A few decades ago, people distrusted something labeled “eco friendly” because it seemed like a political bias or hippie nonsense. Today, just as many people regard that term as suspicious for entirely different reasons. From detergents to stuffed animals, “green friendly products” abound in this country, so much so that the word green has lost a lot of its meaning. As environmentalism becomes hip and eco-awareness grows, marketing departments in every industry know that green sells. Products get the label just to attract buyers, but that doesn’t mean they’re really green. Before you buy green friendly products, you need to know how they really better the earth—not just for yourself, but also for the integrity of the marketplace.
When green friendly products first emerged, they didn’t need a definition or classification, because not a lot of people wanted to buy them. Small artisan shops and holistic medicine stores sold clothing, food, and tools that were made by hand and with natural, earthy materials. Green-minded folks would’ve discounted anything manufactured, but that’s suddenly changing. As more and more people care about their environmental impact, demand for environmentally friendly products has risen sharply. It requires a manufacturing plant to meet those needs, so the old idea of handmade green products has disappeared. The benefit is the expanded reach sustainable products; the cost is a weakened notion of what it really means to be green.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a lot of allegedly green friendly products don’t do anything good for the earth. Some are hardly better than their generic counterparts, and many continue to have a very negative effect on the environment. Companies can technically market these products as green, though, because they change one ingredient or manufacturing process to something a bit more sustainable. An SUV may still have horrendous fuel efficiency, but if it uses PVC-free plastic in its interior, it can declare itself environmentally sound. The designers of such a vehicle don’t really care about the impact of PVC. They just know that one change can increase their car’s value and reputation immensely.
To only make one component green, then, doesn’t seem like it would make a real green product. In many cases, it doesn’t, and it really amounts to nothing more than a marketing scheme. Unfortunately, despite how far we’ve come, not everything is available in an organic and natural form. Some green friendly products only use a few green parts because it’s the most they can do. Strollers can change their cushions, but they can’t always find environmentally sound tires and screws. They may still use pieces that don’t benefit the earth, but they’re as green as they can be, which is what consumers should look for.
The indefinite nature of green friendly products frustrates many eco-conscious people. It encapsulates both handmade, organic wares and manufactured plastics that just remove one of many toxic chemicals. There may never be a standard by which to judge something as truly green, but the intentions of a company can usually be determined. Whether they build cars or bake bagels, if a company really cares about the earth, they’ll do their utmost to better it with their materials and business methods. Their products might not always seem remarkably sustainable or eco friendly, but if companies strive to preserve the planet, they can genuinely be regarded as “green.”