Greenwashed Green - Our Daily Green

Monday, August 23, 2010

Greenwashed Green

The Seven Sins of GreenwashingOne of the biggest challenges in our quest to live more green is practicing mindful consumerism. Green has become a desirable trait and many companies want to convince the consumer of their green-ness. Alas, sometimes, the only thing green is the money the company makes convincing the consumer their product is somehow or another friendlier to the environment. There are many examples of this and Sins of Greenwashing has an excellent educational site filled with quizzes, games and reports to assist the consumer.

Our Daily Green would like to address two personal green peeves today.

The first peeve is about bamboo fabric. Bamboo is a  wonderful sustainable grass, renewing rapidly and naturally. Bamboo flooring is an incredible choice for eco-friendly decorating. Bamboo fabric, however, is ridiculously far from organic. Bamboo is a grass, not a fiber. The chemical process involved in turning bamboo grass into a fiber that can be woven and turned into fabric is far from eco-friendly.

According to Organic Clothing:

While specifics can vary, the general process for chemically manufacturing bamboo fiber using hydrolysis alkalization with multi-phase bleaching technology – which is the dominate technology for producing regenerated bamboo fiber – goes like this:  
  • Bamboo leaves and the soft, inner pith from the hard bamboo trunk are extracted and crushed
  • The crushed bamboo cellulose is soaked in a solution of 15% to 20% sodium hydroxide at a temperature between 20 degrees C to 25 degrees C for one to three hours to form alkali cellulose 
  • The bamboo alkali cellulose is then pressed to remove any excess sodium hydroxide solution. The alkali cellulose is crashed by a grinder and left to dry for 24 hours 
  • Roughly a third as much carbon disulfide is added to the bamboo alkali cellulose to sulfurize the compound causing it to jell 
  • Any remaining carbon disulfide is removed by evaporation due to decompression and cellulose sodium xanthogenate is the result 
  • A diluted solution of sodium hydroxide is added to the cellulose sodium xanthogenate dissolving it to create a viscose solution consisting of about 5% sodium hydroxide and 7% to 15% bamboo fiber cellulose 
  • The viscose bamboo cellulose is forced through spinneret nozzles into a large container of a diluted sulfuric acid solution which hardens the viscose bamboo cellulose sodium xanthogenate and reconverts it to cellulose bamboo fiber threads which are spun into bamboo fiber yarns to be woven into reconstructed and regenerated bamboo fabric 
This gives some feel for how chemically intensive the hydrolysis-alkalization and multiphase bleaching manufacturing processes are for most bamboo fabrics that are promoted as being sustainable and eco-friendly.

A second peeve is recyclable plastic bottles. Yes, yes, #1 and #2 are recyclable, as well as a specially handled #5. Our Daily Green has written about it ad infinitum. However, to consider that 30-40 years ago, most products were not even available in plastic bottles (RE: water, hand soap, milk jugs, food products), the fact that such items can be recycled is still a second stage. Plastics are turned into polar fleece, carpet and plastic lumber. They are not turned into bottles again, so in essence, more resources are still used to make more plastic bottles. Recycling them only creates a second use for them. Do any of Our Daily Green's readers remember returnable bottles? They could be sterilized and reused for exactly what they started out their life being. Aluminum cans become aluminum cans again, glass bottles return to glass bottles... plastic becomes something else still necessitating the need to continue making plastic. Where does it end? Only when we vow to use less plastic.  
Do you have any green peeves? 


Tracy at Ecosize Me said...

insightful post Kim. "recyclable" is my pet peeve...when things are marked "recyclable" such as plastic bags, PS packaging products, etc. If the end-user doesn't "recycle" the item, then it really isn't following the "green" path. There needs to be such a bigger push for reusable, durable items.

FreshGreenKim said...

Oh Tracy, isn't that the truth! It's only recyclable if someone follows through. As you said on my FB page, we've probably reached a saturation of those who CHOOSE to recycle. What now?

inadvertent farmer said...

Yes! All those 're-usable' bags sold in the grocery stores now. I love the fact that they can be re-used but most are made of plastics and I have not found a one yet not made in China.

The carbon footprint from the petroleum in the plastics to the fuel to ship them over here (US) makes them an questionable choice.

At least paper bags are made right in my can re-use them a couple of times again at the grocery store and then they make a great weed barrier for garden paths. Kim

FreshGreenKim said...

Welcome, Kim (name twin!)... wow, I never really thought about those "re-usable" bags, but yes, I went and looked at my stash and indeed, made in China, from plastic, shipped here.

It's very difficult to get paper bags at the stores these days, I always have to beg for them when the kids need book covers for the year. (almost time to beg again), but I think it's time for me to reconsider my begging again once my reusable bags wear out.