What Does Environmentally Friendly Really Mean?

The idea of living "green" is clearly gaining ground these days.

A movement that was once considered to be dominated by society's outcasts has found its way to the suburbs and beyond.

At long last the human race is begining to realize that our precious Planet can only take so much abuse.

Growing numbers of consumers care about the effect their purchasing decisions have on the world around them. These folks want to know where their groceries come from, how their clothing was made, what is in the products they use, and so on.

This growing awareness is coming none too soon. Climate change, Oceanic dead zones, deforestation, collapsing fisheries, unbreathable air, undrinkable water, vanishing species, and toxic mother's milk are just a few of the travesties modern man can take credit for.

Luckily, as the recognition of these problems is building, so is the resolve to do something about it.

People who want to live green have a wide array of choices available to them today that did not exist just a few years ago.

From cleaning products to clothing, garbage bags to groceries, toothpaste to toys - and beyond, there is an exploding number of products that are both good for us and good for the environment.

This is a very good thing.

Unfortunately, the same marketing wizards who once tried to convince us that cigarettes would help us breath better are neck deep in the marketplace peddling "Environmentally Friendly" products. Wander the aisle of your favorite store and the buzzwords are everywhere.

"Biodegradeable", "Earth Friendly", "All Natural", "Eco-Safe", "Won't Harm The Environment", "Non-Toxic", and of course, "Organic", are plastered on the petroleum-based, disposable bottle of almost any product you can think of these days.

The same corporate titans that gave the world DDT, an Ocean full of plastic, and arguably, a hole in the ozone layer, would have us believe that new and improved forms of their wonder products will solve all our problems.

Of all the marketing slogans listed above the only one that has any teeth to it is "Organic". Strict, though often unenforced, regulations do govern the use of this magic sales tool.

All the other feel-good promotions on your jug of boat soap or RV antifreeze need to be taken with a very BIG grain of salt. "Biodgradeable" can be used on almost any product that will eventually break down in Nature. What form the broken down compounds take, or how long it takes to break them are irrelevant under current regulations. The ridiculous logic of this situation is that almost anything will break down given enough time, but does that justify dumping paint in the lake?

The same goes for all those other meaningless product claims - there is very little recourse under the current system should someone challenge the manufacturers.

So what is an environmentally conscious consumer to do?

Like most situations requiring a judgement call, the solution is something your grandmother would appreciate - use common sense.

If you have a choice between two cleaning products, one where the producer refuses to disclose the ingredients and another that puts everything on the recycled bottle it comes in your decision should be a no brainer. Given the option to purchase a product that includes a long list of obvious chemical components you can't pronounce, or a similar product made from plants the choice is easy.

Once you learn to navigate away from all the toxic stuff on your store's shelves apply the lessons learned to your next round of buying decisions.

Imagine the impact the products you use have on the world around you. If your plastic bucket goes over the side it will fascinate the scientist that discovers it generations from now. A canvas bucket will be missed, but it will rot. The same is true for disposable plastic grocery bags vs. reusable fabric ones. Plastic anything is forever, use alternatives.

The key to living green is to just remember we are part of a closed system. Our actions affect that system. Other than light and heat, practically everything created on Planet Earth is destined to remain here. You don't need to go off the deep end to be green. Common sense, a heavy dose of skepticism about product claims, and a desire to leave the world better than you found it are all the tools you need.





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