Several product charts have been updated.

"If you want to know, ask."
Linda Ellerbee, Nick News

Green product claims & the questions needed to clarify them:

Occurs Naturally

Is this natural material or chemical harmless? Just because it occurs naturally doesn't mean that it is benign. Formaldehyde is naturally occuring and is a known carcinogen. Arsenic is naturally occuring, still I wouldn't want to sprinkle it on my cereal each morning. Coal and oil are naturally occuring and we all know how the use of them contributes to the release of CO2 and global warming. Natural is not automatically sustainable or harmless.

Abundant Natural Resource

Is it a renewable or non renewable resource? It doesn't matter how abundant a natural resource is, if it is non renewable then using it means it will some day be used up. Even abundant renewable natural resources need to be used with care. We see this clearly with the forests in the United States and around the world. The availability of this once abundant renewable natural resource has declined. And irresponsible logging practices have in turn caused other ecosystem damage. Sustainable design requires finding alternative solutions to using non renewables and supporting the responsible use of both renewable resources and finite resources such as water.


What infrastructure exists to recycle the product? Sometimes there isn't an infrastructure in place. I call this "theoretically recyclable". This means the recyclable attribute has no current value. Still, it can be a good thing in the long run that a product is recyclable if there is a plan in motion to create a viable accessible recycling network. The journey to sustainability is taking place in steps. Sometimes all the necessary steps haven't been taken yet. As designers we need to know the available recycling infrastructure or the plans for one before we can consider recyclability to be a positive attribute.

100% Green

I actually saw this claim. Now, it's hard to come up with a list of questions to pose to any company making such a sweeping claim. It's really best to see it and all sweeping "green" claims as a red flag. I can only assume the company doesn't understand the concept of sustainability and thinks the consumers reading the marketing materials are naive and gullable. We can support companies making reasonable verifiable claims with our business. We can avoid companies making sweeping unrealistic claims. And when we have the time and energy, letting companies know directly that we don't approve of such marketing strategies can help us transform the market place.

by: Sue Norman