The Dangers of GreenwashingOctober 21, 2020
If you’re not familiar with the term greenwashing, it’s time to add it to your mental dictionary. If we’re being generous, greenwashing is a marketing tactic. If we’re being real, greenwashing is a form of deception used to persuade the public that a product or brand is eco-friendly, when it is really not.
Brands greenwash by focusing on one aspect of their product that may be eco-friendly in order to make the product more attractive to customers. We’ve seen a rise in greenwashing and unsubstantiated sustainability claims as consumers smartly prioritize eco-friendly living. Corporations have caught on and tried to benefit from misleading their customers.
As a leader in a paper industry that is riddled with greenwashing, we have witnessed many brands in our space using manipulative tactics to deceive consumers. While we all want to create an eco-friendly household for ourselves and our families, it is important for us to do our homework and make sure that we’re buying something more than just a marketing gimmick...especially when it comes to what we use in the bathroom, and on our privates! Check out our insider insights on the paper industry to make sure no company ever pulls the sustainable, environmentally-friendly wool over your eyes again.
1. Beware of Word Fluff
Say we go to the grocery store and pick up a package of toilet paper, how do we decide whether we should buy it? Oftentimes it’s the words we see on product packaging. But how do you know that the words are truthful and real? Look for these tells, and always make sure the words used are contextual and backed up with evidence. And heads up, many of these words do not have legal definitions which makes them stretchable in marketing contexts. Here are a few of the most common examples:
Natural: Natural is easily the most manipulated word used in green marketing. Because the word natural is not regulated or legally defined, brands have pretty free rein to make you feel great about something that...well...isn’t. Natural should mean that a material was taken from the earth, animals, or plants with little to no manipulation. Unfortunately, it is frequently used when the material was at some point taken from the earth, but was likely heavily processed since. Remember that “natural” isn’t necessarily a good word if the material is being used or harvested in unethical ways!
Green: This is a common ambiguous fluff word when not backed up by evidence. Though the word green is often used to signal that something is environmentally friendly, it is ultimately meaningless by itself.
Eco-Friendly: We all want to be eco-friendly, but many brands will slap an eco-friendly label on their product without any proof that their product is any better for the environment. If they can’t back up this claim with evidence, it is likely not entirely true. Always look for products that back up big claims with real action. Certifications like FSC, USDA Organic, BioPreferred, and WaterSense can be a great way to show real work is being done.
Scientific Lingo: This is a sneaky one! Be careful of those obscure facts that only a knowledgeable scientist or lab technician could check or comprehend. Random information that the average customer would not understand is a red flag for misleading information.
Now that you have some general word fluff lingo in your vocabulary, keep an eye out next time you’re in the toilet paper aisle at your favorite grocery store. Look at the packaging: what kinds of words do the companies use? Is there information to back up these claims?
The good news is that Bim Bam Boo is proudly FSC certified, meaning that our products are made from ethically and sustainably sourced bamboo. Bottom line, we are legitimately good for the earth and your household -- no BS or greenwash word fluff included!
2. "BUY ME! WE PLANT TREES!"
Don’t get us wrong, we are 100% all about reforestation. But recently, we noticed a new craze hitting toilet paper aisles at major retailers like Target and Walmart. Some conventional brands making their tissue out of old-growth trees are toting making statements about planting trees with every purchase.
While reducing fossil fuels is crucial to curb climate change, so is sequestering carbon. According to scientists, there is more carbon trapped in our soils than there is in the atmosphere. Plants draw carbon out of the air, what the plant doesn’t need for photosynthesis is sent deep into the soil.
Every time a tree is chopped down and uprooted, the soil is disturbed, releasing carbon that was once trapped in the earth into the atmosphere. Bamboo, being classified as a grass (not a tree), has a unique root structure that is classified as a grass. AKA, it grows like your lawn! You can actually cut a stalk of bamboo, and it will regrow without need replanting or uprooting. Unlike tree-based farming, bamboo farms do not require significant destruction to the earth’s soils, or the need for pesticides or herbicides.
Additionally, the time and resources required to grow trees is significant. Trees take roughly 30 years to grow to maturity before it’s possible to harvest them. In contrast, the species of bamboo our company selected to manufacture our ultra-soft tissue takes just 3 years.
3. Production Irony
Traditional paper manufacturing is an intensive production process. A single roll of conventional toilet paper requires 1 gallon of chemicals for production. These chemicals include bleach used to whiten, glue that keeps the plys together and formaldehyde is to soften fibers.
Though these chemicals can produce a super-duper cloth-like bath tissue, they’re detrimental to the environment and your home’s septic system. These same additives have also been linked to irritation and higher-risk of yeast infections and urinary tract infections down under, yikes! Nevertheless, these companies are responsible for toting claims about how they’re sourcing a more sustainable wipe. Failing to disclose important production information to customers is a sneaky sign of greenwashing in itself.
We knew there had to be a better, safer way for us all to wipe. We formulated Bim Bam Boo to be hypoallergenic and soothe the most sensitive skin-- the vulva. We eliminated synthetic fibers and switched to all-natural bamboo. And we eliminated animal-derived gelatins and adhesives by switching using our emboss pattern to keep the plys together. Additionally, bamboo uses less water, can be cultivated without pesticides, and can be produced into velvety-soft tree-free tissue without relying on toxic ingredients. We are proud that we do not participate in the chemical intensive process that is a part of the traditional paper industry, because ultimately we care about the health and happiness of the planet and our amazing BBB family.
What to look for on a label:
- 3rd party certifications (Bim Bam Boo is FSC Sustainably Sourced and USDA BioPreferred 100% Plant Based)
- Vegan and cruelty-free ingredients
- Transparent sourcing and product-origin information
4. Suggestive Packaging and Photos
How much toilet paper packaging have you seen with luscious forests, leaves, and flowers on the label? Just like the pesky word fluff, the photos that brands include on their websites and packaging can heavily influence the eco-friendly perception of their mission. Name brand toilet papers that are non-biodegradable will include photos of grass and flowers rising out of their rolls. Little did you know, these are the toilet papers clogging your toilets and septic systems. These stock photos of greenery, nature and flowers are all examples of “photo fluff,” and, if not backed up with real information, can mislead consumers about a brand’s core values.
The Bottom Line: Look for Evidence-Based Claims and Proof
If a product uses fluffy words and pretty pictures to convey its sustainability, there must be information and certifications to back up the claims. The more transparency brands use, the less likely it is that you are being greenwashed. Providing information like third-party certification as mentioned above and information on material sourcing are great examples of brands practicing transparency.
How does Bim Bam Boo fit in?
Bim Bam Boo values transparency above all. As a sustainable paper company, the health of our planet and our amazing customers is of the utmost importance.
As the fastest growing plant on earth, bamboo is a perfect alternative to tree-based paper products. But that isn’t the only reason bamboo is one of the coolest plants on the planet. It has special antimicrobial properties which means it can be cultivated without the use of harsh pesticides, AND made into paper products with zero harsh chemicals! Plus, our magical bamboo toilet paper solution is FSC certified, USDA Biopreferred, and vegan/cruelty free, meaning that our bamboo was ethically and sustainably harvested. We also strive to create minimal-waste with plastic-free packaging. Because of this, our individual rolls are wrapped in beautiful soy-based ink wrapping paper.
If you want to learn more about anything under the sun related to bamboo hygiene products, vulva health and toilet paper, and septic system etiquette, check out our blog, Beyond the Roll! Follow us on Instagram for exciting insider information and giveaways. We promise to continue delivering real and transparent information, all while letting the good times unroll.