Data Design Corp
Greetings! Welcome to Data Design Corp. We’re an online organization dedicated to promoting the best new ideas, trends, and developments in design. We’ll be keeping you up to speed on all the latest design award winners in automobiles, appliances, home furnishings, and technology. We use hard data to look objectively at the marketing claims that usually accompany new designs. Our mission is to take a good hard look at popular new products to see how they really work, and how much they really push the envelope. We also advocate for consumer clarity. We encourage clear, simple packaging, universal units for specifications (power, capacity, etc.), and promote overall consumer awareness of jargon and marketing gimmicks in the online marketplace.
TODAY’S DISPATCH: Greenwashing
If you haven’t heard “greenwashing” by now, you’re probably a victim of the phenomenon. Greenwashing is the process by which eco-conscious consumers are led astray by canny marketers who label and name products to give the illusion of environmental friendliness.
This can cost well-meaning consumers quite a bit of money. After all, most of us are willing to pay a bit more money up front for a product that’s more ethical for the planet.
In today’s Data Dispatch, we want to touch on a few key points to help you steer clear of greenwashing.
Pretty much any product these days that’s designed to cater to eco-conscious consumers will sport some type of certification. So, what do these certifications tell you? Well, in general, they mean the product has passed testing which proves a certain amount of efficiency.
However, many of these certifications are based on testing and recommendations which are dictated by the manufacturers themselves.
For example, let’s compare two certifications.
WaterSense is a rating program for shower heads, faucets, and other bath fittings. It’s run by the EPA, and is based on government recommended water usage levels. All the testing and certification is done by the EPA itself. That means when you buy a WaterSense-rated product, you know the company has met stringent regulations from a reputable panel of scientists.
***We recommend replacing your old shower heads with new, more efficient models. WaterSense fittings are relatively inexpensive, and will save you lots of money on your water bills. You can find lots of reputable shower head reviews here:
In contrast Certi-Pur is a rating program for memory foam products, like pillows and mattresses. In theory, it’s designed to limit harmful emissions from new memory foam, and cut down on toxic airborne VOC content. These chemicals can cause serious lung and brain damage, among other health concerns. However, the Certi-Pur program is controlled by the memory foam companies themselves. That means they set the guidelines, and do all the testing themselves. The result? These products aren’t any more eco-friendly than the competition. You’re wasting your money, and being misled.
One other big area we want to touch on briefly is food labelling. You’ll see all sorts of pseudo-certifications on food these days. “Natural”, “pure”, “earth”… these words are everywhere. However, a company doesn’t actually have to follow any specific practices to write “natural” on their products. You want to look for foods that say “certified organic”. Organic certification guarantees that your foods will actually be free of harmful pesticides and chemicals. These producers also have to follow strict guidelines for soil health and ethical farming practices. As a general rule, the more you see phrases like “nature’s best,” “grandma’s homestyle”, and others, the more you should be suspicious and check the ingredients real certifications.
We’re going to try and cover a lot of ground in just a few sentences here. Pseudo-science comes in all shapes and sizes, and we’ve all got to do our best to stay informed and think critically. However, there are a few big warning signs you can look out for.
Green-colored labelling and packaging:
One of the biggest telltale signs of pseudo science is photo-shopped packaging, with lots of green, leaves, and natural imagery. If you see any glossy, splashy graphics that are supposed to represent nutrition, or eco-friendliness, the product itself probably isn’t either of those things. For instance, we’ve seen lots of “green” memory foam products with covers that have leaf motifs all over them. That’s presumably supposed to mean that the whole mattress is made of nice, friendly plant matter. However, when we looked closer, we found that there’s just a thin cover over the mattress that’s made of bamboo. There’s nothing natural about the memory foam underneath. Likewise, we’ve seen loads of shower heads with nice pictures of the rainforest, and a bright blue sky. They’re not even remotely close to low-flow, so they’re doing absolutely nothing to help the rainforest. Remember, a good product doesn’t have hide behind flashy packaging.
2. Pseudo-scientific jargon
The other big strategy of the greenwashing movement is long words, which are designed to sound scientific. In many cases, they’re just applied incorrectly. In others, they’re completely made up.
One of our favorite examples of obvious pseudoscience is when juicers or blenders claim to have “biomagnetic” properties which increase nutrient content in produce. Now, that’s clearly nonsense.
If you haven’t heard of a big, sciencey-sounding word, chances are it doesn’t actually mean anything.
NEXT TIME ON THE DATA DISPATCH: Mileage-we explore how auto companies and government agencies can arrive at so many different fuel economy ratings, and give you pointers on sorting through all the different numbers.