Thursday, March 13, 2008

In search of a sustainable barbie

My wife recently went into Barbeques Galore looking for what she says is a "sustainable barbeque". Don't laugh. Ten minutes later she leaves almost in tears after the manager berates her for accusing his company of using slave labour. Maybe it was the way in which she brought up the thorny issue of the fact that just about all of its BBQs are made in China. Who knows in what conditions they are made, the manager certainly didn't. Neither was he able to say where the wood came from, or whether any recycled materials had been used in the manufacture. In frustration she asked about the labour record of the companies that make the BBQs for Barbeques Galore, and that's when things got a little bit heated, so to speak. He turned to her and said: "What are you saying? 'That we support slave labour. Is that what you're driving at?'" She was made to feel she was in the wrong to put the questions to the company and she left upset at the experience. I am happy to report that she is over it but our quest for a sustainable barbie continues. We are not alone it seems. A friend of mine who lives on the North Coast of NSW also put the same questions to his local hardware store. He was interested in a brand-spanking new BBQ with beautiful hardwood trolley and surround. He asks the bloke if he was able to supply any accreditation for the wood used in the BBQ set. The bloke looked perplexed and said that the wood came from Asia. My friend asked again and the bloke said he would go away and ask. Two minutes later he's back. "Mate, we don't have any accreditation but don't worry it's all good. It won't fall apart." Something tells me we are going to have wait a while for a sustainable barbie.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The big spin in our laundry detergents

You know how far advanced the green consumer revolution is when a company like Unilever starts bringing out a range of green washing powder. But let's not get too taken away. It is in fact the packaging that has been reduced while the liquid within the bottle has shrunk remains largely the same. This allows Unilever to claim that it is doing the right thing because it is not claiming to be carbon neutral, green or any other such flimsy tag that marketers like to tack onto the end of the product to make themselves look good. True, the competition watchdog is not going to excited about this one but maybe it should. After all who among us reads all the fine print among the advertisements to see that it is actually about the packaging only, when Unilever's powders, which make up the bulk of its business, have been left unchanged, full of petrochemicals, optical brighteners and phosphates. If this isn't greenwash then I don't know what is?