Greatest Hits 5 – Green Labels: What’s really in my pie?

A while back, I got a comment on a post asking, “What is your opinion of the marketing use of words that sound green? Low VOC, green, non toxic ….This ties into my next thought: A friend in the trade pointed out that something is considered VOC or toxic only if it legally falls into a certain category. So you could have certain cancer causing poisonous ingredients in your finish without it being considered a danger because of a technicality?”

I have talked before about the misuse of logos and the Sins of Greenwashing, which including making a claim about a benefit, but ignoring other hazards. Or just as bad, noting the absence of something which never be there in the first place. I often use the example of companies proclaiming proudly “this apple pie is blueberry free!” That’s deceptive as I never expected blueberries to be in there in the first place, right?

That said, as to this specific question, I suppose a more appropriate example would be buying orange juice, based on a label that says it’s 100% juice, but discovering that it actually includes a 10% filler of apple juice. If you didn’t want any apple juice at all, that would be a real concern. Or worse, they were putting in a filler of something harmful.

However, the rules are pretty strict now and getting stricter, about how you can market your products. And I don’t worry too much that there are lots of finishes or glues or other chemical products in use in the industry that are being marketed as green but which also include a major cancer causing agent. I don’t think a company wants to get caught doing that and these days, news about something that deceptive is likely to travel fast. But if it’s important to you, you can always check the SDS. Manufacturers are required to not just list chemicals of serious concern, but point them out. They have to be pretty clearly labeled, and if the product is being some states (notably California), the standards for labels and disclosures are even higher.

And you’re not helpless either—you can call them out on it. The Federal Trade Commission has clear policies about what can be put on a label and if you think something is being mislabeled (be it inaccurate or just misleading), report it!

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