May 4, 2009

Big Green Lies??? Green-washing???

There's a green war taking place on your local store shelves.

Companies launched more than 458 eco-friendly products so far this year. If that trend continues there will be 1,570 new green products on our stores’ shelf space this year, triple the amount introduced in 2008.

Yet terms such as natural, nontoxic, eco-safe, and environmentally friendly are largely unregulated. How can consumers make sense out of the bewildering array of "eco-labels"?

Seventh Generation (producing green products for 20 years) says to follow the Great Law of the Iroquois,

"In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."
That's a rather daunting task, so some online sleuthing is needed. Begin your "green homework" here.

Want to clean with non-toxic and eco-safe green products?
Check out Good Housekeeping's Best Green Cleaners

or's testing of 8 green bathroom cleaning products

Want to use eco-friendly laundry detergents that won't cause algae blooms?
Check out's testing of six green laundry detergents

Want to buy the best green paper products with recycled content?
The Natural Resources Defense Council's website has a special Green Living section that rates toilet paper, paper towels, etc. based on recycled content and being chlorine-free. Click on "Buying Tissue Paper" link there.

or here's Grist's "bottom" line on toilet paper for the wipe stuff. Aren't these guys clever?

Want to buy environmentally-friendly shampoo & other health care products?
While you're in the bathroom, consider all the personal care products in that room. Do you think about toxic chemicals as you wash your hair? The Environmental Working Group's blog follows the latest research. Click on "Chemical Index" or "Health/Toxics" for some facts that will make your hair stand up.

Want to know which foods have the most pesticides?
Check out the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides BEFORE you go shopping.

Still want more info?
The "Green Seal" of Approval indicates that a product or service has been tested according to science-based procedures, that it works as well or better than others in its class, and that it has been evaluated without bias or conflict of interest. Green Seal certifies more than 3,100 products and services, using a life-cycle assessment system.

And . . . for a Green PhD in eco-label mastery:
Consumer Reports translates what other eco-labels, such as "Fair Trade Certified" and "Certified Biodegradable" really mean at You can check out all 149 eco-labels if you're really ambitious.

The BOTTOM LINE? Phosphates are the worst culprits in detergents since they cause algae blooms, but they still show up on many labels, especially on dishwasher products. Other non-green ingredients to avoid are bleach, ammonia, triclosan, petroleum, and the surfactant nonylphenol ethoxylate or NPE (an endocrine disruptor).

If a strong perfume odor lingers after you clean, it’s a good sign that your home’s air could be irritating your lungs. Look for detergents that are "free and clear" of dyes and perfumes.

Baking soda/sodium bicarbonate, vinegar, lemon juice, and good ole 20 Mule Team Borax are usually sufficient to get the job done—especially when mixed with water and a little elbow grease. Much cheaper too.

Trivia for the day: Did you know that the largest deposit of the naturally occurring stuff that baking soda comes from is underground near Green River, Wyoming? Its alkaline crystals are great at neutralizing the greasy fatty acids that neatnik homeowners detest.