Your secret weapon against Green Washing

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

We've all been there, we're at the store looking to make what we thought would be a simple and relatively uninvolved decision - buying our go-to cosmetics, laundry detergent, soaps, shampoo, body wash etc. But then you face one of three possible scenarios: A) Your usual product is sold out and you need to choose an alternative B) You simply want try something different OR C) You're becoming more aware of the ingredients in your products and want to choose eco-conscious and natural alternatives.

So you head to the "Green and Healthy" section of the grocery store, or maybe even your local health food store. This is the right place to find truly eco-friendly and natural products right?

You see the rows of attractively packaged products depicting flowers, plants and cute bunnies (Vegan/Cruelty-free does not equate clean or eco-conscious btw, but I will get to that later in another post)

You pick up any number of these products and read the words:

"Natural Ingredients" made with "Botanical Extracts", "Made with Plant-based and Organic Ingredients", "Sustainably Sourced", "Eco-conscious" "Pure"...

It doesn't get better than that, all that's left is to take your pick!

But slow down. Unfortunately, large companies (most of the personal products you buy in stores are owned by 5 major corporations) have also copt on to a rise in consumer awareness and trends in natural alternatives. To take their piece of the pie and compete with smaller ethical companies who craft small batches of pure and safe products, they aggressively utilize a strategy called Green Washing.

Green washing is marketing (from the product packaging to advertising and placement) that creates a perception of the product being clean and green when really it is NOT. In my opinion it is one of the absolute worst predatory tactics used in marketing. Well-meaning consumers who WANT to choose healthier and better alternatives for their families and the environment are essentially tricked into something that's almost no better than conventional products in terms of health and environmental impact.

What to do?

Enter EWG's Skindeep Database:

EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.

They empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment with breakthrough research and education to drive consumer choice and civic action.

If you are already steeped in green living, then you will be well familiar with this organization and the work they do. You could even say this is your encyclopaedic reference to all things green and safe.

But if you are not altogether familiar or used this resource, then read on and learn why EWG will be your secret weapon against falling for any kind of Green Washing.

The skin deep database is available as an app, I highly recommend you download - so next time you are in the store trying to make a decision on what product out of the bevy of fuzzy labels and green washed products you can make an informed and educated decision.

Best of all, you don't need to be an expert on chemistry to decipher the safety and environmental ratings. The information provided is data and research based and ingredients are listed with risks, concerns and a simple to understand numerical or alpha rating (A to F) like a report card.

Let's pick up something off the shelf and look at it closer as an example:

The company is called LIVE CLEAN

And labelled on the bottle: 95% Plant Derived, Phlalate-free, Paraben-free

What could be wrong?

Let's input it into EWG skin deep and take a closer look at some of the problematic ingredients.


Developmental/reproductive toxicity (moderate)

• Allergies/immunotoxicity (high)

• Endocrine disruption (low)

• Persistence and bioaccumulation (moderate)

• Non-reproductive organ system toxicity (moderate)


Allergies/immunotoxicity (low)

• Use restrictions (moderate)

• Non-reproductive organ system toxicity (moderate)

• Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs) (high)

• Occupational hazards (high)

And a common culprit:


• Allergies/immunotoxicity (high)

• Endocrine disruption (moderate)

• Non-reproductive organ system toxicity (moderate)

• Ecotoxicology (low)

• Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs) (moderate)

Fragrance/Parfum is a particularly tricky ingredient because it is essentially an umbrella term for any number of the 3,000 chemicals used as fragrances.

Even more troubling (and here's where the penny really drops)

Fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets so manufacturers are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients.

In other words it naturally derived or completely synthetic and toxic and you the ambiguous "Fragrance/Parfum" does NOT disclose specifics.


USE EWG to research the products you use and want to purchase, especially when they are presented as green and natural, to help you distinguish between the real deal and the green washing offenders.

As for the Fragrance/Parfum dilemna: I get it, almost everything has fragrance/parfum, but by using EWG you can better discern the quality of the company in terms of what they represent and what they actually use. You can bet a company that has a 0 rating (safest level) but also has Fragrance/Parfum listed, is more likely to be scented naturally with pure extracts, absolutes or essential oils.

If that's not good enough you can also:

Choose unscented products

- or -

my absolute favourite option in terms of health and cost:

MAKE YOUR OWN with essential oils!

Me? make my own cleaning and household products?

Yes! I will have an entire section dedicated to helping you do just that, with simple DIY for everything from natural bug spray, sunscreen, face cream, face wash, soap and more using 100% Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils.

And please, please do not use just any store bought essential oils! You can read more about why here.

Yours Serenely,