HOW TO TELL IF A PRODUCT IS GREENWASHING YOU

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It is so hard to know if you can trust a product. Through out my research and my past 15 years in the health and wellness industry, I have looked at many products available on our market place. It’s scary when we realise that greenwashing or marketing to make a product seem natural, more natural or even good for you is an actual thing. And we fall for it. I have, you have and I can guarantee everyone you know has also.

Greenwashing is a trick that marketing companies use to make you believe that a product is better for you and natural. Many commercial companies spend big money making you believe that their product is the right one for you.

BUT LET ME HIT YOU WITH THE FACTS.

There are no governing laws around the use of the words ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. This will soon however change, but until then what does that mean? Well, it pretty much means any cleaning or body product can slap these two words on their product with a fancy earthy green label and have you believe that that product is in fact ‘natural’ and/or ‘organic’.

It is also the same with greenwashing that happens with eco-friendly products. It comes as a huge surprise in my talks when I tell the audience that eco-friendly products are just as bad. Did you know most products available on the market are eco-friendly? Just some choose to market it more than others.

SO, WHAT DOES ECO-FRIENDLY ACTUALLY MEAN?

Eco-friendly means that the product itself will biodegrade in the environment. That is, it is not harmful to the environment. But here’s where we are also fooled. We are greenwashed to believe that because it’s good for the earth, it’s good for us………right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Many eco-friendly products still contain ingredients that can be harmful to our body such as phlatates.

‘Oh geez Cara! What do you mean my eco-friendly products could also be bad for me?’ I can just see you cursing me now.

I’m not here to tell you to throw out your cupboard of products but what I am asking you to do….politely…. is to check your products before you buy. First check to see if all the ingredients are listed on the product. Here’s another doosey, there is also no governing laws on what ingredients a cleaning product needs to list on the label.

Next time you walk down the cleaning isle (the 2 big whopping ones in your local supermarket) pick up a normal commercial cleaning product and an eco-friendly product and see how they list their ingredients. The commercial cleaning product may say ‘Contains Active Ingredient x % v/v or w/v’. What it tells me is that 5% of that product contains the active ingredient ‘x’. But my question to you is what is the other 95%?

'What the heck does this mean Cara?'

WHAT IT TELLS ME IS THAT 5% OF THAT PRODUCT CONTAINS THE ACTIVE INGREDIENT 'X'. BUT MY QUESTION TO YOU IS WHAT IS THE OTHER 95%?

It may just be water, but how do we know as a consumer? Especially if you are an allergy sufferer or the parent of one who is watching what you use on your skin and in your home. How do you know if that product is going to set your allergies off? Well you just don’t without knowing what’s in it and exactly what you are allergic to.   

Now turn to your eco-friendly product. If they haven’t opted for the ‘Active Ingredient’ approach they will opt for the apparent ‘Truth on Label’ approach. That is, where they will list all their ingredients but rather than list the actual ingredient, which will read like a chemical, the go for special names like ‘plant based surfactant’ or ‘coconut based emulsifier’. This is all because they know that if you see an unreadable, long, fancy chemical name that you will freak out and run as far away from their product as possible.

WELL, HERE'S THE THING.

All natural, plant based ingredients have a chemical name like their chemical counterparts. Just like Ascorbic Acid (chemical name) is Vitamin C (easy natural name) and represented on a food label by number 300. Let’s face it, even the air we breathe is a chemical. But because we are told that anything we can’t read or pronounce is terrible for us, these eco-friendly brands don’t want to make you think their products are bad for you.

‘But why is this bad, Cara? Just give me the damn answer’

Well let’s take ‘plant based surfactant’ for instance. I can think of a good 6 reasons off the top of my head. Of which 1, maybe 2, are ok for the human body. But how do I know what one they have put in? How do I know if that particular surfactant isn’t the one I am allergic to? The answer is, you won’t.

‘But what happens if it’s certified Cara? Doesn’t that mean it’s completely organic and fine for me?’

Well yes and no. When I choose a certified product, I look for the Australian Certified Organic Certification (ACO). This is a pretty stringent certification and better than most, but it does contain some ingredients, that despite being organic and great cleaning ingredients, can still affect our bodies.

THAT'S WHY WHEN I CREATED THE LINE OF PURE HOME BODY PRODUCTS I MADE SURE I PUT THE EXACT INGREDIENT NAME ON THE LABEL AND LISTED EVERY, SINGLE INGREDIENT.

I avoided the use of words 'organic' and 'natural' because I am over seeing these words used just to sway you to purchase. That way as a consumer you can make that educated decision as to whether or not the product suits you.

That’s right, no fancy disguising or green labels here. Instead a stylish, effective, low tox, plant based product with ALL the ingredients on the label. I let the ingredients speak for themselves and leave it up to you to decide whether my products are suited to you. I just made sure that, as a health care professional, the formulations were low tox, plant based, damn effective and healthier for you.

So next time you shop in that cleaning and body product isle, do yourself a favour.

STOP, LOOK AND THINK.

Are these products telling me exactly what’s in them? Do I know if these ingredients are healthy for me, even though it’s eco-friendly? Is it faux natural or faux organic, does it have a certification? And what can I do as a consumer to make sure that I have the upper hand over the greenwashing that happens in the market place? 

Until next time, happy label reading!

Wishing you wellness!

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