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By Marlene Cimons
When Morgan Poor gave birth to her son, she and her husband shopped around for the perfect diaper, hoping to find one that was both effective and environmentally friendly. They tried a few so-called "niche" brands, like Seventh Generation and Honest Company, which tout their green bona fides, but the diapers Poor liked best came from Pampers, a mainstream manufacturer with a line of more environmentally-friendly diapers.
"So, I'd be the anomaly in our research," she said.
An anomaly indeed. Poor, an assistant professor of marketing at San Diego University, and her research colleagues, Stacy Wood and Stefanie Robinson from North Carolina State University, were curious to know how consumers respond to green products sold by mainstream brands. They largely turned out to be the opposite of Poor.
The researchers found that shoppers shunned green products produced by mainstream brands, believing them to be less effective than their regular non-green products. In other words, if parents were set on buying Pampers, they were going to buy regular Pampers. On the other hand, consumers adamant about buying strictly green products went for the niche brands, like Seventh Generation. Their work appears in the Journal of Advertising Research.
The fact that parents would prefer standard-issue Huggies, as opposed to the green version, may reflect years of Madison Avenue ad copy promoting the wonders of chemistry. "What makes a product 'green' is often that it has more natural, earth-friendly ingredients or materials," Poor said. "Over the decades, marketers have been selling us on the effectiveness of chemicals, so I believe the perception or misperception is actually due to this conditioning."
The target audience for diapers.
At the same time, the study also suggests that there still are many shoppers — increasingly aware of the dangers of climate change and pollution — who want to buy greener products.
"It's wonderful that consumers are starting to care about and demand that companies develop and sell more environmentally-friendly products," Poor said. "If we want the mainstream brands to continue to do this though, it's important that they understand how to enter the space successfully. Our research suggests that the best strategy for these mainstream brands may be to avoid too loudly showcasing the green quality of their product lines and instead let that be a bonus that consumers learn about post-purchase."
Sonya Grier, professor of marketing at American University's Kogod School of Business, who did not take part in this study, agreed that big companies should tamp down the green branding, at least at first.
"Often, green products will lead up with the focus on sustainability and that it is green, but that says nothing about the effectiveness of the product, which is what people really want," she said. "It's like saying buy my food because it's sustainable, without saying anything about the taste."
Planet laundry detergent is marketed to consumers who worry about the environment.
To conduct their study, the researchers surveyed 565 consumers nationwide, asking them about three home pesticide brands currently on the market. These included a standard pesticide from a mainstream brand, a green product from a mainstream brand, and a totally green niche competitor. The results also showed that consumers geared toward buying green preferred the niche brand over the mainstream brand with the environmentally-friendly features. The brands were not identified in the study.
Another factor to take into account is price, the scientists said. Green products often cost more than mainstream products, so "it may not always be feasible to buy everything green that consumers may ideally want," Robinson said.
Poor pointed out, however, that many people also believe that "higher price equates to higher quality, so in that regard, one would think that higher priced green products might be perceived as more effective," Poor said.
For Poor and her husband, moving to California — and then having a baby — prompted them to make a more concerted effort to go green. "It seems like you see organic, sustainable and environmentally-friendly products being talked about a lot more here," she said.
"They also seem to be more easily accessible," she added. "Then, when my husband and I began talking about starting a family, we made a major move to clean up the products we were using, including cleaning supplies, beauty products, and even our pest services."
Poor says that in her experience, green products tend to work just as well as the standard non-green mainstream equivalents — which means manufacturers could have an opportunity to improve their bottom lines and the environment by fine-tuning how they present green products to consumers.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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