BY DENNIS SALAZAR
It’s kind of like finding salmonella at a healthy food fair but it happens. Last week I attended one of the largest green conferences of its kind, completely focused on sustainability and green businesses. It was being held at The Hotel Whitcomb, one of San Francisco’s oldest and greenest hotels.
After arriving in my room, I glanced at the bathroom amenities shelf and saw an extra roll of tissue which is always a good thing to locate when you’re on the road. I read the label and was impressed by the product name: Renature Bathroom Tissue. “That looks like a nice green brand,” I thought when I saw the recycled logo but then noticed the problematic printing under the name: 100% recyclable.
Labeling to Inform or Misinform?
What does that mean? What is bathroom tissue that is 100% recyclable? I am not sure I even want to know but I suspect there were a number of different things they could have printed on the wrapper that would be more accurate and possibly every bit as green sounding as what they chose. Does the product contain recycled content? Perhaps, but we’ll never know for sure, I guess. Is it biodegradable? I think most tissue is designed for that. What exactly do they mean by 100% recyclable?
Is the Green Kool-Aid Glass Half full or Half Empty?
In our relationship my wife is the “glass half full” type of person it takes to offset my half empty nature. When I showed the product to her, she suggested they might be talking about the wrapper, not the product itself. “That is even worse,” I quickly retorted. “That is even more misleading!” Yes, this is the type of conversation we enjoying having which likely explains why we have few friends and usually travel alone. Anyway, back to the tissue issue.
“Who Made This Product”
I asked myself, wondering which one of the major paper mills made this subtle but serious gaff in product identification and marketing. I expected to find the name of any one of the many major manufacturers of tissue but instead read “A Product of Advantage Marketing Associates”.
“Ahh, that explains it,” I thought as I realized the product was not being offered by anyone who necessarily knows anything about sustainability, or for that matter about tissue. One might also question whether good, basic marketing knowledge was present the day this one was raised up the flag pole for all those eager to salute.
The product is obviously a private label item which pretty much takes the real product manufacturer off the hook with regards to content or virtually anything else. It also means the marketing company can say just about anything they want to on the label.
Green Needs and Green Products
The tissue at the Hotel Whitcomb could have been supplied by a company like 7th Generation who is a market leader in the area of sustainable household paper products. All of the major tissue paper mills also have their own “green” lines for eco minded hotels and motels.
Or better yet, they could have chosen to do business with one of the small, independent green companies who have also created green products of this type. Companies like Planet Inc. who was exhibiting at the green festival, which immediately followed the green conference. The nice lady we met at their booth proudly informed us her bath tissue is now 90% recycled content and just won an award for softness. That sounds serious about green, doesn’t it?
Too bad she was not chosen as a supplier to the hotel where the green conference was held but unfortunately these decisions are often made based on personal relationships or the lowest bidder, not the greenest company or product. Sad but true, even at a green hotel, hosting a green conference.
In the mean time, other companies continue to “cash in” on this undeniable and irreversible sustainability trend by utilizing soft pastel colors, green sounding names and eco sounding catch phrases with no real substance behind them.
Speaking of truth and accuracy in labeling, perhaps “Advantage Marketing”, would be more accurately named, “Take Advantage Marketing”. I’m sure that quip has been 100% recycled as well.
Dennis Salazar is the president of Salazar Packaging, Inc., a certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) company specializing in packaging products, equipment and solutions. With over thirty years in the packaging industry, he is known for his tongue in cheek sense of humor as well as his sustainable packaging passion and expertise. Dennis is also a featured blogger at www.packagingdigest.com.
To contact Dennis, please visit his web site: www.salazarpackaging.com