Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's not easy being green!

It seems like it should be easier than ever to go green, right? Everywhere you turn, there are new products joining the green team. Even big name companies are joining in the movement, like the Nature's Source products from S.C. Johnson that I featured in two giveaways.

Normally this would be a good thing. Several years ago, when I first started my attempts to be more green, it was so difficult to find good products that were readily available and affordable. Today it is much easier, and the growing awareness means that more and more families are thinking about how they can choose products that are safer for their families and our planet.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies still have a different type of "green" in mind when they think about the growing trend of eco-consciousness. Green as in money, of course. Buzzwords like "natural", "organic", and "earth-friendly" are now plastered across television ads and product labels. It seems like every industry, from computers to cars to cookware, has a new product or campaign that is targeted to be eco-friendly.

But what does it mean? There are some trustworthy seals and certifications out there, but for the most part a company can take any old product and slap a nice-sounding green label on it, when in fact the product is really no different than the conventional version. Hence, the greenwashing that we encounter daily, on the television, in the grocery store, in our news papers and magazine articles.

Parents are no exception to the targeted deception. Think about the average new parent that is suddenly and entirely responsible for such a tiny, vulnerable creature. Many people realize that taking steps to go green is important for the health of our environment and ultimately their own little one. But for someone who is new to the whole thing, it can be intimidating and overwhelming enough to evaluate all of the baby products out there, without even considering the green factor. So many of us see a label that touts "organic" or "natural" and we think, "Ok, great! I'll pick this one so that my little munchkin will be safe and healthy!" Yet the product that we've just spent our money on (often more than we would have spent on a "regular" product) in fact filled with all of the same unhealthy junk that we thought we were avoiding.

For example:
- The Serta Perfect Balance Organic Crib mattress is made with "organic cotton layers". Sounds good, right? Especially since crib mattresses are a big source of concern for the scary toxins that they can contain. But although this mattress might contain some organic cotton inside and has a pthalate-free cover, the rest of the mattress contains many of the same concerning ingredients as their conventional mattresses, including their chemical-laden fire-retardants, anti-microbials, and a vinyl cover. So why are we spending more money for that word "organic"?

-Huggies Pure and Natural Diapers "include" organic cotton and recycled fibers. But all in all, are they really that different than standard Huggies? Are they worth the premium price? Should they really offer new moms the peace of mind of a "pure" diaper? No, at least according to Safe Mama who says that in many ways they are identical to their conventional (and cheaper) Huggies counterparts, including potentially nasty ingredients.

- Aveeno Baby Products are "formulated with Aveeno Naturals", like the Soothing Relief Moisture cream that is "enriched with natural colloidal oatmeal". Sounds fabulous, yes? Except they don't broadcast that it also contains methylparaben, ceteareth-6, bezalkonium choloride, and a host of other things that you probably don't want rubbed on your little one's skin. In fact, the Environmental Working Group rates it as a 6/10 (a moderate hazard) on their cosmetics scale.

- Disney Baby "Gentle Naturals" have created a soft, gentle image, and they are proud that they offer "nurturing treatments that are as gentle as a hug from Baby Pooh." For example, their Baby Eczema Wash "is enriched with natural calendula and jojoba". But again, they don't brag about the other ingredients that are certainly not natural, like sodium laureth sulfate, triethanolamine , and several parabens, which have been linked to breast cancer and can mimic estrogen in the human body. Yet how many parents have seen this on the shelf and decided to purchase it as a "natural" alternative for their child?

Unfortunately, until our labeling laws in the US are changed to offer more stringent guidelines, it is up to all of us to spend the time and research to decide if our "green" and "natural" products really deserve that name. And what parent has time to do that? It is sad that it takes this much effort to select products that are natural and safe for the earth and your baby.

If you're interested, here are some more links for information and help in navigating the green labels:
-Safe Mama
-Healthy Child, Healthy World
-Saf Baby
-The Green Parent
- Z Recs' Guide to Safe Children's Products
- Soft Landing Baby


Staci said...

Thanks for the info. It is tough to figure out which things are truly organic or natural anymore. I'll have to check out your links!

MD said...

I use Disney Naturals teething drops. Have you read anything negative about these? I haven't, but was curious. The label seems to be the same as the homeopathic drops and Humphreys. Thanks!

Mission of mamahood said...

@Staci - hope they help!

@MD - the only questionable ingredient I see is sodium benzoate, which is actually used in quite a lot of food, so it doesn't sound too bad.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nicole!~MD

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