Green Standards And The Consumer

This post is for this month’s Green Moms Carnival hosted by the brilliant Mary Hunt of In Women We Trust. 

The topic is green standards and for me a challenging topic because I know so very little about it.  However a few things do strike me and I thought I’d share.

I personally feel pretty skeptic about standards. I think they are important. I appreciate folks who work ever so hard on creating them. I even appreciate those who try and uphold them. The truth is standards, rules, guidelines and even laws are often not followed.  This just makes me crazy. 

I like a guideline. Show me how. Set the bar. Help me compare. Help me make a great decision. Especially help me when it comes to purchasing something. I want to spend my money wisely.  In recent years the industry of green has taken off. I hate it. Not because it’s not a good thing. I’m all about going green. It’s because the greed of selling green is showing up everywhere. Very often it’s not green at all. The standards are confusing. Often there are no standards. Organic vegetables wrapped in plastic ?? Does that make any sense??

In preparing for this month’s theme Mary shared with us a slide show talking about consensus standards for sustainable products.  The methodology  for deciding these standards includes all social groups; academic, government, trades, associations, NGO’s etc are represented. Currently there are 300.  She drew to our attention that there isn’t a group of consumers on that panel.  I found that fascinating.  Why don’t consumers have a voice in this?  She continued to share that additionally there are regulations and organizations in place that kick in when we need them. The Clean Air or Clean Water Act are a few she mentioned. These political entities somehow have us feel that our government is involved. That somehow it’s at work for the people; the consumer.  I don’t know about you but these agencies seem to have a long way to go at making a difference. They certainly have a lot on their plate, that’s for sure. How much of a difference do these agencies really make ?? 

Then Mary drew our attention to standards decided by money.

This information just made my mouth drop open

Walmart or as she referred to as “The Big Dog” has announced that suppliers answer a 15 question series that will lead to Life Cycle Assessments.  They are suggesting that their suppliers, all 100,000 of them answer these questions now. In 3 years this will be the norm, and in 5 years an international sustainable index would be found on all products. It’s suggested that this become the standard, therefor bypassing the consensus method.  Walmart has invited anyone to come help develop these questions. AT A PRICE. In other words if you want to be involved you have to pay. The ticket price?   $250,000 to sit at the table. Consultants pay $100,000. Universities less – 25,000, but everyone has some sort of entry fee. Consumers again are NOT invited.

Is this how decisions are made?  By the price you can pay to sit at a table with WalMart??  Excuse me — this reminds me of the fate of certain breeds of a super duper potato and the McDonalds French Fry. Or the huge influx of the so called better curly lightbulb only to find it’s got mercury in it and if it breaks you have to read a gosh darn manual and darn gloves to dispose of it properly. Let alone the folks who decide what the food guide pyramid is. 

What is Walmart afraid of ?  Can you imagine how awesome ANY standards would be if consumers had a say ???  I think it’s time to include the consumer.  Hey consumer tell us what you want.  Tell us what is important to you. Tell us what you would like to buy and we’ll make it for you. What do you think?

Can you imagine a consumer wish list?  Please grow foods w/o pesticides.  Please stop the production of high fructose corn syrup. Oh my goodness the list is endless.

Since when is Walmart the deciding entity of green? Perhaps instead it’s “the green” they are interested in? Perhaps having a specific control over the industry is also part of the plan

I personally don’t shop at WalMart. I do however buy products that are manufactured by suppliers that also supply WalMart. Why ? Convenience mostly.  I wish it was different.

I admit to being lazy when it comes to shopping. Here’s an example: I need a rake. I wish I had the energy or time to visit all the thrift stores in town to find one, or to access freecycle or Craig’s List.  Give someone’s used rake a second opportunity to be useful.  The truth is the idea is a good one, the practice is a shift as a consumer that I could do better at.  Even if I did buy a used rake.  Where did it come from in the first place?

This is when I feel as a consumer and even as an advocate of green that my voice is such a small voice in the ever growing and very confusing picture. 

How can I really make a difference? If I was sitting on that panel my immediate thought is how much I don’t know.  Perhaps that’s the entire idea in the first place.

The less the consumer actually knows…the better.

alternative power taken by karen hanrahan

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9 Responses to Green Standards And The Consumer

  1. David Bruce says:

    It is really great to know about the wonderful post and i am sure that many people will definitely like it. This post will be of great help to create a bit of awareness in the minds of the people and it will be of amazing help to all the people.

  2. Anna says:

    It is amazing the amount of money being spent to have your product certified as being green. There are so many standards out there now. Whose is the best? All I want to know is the product is safe. Is that too much to ask? Maybe I have to ask Walmart now?

  3. Karen Hanrahan says:

    I don’t think it’s too much to ask at all Anna! I don’t want to ever have to ask Walmart anything. 

  4. Amber says:

    I agree, navigating the standards is hard. It’s so confusing. And there’s a lot of greenwashing going on, too. I’m glad that going green is all the rage, but I think we really need to do a better job of regulating and standardizing these claims that companies make. How else are we to make good choices?

  5. Karen, I’m not sure which I loved more – your post or that picture with the caption “alternative power.” Wow.

  6. Karen Hanrahan says:

    If “those who made the standards” had our good choices and our well being in mind we’d be better off indeed!

  7. Karen Hanrahan says:

    Lynn I am delighted that you loved BOTH!! Thank you!

  8. “The less the consumer actually knows…the better.”Wal-Mart talks about transparency, but I didn’t see anything in their list of questions that leads me to believe we will truly know anything important about Wal-Mart’s suppliers. Especially since they are not asking for proprietary information to be revealed. *Sigh* I do fear it’s more greenwashing.

  9. Karen Hanrahan says:

    I too feel pending and large scale greenwashing.

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