“Green” Things That Are A Waste Of YOUR Green

Happy Earth Day.

Today we all pledge to turn off the lights, put that can in the recycling and use less paper…in hopes that it makes up for the other 354 days in the year that we blasted the air conditioner, used quadruple-ply toilet paper and left the car chugging in idle….

Not to say that Earth Day isn’t an important reminder that we all life on one gigantic, non-renewable resource…our planet.

Its fantastic that being “green” has become trendy and that more people are (or at least consider themselves…) aware of eco-friendly choices. However, marketers have their money-making pulse on trends and its easy to see the proliferation of “green” on the shelves. You will often pay more for those planet-loving products but they may not be that much better than the standard option.

Today there was an article by Amy Tennery, The Big Moneyon MSN. Amy used some information off of sinsofgreenwashing.org to help shed a healthy dose of skepticism on some of these buys….below is the condensed version:


Clorox’s Green Works products

Green Works is touted as Clorox’s answer to the call for eco-friendly home-cleaning products. Several of these products contain corn-based ethanol. Sounds great…corn…nature! But ethanol has been criticised as being an expensive and environmentally deleterious product.

 Other items contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which the company describes as a “coconut-based cleaning agent.” Ah! Coconut! “Au natural! Nope….

The American College of Toxicology says SLS is a known skin irritant. Many people…including yours truly…experience allergic reactions to this additive. SLS is a fascinating thing…you’ll be *amazed* at how many of your home products its in. Check your laundry detergent…its there. Now check your shampoo bottle…its in there as well.

Also included are synthetic dyes. I’m pretty sure synthetic dyes do not grow in the great outdoors.

Still, Clorox received an endorsement from the Environmental Protection Agency. They’ve also partnered with the Sierra Club (who receives an “undisclosed sum” for its association with the products (its logo is featured on the bottles). The amount of money Clorox donates each year to the Sierra Club is said to be based on sales…last year Sierra received $470,000 from Clorox.

To their credit, Clorox clearly identifies all ingredients on product labels and on their Web site. They’ve also altered products to meet EPA standards.

Amy says a better choice is Seventh Generation products out of Burlington, VT. They make everything from light bulbs to cleaners.


Gas-saving magnets

These little gems promise to reduce your gas consumption with powerful neodymium “rare earth magnets.” (Also can be used to help you get through green lights…see a few posts ago…). Apparently you put them on the fuel line…it ionizes the gasoline…the fuel passes through the strong magnetic field…hydrocarbon groups or clusters are broken up…the fuel is now easier to vaporize…and you save on gas. Wow…TMI. 

So will you really save up to 20%? Is it worth the price tag of $29.95?


These magnets are incapable of “ionizing” gas. There’s no science to back up the claim.


Sephora’s ‘natural standards’

“Green cosmetics”…whodda thought…

Big time beauty maker Sephora ($$$) calls these products “naturally gorgeous”…and they slap a green seal declaring their “high internal standards” for using the “purest, most efficacious ingredients Mother Nature has to offer”…to prove it to you. Efficacious? That’s serious stuff!! brands with the “Naturally Sephora” seal.

That word…”natural” is not regulated by the FDA…so this “standard”…is Saffora’s “standard.”

So should it be yours?

Dozens of their products are said to contain high levels of harsh chemicals and cancer-causing agents according to the Environmental Working Group (these are the folks I worked with on my “Fragrance” piece).   Their website lists every cosmetic under the sun and assesses their safety on a 1 to 10 scale. Check out some of the products you use here….its interesting to see where the things you lather on everyday fall on the harm scale….

Some of their “natural” products scored 5’s and 6’s…not much better than the conventional stuff on the shelf at CVS (…for 1/4 of the price…).

Sephora admits that the term natural isn’t regulated but they don’t outline how much “green” product they are using that actually makes it BETTER than everything else.  Its easy to throw around words like, “antioxidants, botanicals, essential oils, fruit extracts, marine bioactives, minerals and vitamins”….consumer advocates are demanding they DEFINE them…and QUANTIFY them.





  1. Following is a response posted by Ketchum on behalf of The Clorox Company:

    On behalf of The Clorox Company, I would like to respond to Amy Tennery’s article titled “The Four Biggest Enviro-Scams,” in which she criticizes the Green Works brand. It is our belief that Ms. Tennery misinterpreted key product information about Green Works Natural Cleaners, and I would like to provide the following facts to put her conclusions into context.

    First of all, the Green Works brand is committed to using the highest level of natural ingredients in each product. The majority of Green Works natural products are recognized by the EPA’s Design for Environment program for using safe chemistry, and we are working with the EPA to get the remainder of our products in the program.

    Since our launch, the Green Works brand has been transparent in our labeling of ingredients, our definition of natural and the percentage of natural ingredients in our formulas (95+ percent). In fact, to the best of our knowledge, no other company making natural household cleaning products lists, on label, the percentage levels of natural ingredients in their natural products. In terms of transparency, the Green Works brand not only lists all our ingredients on labels and on our web site but we have broadly communicated our belief that natural products should:

    o Be made from plant- and mineral-based ingredients
    o Be made with biodegradable cleaning ingredients
    o Not be tested on animals

    Tennery is quick to dismiss the natural profile of an ingredient, implying that it’s more important to be environmentally sustainable. We believe both are important, which is why we are confident in the ingredient choices we have made for our formulas.

    Corn-based ethanol – Tennery states that the environmental community has targeted corn-based ethanol for being “neither cost effective nor eco-friendly,” but these complaints are for using corn-based ethanol as a fuel source. This has nothing to do with how we use corn-based ethanol in Green Works products. From our standpoint, we would rather use a plant-based ethanol in our products than a similar petrochemical-based ingredient.

    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – Tennery states “many items in the Green Works line” contain SLS. Only Green Works Natural Dishwashing Liquid and Green Works Natural Dilutable Cleaner contain this ingredient. SLS can be an irritant at high concentration levels — similar to other natural ingredients, such as citric acid (lemons) or acetic acid (vinegar). As an ingredient in our dishwashing liquid and our dilutable cleaner, SLS is present at low levels and is safe for the consumer.

    We are actively continuing to evolve the Green Works brand – from the formulas (as natural options become more widely available), and to packaging (going towards 100% PCR).

    Finally, Tennery comments about our “perplexing” relationship with Sierra Club. From our standpoint, it’s pretty straightforward. The Green Works brand wanted to contribute to environmental conservation by supporting one of the largest, grassroots organizations in the U.S. We are proud to continue our financial support of Sierra Club today.

    The Green Works brand stands for powerful cleaning done naturally and we have stayed true to that promise. Our proposition is aimed at the mainstream consumer who is interested in natural products that clean, are affordable and easily accessible. We are achieving our goal to mainstream natural cleaning and are proud of our leadership position in the Natural Cleaning Category.


    Jessica Buttimer
    Global Domain Leader, Green Works

  2. Ugh, I liked! So clear and positively.

  3. Thanks for article. Everytime like to read you.

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