lists a collection of 'greener' consumer products ranging from soaps and gels to furniture, fabrics and building materials.  My argument was that unless the products that were being listed had third-party endorsement or verification, the site was doing itself and its visitors a major disservice. This - I was told, was nonsense, because although the site doesn't claim these products are environmentally friendly, they were in the company's opinion, less harmful than others - and therefore 'greener'..!  


A good exaple of the implications of this kind of misinformed opinion was found on a recent trip I made to an up-market game lodge which positions itself as éco'.  Don't get me wrong, they are doing a lot of amazing and world-class things to make themselves look greener, but taking a closer look at their guest amenities I found that their products al contained EDTA and other 'únfreindly' ingredients. When I raised this with management, they were genuinely offended by the fact that they were being misled by their supplier.   In another case, a leading convention centre was given the impression that wax-coated paper cups were biodegradable when they are clearly not.  Again, they fell for the sales-pitch in the face of readily-available documented proof of the opposite.


There is no such thing as 'greener' because  much as one cant be considered half-pregnant, being environmentally responsible is not a question of degrees when the products that are being promoted contain harmful or patently unacceptable components or ingredients.  Soaps and other household cleaners that contain EDTA, Aluminium, Parabens and other clearly unfriendly ingredients are not green - not by any measure, and relying on the claims and marketing jargon used by manufacturers to class these products as 'greener' is tantamount to stupidity.  


Does a cleaning product that has been tested on lab rats - and which has been found to cause cancers and even death in these creatures, deserve to be considered 'greener' simply because it is less harmful that the alternative which kills humans?  No, it doesn't and we must guard against becoming complacent - and complicit in this greenwashing exercise.  Does it make a product 'greener' simply because it is less harmful than another, or should we be using a more scientific and sustainable measure of what 'green' actully means?


I accept that not all products are as 'bad' as others, but then don't mask them behind terms such as éco', 'green', 'ffiendly'or any range of the other monikers that exist in the marketplace unless you are prepared to have them verified as such by an independent label or authority.  Call them what they are, but stop claiming that they are green when they are quite obviously not.


Greenwashing relies on our inability to see through the nonsense we are fed by manufacturers.  It is aided-and-abetted by well-meaning distributors and given life by ignorant consumers.  Unless we all start questioning the claims that manufacturers make about their so-called 'green' products, we have no right to complain about the consequences to our planet or our own personal health and welfare.


Every manufacturer has the opportunity to back their claims against internationally recognised standards of environmental stewardship, yet not many do.  Excuses range from 'too expensive' to 'see no advantage' and this is simply made worse by our gullibility and greed to accept whatever we are told.  Stop being led - start making a difference.



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