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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is it green, or greenwashing?

Being green is in!

Caring for the health of your dog is in!

Being all natural and eco-friendly is in!

So, it was only a matter of time until we saw 'greenwashing' become a staple in the pet industry, just as it has in other industries over the years.

I've watched the 'green, eco-friendly, healthy' movement in the pet industry grow prolifically over these past few years. I watched as some great little companies who make and sell pawsome, healthy foods, treats, toys and other products, who care about the environment, and who work toward sustainable practices and utilize local resources, sadly, become overshadowed by the dollars that larger pet and pet related companies spend in professing their greenness.

Many pet companies are quickly and aggressively jumping on the green, healthy, eco-friendly bandwagon to be associated with this growing segment of the pet industry. They are partnering with popular green websites, building their own 'green pet' pages, and professing their care and concern for your pet and for the environment, all while selling and promoting products that are questionable in their greenness and healthiness.

Yes, these companies may participate in some environmentally sustainable practices and they may carry a few products that are produced in the USA, may be organic in nature or are products from companies that produce safer, healthier alternatives. But that doesn't necessarily mean what their marketing profession implies; that all the products they carry come from sustainable companies, or companies that provide healthier, organic, safer products for your pets, or that the products they market to pet families are safe, healthy and green.

There is a term for this practice, it's called greenwashing. According to Wikipedia, "greenwashing (a portmanteau of "green" and "whitewash") is a term describing the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company's policies or products (such as goods or services) are environmentally friendly. The term green sheen has similarly been used to describe organizations that attempt to show that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment."

Greenwashing has been going on for years. The term was first coined by "New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld in a 1986 essay regarding the hotel industry's practice of placing placards in each room promoting reuse of towels ostensibly to "save the environment. Westerveld noted that, in most cases, little or no effort toward waste recycling was being implemented by these institutions, due in part to the lack of cost-cutting affected by such practice."

Westerveld opined "that the actual objective of this "green campaign" on the part of many hoteliers was, in fact, increased profit. Westerveld hence monitored this and other outwardly environmentally conscientious acts with a greater, underlying purpose of profit increase as greenwashing."

Here are two very good examples of greenwashing relating to dogs that I've come across:

One of the first examples of greenwashing in the pet industry I saw a few years ago on the Internet was a page created by Purina Canada, entitled "Paws for the Planet." The page has great tips on helping your pet help the environment, and we applaud them for that. However, the association of Purina with caring for the planet also gives the perception that their food is very healthy, that they source for their food from 'green' farmers, that the food is healthy, even organic in nature, all of which is extremely questionable.

Another perfect example of greenwashing is Scott's Lawn Care. The company professes in their website section "Benefits of Grass" that their products are perfectly safe for pets and children after their chemicals are watered in. All they ask is that you water it in and "...that keeps people and pets from tracking it into the house, and helps give your lawn a boost."

But what about when pets lick their paws, or children put their fingers and hands in their mouths after coming in contact with the chemical? What happens when these chemicals stay in your lawn, become part of the grass and your dog eats that grass? Studies have shown that these lawn chemicals are potentially very dangerous, especially for pets and children. As a matter of fact "a respected report and DVD "The Truth About Cats, Dogs and Lawn Chemicals," funded by Newman’s Own Foundation, has a lot of information for you to learn about the dangers and effects of lawn chemicals on your pets."

Thank goodness the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is taking notice of these greenwashing practices and looking at "(a) new set of so-called Green Guides that are used by the FTC to guide enforcement of existing laws. They are the first environmental-marketing guidelines in 12 years and could radically reshape how far marketers can go in painting their products, packaging or even corporate images green," according to

But don't wait....get educated, and get smarter! Investigate the pet companies you do business with. Find the most sustainable, healthy product and service providing pet company you can find by checking to see if those companies:
  • Provide healthier, organic and safer products for your dog and your home, lawn and garden.
  • Care about the environment and prove it by showcasing their product in green, recyclable packaging.
  • Give back to their communities through charitable actions.
  • Purchase product sources and manufacturer their products through local and USA based sources.
  • Utilize organic, healthier resources in their company and products.
  • Follow environmentally sustainable practices, through recycle programs, reuse programs and more.
Not only will your dog be healthier and live a longer, happier life, but you will be helping the environment on a much more sustainable scale.

Additional resources:
The Greenwash Guide
Greenopia's guide to Pet Products and Pet Product Companies


  1. If you want to green your dog and protect your pet, prevent stormwater pollution by picking up after your pet! This practice protects our ocean from pollution, beach goers and your pet's health. To learn more how you can protect your pet and prevent storwmater pollution check out

  2. I agree you should clean up after your pet but I think you are missing the point of the blog. We need to pay attention to to guys with big bucks who trying to greenwash everything instead of actually making an effort to create a better environment for everyone.

    Thanks green dog for some interesting information to think about. Don't believe everything you see in ads or in print.

  3. I am always skeptical of big promotions of any kind. Anybody who stands to gain from "cheating" likely does.

    That's why it's important to do one's homework.

  4. Thanks 'guys'! We've had this post in the back of our minds for well over a that we're seeing so much 'green,' 'eco-friendly' and 'healthy' pet products, services, advertising, and promotions hitting the pet market, we thought we needed to get the info out there, now!!!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and interaction!

  5. I am a water quality sepcialist (and dog lover) and the "Greenwashing" that really irks me. Particularly bothersome to me is the whole "biodegradable" thing. Biodegradable means breaks down in the enviroment. Everything biodegrades people its just a matter of faster or slower. Just because you soap says biodegradable doesn't mean it is harmless to the environment and fish. Biodegradable poop bags need air, light and moisture to degrade. Sorry, those biodegradable poop bags being entombed in the landfill are not turning into soil as you might imagine. There are other benefits of the biodegradable products, like the renewable substances used to make them, but they are not "totally safe" for the environment as most manufacturers want you to believe. I have a post coming out on my Blog Friday about the issue of poop bags.

  6. yeah, i've heard of those poop bags, sounds like not really useful...


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