Natureworks’ Ingeo Cups: Where Do I Dispose My Plastic Corn Cup: Compost or Trash?
“Green is an unofficial St. Lawrence [University] color because environmental sustainability is more than a core value – it’s our way of life.”
I for one did not. My name is Erin Eagles and I am currently enrolled at St. Lawrence University (SLU). I have been here for three years and even though I have seen too many environmentally friendly ads to count all around campus, when asked to describe it, “environmentally sustainable” would not be one of them. However, I do agree that our campus is working to decrease our ecological footprint and present a green image to the public. The question remains whether the more visible attempts to go green are having the intended effect. One of the many ways St. Lawrence University promotes this green image is by purchasing Natureworks Ingeo corn cups.
These “biodegradable” Ingeo plastic cups are made by Natureworks; they claim to be “ingenious materials made from plants, not oil.” Although Ingeo designed these cups to look like plastic, a smart choice at that—sticking to the status quo in society—these cups are actually made from corn. More specifically, they are derived from naturally-occurring plant sugars, which are already grown for numerous functional and industrial end-uses. According to Natureworks, Ingeo, the company made the choice to use corn first “because it is the most economically feasible source of plant starches.” However, their process does not actually require corn, all they really need is a sugar source. The making of Ingeo cups results in approximately 60% fewer greenhouse gases and 50% less non-renewable energy that traditional plastic cups. In the future, Ingeo hopes to include agricultural waste, cellulosic raw materials, and non-food plants.
The design of the Ingeo cups, at least the ones here at SLU, project a strong green image, appearing to be environmentally friendly. In fact, they say earthchoice in big green and brown lettering. Additionally, the word, compostable can be found in at least six different places on a single cup. But, what most people will miss is what is written in the fine print. One could assume individuals who actually read this print are those who are looking to find out more information about this plastic looking, “industrially compostable” cup. I personally purchase an average of four cups per week at school, and I did not even notice what it said until I was assigned this essay.
What is stated in the fine print is this, “Industrially Compostable only. This cup is not suitable for home composting. Appropriate composting may not exist in your area.” When we think “biodegradable,” we think of something that can disintegrate in our backyards, such as a banana. Although Ingeo plastic cups are made from corn sugars, they are not biodegradable in the same sense as corn. The fact of the matter is, only a commercial system, which gets much hotter in the compost unit than in home composting, will break down these cups. But, given that there are only 413 commercial composting facilities in the country, these cups will most likely end up in a landfill where they will not degrade.
When I figured out these cups were not plastic and were “industrially compostable” I asked myself, “Do I throw my cup in the trash or in the compost?” The fact that I even had to ask myself this question goes to show the lack of education that is provided to the students about these green products. I can assume that many other students like me have an understanding that the cups are plastic. Considering all students are advised not to throw plastic in the compost, we are continually misplacing the disposal of the product, whereby not making much of a difference with our waste system.
Additionally, given that there are only 413 commercial composting facilities in the country, this made me ponder if there even is a place close enough to SLU to dispose the Ingeo cups properly. Much to my surprise, I discovered there is one located 20 miles from campus, at the Riverview Correctional Facility in Ogdensburg, New York. However, when I asked around campus where St. Lawrence disposes the Ingeo cups, and if they went to a special location to be composted, not a single individual could give me an affirmative answer. Though, they seemed confident in their assumption that all of SLU’s waste is taken to the same landfill, including the Ingeo corn cups. It is no question that there is a lack of communication to the students about the product and how it is disposed; inevitably defeating the purpose of having cups made out of corn.
Natureworks Ingeo cups are one of many ways for St. Lawrence University to bolster their green image, and present itself as being sustainable environmentally. However, when we think about these cups, questions arise. The ways these cups and other Natureworks Ingeo products are manufactured is certainly better for the environment; and when comparing them with plastic cups, there is no doubt they are generally better, too. But the question remains, to what extent? In order for Natureworks Ingeo corn cups to have a better, more positive impact on the environment, and for St. Lawrence University’s green image to stand, overall education needs to be paired with these green products.
If you would like to read more about Natureworks Ingeo products and/or find a composting facility near you, visit:
Critique by Erin Eagles
7UP 100% Natural
Dr. Pepper Snapple Group is one of the largest beverage manufacturers in the United States, producing more than fifty brand name beverages nationwide. 7Up is one of the many brands that this large company produces. In present day, environmental concerns expose many issues that need to be addressed in order for positive environmental change to occur. Brands like 7Up are using the advertisement technique of green washing to promote their products as being environmentally friendly. This technique is used to trick the consumer into thinking a specific product is environmentally friendly so that the consumer believes they are helping the environmental movement. The 7Up brand came out with a new drink that claims to be 100% natural and uses the environment to depict an image of the brand that can be misleading. The act of using a ‘green label’ influences consumers’ decisions and can trick them into buying products that are not environmentally friendly. In this critique I will try to explain my points further and try to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the advertisement.
First, I would like to comment on how the 7Up advertisement is presented. 7Up is trying to portray this advertisement for new diet soda as almost being so natural that you could pick the can off the tree, as if it was the real fruit and not a drink made from a manufacturer. The style of green washing used here in this advertisement is what Julia Corbett would call “Green Product Attributes,” and the goal is to try and make the product look as if it were environmentally friendly.
This advertisement alsouses the word “Natural” in attempts to make the product look and sound better. But what does natural really mean? Natural is one of those words that is neither regulated nor defined by any objective organization so the use can be extremely vague and misleading. The use of the word natural here really only describes that 7Up uses 100% natural flavoring. Many people seeing this advertisement might come to the conclusion that they are using 100% natural ingredients to make this drink, but that is wrong. The real ingredients in this soft drink include: “filtered carbonated water, citric acid, potassium citrate, potassium benzoate (preservative), natural flavors, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and calcium disodium EDTA” (Dpsgproduct Facts). Do these ingredients sound natural at all? I believe that the use of the word natural is used to disguise the drink so that the consumer believes they are drinking something that is naturally made in the environment.
Another word used in this advertisement that can be seen as misleading is the use of the word stuff. The text at the bottom of the advertisement in yellow states, “The famously crisp, refreshing taste of 7Up is now better than ever, because it’s been stripped of the artificial stuff found in most other soft drinks” (Green Washing Index). The use of the word stuff is extremely vague and doesn’t give any facts to back its claim. Stuff is a filler word that people tend to use when clear and concise answers cannot be made. If a family member asked what you did at school that day, and you respond with stuff, you are not spending the time to explain what actually went on. This advertisement uses the word stuff to vaguely describe what they have taken out of the drink without specifically telling you what they actually did.
When you look at this advertisement you see nature presented with the drink. It gives people the impression that this drink is a green product. The company strategically put the 7Up can blossoming from the lemon tree directly in the center of the advertisement to attract the consumer to believe something that isn’t true. Soda is inherently bad for you, and most people can attest to that claim. Despite that, 7Up is using nature and the word natural to try and change the image of soda from being inherently bad to making it look organic or something naturally created in nature. A consumer might see that and think that this could potentially be a healthy alternative.
I do have to give credit to the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group for their efforts in trying to become more efficient in their use of energy and recycling. On their website they have a section entirely made to show their efforts in trying to improve environmental sustainability. The problem I have is that this company promotes their concerns for the environment, when in reality all the changes being made are helping them save money financially. All of their objectives sound and look to be promising, but these examples are things that every company should do. They smack the word environment in front of sustainability so that is sounds and looks better to the consumer.
This product that is portrayed in the advertisement has a large target audience. Mostly anyone can fit in this target audience, which makes it that much easier to sell it when green washing is implemented. The social trends of today definitely call for environmental change to occur. 7Up has most certainly caught the trend that so many other large corporations have seemed to join. This advertisement is an example of green washing, because it tricks the average consumer into thinking this product is environmentally friendly or 100% natural, when in reality it is just another aluminum soda can with a large portion of its ingredients being 100% not natural.
Critique by John Hoffman
“Drink 2 Wear” T-Shirt
This Walmart advertisement describes a business strategy that is supposed to appeal to the environmentally conscious. It proposes an idea of selling t-shirts in Walmart made out of recycled PET Coke bottles. The campaign is called “Drink 2 Wear.” Sounds good at first, but the process of making the t-shirts might hurt more than it helps.
The spokespeople in this advertisement are two young girls, making this idea seem innocent and harmless. Using young girls as the spokespeople targets families as the audience, hoping they will purchase these t-shirts for their children thinking they are reducing their carbon footprint. The setting is in a cornfield outside on a sunny day. The setting adds to the stealthy environmentally friendly feeling of the commercial. Corbett describes this rhetorical strategy as “nature as a backdrop.” This takes something that is not related to the environment and relates it to an environmental cause just because of the setting.
The advertisement claims that buying these t-shirts from Walmart will help the environment, but how is that factual? With everything that goes into recycling and producing t-shirts, like the chemicals and shipping, how “organic” is the “Drink 2 Wear” t-shirt. Treehugger.com bashes this campaign because of the amount of traveling the bottles do to eventually be consumed as “eco-friendly” t-shirts. Coca-cola gets the bottles shipped to the United States in order to be consumed. Then, after they are consumed and recycled, gather them all in one location and ship them to somewhere in Asia to be broken down with chemicals and processed into cotton. Then, the t-shirts have to be shipped back to America and distributed throughout different Walmart locations. This requires a vast amount of fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions for the transportation and creation of these bottles and t-shirts. Where and how the products are made can do just as much bad for the environment as good. Treehugger.com puts it perfectly “It is not green to take a bottle, ship it off somewhere to be turned into fabric and sewn into t-shirts.”
In addition to all of that, buying these t-shirts is just encouraging consumerism in America. In the commercial the girls state a statistic that encourages consuming more. They say if every Walmart shopper bought one of these t-shirts it’d be like recycling over half a million water bottles. Maybe so, but it would also be emitting millions and millions of carbon particles into the air, and lead to higher profits for both Walmart and Coca-Cola.
The advertisement withholds a lot of important information as well. It fails to explain the price of the products, what variety of products is being sold, and where and how the t-shirts are being produced. This is all valuable information to the consumer, and can change the understanding of the real impact that the “Drink 2 Wear” campaign has on the environment. The price, sizing, and gendering of the t-shirts limits who can purchase them.
The VP of marketing for Coke says, “Recycling a few bottles can go a long way towards helping to preserve our environment.” Does it go a long way for the environment, or does it go a long way for Coca-Cola and Walmart profits? Recycling a bottle at your local grocery store or recycling store works fine, gives money back, and cuts down on shipping. Coca-Cola embellished that process, using Walmart’s floor space, to construct a seemingly “green” merchandise campaign in order to disguise themselves as environmentally foreword, in hopes of turning a higher profit.
On the surface Walmart and Coke pose a good marketing campaign. Making something out of recycled bottles seems like a solution to a problem; it seems like a sustainable way of consuming. However, behind the scenes it’s just a stealthy marketing campaign that hides the negative environmental impact of the product
Tom’s of Maine advertises its natural line of toiletries with the slogan: “If you believe everyday is Earth Day, try Tom’s of Maine.” They encourage consumers to purchase their natural line of toiletries and put an emphasis on having all recyclable packaging. Tom’s of Maine uses the green advertisement technique that suggests “nature is for personal consumption.” This type of advertising uses the idea of individual ownership of nature. This advertisement not only suggests that nature is for our consumption but that consuming Tom’s products is good for the environment.
In her book Communication and the Natural World Judith Hendry explains that consumption is inherently anti-green. By this she means that the only green product is the one not produced. The correlation between buying Tom’s toiletries and Earth Day in this ad suggests that consumption of the “right” product is as positive for the environment as planting trees on Earth Day. The advertisement is deceptive and suggests to consumers that land is ours to use, but even worse that consuming Tom’s products is good for the earth.
Tom’s of Maine claims that they are committed to their stewardship model. Stewardship is the responsible planning and management of resources; the business’s stewardship model is highlighted on the Tom’s of Maine webpage. Tom’s of Maine is known for their stewardship model and commitment to the environment. What makes this advertisement deceptive is that a Fortune 500 Company, Colgate-Palmolive, owns Tom’s of Maine. This connection to big business is not transparent to the consumer, and is only mentioned once, in small print, on their website. Tom’s boasts their environmentally friendly practices and production; however, Colgate-Palmolive mentions nothing about environmental practices pertaining to production of their products.
According to the Huffington Post it has become a popular trend for “earthy beauty” companies to be backed by a Fortune 500 Company. Although a company like Tom’s of Maine is intent on selling natural products, this is a business technique used by Colgate– Palmolive due to consumer demands for “green” products.
While Tom’s of Maine boasts that they practice “No animal testing or animal ingredients—ever,” Colgate-Palmolive has received a great amount of criticism for testing their products on animals. According to the website, Colgate-Palmolive claims that they are animal friendly and that animal testing is only used when “necessary.” However there is no indication of these practices ending anytime soon.
This type of advertising is problematic. When a consumer purchases products from Tom’s, they are getting natural products, but they are also unknowingly supporting a Fortune 500 Company that has not made an ethical commitment to environmental practices. This being said, unless we want to start making our own toiletries, purchasing Tom’s of Maine is still a better option for an environmentally conscious consumer. As consumers though, we must be critical of advertisements, specifically those that promote green practices.
Hendry, Judith. Communication and the Natural World. State College, PA: Strata Pub., 2010. Print
Berlin, Loren. “Burt’s Bees, Tom’s Of Maine Owned By Fortune 500 Companies.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/burts-bees-toms-of-maine-green-products_n_1438019.html >
Critique by Pegeen Stone
Huggies’ Pure and Natural Diapers
Huggies Diaper Company has come out with a diaper that they have labeled “pure & natural.” Huggies has caught on to the Green trend and has taken advantage of the ‘green label’ they know some people look for when shopping. In this critique I will try to decipher if their product is an example of green washing or if their green diaper is non- harmful to the environment.
What is immediately noticeable about the packaging of the diapers is the green coloring. The top of the packaging is green with “Huggies” written in white over the green. Most noticeably the words “pure & natural” pop out at the consumer. The company strategically put “pure & natural” in green font and in the middle of the package where a person’s eyes directly go to. There is a border of green leaves at the top of the package and the overall color scheme is of earthy tones. On the side of the package also in green letters says “Soft Organic Cotton” that the diapers are made with, but there is no logo that says if it is certified organic cotton “while the outer diaper is made from organic cotton, the rest of it is bleached (meaning dioxins), and it has the standard SAP filling”(gimmethegoodstuff.org). Overall the Huggies brand is working to appeal to consumers who want environmentally friendly products and seems to be stretching the truth of how organic their product is.
What the labeling does not reveal to the consumer is how the Huggies diapers are ‘pure.’ The term pure they are advertising is vague, what is ‘pure’ about this diaper? The packaging also says that the diaper is used with renewable sources but it is not clear what those sources are. Vitamin E and Aloe are also listed as being in the diaper but it does not say how much is used and if the Vitamin E and Aloe are produced organically. Huggies omits specific information about the claims they are making in regards to their Pure & Natural diaper. Seeking further information I went to the Kimberly-Clark website (company who owns Huggies). It was difficult to navigate their website and their statements were unclear, making it harder to learn more about their product.
Typically diapers are harmful to the environment, Huggies diapers are not biodegradable and they sit in landfills. “Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste”(realdiaperassociation.org). Diapers sit in landfills for a significant amount of time and they take years to decompose. There are diaper companies that sell biodegradable diapers that are far more environmentally friendly than the Huggies Pure & Natural diapers.
The target audiences for the Pure & Natural Huggies diaper are parents of newborn babies and toddlers. Huggies on their website states that mothers were requesting they make an organic, natural diaper, and as a response produced the Natural & Pure diaper. It seems as though Huggies made this diaper to appeal to parents who look for organic or green products when shopping, and they use imagery and words that are associated with ‘greenness.’ The Huggies Pure & Natural diaper is an example of greenwashing, without doing further research a consumer may think they are being environmentally conscious by buying Pure & Natural diapers.
“Gimme the Good Stuff.” Gimme the Good Stuff. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://gimmethegoodstuff.org/>.
“Why Choose Cloth Diapers? Real Diaper Association Diaper Facts.” Why Choose Cloth Diapers? Real Diaper Association Diaper Facts. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/diaperfacts.php>.
Critique by Ainsley Healy