Well Being

Huggies goes green!: Well, at least goes greenwashing

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We've seen a lot of greenwashing efforts in our days here at Tree Hugging Family, (anyone remember the great eco Palmolive debate of 2008?) but the greenwashing campaigns that irk me the most are the ones aimed at green parents specifically.

The newer Huggies Pure & Natural diapers from maker Kimberly Clark, are a perfect example of greenwashing – maybe one of the better examples I've seen in a good long while. First of all these diapers appeared on the scene right around Earth Day this year – which is a great time to lure in unsuspecting parents because everyone has their mind on green topics; smart move on Kimberly Clark's part.

BUT maybe they are green. Let's take a look at what makes these diapers an eco-product according to Kimberly Clark

In their press release, Kimberly-Clark Corporation says that Huggies Pure & Natural diapers are “A super premium diaper that includes natural, organic materials and ingredients to provide gentle protection for new babies, as well as initial steps toward environmental improvements, without sacrificing performance.

The so called eco-improvements include:

  • Hypoallergenic, latex and fragrance free.
  • Features a breathable outer cover that includes organic cotton.
  • The liner includes natural Aloe & Vitamin E and materials from renewable sources.
  • The product's outer packaging is sourced from 20% post-consumer recycled materials.

Kimberly Clark isn't being all that sneaky in the press though, which I will give them props for. After taking a survey and seeing that moms want diapers with organic and natural materials, Kimberly Clark decided to make these diapers. They note that they expect that “Huggies Pure & Natural diapers will help the brand build inroads with those moms who are most interested in products that include natural materials to provide the best care for their babies.

Robert Thibault, president of Kimberly-Clark's North American Infant, Baby & Child Care business, says, “Based on the preliminary response we've received thus far, we expect the unique attributes this diaper offers will be well-received by moms and our retail customers, and will help drive incremental dollar growth in the category.” So, at least they admit that the bottom line is driving dollar growth. It doesn't make it right, but I like that they're being honest.

What I don't like is that they're also being shifty. They don't print press releases on the diapers so all new parents see are the lackadaisical eco-aspects. Let's re-examine the eco-aspects they're selling to consumers…

  • Hypoallergenic, latex and fragrance free – so are other much greener diapers.
  • Features a breathable outer cover that includes organic cotton – Is it certified organic? Where is it sourced? HOW MUCH organic content? Well Huggies won't tell us on the package so make up your own answers. Also, organic on the outside cover (NOT touching your baby's skin) makes it a moot point anyhow.
  • The liner includes natural Aloe & Vitamin E and materials from renewable sources – those renewable sources would be? Also, so what about the aloe (is it organic?)
  • The product's outer packaging is sourced from 20% post-consumer recycled materials – 20% is laughable. All kinds of companies make products with 100% recycled packaging.

Here's what else they don't mention:

  • The ink used on the diaper: Is it soy or water based? Who knows?
  • It's still disposable. “The average baby goes through 5,000 diapers before being potty-trained. Because 95 percent of these diaper changes are disposable diapers, most of them end up in landfills, said John A. Shiffert, executive director of the National Association of Diaper Services.” According to Wired.
  • It's not biodegradable.

Huggies is not flat out saying, “This is a green diaper” but their campaign is selling them this way – the packaging is green and natural looking, the wording is sketchy, and many parents fall for it, which is what makes this greenwashing. For example:

  • One mom calls these “new green diapers” in a review
  • Another says these diapers are a good small way to go green
  • Another mom calls them eco-friendly
  • If you check around tons of other parents on blogs and at review sites like Amazon are calling this an “eco” or “green” diaper.

When I called Huggies I got some varying info. I asked who certified the cotton and one person told me that the organic cotton is certified but they weren't sure who by. I asked about chlorine and bleach (I mean, the diapers are white so they must do something to them) and was told that a chlorine dioxide Elemental Chlorine Free process was used. If true, this is a more eco-friendly process than a true chlorine process, but is not recommended as an eco-friendly practice because there are better methods. Overall though the phone calls were pretty useless. I'm emailing the company and I'll update when I hear back.

Later we'll look at some actual green diaper choices.

What do you think? Have any of your pals fallen for this new “eco” diaper?

[image via Amazon]

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