environment | April 04, 2013

50 Shades of Green: Earth Day Speaker Adria Vasil On Misleading Labels

"Really, what we’re dealing with out there is 50 shades of green," Earth Day speaker Adria Vasil writes in a new edition of her popular "Ecoholic" column in NOW Magazine. "In Productland, "green" and "natural" are often used interchangeably. I’m probably guilty of it myself. But truth is, these words aren’t always on the same page." With Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, consumers are often motivated to buy items containing buzz words implying that a product is environmentally conscious. As Vasil points out, however, there's a lot of green-washing going on. It's not that the advertisers are completely duping us into thinking a certain item is environmentally friendly. It's just that some of the items labelled as "green," or "natural," may be partially sustainable—but contain materials or use manufacturing processes which are not.

"I’d love it if we had a universal colour-coded breakdown on everything from electronics to eyeshadow, flagging them as light to dark green," Vasil laments in the article, "so we could put those biodegradable, recyclable, energy-saving, water-conserving, forest-friendly claims in context." In Europe, she explains, there's a rating system from a D to an A+++ for Energy Star appliances. While this is good in theory, the flame-retardant toxic chemicals used to produce the product itself generally aren't included in the ratings. Not only that, but there are some products that are completely natural—but contain naturally occurring toxins or chemicals that are hazardous to humans.

That's not to say that it's impossible to get a product that is both sustainable in it's material makeup and is produced in a sustainable way. In fact, Vasil "believes there’s a sweet spot where green and natural can and do overlap." In her "Ecoholic" column, her book of the same name, and her keynotes, Vasil helps audiences debunk the myths surrounding environmentally friendly products. Lighthearted but knowledgeable, Vasil doesn't preach. Rather, she presents a pro-awareness approach aimed at educating consumers on how their purchases affect the health and safety of both themselves, and the planet.

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