Consumers are being “greenwashed” or misled by companies that sell themselves and their products as environmentally friendly.

A few months ago, I saw a commercial that made me really angry. The S.C. Johnson company says that they are making more environmentally friendly products. They have created a program that enables the company to analyze every ingredient they put into their products, and make, they say, “better for the environment” products as a result.

The problem I have with this ad is very simple: Windex, which they say is better now that it’s been reformulated, is not environmentally friendly at all. This ad makes you think it is!

Windex is composed of 95% water, 4% isopropanol (alcohol), and up to 1% ethylene glycol, which is not only extremely toxic (it is considered a poison), but tastes sweet to children and pets. Would you call that green?

It’s called “greenwashing”. It’s the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

Because of this commercial, people will think that S.C. Johnson makes “green products” and buy them. Here’s the thing, S.C. Johnson can call its product “green” because they’ve developed and patented the process they call “Greenlist” and created the label.

In other words, they can tell you any of their products are green because they own the label.

Here are a few ways that you can determine whether a product is green or not:

– When a bathroom cleaner says it’s chlorine free but contains other harmful ingredients like formaldehyde, it’s not really green. Just because it’s less toxic, it doesn’t mean that it’s not toxic.

– Many products claim they are green without giving consumers any proof. Look for third-party certification. The Ecologo seal from Environment Canada, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Energy Star are examples of third-party certification. You’ll find their logos at the back of certified products. You can also find certified products at:

– “Chemical free” is vague, not necessarily green. Nothing is free of chemicals. Even water is a chemical. “All natural” is also vague. Many poisons – including arsenic, mercury and formaldehyde – are all natural, but they are still poisonous to us.

– Laundry detergents without phosphates are great, but phosphates have been banned in laundry detergents for years! That claim does not make a laundry detergent green. With concentrated laundry detergents, you put less into the environment, but the amount you put there is still toxic. Again, not green.

The best tools you have to find out if foods or products are really green though?

Take the time to read the ingredients. If there’s something you can’t pronounce, it’s probably not green, and most probably not good for you.

Check out how a product is made or grown. It might be green, but where does it come from? How was it made? How much pollution did it create?

Research, ask questions, compare products.

We lead very busy lives, but it’s important to take the time for yourself and for those you care about to find out what you’re putting into your body and into the environment.