Green Washing & Green Snobbery

February 15, 2014



Two things you will undoubtedly face (and struggle with) when 'going green' or trying to use more natural products are: Green Washing and Green Snobbery.

Most of us have heard of Green Washing. I understand green washing to be: when a product, brand or store claim or give the impression to be 'green', 'natural', 'organic', 'kind to skin' or similar when, in fact, it contains unnatural and harmful ingredients.

Personally, I think green washing is one of the worst offences in the shopping world - taking advantage of someone's good intentions, insecurities, allergies, etc and cashing in on them. 

Green washing can be found everywhere, false green credentials can be suggested through packaging, advertising, the title of the product, the tag line of the advertising campaign and so on.

The sad truth is the green market and the conscious consumer is coming to the forefront and brands are cashing in. Big manufacturers are realising that we want more environmentally friendly, eco friendly and natural products that are not tested on animals. But, instead of providing this for us they provide a false version of it.

What can we do? The only way to know if a product meets our own personal standards is to read the label. The only way to know what to look for on the label is to do lots of research, reading and note taking! 

Basically - never trust the shop, never trust the packaging and never trust the marketing blurb. Sad but unfortunately true.

Green Snobbery I think I've come up with a new term that is just as bad (if not worse) as it comes from within the green community (rarely, but it does happen) which is Green Snobbery. I have not personally experienced this but I have seen it happening. Luckily, the ladies I chat with on twitter and you guys that comment on my blog/videos are always nothing but constructive- the truth is we are all learning, we are in a process and we help each other out along the way.

Take, for example, Bare Minerals. I did a review a few months back of their 'get started' kit and I was raving about it. I still stand by that review, it is an EXCELLENT starter kit and a super introduction to the world of mineral foundation - it is fool proof with it's simple shade selection and high quality brushes. BUT, it was (politely and constructively) pointed out to me that some Bare Minerals products contain Bismuth Oxychloride. 

This ingredient is a possible skin irritant so some people avoid using it. It is not toxic, it does not do any harm to you unless you react to it. No, it is not 'natural' as it is man made (Bismuth is naturally occurring but Bismuth Oxychloride is man made) BUT, I do not see that it is the end of the world either. 

I am making the judgement call that I will continue to use (and love) my bare minerals foundation... and even continue to recommend it to those who really don't know where to start or don't want to spend a fortune making the switch over. BUT, I will buy samples of other mineral make up brands that don't contain Bismuth Oxychloride so that when I am ready to purchase a new foundation I can use something 'cleaner' from a smaller brand that I want to support. 

Now, the green snobbery comes in when someone thinks (or says) that I am not 'as green' or 'as natural' because I use Bare Minerals (for example). 

Come on, it is not a race or a competition, we all take small steps and learn as we go. We all have different levels of 'clean' and what is important to us. No one is better than anyone else and no one is 'winning' by having the cleanest, most natural and organic product. 

Any step is a step forward, any change is a positive - look at the mindfulness behind the change and see the positivity in that.

I certainly never judge ANYONE for the products they use. I am not better or worse than anyone, I am on the same road but maybe in a slightly different place. This different place does not earn me any badges or cost me any credibility.

My blog is deliberately called 'All Natural Aspirations' to make clear that I am still aspiring, I have not fully achieved... because I don't think anyone can fully achieve! I mean, you may be sat there with your Bismuth Oxychloride free foundation and your organic moisturiser but what car do you drive? and how much petrol did you use to get to work today? How much packaging do your products and food come in? Do you grow everything yourself? 

If you are just starting out on a natural journey then good on you, this is great news: you want to try and change things for the better, do I care that you have a draw full of animal tested, chemical filled cosmetics?? No! Because I did too until a year or so ago! The fact that you are looking to change things, even small things, is amazing and I am here to support you along the way.

Now, I have to say that I am very lucky that I have not had any green snobbery directed at me (as I said the Bismuth Oxychloride ingredient issue was pointed out in a very friendly, polite and constructive way) but I have seen it in action and it REALLY frustrates me. Hence writing this post!

I hope none of you have or will experience any green snobbery, it's not what the majority of us green ladies (and men) are about. There is a supportive twitter community that I love being a part of and my channel and blog should be safe havens (I'll block and delete any snobs ;-)) so ask away, experiment and explore to your hearts content and ask for help if and when you need it.

As for green washing, you can't avoid that! It's every where! I just hope you can ignore it and be wise to it before falling prey to it. We don't want to line those greedy pockets.

Well, I hope this post has come across the way I want it to (another controversial one!) and that no one thinks this is about them! It really isn't... If it was I would tell you ;-) 

Thanks for reading,

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28 comments:

  1. Fantastic post Rachel! I'm with you all the way on this.. :)

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  2. Brilliant post dear :-) I find it really hard to be 100% natural in my beauty regime, and I'm finding that actually certain "not as green" products work better than totally green products. It's about juggling and making a balance and finding what works for you. Us greenies (I don't even know if that's a word lmao!) Shouldn't be so hard on ourselves or each other and try to encourage each other, too. :-) xx

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    1. Aaw, thanks! I knew I could rely on you Louise! I think greenies should be a word if it's not already! ;-) you are totally on point there with everything you said xx

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  3. I totally agree with the green snobbery - it bugs me too. I was actually thinking of doing a post that specifically talks about irritant vs toxin as many people get them confused and like bismuth oxychloride, start talking about certain ingredients as if they cause cancer when in fact they just irritate SOME people's skin. Well, so does rose, or lavender, or even coconut oil though and nobody is blasting those!

    I will say though, my only issue with Bare Minerals is they are now owned by Shiseido who still test on animals (testing beauty products on animals is not necessary IMO). But like you, I don't judge people for the choices they make in what products they like or buy.

    Overall, excellent post - I'm so glad you wrote it!

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    1. OMG you totally, completely understood what I was trying to say!
      Side note - I had no idea BM wasn't cruelty free, that's a big no-no for me, like you said it is unnecessary.
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, so great to hear from you :-)
      Rach xx

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  4. Brilliant post, I whole-heartedly agree that Green Snobbery is a really toxic element within the natural beauty community that ought to be acknowledged and put to rest!

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    1. Thank you, it really is toxic - what a great word to describe it. thanks for reading xx

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  5. Great post! Completely agree with the green snobbery - advice is one thing but being judgemental should never have it's place. Like you said, unless you're living solely off of the Earth with zero negative impact then you really don't have a leg to stand on.

    Mayah x

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    1. Thank you, you've totally hit the nail on the head there, glad you enjoyed my post, lovely to hear from you xx

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  6. Green snobbery definitely exists but I have never seen anyone talk about it before. I had a comment from another blogger once telling me the product I was reviewing was according to her "cheap and nasty" I haven't spoken to her since and I haven't regretted it, constructive help and advice is one thing, nasty comments is another. As for the Green washing issue I think you already know I think it is complicated, but knowing where to start for people is a real big issue. I tend to think that if you support smaller artisan businesses and read your labels you can't go wrong. Burt's bees are owned by clorox who do test on animals that's why people are saying they are no longer cruelty free, it is a sad fact that when green companies become more successful they get acquired generally by a not so green business. Green and Blacks is owned now by what used to be known as craft foods, it's an issue and something to consider Xx

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    1. Oooh, maybe I have coined a term?!
      EcoholicBeauty (comment above) totally got it right - it is toxic and you don't need that kind of toxicity near you.
      It is sad to see so many brands with great intentions get swallowed up by big (not so ethical) corporations. Body shop was a pioneer of it's time and now it is sad to see (in my opinion).
      I do agree with you about supporting smaller brands, I am making a real effort to do that now, that has been a big part of my journey - not only buying less toxic products but ones with a less 'toxic' background i.e. fair trade, small business, etc.
      that's where twitter is so great - I get to 'meet' these small business owners.
      Lovely to hear from you Ana :-) xx

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  7. A wonderful post! It's nice to be able to air the laundry and talk about things we see in this industry, while encouraging each other to simply do the best we can. Because it's tough to find truly good products out there!

    I do think there's another distinction that I rarely see made, and that's between what's natural and what's safe. I think many, including myself, strive to be as truly natural/organic/green as possible in many ways, including selection of beauty and grooming products but it is near impossible to buy anything that is truly, 100% natural. And at the end of the day, my real goal is safety if I stop to consider it. Is this product going to make me, others around me, or the planet, sick?

    Unless you make your own products to be refrigerated and used within a week, most consumer products contain man-made and/or processed ingredients. I mean, even natural ingredients are often processed in some way, by man/machine, to make them usable in a product. That jojoba oil and argan oil that I love to use on my skin and hair went through a process. It doesn't drip off the tree in that form to be caught in beautiful bottles to be sold to me.

    So I guess my point is this - I sometimes want to ask when people criticize or show "green snobbery," isn't it enough to strive (real hard) to use products that are as close to their natural state as possible, and doing the research to look for ingredients that are as safe and non-toxic as we can know them to be at the time, while also acknowledging that man-made things are part of the deal when buying consumer goods? Is it ok to admit that science isn't all bad and that it has brought us many advancements? It has brought us some not-so-good things also and many companies have taken advantage of that and sold us nasties in a bottle. But now that we know better and can do our research and try our best, isn't it ok that your foundation contains Bismuth Oxychloride, if it's non-toxic, not hurting the environment, and it makes your foundation perform the way you want it to perform? Does that make you less "natural?" I think not. (I realize you said the person who brought it up said so very nicely - I'm just using this to continue that example of "non-naturalness").
    Next to no one and nothing is 100% organic nowadays. We're all just doing the best we can do get as close to nature as we possibly can and personally, I think that's a great and worthwhile endeavor.

    Constantly educating ourselves of the brands, shops, and certifications that can help guide us to truly good-for-you products that are natural AND safe ingredient is excellent, and I'm so glad for this Twitter community that is always helping each other spot the good - and the not-so-good - out there for our consumption!

    Thanks again for this really great, thought-provoking post!

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    1. Wow, what a great comment! I am not sure I can do it justice with my reply as all I want to say is, 'YES! I completely agree!' lol.
      Like you said - safety is usually the main concern for me when considering if I want to expose my self to an ingredient. And, continuing the Bismuth Oxychloride example, am I planning to switch away from Bareminerals because of that? No, I think my main motivation is to support smaller, uk based, more ethical companies - especially now I know that BM isn't technically cruelty free. If Lily Lolo (for e.g.) has Bismuth in it's foundations I am reasonably sure I would still use it...
      Thank you for your amazing comment, I was nodding and thinking 'yes!' as I read it :-) xx

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  8. Great, thought provoking post. Each of us is on our own journey, at our own pace. Constructive criticism is helpful, but character assassination and point scoring is not. I have learned so much from other bloggers and will always be grateful for that. Maybe I am naive but surely we should be treating each other as we would want to be treated ourselves. I also think that karma catches up with us all.

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    1. Thank you so, so much for such a great, supportive comment. 100% agree that we should treat others how we wish to be treated, and yes Karma will come back round for you, I really believe that.
      Thanks again, Rach xx

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    1. Excellent post Rachel! I've just deleted my previous comment as I realised that it resembled a short novel lol. I agree wholeheartedly. Greenwashing is everywhere and we should purchase products as they apply to us - e.g. ingredients that we are happy with / don't affect us and sit well with us ethically. Green snobbery has become more prominent recently, and I think that we should just continue to share, inspire, educate and be receptive to advice with regards to the stage that we are all at individually - and only act on that advice if it's actually applicable. I can't use bismuth (synthetic) but I can't use lavender (natural) either - go figure! Fantastic post xx

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    2. Thank you! I read your previous comment in an email and loved everything you said, agree you can react to something synthetic or natural. also agree that we are all at our own stage with our own priorities and preferences.
      Thanks so much for reading and for leaving your supportive and interesting comments.
      Rach xx

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  10. I enjoyed your post & video. I'd like to point out that you have to be careful not to confuse personal opinions with nasty comments. I do feel there is a difference. I personally feel that green washing is out there & I've discussed a number of green washing brands on my blog and there was a spate of French Brands approaching me with their "natural" products which I felt were far from being green. Green beauty & ethics are so diverse and opinion is divided but that's what makes it interesting to me.

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    1. Thanks Sarah, the trouble with our online world is we cannot write in the tone that we would speak in, we cannot smile as we say it or show body language so it is easy for something to be taken personally or more seriously than it may have been intended.
      Everyone is entitled to their personal opinion but we do have a responsibility to express it in a fair and supportive way as we do in every other aspect of our daily lives, on and off line.
      We all have our own opinions, standards, etc but I think we can all agree that the enemies out there are the brands that try to make us part with our money with lies - whether that's greenwashing, false marketing claims or something else similar.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, great to hear from you as ever! :-)
      xx

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  11. Hello! New reader here. I've enjoyed your thoughts on these subjects.

    I really relate to all you're discussing here, and wanted to add that I think it's important to remember that we don't live in a perfect world and all of us have many other things in life vying for our money, time and attention. That should make us more patient in our opinions of others and of ourselves. I think the problem of 'green snobbery' is that it's an attitude that kills both our own joy and that of others by fixating on one aspect of life to the exclusion of others.

    While slowly switching to more natural products over the last year myself, I realised that it was easy to let this become a total obsession that in fact made me miserable or resulted in expenses I couldn't afford! Awhile ago, I decided that if the quest for more natural alternatives became something that was bankrupting me and stealing my joy, I needed to pause and take stock. Not give up, but just remember that I'd made some good steps and refocus for a while on something else in my life that was important.

    For a while I was trying hard to find a good natural hair care routine, which was a total failure that made me really frustrated for a good month as I struggled with ugly hair and failure after failure. At a point I decided to revert to a basic normal shampoo (but a brand without parabens or silicones, although a greenwashing one!), and stop using a styling mousse. One day I hope I'll find a more natural shampoo, but for now the thing for me is to be pleased that I'm not using a styling product anymore and I'm washing my hair less often than I used to. I've done so within my budget. That's progress! I can reevaluate later and maybe try some other things then.

    I guess what I'm saying is that, for me, my choice of shampoo shouldn't steal my joy. I'd rather was my hair with SLS than be depressed and obsessed about it. Nor should I be so snobbish and perfectionistic about 'going natural' that I kill the joy of someone else who is making small steps. That's one thing that bothers me about the snobbery - crushing the excitement of someone who really has made a small improvement.

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    1. some great points there! I agree with you so much, thanks for reading, Rach xx

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  12. This is my favorite most so far! How true is green snobbery!? I find most of the girls in the green beauty community to be nothing but supportive but the internet can be a nasty place! I once wrote what my thoughts were on Lush Cosmetics and well.. lets just say that didn't sit well with someone. I think that most of us are pretty good at this, but we all need to respect that everyone has different standards when it comes to green beauty products. That, and we can sometimes not be informed on a certain ingredient. Education is key!

    Awesome post Rach!

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    1. Thank you!! That's so great to hear! Thanks for reading and leaving such an encouraging and positive comment :-) xx

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  13. Dear Rachel, really nice post :-))) Totally see where you are coming from :-)))))x

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