What’s a Green Mom to Do: An Excerpt from “The Sins of Greenwashing

Working on a presentation for a group of college students interested in sustainable marketing, I came across this excerpt from “The Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition 2010” by Terrachoice, a an environmental marketing and consulting firm. I absolutely love the work that this group does:

Toys & Baby Products:

Parents care, and companies are trying, but greenwashing is rampant.

Despite the adage that few consumers are more attentive to health and environment than new parents, wide scale “greening” of toy and baby products is only a recent phenomenon. Now, finally, it is growing rapidly.

We found a total of 168 toys and 706 baby products that made a total of 2,073 “greener” claims. In addition to multi-category retailers, our field work included six specialty toy/baby stores of various sizes and brands.

• More than any other single claim that we observed, “BPA-free” and “phthalate-free” (and variations on the theme) have become more frequent in the last year. The percentage of products making BPA- free claims increased by 577%, and those making phthalate-free claims increased by 2,550%!

• Two-thirds of these claims appear on toys and baby products.

• An extraordinary 44% of all “green” baby products include a BPA-free (or similar claim), and 10% include a phthalate-free claim. Only 5% of “green” toys make either a BPA- or phthalate-free claim.

What’s a green mom to do?

Support “green” products whenever you can, even if you suspect greenwashing. Since most greenwashing is exaggeration rather than falsehood, you’re probably choosing a “greener” product (though it’s probably not as “green” as it claims). And, every time you choose a “greener” product, the market hears you say: “I like this. I want more green products. Please keep trying.” (And the market will.)

Choose the green product that offers the best proof. Choose ecologo or other reliable standards and certifications when you see them, and choose more information over less information. When you do, you’re more likely to wind up with the “greenest” choice and, you tell the market “I want more information!” (And it will hear you again).

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