How to separate green goods from greenish chaff

BlogHer Original Post

Can a non-organic vodka be called green? Low-pesticide jeans called sustainable? Uncertified wood called eco-friendly?

These're the Qs I keep having to ask amidst the slew of semi-green press releases -- and semi-green shwag -- hitting my email inbox and real-life mailbox these days.

Let's start with the vodka. The latest's Reyka Vodka, described as "one of the most environmentally friendly vodkas to date" by Lindsay, the nice PR rep. Why? The distillery, located in an eco-friendly village called Borgarnes in Iceland, uses geothermal energy from local lava rocks.

Lava energy! Awesome! I got so psyched by Lindsay's pitch that I speedily wrote back saying I'd love a sample of this new organic vodka.

Then Lindsay kindly and honestly wrote back to say that Reyka's not organic, and asked if I'd still like a sample.

Damn. I shoulda read Lindsay's email more carefully. But having been green LA girl for a while now, I increasingly find that all that's called green is not what glitters green to me. I hear eco-friendly vodka, and I immediately assume organic -- but others assume nothing of the sort.

Take the eco-cabinets by Maria Yee, for ex, which is now gonna be sold at Best Buy, among other mainstream stores. After reading PR rep Melanie's email pitch, I clicked over to read some confusing info about a mysterious material called BambooTimbre and unspecific info about recycled and sustainable wood.

So I sent some Qs: WTF is BambooTimbre, and how's the wood recycled and / or sustainable? (Okay -- I asked in a nicer manner than that, sans the WTF)

And I got some answers from a new PR rep, Erin -- and while I still don't quite get what BambooTimbre is, I get that it's made of bamboo, which is in general much more sustainable than wood. Fair 'nuff. About the wood -- Turns out Maria no longer uses recycled wood, and that the "sustainable" wood she uses isn't certified by FSC (the only trustworthy wood certification) or any other 3rd party certifier.

It's basically a "trust Maria" deal. Which I'd be willing to do, except I don't know Maria -- I only have contact with the PR reps, who really can't give me trustworthy info on the products' eco-friendliness.

Which brings me to the jeans. Daniel of UJeans wrote me to say their goods're made with "green coloring techniques," packaged in recycled denim envelope, and made with "sustainable growth cotton" -- which at this point, screamed to me "NOT ORGANIC cotton."

So I checked out the website -- Sure 'nuff, no claim to organic. Instead, the site said UJeans sourced its cotton via the Pakistan Sustainable Cotton Initiative -- but provided no info as to what this initiative entailed. So I emailed UJeans. Organic? I asked. No, came the reply.

What's a girl gotta do to enjoy a nice organic cocktail in her fave pair of organic jeans in front of an eco-media cabinet playing An Inconvenient Truth these days? :P

My point: Organic jeans aren't exactly hard to find, now that even Levi's gotten into the game. Organic vodka's gotten pretty accessible too. And eco-furniture? If you're planning to pay $1000 and up -- as Maria Yee's designs require you to do -- you've got a whole wealth of certified sustainable furniture options courting your wallet.

But now I'll enter a caveat. While all companies here responded to my Qs honestly, Daniel of UJeans's responses sounded more real. He even added a link on his website about the Pakistan Sustainable Cotton Initiative, which evidently is run by the WWF to encourage "best water management practices and significant reduced applications of pesticides and fertilizers in cotton production without significantly affecting the yield." The program's been extended until 2009, Daniel says, with the hopes that some farmers'll be enticed to go organic.

But the whole exercise leaves me feeling that it's harder and harder for the average consumer to separate the real green from the greenish chaff. Even if they had the time to research these products like I do, it's even tougher for them to get speedy, to-the-point answers to the Qs they may have.

Which, I s'pose, is the reason I run a green blog. I've already talked 'bout green vodka -- I guess a post 'bout shopping for green jeans and green media centers are next :P

[images from Reyka Vodka, Best Buy, and UJeans]

BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel also blogs at greenLAgirl.com.

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