What are the impacts of the manufacturing and use of these items?
In addition to what we are buying, it is important for us to evaluate how the products we buy were made and what impacts they will have when we are using and done with them.
Evaluate the impacts of the products you buy:
When we understand the impacts of the product we buy, this can affect our health, economy, community and the environment..
Watch out for the “greenwashing” of products.
- We all want to buy products that aren’t harmful to the environment or to our own health. Unfortunately, many manufacturers and retailers claim to use environmentally sound, healthy practices and ingredients when in fact, they don’t.
- These companies are spending billions of dollars every year to convince us, the consumers that their products have little or no impact on the environment, or can even help. When in fact, they are spending more money on marketing, packaging and labeling than they are on actual product development that is truly environmentally sound.
- When greenwashing occurs, well-meaning consumers can be mislead into buying items that aren’t living up to their environmental claims.
What to watch out for:
- Hidden trade-offs: when a product claims it is “green” based on a single environmental component (using recycled paper), without attention to more important environmental issues (chemicals in the product, water used to create the product, other harmful impacts of the product). Examples:
- Office technology (printers, copiers, fax machines) that promote energy efficiency without attention to hazardous material content, indoor air quality or compatibility with recycled paper or remanufactured toner cartridges.
- Many laundry detergents, dish detergents, air fresheners, bathroom cleaners, markers, flooring laminate, bags, multi-purpose cleaners, wood panels and pesticides make these claims.
- 57% of products in a recent study had hidden trade-offs.
- No proof: when a product has an environmental claim that cannot be verified by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification. Examples:
- Household lamps and lights that promote their energy efficiency without any supporting evidence or certification.
- Facial tissues and paper towels that claim post-consumer recycled content without providing evidence.
- Vagueness: claims that are so poorly defined or broad that the real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer. Examples:
- “Non-toxic.” Everything is toxic in sufficient dosage.
- “All Natural.” Arsenic is natural. So are uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde. All are poisonous.
- Irrelevance: when a product makes and environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant and unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally-preferable products. It is irrelevant and therefore distracts the consumer from finding a truly greener option. Examples:
- Many products claim to be CFC-free, but CFCs have been banned for almost 30 years. CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) were a principle contributor to ozone depletion. So this claim has NO merit.
Support responsible companies.
- If you can’t find a product with good environmental qualities, at minimum you should buy from companies and business that are acting in a responsible manner.
- Buy from businesses and manufacturers who are working to reduce their own environmental impact, utilize renewable energy and are committed to energy efficiency upgrades. Also from those who support their employees and the surrounding community of where these products are made and sold.
How to support these companies:
- When deciding where to purchase your products from, choose local businesses whenever possible.
- Be knowledgeable about the products you are using and their impact on your health, the environment and the manufacturing and operating processes of those products: