- Store Operation
- Customer Service & Sales
- Sustainability & Education
Company Mission & Ethos
At Mama & Hapa’s, we have three main principles for company success:
- Make the zero waste lifestyle accessible, affordable, and attainable for all people. We strive to have a variety of products that are fairly priced, always offering a spectrum of items to choose from to fit into different price ranges and incomes. Our goal is to be welcoming to all customers, whether they are just starting their journey of living eco friendly, or they are advanced in the low waste lifestyle. This should be a judgment free zone where we can educate and assist people to give them the tools they need.
- Accept container donations and allow people to use these for free when refilling. We offer free donated containers to make it easier for newcomers who come unprepared, customers who forget to bring containers, and people who want to save money. In order to maintain this, we must make sure all containers are thoroughly washed, sanitary & scent free.
- Have a variety of locations for ease of access. We plan to have shops open in many locations around the greater Portland area so that people can easily access them without having to drive. We encourage walking, cycling, and public transportation, and opening in a variety of neighborhoods makes this much more attainable for residents in each neighborhood. The easier it is, the more likely people are willing to change their lifestyles to live more sustainably.
1389 SE Stark St Portland, OR 97214- 1st location, open since May 2021
3806 N Mississippi Ave Portland, OR 97227- 2nd location, open since November 2021
1810 SE 10th Ave Unit C Portland, OR 97214 – Warehouse, company operations
Store Hours: 10am – 7pm at all stores.
At our stores, customers are welcome to come in and refill their own containers, buy reusable containers we offer, or use donated containers from the shelves. Self service is encouraged, with clear direction for those who are new. Sales staff focus on teaching new customers how to use the dispenser system, making sure shelves are well stocked, answering questions, directing customers towards products they may enjoy, and assisting them at checkout using Square Point of Sale.
How our dispenser system works:
- All dispensers are activated with RFID cards, provided on the front table. Each card has a name for reference in the system. Customers will use one card for all refills on their shopping trip.
- The card activates the dispenser immediately upon contact of the RFID sensor, and stops when the card is taken away.
- This communicates with our computer how much has been dispensed in fluid ounces (by volume), and generates barcodes when the card is scanned at checkout.
- We make an effort to greet every person who enters the store when possible (if you’re busy attending to someone, it’s okay to miss some greetings). It’s important to acknowledge people, make eye contact, and let them know we’re here to help.
- When customers enter, you can usually tell if they are new to the store or not. Experienced customers will typically grab a card, they may have brought containers, and they get straight to filling. They are usually more independent and hands off.
- New customers will usually walk in and look around, and they might be unsure of what our store is – this is when we ask “hello, have you been in before?” If they say no, we have a prompt below:
Introduction for new customers:
“We are a zero waste shop focused on helping people transition into more sustainable lifestyles. We offer a variety of home products in bulk, like laundry detergent, shampoo, dish soap, and more, that can be dispensed through our contactless system. You can bring in your own containers from home, buy reusable containers we carry, or use our community donated containers.” Next, we show them how to use the dispensers.
Liquid Dispenser Demo:
To show customers how to use our dispensers, we have a demo dispenser with water in it, for tutorial purposes only. We activate this using an ADMIN card and fill a jar to demonstrate. There are written directions at the front table, but new people typically need a physical demo.
For new customers, we can ask:
“Would you like to see a dispenser demo?”
– If they say no, we can politely tell them something like, “No worries, feel free to look around and let me know if you have any questions.”
– If they say yes:
“First, you will need a card from the front table. You will use this card for all refills during your visit”
Show them the front table cards for customers, and make sure you have an ADMIN card to show them the demo.
“Second, bring a container of your choice up to the dispenser. Make sure it’s directly under the tap. Then, you can touch the card to the RFID symbol above the tap. Take the card away to stop the flow. It comes out fast, so we recommend stopping when it’s two inches from the top.”
As you’re saying this, you will be demonstrating how you carefully align it under the tap and fill it with some water.
“You can bring in your own containers, or (pointing to free containers) those ones are free. Or (pointing to paid containers) you can buy a fancy container. (Then pointing to stickers) Also if you want to label any jars, these are stickers. After you’re done with all your refills, bring your card to the front and we will scan it. Let me know if you have any questions!”
Usually customers will understand and start browsing containers, then fill up what they need. We can offer to help them if they still don’t feel confident using the dispensers.
Dry Bulk Bins Demo:
The dry bulk bins work similarly to our liquid dispensers, but with a few minor differences. Containers have to be weighed empty to tare first, and are filled manually with a scoop. The computer subtracts the difference so customers don’t have to. Dry bulk products are measured in ounces by weight, instead of by volume like the liquids are. Directions are listed above the scale, and on the bulk bins touchscreen.
Typically, we show customers how to use the liquids first because it sells the most, and it is easier to make big spills, so a demonstration is required. The dry bulk bins are a bit easier since they are manually scooped and the screen offers instructions step by step.
Here are the instructions that show up on the screen for customers:
- Place your empty container on the scale with the lid off, then press “weigh”
- Select the product you’d like to fill up. (choose from baking soda, laundry powder, etc.)
- Fill up the container with your desired amount, then place back on the scale, lid off, and weigh again.
- Tap your RFID card to the symbol below the screen.
- Done! Continue shopping or proceed to checkout.
Our dispensing system is unique to us, being the first zero waste shop to implement an RFID activated system. This system requires care, attention, and troubleshooting from time to time.
Restocking Wall Dispensers (Switching Buckets)
When a wall dispenser runs out, follow these steps:
- Locate the buckets that correspond to the dispenser you need to restock, in the back room on the shelves along the wall.
- Grab a bucket wrench (bright orange) and use it to remove the lid of both the empty bucket, and the new full one.
- Switch the lid with the opening & flexible tube to the new bucket. Secure the lid on tight.
- Take the old, empty bucket and put the flat lid on it (from the other bucket). Place the empty bucket in the designated pickup area.
*Note: it will take a few seconds of dispensing for the product to come out after switching buckets. This is just an air bubble in the line. If nothing comes out after a minute, jump to Pumping a Dispenser Spout. If a customer was waiting for you to switch it, you can politely let them know to hold their card over the dispenser for a few seconds until it comes out.
Restocking Table Dispensers
Restocking table dispensers requires a little more effort. We do not refill these until the product is below the wooden table line.
- Locate the bucket that corresponds to the dispenser you need to restock, in the back room on the shelves along the wall.
- Grab the following
- Step ladder
- 2 gallon square container
- Large funnel
- Silicone spatula
- Set up a ladder next to the dispenser you’re going to fill up. Remove the cap from the top of the dispenser jug you’re going to refill.
- Fill the smaller 2 gallon container from the 5 gallon bucket. This makes it easier to refill the dispensers by lightening the load and splitting it into a few trips.
- Bring this 2 gallon container and the funnel with you. Set the funnel in the jug opening, place the 2 gallon container on the top of the ladder, and carefully climb up to a level where you can easily reach the top of the dispenser jugs.
- Slowly & carefully pour the liquid into the jug. Repeat until full. On the last bucket pour, use the spatula to scrape any excess liquid out. Do the same with the 2 gallon container.
- Wash all of the tools in the back room sink.
In Case of a Spill:
Stop what you’re doing and clean it immediately. We especially want to be mindful not to let liquids get to the electronics inside the table.
If liquid drips inside the table, follow these steps:
- Turn off the dispenser table. If customers are using it, let them know.
- Grab all of the drip jars and place them on top of the jugs so the table is empty.
- Put caps on every dispenser spout on the side where the spill took place.
- Unlatch all the metal latches and open the panel to see inside the table.
- Take a rag and wipe up any liquids that may have spilled inside.
- Make sure it’s 100% clean & dry before closing the panel & latching it.
- Turn the dispenser table back on.
When a dispenser isn’t working, we have a protocol for troubleshooting to solve the problem.
- If the dispenser motor is turning on, but no fluid is coming out
- Check to see that the dispenser reservoir is full of liquid. It’s easier to check on the tables since they’re visible. For the wall dispensers, go to the back and check if the bucket is full. If it’s empty, restock it (directions above).
- There may be air in the line, so you’ll need to prime the dispenser spout with a manual suction pump. (jump to Pumping a Dispenser Spout)
- If the dispenser motor does not turn on
- There is a loose wire somewhere. Notify Ross immediately.
- If the dispenser turns on properly, but after the card is removed the screen is stuck on “SENDING…” for more then 20 seconds
- There is an error in the dispenser’s wifi OR the checkout screen isn’t on.
- Make sure the checkout screen is on
- If it is on, make note of the amount on the screen and reset the dispenser table or wall
- Table: Press the white Square button under the table. Wait 5 seconds. Press again to turn it back on.
- Wall: Press the white Square button under the table. At Mississippi, it’s in the very back corner by the thermostat. At Stark, it’s in the corner closest to the curtain, where we keep the broom. Wait 5 seconds. Press again to turn it back on.
- Add the amount you noted in step 2 to the customer’s final amount
- There is an error in the dispenser’s wifi OR the checkout screen isn’t on.
Pumping a Dispenser Spout
The pump consists of 4 parts:
- Cup: This is where the liquid from the dispenser will be stored.
- Lid + Gasket: These must be secure in order to create a vacuum. Always be cautious of the gasket as it is easy to lose, and crucial for the pump to work.
- Tubes: 1 long tube attaches from the lid to the dispenser spout, where the liquid will enter. 1 short tube connects the pump and the other end of the lid. The lid is labeled “TO PUMP” on the side where the pump goes.
- Pump + Gauge: This is where you can pump the handle and view the pressure.
- Make sure you have all the parts, and put them together. The lid and gasket should be secured to the short tube, which attaches to the cup side that says “TO PUMP”. The other side of the cup should have the longer tube.
- Grab an ADMIN card and approach the malfunctioning dispenser with the assembled manual pump. Place the end of the long tube over the dispenser spout, about a ½ inch over it.
- Make sure the cup is completely upright. Pump a few times until the gauge pressure increases. Place the admin card over the RFID chip and keep pumping / activating the dispenser until liquid comes out.
- Remove the admin card as soon as liquid is purged from the dispenser; be sure not to let it fill the cup any higher than an inch from the top. We want to avoid any liquid getting into the pump end.
- Disassemble the manual pump parts and wash all except for the pump + gauge, and the small tube attached to the pump. Do not get the pump wet; set it aside. Let the other parts air dry, and be mindful not to lose the o-ring gasket.
*Important: Do not let liquid enter the pump; this can rust and damage it. This is why we keep the cup upright, remove the card when liquid enters the cup, and avoid getting water on the pump. If it rusts, it will no longer work.
To command all dispensers, say “Echo, turn off/on Mississippi.”
To command the wall, say “Echo, turn off/on Mississippi back.”
To command the table closest to the register, say “Echo, turn off/on Mississippi North.”
To command the table furthest from the register, say “Echo, turn off/on Mississippi South.”
To command all dispensers, say “Echo, turn off/on Stark.”
To command the wall, say “Echo, turn off/on Stark back.”
To command the table, say “Echo, turn off/on Stark front.”
Restocking & Maintaining Displays
One of the important duties of sales staff is to make sure the store is tidy, well stocked, and nicely displayed. When customers come in, this is the first thing they see. It takes effort and maintenance throughout the day to keep a beautiful storefront.
Understock & Backstock
Understock is the inventory that can be found in the cabinets and drawers in the front of the store, typically directly under the corresponding item displays. We try to have a little bit of every item accessible for easy restocking.
Backstock is the inventory that can be found in the back storage room at each store location. This is where we typically store larger amounts of products, as well as back up buckets for bulk refills.
Retail stores are designed and displayed strategically to make customer shopping experiences as easy and smooth as possible. Items may be placed to catch the eye, or to help direct and educate customers about the products.
It’s important that we maintain displays and keep them looking nice – this is what makes products look desirable and helps them sell.
Here are some display tips:
- You want displays to look full, but not overly crowded. Sometimes less is more. Maintain a bit of spacing between different products.
- Some items can be stacked or staggered to create interesting patterns that draw the eye.
- Example: stacking facial bars in pyramids, eucalyptus steamers in checker patterns
- Order: Some items look nicer folded in piles, or stacked upward in jars or baskets. This saves space and helps to maintain order, which is less overwhelming to look at.
- If displaying an item that comes in different colors, patterns, and/or sizes, make sure a variety is displayed and customers can see what options are available.
- Example: making sure every seed paper greeting card design is stocked on the shelf and 6 different patterns are visible.
Jar Donations + Dishwasher
Customers bring in containers for us to recirculate so that other people can use these containers, free of charge, for their refills.
Please review Container Donation Guidelines under Company Policies to learn what we can & cannot accept.
Upon receiving container donations, we want to let the customer know that we will look through them first to see if we can accept them. We sort through the containers while the customer is present, and let them know why we can’t accept certain ones so they are better prepared for next time. They can always refer to the donation guidelines displayed in each shop and on our website. Once sorted, containers can go to the back in the bin designated for dirty containers.
There are two bins in the back room: one for dirty donations, and one for dry, clean, ready to go containers that already went through the dishwasher. We always want to sort through containers a second time before putting them in the dishwasher; this way we don’t waste any space, water, or energy on containers that don’t meet our guidelines. Use the DIRTY / CLEAN sign to indicate the status of the containers inside the dishwasher.
Loading & Washing
The dishwasher is loaded and run during the closing shift. Make sure to start the cycle at least 2 hours before your shift end to make sure you have adequate time.
Once checking each container, load the dishwasher as full as possible without stacking or overcrowding. We want to make the most of each water & energy cycle to prevent waste.
Small containers go on the top rack, with larger & taller containers on the bottom rack, with the container openings facing down. Lids can either go directly next to their matching container, or in the cutlery basket. Make sure lids are facing down or sideways so they don’t collect excess water.
While in the process of loading, make sure the dishwasher sign is on DIRTY.
- Once fully loaded, add some dishwasher gel or powder to the detergent department and close it. If using a dropps dishwasher pod, throw it in the bottom of the dishwasher.
- Close the dishwasher and make sure it’s latched shut. Attach the water hose to the sink faucet by pressing down on the side tab, while simultaneously pushing the attachment up until it locks into place.
- Turn on the hot water tap.
- Turn on the dishwasher. Cycle type doesn’t matter too much. Flip over the dishwasher sign to CLEAN.
- Once the dishwasher cycle finishes, turn off the water tap. Press the button on the hose attachment to release any excess water inside the hose first, then remove the hose by pressing down on the side tab and pulling the hose attachment down.
- Open the dishwasher, pull out the two dish racks, and leave them to dry overnight.
Drying & Unloading
The dishwasher is unloaded in the morning during the opening shift, once all the containers are dry. Clean & dry containers go into the Clean bin, which can then be transported to the front to restock our container donation shelves. Make sure to complete unloading by the end of your shift. Flip the dishwasher sign to DIRTY. If you have extra time, you can start loading more dirty jars, for the closing employee to finish where you left off.
Restocking the Donation Shelves
The donation shelves are divided by size & container type, to make it easier for customers to find what they need. Whenever you’re restocking this shelf, it’s a good opportunity to double check and make sure everything there is clean & dry. Any dirty or wet containers can risk contamination of our refill products.
Customer Service & Sales
The way we help and interact with our customers is one of the most important aspects of running an ethical and successful business.
Our goals for customer service include:
- Creating an inclusive & welcoming environment for people of all ages, ethnicities, financial standings, and cultural backgrounds.
- Providing education to help empower people to make informed choices and live more sustainably.
- Establishing a connected community with resources for Portland residents.
- Cultivating honest, authentic communication & experiences with our customers.
- We are not just cashiers; we are educators and salespeople. Having knowledge of our products allows us to better help customers with their specific needs and answer their questions about sustainability.
- If we are confident and know a lot about the products we carry, we can sell items with absolute honesty and integrity. We can give accurate instructions and advice on how to use these products and reduce waste. This is how we will stand out from the typical big box stores.
- Personal experience is valuable! Telling about your experience with a product or sharing a milestone in your sustainable journey shows customers that you’re honest and here to share, learn, and grow. We encourage employees to try our products, which is why we have a 50% discount for team members.
- Always make an effort to greet every customer who comes in, even if you’re ringing up someone. A simple “hello there” or “welcome!” will do in this case.
- When customers leave, occasionally saying “thanks for supporting our small business” is a nice touch that reminds them they are shopping small & local.
- Body Language & micro expressions are important – If someone seems open or in a good mood, they will enjoy more interaction and might pose a great opportunity to sell more items. If someone seems uninterested in our help, or they want to be left alone, then give them space and wait for them to approach you.
- If a customer seems timid, they may want help but be afraid to ask. It’s okay to say “let me know if you need anything, I’m here to help” or “I’m happy to answer any questions you might have today” if there’s a long silence after your initial greeting. This shows them you’re available.
- In your downtime, it’s okay to read a book or use your phone – but while customers are present, we should be present with them. This shows them we are available to help out. Please do these activities when no one is in the store and you’ve finished your tasks, or you’re taking a break.
- Being genuine is more important than pushing a sale. We want to be honest with customers so they know they can trust us! If they ask about a specific product, we want to highlight the good parts about it, while being honest about if we recommend it or not depending on the needs they express. People appreciate transparency.
- In order to truly be “zero waste” this means we want someone to buy something only if it’s truly right for them. If we push a sale that isn’t right for someone, it may end up going to waste, either being unused or thrown away.
- Think outside the box – some products can be used for more than just one intended purpose. Produce bags can be used as laundry bags for delicates, combs can be used for beards, dish bars can be used as stain removal sticks for spot treating stains, and Stashers have 20+ different uses.
- Remind customers that we have shopping baskets available at the front. When people have a basket, they are more likely to fill it up with items.
- If a customer expresses interest in an item, this is a great opportunity to educate them about it. Approach them (while maintaining personal space) and talk about what makes that item unique or useful. This increases the likelihood of them making a purchase. If someone draws back or seems uninterested, retreat.
Basic Sales Strategies
- Upselling is when a customer is interested in an item and you recommend a more expensive / higher quality option. Think of it as an upgrade.
- Example 1: Someone is interested in the silicone bags and you recommend the Stashers because they have many different uses and are oven safe.
- Example 2: You tell someone who’s interested in the silicone stretch covers about how the Marley’s bowl covers are more adjustable and can fit a larger range of sizes.
- Example 3: A customer is about to buy bamboo cotton swabs, and you casually mention that we have a reusable silicone option that reduces waste. They end up buying the silicone swabs instead.
- Cross Selling is when you recommend an item that supports a customer’s purchase. This exposes people to products they may not have noticed, and acts as an accessory to their purchase.
- Example 1: A customer is buying a razor, so you recommend to them to get a shave brush and shave soap “to build a lather for a classic, luxurious shave.”
- Example 2: Someone wants to buy a lunch box, so you tell them about the utensil kit and recommend pairing them with a tote bag.
- Example 3: A customer wants to buy a seed paper greeting card, so you mention to them that we also have seed paper gift cards for zero waste shopping, and they make a nice gift when paired together.
- You may notice that the displays are designed intentionally to make it easy to upsell & cross sell. Relevant items are strategically placed next to each other so that people can buy certain items together.
- Example 1: Bamboo utensils & straws are all close together with empty canvas pouches so people can mix & match to build their own on the go kits.
- Example 2: Soap savers and soap lifts are found directly next to the soap, with displays showing them being used together.
- Example 3: At Mississippi, above the Stashers there is a display stand up stasher filled with personal care items like a soap lift, nail brush, detox bar, and more. It shows that Stashers are not just for food, but can be used for travel and organizing belongings, too.
Sustainability & Education
- Having a base knowledge about sustainability means that we can answer questions even if they aren’t about anything we sell. For example, a customer asks about how to compost, or about greywater recycling.
- It’s ok to not have all the answers; you can admit this and say, “I’m not sure about that, but let me look that up for you!” You can google it on the ipad.
- Some of our customers will be very knowledgeable & passionate, and may ask about fragrances, specific ingredients, greenwashing, and what materials an item is made from. We should be well versed in these terms so we can accommodate their needs.
- On Square, every item has a product description that you can access on each listing. Simply select the item and scroll down. Here you will find benefits, selling points, ingredients, care instructions, use instructions, and more.
Basics of Sustainability & Zero Waste
In the Zero Waste sphere, our main goal is to help people reduce waste in many areas of their lives by eliminating single use disposables, choosing reusable items, and gravitating toward natural materials that are genuinely biodegradable.
Oftentimes there are tradeoffs in zero waste, and a hierarchy of sustainable practices. You probably have heard the term, “reduce, reuse, recycle” before, right?
There is so much more we can do to make sustainable choices.
- Refuse what you don’t need. Buy based on necessity, with research and education to back up the ethics & sourcing of your purchases.
- Reduce the amount and frequency of consumption where possible.
- Reuse what you already have.
- Repair what is broken or mendable, to prolong the life and purpose of items.
- Repurpose items for a different use if they can no longer be used for their original purpose.
- Recycle an item into something else so that the materials are not wasted. Recycling should be the very last step in mind when making purchases.
The Problem with Recycling
The concept of recycling has long been misleading to the general public. Many large corporations have used recycling as an excuse for the large amount of waste they create, claiming that their disposable packaging can be recycled. While this is partially true, there is a bigger picture at play.
A majority of items put into recycling bins end up in landfills anyway.
This is due to a number of reasons:
- Many plastics that are claimed to be “recyclable” are not actually accepted by recycling facilities.
- Some product packaging is made with mixed materials and is impossible to recycle, but people throw it in recycling bins anyway.
- Containers that are not rinsed out properly contain contaminants which disrupt recycling, thus ending up in landfills.
- There are not enough recycling facilities to support the sheer amount of plastic waste being generated by corporations and used by consumers.
- Materials such as plastic film & flimsy plastic bags get stuck in sorting equipment and are impossible to recycle.
- Plastic containers that are dyed bright colors are not accepted by recycling facilities because it is not desirable for creating new packaging.
This is essentially why the zero waste movement exists! Recycling is not the solution to our pollution crisis and plastic dependence. Reducing the amount of these materials we use in our lives will make a much stronger impact. For these reasons, recycling is the very last step on the list when it comes to ethical consumption.
Certifications & Labeling
Some products have specific certifications and labeling. Here’s what we need to know
- Leaping Bunny Certified: Product is certified cruelty free, and not tested on animals. Leaping Bunny requires brands to go through third party independent investigation to ensure that they avoid animal testing, as well as their suppliers, third parties, or parent companies. “The Leaping Bunny Logo is the only internationally recognized symbol guaranteeing consumers that no new animal tests were used in the development of any product displaying it.”
- Cruelty Free: Generally means no animal testing, and no animals were harmed to make the product. The difference between this on a label vs. Leaping Bunny Certified is that it isn’t certified. The certification is more official and guarantees 100% cruelty free. Every single product and refill in our shop is confirmed to be cruelty free, but not all are Leaping Bunny Certified.
- Vegan: A product must not contain any animal products to be considered vegan. Some people who are vegan make specific exceptions, like being okay with beeswax if it’s ethically sourced. All of our products containing beeswax are locally & ethically sourced.
- H.E.: Works for High Efficiency washing machines. These machines need specific detergent in order to work properly. H.E detergent works for all machines, including older ones that aren’t as efficient. All of our detergents are for H.E. machines.
The term Fragrance is defined by the FDA as a combination of chemicals that gives each product its distinct scent. Companies are not legally required to disclose what is in their fragrance blends, which could contain any combination of ingredients. “The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds.Of these 3,059 ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.” Not all fragrance is toxic or “evil”, but with a lack of regulation and ingredient disclosure, consumers are often left in the dark. Many choose to avoid fragrance altogether for this reason; it mitigates any possible health risks they could be exposed to.
We will have customers from time to time who have a sensitivity to fragrance and cannot use it. Some of these customers will be okay with essential oil scented products, just not “fragrance.” Some people will require completely unscented products, formulated for sensitive skin.
It’s helpful to ask customers who mention they’re avoiding synthetic fragrances, “Are you looking for an unscented product, or are fragrance free products scented with essential oils okay?”
We have some refill items that contain fragrances, because we aim to carry a variety of products and price points to cater to different needs. It’s important to know which products have it, so we can help customers who want to avoid it. These products include:
- Floor Cleaner
- Odor Remover
- Enzyme Cold Water Liquid Detergent
- Standard Scented Detergent
- Wild Melon Hand Soap
- *Dropps Clean & Crisp Scented Laundry Pods
- *Dropps Clean & Crisp Scented Fabric Softener Pods
*Note: Dropps claims that their fragrance blend is plant derived and that they source their ingredients responsibly, so for some people it may be an exception. For anyone with sensitive skin, it is still best to recommend the unscented version.
Greenwashing is a marketing tactic where companies use certain buzzwords, imagery, and packaging design to mislead consumers to believe that they are sustainable when they are actually using environmentally harmful practices. These harmful practices could pertain to ingredient safety, sourcing, labor, pollution, and environmental impact that is hidden by false pretenses used to market an “eco friendly” product to you.
Lack of regulations around marketing terms and specific language means that companies can use these words without any proof that they actually meet these claims.
Examples of unregulated marketing terms used in greenwashing:
- “All natural”
- “Chemical free”
- “Eco friendly”
- “Earth friendly”
- “Free of… (insert substance)”
These words may sound nice and their real definitions are important, but in marketing they don’t mean much if they are unregulated, and these companies are not required to verify or prove their claims.
Typical greenwashing imagery includes:
- Green & white color schemes
- Leaves, grass, flowers, and trees
- Water droplets, waves, & rivers
- Mountains & meadows
- Planet Earth
- Happy looking animals
Real Life Examples of Greenwashing
- Clorox Greenworks Biodegradable Cleaning Wipes are claimed to be biodegradable, but the wipes are formulated with chemicals that are toxic to the environment, and they are packaged in a large plastic tub.
- Huggies Pure & Natural Diapers are marketed as more green than other Huggies products, while priced significantly higher. While it boasts the use of “organic cotton”, the organic cotton is only on the outside of the diaper, not the inner liner. It is still made mostly with synthetic, petroleum based fibers that do not biodegrade.
- Boxed Water claims their product is “better” than plastic bottles, when their packaging is actually less recyclable than plastic due to their mixed materials consisting of paper, plastic and aluminum.
- Coca Cola’s Marine Plastic Campaign advertised that they were making bottles with 25% ocean plastic. This is ironic, considering that Coca Cola has been named the number 1 plastic polluter in the world, 4 years in a row. Coca Cola bottles come up as the most common plastic found in marine environments, and their campaign failed to address the larger issue of the waste they created in the first place.
- Innisfree released a skincare product that appeared to be a paper bottle. Inside was a hidden plastic bottle. Their marketing misled consumers to believe that the bottle was somehow plastic free and only made from paper. If someone to recycle this without separating the paper & plastic, it would not be accepted due to the mixed materials.
Umbrella / Parent Companies
There is a small number of parent companies that own almost every brand Americans buy. Many of them start smaller companies or buy out existing small companies to improve their image and pretend to be eco friendly. Many of these parent companies are known for human rights violations, unethical work practices, mass pollution, and even child labor.
Marketed as a “Green” Company: Owned / Bought by Parent Company:
|Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day||SC Johnson|
|TOMS of Maine||Colgate – Palmolive Co.|
|Burt’s Bees||Clorox (which is owned by P&G)|
Examples of Corruption & Unethical Practices
Below are links to profiles of some of the biggest aforementioned parent companies based on third party independent research, detailing their unethical choices found on ethicalconsumer.com