October 2010 - Our Daily Green

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to Reduce Greenwashing

On October 6, 2010, Federal Trade Commission proposed revisions to the Green Guides used by marketers to help them avoid making misleading environmental claims. The guides were originally published in 1992, and revised again in 1996 and 1998. The new proposal seeks to create uniform language for claims.

Following these proposed changes was an unsettling report released this week by TerraChoice, the environmental marketing subsidiary of the Underwriters Laboratory. The report indicates that over 95 per cent of consumer products making green claims are guilty of some sort of greenwashing. Greenwashing is when companies make unsubstantiated, poorly worded or vague claims of environmental friendly practices.

Highlights from The Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition include:
  • There are 73 per cent more green products on market today than in 2009
  • 4.5 per cent of products now sin-free, compared to only 1 per cent in 2007.  100 hundred per cent of toys and 99.2 per cent of baby products surveyed are guilty of some form of greenwashing.
  • BPA-free claims are up by 577 per cent since the 2009 Sins of Greenwashing study, appearing more frequently among toys and baby products than any other category studied.
  • Phthalate-free claims increased 2,550 per cent since 2009. 
  • Big box stores surprisingly are more likely to stock products that are “sin-free” than boutique stores. 
  • Categories such as building materials, construction and office products contained more sin-free products than categories where “green” experience was less developed, such as baby products, toys, and consumer electronics. 
  • Good eco-labeling helps prevent (but does not eliminate) greenwashing – of the products certified by a recognized third-party certification, more than 30 per cent are sin-free.
With all the misleading and sometimes deceptive claims out there, consumer trust is damaged. Confusion paralyzes the consumers from making any sort of green choices. But how to combat greenwashing?  With careful and transparent accounting of environmental footprint activity.  

photo courtesy of: Chris Baskin.com/ Creative Commons 3.0

Promising developments utilizing Enterprise Carbon Accounting (ECA)software can track carbon footprints from the supplier all the way to the consumer. ECA is essentially a hybrid life-cycle assessment; by directly linking financial data to life cycle data to produce a snapshot of the companies’ operations. ECA identifies problem areas in the supply chain so that immediate action can be taken.

This allows decision makers to quickly address critical areas within the enterprise and supply chain. Hunter Richards of Software Advice recently wrote a similar article about ECA software and greenwashing and provided valuable information.

Key factors in successful implementation include; clear government action on regulations, adoption of carbon accounting principles, expansion of emissions accounting, business incentives and informed consumers.

What are some of the ways Our Daily Green readers find genuine green merchandise?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Voting with Our Wallets Green

Several of Our Daily Green's posts this month have focused on consumer choices. We are an economy driven by consumption. It's daunting and confusing to know what companies to support. Under the category of Confessional Green, we admit there are times making such a choice is overwhelming to the point of resentment and inaction. Yet, how consumers spend their money is the way to drive corporate change.

Yesterday, we posted an opportunity to vote for Green Affiliates. The voting is going well, but Green Affiliates is far behind the leader, with the seventh highest number of votes. After checking out the leader, Ethical Oceans does provide a valuable service. One of their recommendations is a book and website that is so simplified and comprehensive that we had to share it here. Our Daily Green's tag line includes the words VERY SIMPLE for a reason. If it's too complicated to adopt, there will be no change in behavior. 

Better World Shopping is a comprehensive ranking site that considers five key issues:  
  • HUMAN RIGHTS: sweatshops, 3rd world community exploitation, international health issues, divestment, child labor, code of conduct. 
  • THE ENVIRONMENT: global warming, rain forest destruction, pollution, recycling, renewable energy, green washing, toxic waste, eco-innovations, illegal dumping, sustainable farming. 
  • ANIMAL PROTECTION: factory farming, animal testing, humane treatment, wild animal habitat. 
  • COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: family farms, local business support, volunteer efforts, sustainable growth, philanthropic donations, nonprofit alliances, establishing foundations.
  •  SOCIAL JUSTICE : fair wages, fatalities, union busting efforts, health & safety records, discrimination based on: race, gender, age, ability, religion, sexuality, ethnicity. 

The site then breaks down the goods and ranks them from best to worst, in simple color coded top ten format. The researchers also considered availability of merchandise so that it's not a wild goose chase to find the most responsible product. Better World Shopping has gathered over 20 years of data on over 1000 companies.  

What Our Daily Green appreciates about the research again is how VERY SIMPLE it is to vote responsibly with our wallets. Few people want to take the time to read every label or go to a myriad of stores or spend hours looking up information on each purchase. Better World Shopping has a pocket sized guide as well as a $1.99 APP for phones.

Better World Shopping's website also provides the resources to obtain more in-depth information. One of the more interesting charts was the top 10 lobbying companies currently spending some of the largest amounts of money on Washington. Lobbying influences the democratic process in ways that serve the companies, but not necessarily the consumer.

With Halloween fast approaching, it was also interesting to find the rankings of chocolate companies which indicates that Nestle has an F, but Hershey's has a C, while the Fair Trade Divine Chocolate gets an A+. Charts like this help the consumer make a quick and informed choice instantaneously. For example, a choice of a Hershey's product would be better than a Nestle product, but not as good as Divine.

The Better World Shopping Guide 3One criticism is of course not knowing "WHY" behind the rankings without further research. This guide is easy to follow making it a very simple way to move towards responsible wallet voting. The popularity of this guide has it in its 3rd edition of publication.  

Let's Just Give It AwayOur Daily Green is so happy to find this book that we will send a complimentary copy to the seventh unique commenter on this post. Please follow, tweet, stumble, share, blog and like this post to help increase comments.

If you are the seventh commenter, please contact FreshGreenKim with contact information. Please include an item you plan to check out in this book if you are chosen. Do not include your email in the comments, but rather send it to me in a separate mail, to protect your privacy.

Good Luck!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

YouTopia Green

One year ago, as part of a blog contest, my fellow greenie, Consciously Frugal gifted a Green America membership to me. Upon receipt of the membership and catalogue, it was thrilling to discover such a comprehensive list of socially, environmentally, and ethically responsible companies and businesses to support.

Our Daily Green is now a Green Affiliate. Green Affiliates empower e-activists to transform the world through economic power. Our mission is to dramatically ramp up online economic activity in support of green, fair trade, and socially responsible companies and causes. This low-cost, viral networking expands the reach of socially responsible companies and causes that may not have marketing budgets or staff.

Green Affiliates have been nominated in a contest sponsored by YouTopia to receive identity development services from Free Range Studios valued at $15,000. Free Range Studios is the brainchild behind Annie Leonard's wildly successful Story of Stuff as well as many of the most successful cause-based viral movies. As they celebrate their 11th year, watch a short movie about some of their previous work. With clients such as the Amnesty International, The Sierra Club, and The Humane Society, Free Range has the talent and resources to raise awareness to a new level.

Our Daily Green encourages our readers to go over to YouTopia and cast a ballot for The Green Affiliates. Help partner two fabulous organizations working to make tomorrow a better day.

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Peer Pressure Green?

Changing behavior is no easy mission. Change is difficult to adapt to if simply for the fact that altering patterns requires repeated effort. It takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit.

This week, The Wall Street Journal published The Secret to Turning Consumers Green with this revealing conclusion:

It isn't financial incentives. It isn't more information.  It's guilt.

Traditional conservation campaigns have been "based on the premise that if we simply provide people with information, they will make changes in their lives," Mr. McKenzie-Mohr says. "We know pretty conclusively that's not true."
The most powerful aspect of social mobilization, researchers say, is that it tends to work on a subconscious level. Americans routinely tell pollsters that they would conserve energy to save the environment or to save money. Ask them if they'd conserve because their neighbors are doing it, and they scoff.
They have it backward. "We can move people to environmentally friendly behavior," says Mr. Cialdini, the psychologist, "by simply telling them what those around them are doing."

Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing (Education for Sustainability Series)
read more
Citing over 30 years of social science research about motivating behavioral change, the single most influential pull is peer pressure. If consumers believe the majority of other people are adopting a behavior, they will also. The possible backlash to this motivator is that green movements could be seen as a moral crusade to stigmatize non-compliance, which is a risky marketing tool.

The five cent bag tax in Washington DC has resulted in significantly less use of bags but researchers believe it is peer pressure, not cost, that has motivated the consumer. Customers must ask for the bags instead of receiving them automatically.

The flip side supports that a small financial incentive (or punishment) is not an adequate motivator. When stores rebate five cents off for each bag brought in, the motivator is not significant enough to change behavior. Festinger's classic study of cognitive dissonance supports the disconnect between the behavior and the reward. The more likely motivator is social pressure.

Fashion, television programming, popular music, even fads like the Silly Bands all have their roots in peer pressure. It's only logical that adopting green behavior would follow suit.

Have you ever changed your behavior based on the actions of your peers or do you consider yourself in a position to shape changes in behavior by setting the example?


Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Clean Water Green

Our Daily Green is honored to participate with bloggers around the world today to highlight work of Water.org and charity: water to ensure safe and clean drinking water.

Five facts that illustrate the severity of the global water issue and why Blog Action Day 2010 is an opportunity to educate and raise awareness about the problem:
Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Unclean drinking water can incubate some pretty scary diseases, like E. coli, salmonella, cholera and hepatitis A.

photos from Belenbisi TibiabisiGiven that bouquet of bacteria, it's no surprise that water, or rather lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.

Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted. Aside from putting a great deal of strain on their bodies, walking such long distances keeps children out of school and women away from other endeavors that can help improve the quality of life in their communities.

It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun. And that's just one meal! It would take over 184 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.

The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world. From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, Americans use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. Now imagine using that same amount to bathe, wash your clothes, cook your meals and quench your thirst.
Earlier this year, the UN declared access to clean water a human right. These facts are a wake up call for those of us with regular access to clean, safe water.  Just $20 will give a person 20 years of clean water. charity : water donates 100% of the money raised to those in need.

Change.orgStart Petition

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Corn sugar smackdown (update)

Several of Our Daily Green's loyal readers have helped me promote my smackdown with the modified food product formerly known as High Fructose Corn Syrup. I've waited patiently again for nearly 3 weeks for a response. I did receive an automated reply from the Corn Refiners Association.
Thank you for visiting SweetSurprise.com.  We appreciate your contacting us 
and value your questions and comments.  While we regret that we cannot reply to all of the questions submitted due to the volume received, each submission is reviewed and taken into consideration.

Responses to many frequently asked questions and comments will soon be  available on our  SweetSurprise.com website.  No personal information will be  included if some or all of your question or comment is selected for publication.

Corn Refiners Association
There has been no additional communication at the time of this writing, so I have no sample for home use. Perhaps if this query became a frequently asked question, they will give it more attention. Our Daily Green would like interested readers to send a similar question to their site or contact their association via phone or paper mail. With enough concern, they will find time to respond to this question.

Corn Refiners Association
Email: comments@sweetsurprise.com
Phone: 202.331.1634
Fax: 202.331.2054
US Mail:
1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 950
Washington, DC 20006-5806

Thank you in advance for helping me with this campaign.


SEEing Green

Social Environmental Ethical is a labeling movement in the United Kingdom to help consumers choose products from companies that are certified socially, environmentally, and ethically.

From the manifesto: 
  • We believe the world can be a better place.
  • We believe that to make this world a better place companies need to behave in a more socially responsible manner.
  • We believe most people demand this, but are unable to make an informed choice about which products and services to buy when so many companies pretend to be ethical just to sell more.
  • We believe the only real way to overcome this cynicism, and hence force real change in the world, is to challenge companies to be transparent and fully accountable to everyone.
  • We believe the most credible way to do this is for companies to be independently evaluated, for the results to be made public, and for there to be a forum where these results can be scrutinized, monitored and commented on.
  • We believe that the more people buy from independently verified companies then the more other companies will want to sign up.
  • We believe this virtuous circle will cause a revolution in business policies and practices.
  • We believe this will change the world for good.

SEE labeling is voluntary and not to be confused with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR has been criticized for being a "greenwashing" sort of ploy for companies to sound more socially responsible than they truly are. For example, as Jeffrey Ballinger of Press for Change told  Corporate Crime Reporter,  

“The CSR cost for Nike is about $10 million to $12 million a year, just for the CSR staff and expenses, to go to these sustainability meetings all over the world,” Ballinger told Corporate Crime Reporter. “They have two or three Nike people at every meeting. That’s part of the CSR game. I figure 75 cents per pair of shoes to the worker would fix the problem,” Ballinger said. “If Nike instead paid workers 75 cents more per pair of shoes, do you know what that would cost Nike compared to the CSR cost? That would cost them $210 million a year.”

SEE what you are buying into

SEE is the acronym for Social, Environmental and Ethical. The meanings of the words are applied in the normal, ordinary ways and cover the range of issues that affect businesses and wider society. Such SEE issues are a fact of life for everyone and every business, whether they engage in activities they call CSR or not. SEE What You Are Buying Into was started in response to the increasing numbers of businesses 'doing CSR' without any credibility.

Our Daily Green wants to hear from our readers. With so many "responsible sounding" terms and acronyms thrown about, credibility and trust is damaged.

Do our companies have a responsibility to behave in an ethical manner or is this strictly a case of caveat emptorAre consumers responsible for researching each purchase they make to determine if the company upholds social, environmental and ethical standards?

Would labeling of any sort sway your purchasing decisions or would skepticism overrule the label?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pinkwashing Green

Pinkwashing is a term Our Daily Green recently discovered in relation to the pink explosion our nation has created to bring about awareness for breast cancer. Frequent readers will remember that the turning point in my personal green lifestyle was a series of cancer diagnosis * among close friends and family members. Cancer is something we're all too aware of in this household. 
*(Within a 6 month period, about eight years ago, six close friends or family members were diagnosed with some sort of cancer. Today only one of those six is alive. Their diagnosis' rattled me so much. I consider myself a problem solver, but there seemed to be no solution to this horrifying disease. All I could do was consider what I grew up with and what I knew. Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells. What causes cells to grow abnormally or mutate?)
In case anyone has missed it, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, with our nation being slathered in pink merchandise at every turn. It's unfortunate that marketers exploit Americans desire for an easy, pain free way to help. Buy Pink! Pink toasters, pink t-shirts, pink jewelry, and even pink tools. It's appalling how easily consumers believe that shopping is the way to solve a problem. Much of the pink merchandise available is simply to "promote awareness" and doesn't even donate any money to any prevention, research, or cure programs.  

According to Barbara Brennan, director of the Breast Cancer Action  in San Francisco, 
“There is a value to awareness, but awareness of what, and to what end? We need changes in the direction the research is going, we need access to care—beyond mammograms—we need to know what is causing the disease, and we need a cure."
Our Daily Green concurs. We are already aware, but are we aware of the steps to take towards PREVENTION?  It's time to make a personal investment by either donating directly to research charities, getting educated about healthier choices for better living, and truly finding cures.  

The pinking and sexualizing of this very serious cancer quite frankly insults those afflicted and their families. We do not need to "go pink" or "save the tatas" or "feel our boobies" to want to conquer this insidious disease. Such campaigns trivialize a very real need to find a cure. We can do better for each other. We can do more.
pinkwashing, susan komen

A few simple actions:  
  • Get your mammogram
  • Avoid food with growth hormones
  • Avoid modified foods with chemical preservatives
  • Exercise regularly
  • Breastfeed your babies
  • Research charities and donate directly to them, versus buying an item you don't need that only donates a portion of the proceeds to the cause 
Rethink pink, and start to think PREVENTION and CURE instead.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Understanding Green

Every Monday MattersOur Daily Green wants to take a moment to thank you and also ask for your continued indulgence as the posting has dropped off dramatically over the past month. A terminally ill parent has been the focus of our attention coupled with some technical difficulties switching from a Windows XP  PC to a Windows 7 one. (nobody with a Mac say anything close to resembling "told you so") 

In the meantime, we'd like to share a free inspiring video. This clip is a beautiful reminder of all the ways we can make sure that Every Monday Matters.