The Natural Life: Reading Labels

Recently I read an article about how many "Green" products really aren't. And it reminded me of a story, which I felt I needed to share here. When I first started trying to switch over to a greener more eco-friendly lifestyle I found it to be not quite as easy as I first thought. One of the first thing I switched was our dish detergent, because it made sense to be a good place to start - I mean, why put all those extra chemicals on the dishes we were going to put out food on? So, that's where I decided to start.

I was super excited to see that there were a number of name brand companies making products labeled "Green," "Natural" or "Eco-Friendly." So, the next time I was at the store I picked one up and put it in the buggy... I didn't ever think to read the label. Why would I? I saw words like "All Natural" and "Eco-Friendly" right on the label, why would I have cause to think it wasn't really so green?

So, anyways, I got home, put away  the groceries and started to load the dishwasher. I unscrewed the lid and pulled back the foil so I could fill the machine. When I did I splashed some of the product on my hand and shirt, which of course, was brand new & black (figures right?).  At the time I didn't think anything of it. I figured I would finish loading the dishes, and then go clean up my hands and shirt, no big deal... Well, I was wrong! I finished up the dishes and went to clean up...

Now, I am HIGHLY allergic to Chlorine, but this was supposed to be a natural and green product, why would I worry about Chlorine? Well, I should have! Not only was my shirt (you know the brand new black one) ruined, but my hand had broken out in an allergic rash. At that point, I went to read the label.  Let me just say, this was FAR from Green or Eco-Friendly!

It was at that point that I started to do some more homework about what it means to be a green or eco-friendly product. As I learned there is really no guidelines or rules which are required to be met in order to label something as green, all natural or eco-friendly. These terms are literally free for companies to use, regardless of how truthful the statement is. What I found was many companies replace one or two chemicals with a more natural option and then call the entire product green, while not actually creating a product which is eco-friendly...

What I found to be even more disturbing is that a growing number of companies are sprouting up claiming to have Green products, while masking their ingredients behind "code words" in an effort to trick customers in to purchasing their products - usually at a higher price than they could purchase similar products somewhere else.

It's for this reason that it's very important to read the labels to everything prior to purchasing. If you are looking to purchase a product online, request an ingredients list or copy of the label before ordering. IF a company refuses to provide you with these things, my advice is to look elsewhere for products which are more honest and open, a truly green company, has no reason to hide their ingredients.

It's also very important that you actually know what you're looking for. While it's obvious that ingredients like Chlorine, Ammonia or Benzine are toxic you may not know about others. A good rule of thumb is if you can't pronounce it, don't use it! If you have questions about an ingredient in something, take 30 seconds to run an internet search on it, you'll easily get an answer. However, it's these "code words" which are in my opinion more dangerous than the unpronounceable chemical names, because many people look them over without really questioning what they need. Words such as "Fragrance," "Preservative," "Cleaning or Brightening Agent" or "Stabilizers" should be looked at as higher questionable. These terms usually replace the names of chemicals (you know, those unpronounceable ones) that are far from Eco-Friendly and can in fact be very dangerous.

You'll find that the vast majority of things labeled as green, really aren't. For me, I've gotten to the point where purchasing "green" products means cleaning with Vinegar and Baking Soda, and using products like Crisco and Corn Starch on my children... I'm still mastering making things like soap, shampoo and dishwasher detergent, so for these I do my best to buy what I call "greener" products. By greener I mean, not completely eco-friendly, but greener than your average option. Once I master making my own, I'll stop using these options all together. In some future posts I will post some "how too" information for making your own stuff... A good rule of thumb when making your own products is if you can't eat it don't use it... Please notice (it's sad I have to say this) I said CAN'T not, WON'T, simply because something CAN be eaten, doesn't mean it should be...

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