MOGO Mindfulness: "Green" Doesn't Always Mean What We Think It Does

As citizens we often use product labels and information to help us make choices that do more good and less harm for people, animals and the planet. But we can fall into the trap of thinking that our conscious efforts to be more mindful and to choose "greener" products can shield us from making choices that cause greater harm. We can drift into a complacent dream state in which our hand automatically reaches for the seemingly eco-friendly product, without taking the time to investigate whether or not the packaging actually reflects the larger truth.

Our friend, Beth Terry, of My Plastic-free Life, offers a great example. Recently she tweeted one of her posts from 2008 that digs deeper into what appear to be eco-friendly pencils. The label on the box entices the green-minded by highlighting:
  • Pencils made from 100% recycled bags.
  • Packaging made from 100% recycled board.
  • Ferrules are 100% recyclable.
  • 100% post-consumer content recycled.
What person wanting to tread more lightly on the planet wouldn't want to snatch those up? But, as we learn as humane educators and concerned citizens, when we dig deeper, things often aren't as they initially appear. Beth does a little dissecting:
1) Pencils made from 100% Recycled Bags. What kind of bags? Paper? Plastic?

2) Packaging made from 100% Recycled Board. What kind of board? What does that even mean?

3) Ferrules [the metal part that holds the eraser] are 100% Recyclable. In whose universe? Yes, they’re metal and could theoretically be recycled. But do you really think those tiny things are going to be sorted out from all the other recycling waste at the MRF? And yes, I did have to Google “ferrule.”

4) 100% Post Consumer Content Recycled. Which part? The box? The graphite? The outside of the pencil?

Beth does a little more exploration, calling the company that manufactures the pencils, and discovers that the pencils are made from used plastic bags. She says,
"So what’s wrong with a pencil made from recycled plastic bags? We need to use those bags for something right? Except that pencils get sharpened. Normal pencils will leave behind wood shavings that can be composted. These pencils will leave behind plastic dust that will linger in the environment, just like the tiny pieces of plastic floating in the gyre or the plastic microbeads we’re flushing down our drains these days."
Read the complete post.
Source: My Plastic-free Life (

So, not automatically an eco-friendly product after all.

Certainly making choices that do the most good and least harm doesn't mean spending hours of time dissecting every product choice we might make. It happens over time, as we become more mindful, do a little more critical thinking, start asking more questions, and refrain from making assumptions. Eventually, our investigative skills become more honed, and we can more easily determine whether our choices indeed reflect the values we want them to.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.
You have read this article assumptions / consumerism / critical thinking / environmental protection / ethical consumerism / green living / labels / Most Good Least Harm / plastics / school supplies with the title MOGO Mindfulness: "Green" Doesn't Always Mean What We Think It Does. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

No comment for "MOGO Mindfulness: "Green" Doesn't Always Mean What We Think It Does"

Post a Comment