Awhile 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?"

In February of last year, I did a series of posts on greenwashing. I talked about 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.

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 that 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 MSDS. 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 sold in 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!

 

 

 

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")