Several months ago, while accompanying some friends on a shopping trip to Target, I came across a new product line that seemed at first glance to be a good sign: Scotch Brite “Greener Clean” products. I picked up a box of natural fiber non-scratch scour pads, biodegradable bamboo wipes, and a natural bamboo cleaning cloth. I didn’t read the fine print until I got home. Too bad.
All three products are packaged in recycled cardboard with no plastic packaging. Great. But the “natural fiber scour pad,” while containing 50% natural agave plant, is also 50% plastic. A phone call to 3M confirmed that. Because of the plastic, the pad is not biodegradable or compostable as I had originally assumed. (I’m not such a bad reader normally. Really!)
The bamboo products are not as green as you might think either.
According to an FTC report this past summer, bamboo rayon is no different from any other rayon product. Its “manufacturing process uses toxic chemicals and results in the emission of hazardous air pollutants.” In addition, “the Commission charges that these rayon products are not biodegradable because they will not break down in a reasonably short time after customary disposal.” OrganicClothing.blogs.com sheds light on all the steps involved in chemically processing bamboo into fabric. The article is truly eye opening.
So, here’s what we use to wash dishes. Nothing is perfect, but we are doing the best we can.
- Rags made from old socks for very dirty jobs.
- Skoy cloths for dish washing and counter scrubbing (compostable at the end of its life.)
- Coconut fiber bottle scrubber (great for cleaning stainless steel bottles)
- Copper pot scrubber
- Bar soap for handwashing dishes. Really. After trying unsuccessfully to create liquid soap a while back, I finally realized there was no need to liquify it in the first place. I just rub the cloth or scrubber over the soap and scrub away. I’ve seen the recipes for liquid dish soap made with grated soap and other ingredients. Yeah, that’s not going to happen when bar soap works just fine.
- Baking soda for extra scouring powder
- Seventh Generation or Ecover powdered dishwasher detergent. (We tried the Green PhoneBooth’s recipe using Borax and baking soda, but that didn’t work for us.)
- White vinegar for the dishwasher rinse cycle
What we don’t use:
- Synthetic sponges
- Plastic scrubbers
- Plastic brushes
- Dish washing liquid in plastic bottles
- Microfiber cloths. They are plastic and will not biodegrade at the end of their lives. Yes, they save many paper towels. But why use a plastic product when natural fiber cloths already exist?
The point of this post is that all of us need to read labels and not automatically believe companies’ green claims. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the green and the greenwashed. And sometimes we have to be willing to change when products we assumed to be green are proven to be otherwise.
What examples of greenwashing have you run into lately?