8 Green Products That Aren't


Going green is something most of us are trying to do on a daily basis. But sometimes, products are not quite as green as the fancy packaging and ad campaigns would have us believe. Here are eight offenders; beware of their claims, or the implications they are making.

1. Seventh Generation Lemon Dishwashing Gel

Say it isn't so! Seventh Generation is a label synonymous with natural, eco-friendly products. In fact, their mission statement is "To inspire a consumer revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations." However, its lemon-scented Dishwashing Gel received an F on the EWG product safety scale, and contains sodium borate and methylisothiazolinone (look it up…it's nasty). It appears that when Seventh Generation states the product is non-toxic, they mean "not acutely toxic." That, in itself, is some very tricky language right there.

2. Aveeno

Aveeno's tagline is "Active Naturals." But look beyond the fancy packaging and use of the word natural, and you will find some very unnatural ingredients. A class action suit filed against Aveeno cited that it used many synthetic ingredients, including glycerine, cetyl alcohol, and sodium hydroxide, on top of things things like petrolatum, mineral oil, and dimethicone. And, the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane is present in Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Creamy Wash. While these ingredients are used widely in the beauty industry, Aveeno is making a play for the green market. And that is not right.

3. Tarte Cosmetics

You will be very impressed with the things the Tarte CEO has to say about the brand: "Today Tarte is a leader in healthy, eco-chic beauty, offering cruelty-free cosmetics infused with skinvigorating ingredients like superfruit and plant extracts, vitamins, minerals, essential oils and other naturally-derived ingredients." Sounds amazing, right?

Tarte products have been found to include crushed beetles (carmine), formaldehyde releasers, parabens, and their Amazonian Clay Illuminating Moisturizer received an EWG toxicity rating of 7/10. Just know exactly what you're buying before you pay extra for something that claims to be green.

4. Huggies Pure & Natural

We all want to make eco-friendly, natural choices when it comes to our children. So when you see Huggies Pure & Natural on the shelf, boasting organic cotton and packaged in green leaf nirvana, you think you're making a sound choice. Well, not so fast.

The University of Cincinnati revealed that the organic cotton used in the diapers is actually only on the outside. The stuff in contact with the baby's skin is what you'd expect to find in any regular diaper, including wood cellulose fiber, polyacrylate, polypropylene, and polyethylene. As of August, a federal class action suit filed against Huggies claims the use of toxic synthetic ingredients, including one that can "strip skin of pigment." And, the diaper is NOT biodegradable — even the packaging is only 20% recycled materials.

5. Coca-Cola Life

The use of a green label on its own is not grounds for a green claim. But when you consider the usual color of Coca-Cola is red, black, or silver, the green is striking. However, Coca-Cola Life is nothing special.

It has 35% less sugar than regular Coke, but adds an artificial sweetener (stevia) to make up for that. And there are still 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 600ml bottle of Coca-Cola Life. All in all, it is a sugary drink packaged in green, and sprinkled with magic marketing dust to make you believe it's a better, greener choice. It's not.

6. American Plastic Lumber

Take a look at American Plastic Lumber's website, and you'll see a logo that screams "eco friendly" in every way. In their About Us section, you'll read a statement on how the company has provided recycled plastic lumber for two decades across the country and beyond.

However, the FTC has brought two cases against APL for false claims. In actuality, their products contain an average of less than 79% post-consumer content. And in some cases, they contained only 15% recycled materials. The company has been very careful with its wording since those cases, but the logo and the implication remains.

7. Lush Cosmetics

Greenwashing is rampant in the cosmetics industry. There are many examples of beauty products that make claims implying an eco-friendly footprint, but Lush is doing it to cover some toxic ingredients.

As Nicole Dunst writes in her greenwashing alert on Lush, "Some of the ingredients they consistently use in their products have consistently been advised against by such respectable organizations as the Environmental Working Group and the American Cancer Society." Those toxic ingredients include sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol, and cocamide DEA (another 7/10 ingredient on the EWG toxicity scale).

8. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner

This product got into the EWG's cleaner Hall of Shame. Simple Green states that it is both "non-toxic" and "biodegradable," yet contains: 2-butoxyethanol, a solvent absorbed through the skin that damages red blood cells and irritates eyes; and a secret blend of alcohol ethoxylate surfactants, some of which are banned in the European Union. What's more, the product is supposed to be diluted for every use, yet it comes in a spray bottle!

Now, have you had any experiences with green products that were not as eco-friendly as they stated? Please let us all know what to avoid.

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Guest's picture
Don't Mess with Mama

I agree with the Aveeno - especially their baby line. I was given a bottle of "Aveeno Baby Essential Moisture Shampoo" in 2010 as a social media reviewer and when I tried it on my toddler son, he immediately broke out in a prickly, crusty rash that looked like bad eczema. Since he had small bouts of eczema previously, I assumed that's what it was. Turns out that many Aveeno products also contain polyquaternium-10 or polyquaternium-15 -- a known carcinogen that is also a skin irritant, causing dermatitis! And dermatitis looks just like eczema. We threw the bottle out and his rash went away almost immediately.

This may be the first time I've ever used this phrase, but WTF??!!

Guest's picture

Why does this person think crushed beetles and stevia are toxic? Sure, beetles used for pigments make a product not vegan but it isn't bad for you. And stevia by itself is a natural plant extract. Sometimes if you buy it off the shelf in powder form it is stablized with something else like dextrose or erithrytol (sp?) but stevia extract alone is very much a natural, calorie free sweetener.

Guest's picture

#5 contains incorrect or untrue information. Stevia is not an artificial sweetener but a well known plant based extract that has been in use many years and enjoys periodic bouts of commercial usage every few years. Coca Cola is simply the largest commercial brand to use it in a product.

Perhaps the author of the article might wish to engage in some fact checking.