By Wendy Gabriel on December 06, 2012

Has greenwashing reached obscene heights by using sustainable buzzwords like "recycling" and "recycled"?

I am obviously a big fan of recycling. There are many brilliant people developing products that utilize recycled materials, and in the process reduce the amount of virgin resources we use.

One example is Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe Program, and another is REUSE Jeans, which, by utilizing 80% recycled cotton in its jeans, saves an incredible amount of resources, including an eye-opening amount of water for every pair. There are also products that should never be put into landfills, such as electronic waste, and finding solutions for efficient recycling for these products are a must.

Dasani recycled PlantBottle

Is Dasani's PlantBottle a product of the evolution of greenwashing?

But recycling also has a dark side.

There are companies touting products as "environmentally friendly" because they use less plastic and contain recycled materials. But are these products better for the environment, or are the manufacturers of these disposable items using sustainable buzzwords as a way to market consumption as environmentalism?One example that comes to mind is Dasani. Not only is the company selling something that we can get without the plastic bottle, but its new PlantBottle packaging is also advertised to be up to 30% plant-based plastic while still being 100% recyclable. Dasani’s site explains that the company is also reducing the weight of the bottle because, “lighter bottles require less plastic, which helps to conserve natural resources and lower CO2 emissions.” Is it better to use less plastic and find plant-based alternatives? Absolutely. But is buying a bottle of water environmentally friendly? Probably not.

The reason is twofold. First, we all know that fresh, clean water is essential to life. According to the Protected Water Fund, of the world’s total water supply, 97% is seawater, and of the remaining 3%, less than 0.5% is usable, clean water. We should be conserving this precious resource, not pumping it into plastic bottles.

Second, although the plastic is recyclable, most plastic beverage bottles are not recycled. According to the Container Recycling Institute, “Around 636 thousand tons of PET plastic beverage bottles were recycled nationwide in 2006, but more than three times as much PET was wasted: 2 million tons.”

So, the next time you see a company hyping a wonderful disposable product that is also environmentally friendly, decide if you really need it or if you could find a truly sustainable alternative. When we reduce the amount of products we buy in the first place, and reuse what we can, that is when we know we are reducing the environmental harm associated with acquiring raw materials and manufacturing.

About the author

Wendy Gabriel is a freelance eco-writer based in Fargo, ND. She is the founder of MyGreenSide.org and tweets at @MyGreenSide. Wendy is a wife to an amazing man and a mother of two awesome little girls. Everything she does is seen through this lens. Her passion for sustainability is a gift from her parents, who were green long before it was "cool to be green." You can hear Wendy each Tuesday when she brings Simple Tips for Green Living to "The Christopher Gabriel Program." Stream the segment at approximately 12:20 p.m. (CST) at WDAY.com.
Learn more about Wendy Gabriel

Comments

There are no comments for this post yet


Articles by Wendy Gabriel

Reuse in the Garden with EcoScraps

By Wendy Gabriel on August 25, 2014

Two college buddies noticed excessive food waste at a buffet and realized those leftovers could benefit gardens around the globe.

Summertime Recycled Fashion: ReKixx

By Wendy Gabriel on June 23, 2014

A 100% recyclable shoe could be the answer to the footwear landfill problem.

Organics Recycling in Minneapolis

By Wendy Gabriel on April 9, 2014

Residents of Minneapolis and surrounding Hennepin County can take advantage of great curbside composting programs that accept a vast number of organics.

Recycling Articles

How to Recycle Tennis Balls

By Sophia Bennett on August 26, 2014

Tennis players have the option to collect old tennis balls for mail-in recycling programs or take advantage of a bevy of reuse options.

What Should I Do With All of My Unwanted Paper Receipts?

By Maggie Wehri on August 21, 2014

Some receipt paper is highly recyclable, while thermal paper in particular presents challenges at recycling facilities.

Understanding the Recyclability of Different Paper Grades

By Maggie Wehri on August 19, 2014

The EPA recognizes five different grades of paper, each with different recyclability properties.

Current News

Recycling Profile: Champaign, IL

By 1-800-RECYCLING on August 29, 2014

This college town is known for more than academics. Its curbside recycling program is open to all residents.

Recycling Profile: Bowling Green, KY

By 1-800-RECYCLING on August 22, 2014

Touted for its quality of living, Bowling Green recycles curbside on a weekly basis.

Recycling Profile: Erie, PA

By 1-800-RECYCLING on August 15, 2014

Despite instilling single-stream curbside recycling, Erie still uses plastic bags to collect its curbside recyclables.

Loading