8 posts categorized "Greenwashing"

April 30, 2010

Earth Day Recap of Crap - Our Top 10 List

Earth-day Last week marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day - a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for our environment. Judging by our observations, however, it looks like 2010 also marks the year when Earth Day went full-blown commercial. Rather than press coverage of this international landmark day, we saw ads suggesting that we celebrate Earth Day with some decidedly non-environmentally friendly products and marketing schemes. There was so much stuff out there it was overwhelming - so here is our top 10 round up of the Earth Day promotions and events that completely missed the point:

1. Target gives away 1.5 million cheap reusable bags - We've said it before and we'll say it again: You get what you pay for -- low-quality freebie bags quickly end up in the waste basket or sitting in a closet, contributing to more wasteful consumption.

2. Lowe's celebrates Earth Day with toxic chemicals - A great find by one of our Ambassadors, Lowe's offered big Earth Day savings on non-Earth friendly products Spectracide (killing plants with toxic chemicals)!

3. Procter and Gamble's "Future Friendly" campaign - Another Ambassador find, P&G's efforts at greenwashing their chemical and paper products were not convincing."...we created Charmin MegaRoll, which features four times as many sheets per roll than a regular roll of Charmin. ... the product requires the use and disposal of fewer cardboard cores..."

4. CVS pushes its Green Bag Tag - Spend $1 on this plastic tag & have it scanned every time you BYO bag to CVS. After 4 scans, you get a coupon (printed on your already too-long receipt) for $1 your next purchase. Why not just knock a few cents off your purchase when you  BYO bag? Green gimmick.

5. Free totes and genetically-modified foods! - Rather than giving away low-quality free tote bags (emblazoned with their logo, of course) we'd like to see this cereal company vow to no longer use genetically-modified foods in their products - a truly eco-friendly move.

6. Disney's "Friends for Change" nonsense - We're all for teaching out kids about conservation. Unfortunately Disney's efforts seem misguided. Trade in six disposable water bottles and get a free hat? What's the point?

7. Pepsi's "Dream Machine" - A big, ugly robot that eats your empty Pepsi bottles and rewards you with points to, presumably, use to purchase new bottles of Pepsi. Great.

8. Walmart's "Earth-friendly products" - Walmart isn't going anywhere anytime soon - so we'll ignore the fact that their commitment to low-low prices takes it toll not only on the environment but also on the human beings making these products for next to nothing. Let's talk about some of these goofy Earth-friendly products they're hawking in honor of Earth Day. First, wtf is an "Earth Pan"? Secondly, a host of reusables so inexpensive, you have to ask what corners were cut to produce something that cheap? How much does the quality suffer? How long will it last?

9. McDonald's introduces the Earth Shake - OK, this one was just an April Fool's joke - but how many of you saw this Associate Press practical joke and thought, "Oh cool, McDonald's is going to start making their shakes out of real milk and ice cream...wait, what the heck are they made out of now?" It just goes to show you how prominent these lame "green" efforts are.

10. The Earth Day freebie extravaganza - while scouring the net for events actually celebrating the 40th anniversary of this important day we were astounded to see most major news sources focusing on the free crap you could get from stores rather than environmental news, stories about the legacy of Earth Day or even guides for "going green." Giveaways ranged from cheap non-woven polypropylene bags to cheap-o baseball caps to plush dolls commemorating the holiday - a bunch of plastic commemorative junk.

Campbells_tomato But it ain't all bad...

Picking on companies falsely profiting from the green movement is like shooting fish in a barrel - but we felt compelled to point them out because for the most part, their messaging goes against the very core of our mission: to reduce consumption of use and toss items. 

But for every 10 or so campaigns or press releases that made us exclaim "you've gotta be kidding!" we did see organizations that seemed to really "get" the real purpose of Earth Day. Here are a few:

Green America's 10 Ways to Shift to Green - Smart, straight forward tips for using the economy to support business and products that are good for people and the planet.

Yahoo! Lists 5 things to Avoid this Earth Day - A great article that points out the flaws in our tendency to rush out and buy the latest eco-friendly gadgets. 

Care2's Top 5 Household Tips for Earth Day - Easy tips anyone could put into action right now, no purchase necessary.

Earth Day for Cynics - An even shorter list of only three things anyone could do and should do to cut back on consumption.

10 Simple Ways to Cut Down on Disposables - Our own list of the top ten disposables you can easily replace with reusables to waste less on Earth Day and every day. 

Did you spot any really great (or really terrible) Earth Day actions? Tell us about it in the comments section!

April 22, 2010

Earth Day - spot greenwashing and win!

By now your inbox has probably already been filled with all sorts of Earth Day offers - some legitimate and some downright laughable. For every message we've received with a truly eco-friendly message we've received five great examples of greenwashing. One of our Ambassadors even spotted this ad from P&G, a company that produces paper towels, non-recycled toilet paper and dozens of chemical-laden household cleaners.

We're planning a roundup of the best of the worst instances of greenwashing we spotted this Earth Day. Have you seen a great example? Post a picture, screen grab, link or video to our Facebook page and you might win a snackTAXI reusable snack or sandwich bag!

January 26, 2010

Taste the Seasons - Sainsbury's bag campaign

Image We recently discovered an interesting bag campaign from Sainsbury's grocery stores in the U.K. - Taste the Seasons. The idea is, you purchase these reusable bags, printed with the names of foods that are in season locally at different times of the year. It encourages both the use of reusable bags and a healthy, seasonal and local diet.

On one hand, this is a really cool idea for a reusable bag, very cute and fashionable. But we wonder if it's encouraging people to buy a bunch of small, cute bags rather than encouraging them to cut consumption by purchasing a small selection of well-made bags they'll actually use for years.

Is it a respectable effort toward cutting back on plastic bag waste and encouraging healthy habits or just green washing? What do you think?

November 03, 2009

Say No to Faux - Cheap Reusables are Everywhere

Ripoff If you've been keeping up with our blog the past few months you're already well aware that cheap reusables are becoming just as big of a waste issue as disposable items. We've talked about cheap promotional giveaways, poorly made $1 bags, cheap bottles... and every day there's more of them to talk about.

The bottom line is, cheap reusables won't last long enough to accomplish the #1 goal of reusables - cutting back on waste. They tear, they break - in some cases they're made from unsafe materials or in factories that do not enforce Fair Trade practices. Over all, a poorly-made items won't save you money and they won't cut back on waste - so what's the point?

The issue hit a little closer to home this past week end when our company founder discovered a cheap knock off of one of our own products being used as a member perk at the Lincoln Park Zoo! There's nothing wrong with a little fair competition, but these ultra-compact bags were clearly a direct copy of our best-selling ACME Bags Workhorse. The worst part though is that they're made from a cheap version of rip-stop nylon that can only be described as "crunchy". Loose threads are exposed, it doesn't feel as nice as the original and we're guessing once we test it out, it's not going to replace 1500 plastic bags like the Workhorse does.  

And it's not the first time. Our customer service representative Belinda actually had a similar knock off from Chicago Public Radio with her the day she interviewed for the job here. We shudder to think about how many people received one of these giveaways, perhaps thinking they were getting one of our bags, and had it fail on them.

ACME Bags, unlike cheap knock offs, are 100% guaranteed against defects in materials or construction for life. Our practical, stylish, durable, innovative, "logo free" designs are made from the most sustainable / high-performance materials available. We pledge 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment and our products are produced in accordance with fair labor/ Fair Trade practice. Take that, cheap reusables. 

You can read more about ACME Bags in our FAQ and check out our growing line of award-winning reusables in our store.

October 06, 2009

Da Bears, Da Bags, Da Waste


Greenwashing Meets Pinkwashing

As a Chicago company, we're big Bears fans - and we all try to get out to as many home games as we can. Last year we were pretty disappointed to see cheap, non-woven polypropylene bags given away to everyone in attendance.

This past Sunday, another 40,000 more cheap reusable bags were distributed among fans. This year's sponsor, another huge corporation like last year's, used this marketing gimmick to tie their name to two good causes - environmental conservation and breast cancer awareness.  People who took these bags were instant walking advertisements for that corporation. And the bags were cheap, so the likelihood that they'll be used again is slim. In fact, we saw hundreds of these bags shoved into garbage cans all over Soldier Field as we left the game - what a waste! (We recommend you read our post about dollar store reusable bags for more on non-woven polypropylene bags.)

We actually overheard some Bears fans say, "No thanks, I'll never use it." This prompted the people giving the bags away to say, "C'mon, they're free! And it's for breast cancer awareness!" Of course we support breast cancer awareness - but how does shoving a crappy reusable bag with a pink ribbon screened on it in the hands of someone who admits they will never use it help the cause?

Here are a few other comments we overheard:

"You can have mine - I just want it to hold my stuff right now. I'm going to throw it away after the game."

 "You don't want one? They're free!!" (Guy giving them away trying to convinceIMG_0576 a women to take one after she initially refused.) 

 "I hate free junk" (That woman's reason for refusing.)

It's so absurd that even the Chicago Sun-Times weighed in on the issue.(Unfortunately this article is no longer available online.)

We posted an article exposing the hidden costs of cheap reusable bags at our site, but in a nutshell - there are a few questions you have to ask yourself whenever you're faced with free junk: Will I ever use it? Will it last? Under what working conditions are these things being made?

By avoiding cheap giveaways and focusing on high-quality reusables you're actually reducing consumption, not contributing to it.

August 04, 2009

Cheap bottles are the new cheap bags

Ecocanteen_cartform_995Hey blog-readers, Natalie here. I'm the one in our videos with all the tattoos if you want to put a face - or at least a pair of arms - to the writer.

I was watching BBC the other day at home when an infomercial came screaming, as they always do, into my living room. "Are you still buying bottled water? Stop wasting your money and buy this bottle! Act now and you'll get a free gift!"

It was happening. Our company founder has always talked about cheap reusables and how soon companies will catch on to the movement and flood the market with garbage. We saw it with cheap reusable bags last year and this year, cheap bottles are booming.

At this point, most people are aware of the dangers of polycarbonate water bottles and have learned to steer clear of those by opting for safe plastic like HDPE or LDPE, or to avoid plastic all together with stainless steel and lined aluminum bottles. But there's a secondary issue bubbling up that will become more and more important as these cheap reusables start to pop up. How can they sell a stainless steel bottle for $9.99? (Not to mention throw in a free gift and still make a profit?)

I know why a Klean Kanteen costs $14-32. High-grade 18/8 stainless steel isn't cheap - it's what dairy farmers and brewerys use because there's no chance of mineral migration (leaching). It's rust-resistant, has a low nickel content and it's sanitary. Beyond that, these bottles are manufactured in a Fair Trade factory, which they regularly monitor to ensure that not only is the product safe, but also that the people making these bottles are being treated fairly. Regular lab testing through a US-based lab ensures that Klean Kanteens are free of hazardous substances such as lead and do not leach chromium, manganese, etc.

Same goes for Swiss-made SIGG bottles and Spanish-made Laken bottles. Companies like Earthlust, Guyot and Innate are all open and transparent about their materials, their manufacturing policies and their safety testing. 

I'm not saying that these cheap bottles are inherently unsafe - but when I tried to contact the company from the informercial to ask about their materials, safety testing and labor conditions I was given canned responses about how I needed to "act now to save $5!" So what are these bottles really made out of? What are their factories like? What kind of testing have they been subjected to? I don't know. Do you?

So rather than producing a safe, long-lasting item that will cut back on consumption they're pushing more cheap, maybe unsafe, stuff into our homes - which is just more mindless consumption. It's the opposite of what we're all about. 

A bargain is tempting, but you should always keep in mind the high cost of low prices. Your safety, the well being of others, and the environment. Buy smarter, and say no to cheap reusables.

June 17, 2009

Why We Don't Support Bag Bans

Bag_salutes_usflag One of the most common questions we face in customer service is "what do I do about a trash can liner now that I've rid myself of plastic bags?"

It's a great question - why go through the life-altering experience of saying no to plastic bags just to buy box after box of more plastic bags? It just doesn't make sense. But this simple question hits on something much larger than just garbage bags, something that's absolutely core to our mission at ReusableBags.com.

We are not, and have never been anti-plastic bags. Instead, we focus on promoting sensible solutions for over-consumption of plastic bags. The bottom line is, we take more plastic bags than we need. It only makes sense to stop blindly taking these non-biodegradable, petroleum-wasting bags every time you go to the store. Instead, bring reusable bags and only take home the few plastic bags you'll actually reuse. We're so passionate about it we even offer several solutions for reusing plastic bags! (And to answer your question - we strongly encourage people to reuse their plastic bags for small garbage can liners, pet waste and other dirty jobs!)

So what do we have against bag bans? Well, lots of things.

For one, bans aren't a practical solution for the consumer. There's a time and a place for plastic bags and banning them outright isn't fair to anyone.

Also, bans are an emotional response to the problem, but they miss the point. The point is being mindful of our consumption and changing the way we think, act and make purchases.

We actually have a whole list of reasons why bans don't make sense, you can see them all here. But you get the point. Rather than bans, we support fees - like the one Seattle is fighting for right now. Ireland's PlasTax is a great example - consumers there are charged for paper and plastic bags at check out. Since the tax, Ireland has seen a 90% decrease in use-and-toss bag use.

The funds collected can be used to raise awareness, subsidize reusable shopping bags, to develop compostable "plastic" bags, and to generally clean up the environment. (A nation-wide $.20 bag fee in the US would generate $2 billion each year!)

And that, you see, is why we can't support bag bans but will always support bag fees. Now - what are we going to do about all these paper coffee cups?

May 27, 2009

Cheap Bags are Bad News

Jps While doing some grocery shopping this past week end, our Internet Communications Manager Natalie spotted this pile of cheap, non-woven polypropylene bags in the Dollar Spot at Target.

It seems everyone is jumping on the reusables bandwagon, but very few are doing so responsibly. Offering these cheap throwaway bags is actually doing more harm than good.

Non-woven polypropylene bags are made from the same stuff as disposable plastic bags - petroleum. In fact, they're made with a lot more petroleum than their disposable counterparts. Unfortunately, they aren't much stronger than disposables and most of these bags split before they've canceled out their own significant carbon foot print.

Adding to the problem, these have become a popular give away item, which depletes their already low value in most people's minds. They wind up shoved at the bottom of closets or in garbage cans, never being used.

Think about it- how cheap does a bag have to be for Target to be able to sell it for $1 and make a profit? Or for your local sports team to give one away to everyone who attends a game? What do you think the conditions in the factories that make these bags are like? What is the toll on the environment? What's the point?

So while it's true that bags made from more durable materials like rip-stop nylon, or recycled materials like Eco Circle recycled polyester, or natural fibers like hemp and organic cotton cost a little more initially, they last long enough to not only pay for themselves, but also to cancel out their own carbon foot print. Bags from trusted manufacturers like ACME Bags and Envirosax are also made using Fair Trade standards, which means that the people making these bags aren't being exploited.

Bottom line? You get what you pay for. And so does the planet.

For more on cheap reusables, check out our article The Hidden Costs of Cheap Reusable Shopping Bags