Daily Archives: December 1, 2017

Greenwashing Post

Do you do anything to reduce your environmental footprint?

How can you improve/reduce your environmental impact?

There are things that I do that are helpful to the planet, even if they do not completely reduce my environmental footprint. This includes taking public transportation to school and recycling my plastic water bottles. However, I am not very good about reducing my environmental footprint overall. I do things that are harmful to the planet when there are other greener alternatives. I buy fast food or go to a restaurant and that food tends to be wrapped up in paper, foil, or it is placed in cardboard boxes, or Styrofoam containers. I don’t shop online often, but I do sometimes. My environmental impact increases with the transportation that is used to bring me those products. I also use harmful cleaning products to clean around my house, even though there are alternatives, and I use plastic bags in the grocery store.

Many of these things are easy fixes, all I have to do is make them a habit and I would be more green. I can take my own canvas bags to the grocery store rather than using the plastic bags provided. I can eat more at home rather than go out so much to reduce the amount of packaging that is thrown away, and I can mix up natural products to clean, like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon instead of using cleaning products that are harmful to the environment. Shopping physically in the stores also prevents the need for transportation to bring me my products. It is important to have sustainable habits so that we do not further harm the planet for future generation.

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Greenwashing

So, people greenwash.

Marketers take it into their hands to make sure you KNOW or think their product is environmentally friendly – when in reality, it may or may not be.

I know, this may come to a shock to you – that certain plastics, say the one’s on Dasani bottles aren’t good for the environment. Just because they’re MADE of recyclable materials doesn’t mean that they’re good for the environment – plastic bottles cost more water in the world than the actual water that is inside them.

I’ll even call out a company I’m a fan of for this – I like Lush cosmetics a lot, a brand of skincare and bath items. They have signature black pots embossed with a logo thats says if you bring in 5 of their pots, you get a free face mask so they’re able to recycle these pots. Not only does this create clutter in your own home (I have a pot of Snow Fairy and Turkish Delight taking up room in my small room), but it’s also a ploy to get you into the Lush store. I’ll always pick something up other than the free mask, without fail.

Recognize these ploys – doesn’t mean you can’t participate, just know.

My OWN Snakes On A Plane

I crafted a challenge post at the end of October, and unfortunately, nobody seemed to do it. But it’s fine, as I’ve decided to let my own demons out of the closet and come talk with the blog about my flawed consumption habits that I choose to perpetuate.

We could start with teriyaki. I love it. It’s a regional delicacy, and people have compared it to the Seattle Philly Cheese Steak. While I’m not from Seattle proper, I did grow up on the Sounder train line, so I have a little perspective on the sheer importance of teriyaki on PNW culture. It’s good stuff. But when I’m in Ellensburg, I admit I do things that aren’t the best consumption-wise: my consumer habits are awful for the environment. Between the styrofoam, the plastic bag, the plastic fork and the footprint the chicken put on this earth before giving it’s life to be in my meal, my spicy chicken teriyaki with sides of rice and salad with that tangy dressing is an environmental disaster.

In the Snakes on A Plane initial post, I talked about my adoration of leather goods. But don’t get me started on the procurement of luxury goods in general – particularly perfume. Perfume is a frivolous product, and my problem with it is that I don’t seem to adjust my spending based on where I could get it less expensive – my commitment to brand loyalty and 2-day shipping (again, a terribly environmentally unfriendly practice) is this.

Continuing on with things I perpetuate, despite being a bad consumer choice – I burn incense, despite it being bad for upper vascular health. I consume alcohol, which is proven to increase breast and other cancers in women, especially. I own clothes from fashion brands that only produce one size. I take placebo L-Lysine and Emergen-C when I have a cold. It goes on.

GB 4

When we’re discussing consumption of health, and particularly while doing research for my greenwashing post, I was reminded of classes I’ve taken as part of my public relations major. Many of these classes refer to branding, and what greenwashing is (and it’s even more nefarious cousin, pinkwashing!) and offer a behind the curtain look at the motivations behind greenwashing, and how things are meant to look environmentally conscious, when in reality, they may not be. But before we dive right into the idea of greenwashing, I think it’s important to learn a few other terminologies and slang that could potentially pertain to this topic, and give you a more comprehensive view of the suffix “-washing” and what it can potentially do to consumers and their consumption patterns.

Now, in the world of public relations, there’s a certain news cycle that perpetuates itself – referred to lovingly as a ‘news jack’ – where it starts with a breaking news, or a breaking campaign. Say, a soap with microbeads is 25% more environmentally friendly than other, similar soaps on the market. This can be released through a news release. Then, journalists will look for information, public excitement grows, the story peaks and interest subsequently dies down. This campaign, without any snags or hiccups, would be successful – unless you look at the underlying issue of microbeads in soap not being environmentally friendly at all. This spin can perpetuate and send things out of control.

This also exists in other industries, here are a few -washing’s to keep your eyes on:

  • Pinkwashing (Breast Cancer) – Promoting something as ‘breast cancer awareness’ without having any true motive to perpetuate. A good example of this is Five Hour Energy donating  5 cents a bottle of a particular kind of Five Hour Energy to breast cancer research, or pink buckets for KFC chicken.
  • Pinkwashing (LGBT Community) – Aligning a seemingly unrelated brand with LGBT rights – while a company coming out and saying they’re supportive of rights is fantastic, it is most definitely a marketing ploy in some cases. This happened a lot after the Supreme Court Decision of the US to nationally allow LGBT couples to marry. Oreo is an offender.
  • Bluewashing – Humanitarian-driven. A company that benefits directly from its “humanitarian” causes, despite not being particularly beneficial to the community they claim to serve – TOMs shoes is a good example.

Photovoice Part 2

IMG_6866McDonald’s Nutritional Fact PamphletJack in the box

Jack in the Box Nutrition Fact PamphletIMG_6867
Taco Bell Nutrition Fact Pamphlet

Do I really know what I need to make a healthy choice?

In short, the answer is yes, however, if you want to find out the information needed to make a healthy choice, you need to work for it. I went into three different fast food chains: McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, and Taco Bell. In the fast food restaurants, I asked for the nutritional pamphlet and recorded how long it took for the employee to give it to me. McDonald’s took 2 minutes and 17 seconds, Jack in the Box took 1 minute and 39 seconds, and Taco Bell did not have anyone present who knew where they were, but they offered to let me use one of their phones to look it up on the internet, in all I waited 2 minutes and 5 seconds before I was given an answer. McDonald’s was only able to give me a 54-page book that I could take pictures of but could not keep. This book was very extensive with its information and listed all the information that is generally required on normal packaged foods, however, I did not see an ingredient list, which was slightly concerning. Jack in the Box also listed all required information excluding the ingredients list, however, I could not find anything online that was nearly as extensive as McDonald’s in that I do not believe that it listed all things on the menu. Taco Bell was the same as the last two in that it listed the required information but no ingredients, and while it was not a 54-page booklet, it did seem to list all items on the menu. So yes, I was given the information that I need to make the healthiest choice possible at these fast food restaurants, but I had to wait for it, and one place was not able to provide me an in-person copy, which was disappointing.

 How healthy is it?

The answer to this question was by no means surprising, the food at any of the fast food chains is not typically on the healthy side, and many of the items on the menu either fulfill or come close to fulfilling a daily value. For instance, the XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito-Steak from Taco Bell has 40 g of protein and 2100 mg of sodium and 840 calories. This is over half a daily value of protein, almost all of a daily value of sodium, and almost half the daily recommended calories, in one burrito. McDonald’s and Jack in the Box have similar nutrition information provided for items on their menu as well. All in all, the food at these restaurants is not healthy, there may be an item here or there that could provide high protein and low sodium, but that would be a rarity and less likely to be ordered as the restaurants are known for their salty, greasy, and quickly served food.

 Why is it so difficult to be healthy/easy to be unhealthy?

It is so difficult to be healthy as a college student with access to these fast food restaurants because of the prices and location. As shown on the receipts, this food was very inexpensive, I did not pay more than $4.00 for anything ordered, and many of these places offer “meals” which allow the customer to buy a main dish, a side, and a drink for a discounted price. Also, these restaurants were located on the main road to get on the freeway to head to the western side of Washington, where many of Central Washington University students live. It is very easy to stop in and buy food for the road at any of these locations, especially as they all have drive-throughs.

ReceiptsIMG_6872

Going around to these locations and asking for the Nutritional pamphlet was not nearly as awkward as I thought it would be. The employees were all very nice and understanding and did their best to get me the information as quickly as possible. This tells me that food service workers do want to let the consumer know exactly what it is that they are getting, even if the large corporations do not always want that. A concept from 209 class that inspired me is that consumers are not always given all the information before they make a choice, and I wanted to see if that information was available. If someone had never been exposed to consumer health issues, they may benefit from doing something like this. In doing this I found out exactly how much sodium, protein, and carbs are in the food offered at various fast food locations. The only problem is that an everyday consumer may not know what these values mean as there is nothing to compare them to, for instance, they may not know that the daily recommended value for sodium is 2300 mg or below. My project provides nutritional information for three large corporation fast food chain restaurants, and information on how to obtain the nutritional information. It also provides a few prices to tell the consumer what the price of fast food generally is, and shows real pictures of fast food, rather than the advertised pictures. Lastly, it provides the public with the idea that they do not know everything that is in their food, or all the nutritional information about their food, and puts an idea in their head, that maybe this is something they should know.               Fillet-o-Fish                   Pumpkin Spice Shake        Frito Burrito

(McDonald’s)                        Jack in the Box                 Taco Bell

Greenwashing Post

What does it mean to go green, and what are the benefits of it?

Going green is buying and using environmentally friendly and sustainable products and services. For example, using reusable products such as water bottles, glasses and plates, reduces the amount of garbage you fill up and counts as “going green.” Another example is buying organic, local foods because they weren’t made with any chemicals that are harmful for the environment. One of the benefits of going green is that it can help you save money. Using reusable products helps because you don’t have to continuously buy the item that you throw away after using it. Another benefit is that you’re contributing to the earth’s health by reducing your wastes and buying foods that don’t have any chemicals or pesticides in them.

Photovoice: Dietary Supplements

I choose to do my Photovoice on dietary supplements by looking at the questions: “How healthy is it?” “How Safe is it?” “TMI but not the right kind to help me make a good decision?” and “What’s the typical discourse?”  Due to health conditions, I was not able to take as many photographs as I wanted, but I was able to find sources online that I could use. I choose to show a variety of supplement brands throughout the video, in addition to labels found on the bottles.

How healthy is it?
I found that, in general, medical professionals recommended vitamins and that certain supplements have proven to be helpful in treating some conditions. However, research on their health impacts varies from a supplement to supplement. I also discovered that there was a shocking lack of regulation in the industry and this prompted me to start asking “How safe is it?” rather than “How healthy is it?” I took a photograph of a spoonful of supplements. Growing up children are used to receiving a ‘spoonful of medicine’ while sick. This shows supplements relationship with conventional treatments.

How Safe is it?
Consumers are very much at the mercy of supplement companies. The FDA does not regulate supplements; there is no safety, quality or purity testing (Hamblin, 2016.) The companies do not have to prove their product helps the conditions they advertise they do. To demonstrate this, I found an online label from a popular supplement brand and looked at the claims it made and statement on the back. Bottles with health claims all include a statement in small font “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

I also found that companies do not even have to prove their product is safe. It is left up to the FDA to prove they are harmful. For example, it took the FDA seven years to remove a harmful substance known as ephedra from shelves. During this time there were numerous reports, thousands of consumer complaints and 155 reported deaths (Harvard Medical School, 2013.)

TMI but not the right kind to help me make a good decision?
My research showed that dietary supplements make a lot of claims (some of them unfounded) about their product, but most lacked proper warning labels. The FDA does not require dietary supplements have warning labels and when they are included they are generally vague. Most labels do not warn about possible drug interactions or possible adverse side-effects (Harvard Medical School, 2013.) I include a photograph here of a warning label typically found on bottles to display how vague the information is.

What’s the typical discourse?
Dietary supplements are often marketed as ‘all natural’ this leads people to believe they are safe to take, especially since most bottles lack proper warning labels. Dietary supplements are believed to enhance your life and have a positive impact on health. This is evidenced by the 2017 MARS Consumer Health Study finding that over half of Americans believe that taking dietary supplements make long-term health differences. I took an image from an alternative health site. The photo shows supplements next to other herbs and flowers to demonstrate supplements association with ‘all natural.’

Making the Video
Creating the video and taking the photographs helped me employ many of the skills I learned in PUBH 209. For example, the first thing I did when researching dietary supplements was to look at the labels. In the class learned that labels are often misleading and deceitful. Looking at the labels showed me that the health claims were not evaluated by the FDA and that the warning labels were vague listing no drug interactions or side-effects.

If someone had never been exposed to consumer health, a project like this would benefit them greatly. The project has someone consider a specific consumer health item by asking critical health questions about it. I believe that many people get into consumer health while researching a health issue they were concerned about. Additionally, a project like this can make the process of learning about consumer health less overwhelming, as you focus on one specific issue.

I hope that my project helps the potential public be more careful when looking for dietary supplements. Dietary supplements can be very valuable to good health. Personally, I have benefited greatly from dietary supplements. I hope that I encouraged watchers to check out the medical research conducted on dietary supplements and if they are unsure that they consult their doctor or nutritionist. Furthermore, I hope they research the quality of the brand they buy from (or will buy from) before making their next purchase.

 

Video and Text References
Bazaman, M. (2017). Vitamins, Supplements Have a Healthy Hold on US Consumers. Retrieved from https://us.kantar.com/business/health/2017/vitamins-and-supplements-have-a-healthy-hold-on-consumers/

Hamblin, J. (2016). Why Vitamins and Other ‘Dietary Supplements’ Can Contain Anything. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/06/supplements-make-tobacco-look-easy/488798/  

Harvard Medical School. (2013). The arguments against dietary supplements. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-complementary-medicine/the-arguments-against-dietary-supplements  

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2016.) Echinacea. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/echinacea/ataglance.htm

Nature’s Bounty. (n.d.) Nature’s Bounty Fish 2400 mg OilSoftgels, 90 ea. [Infographic]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Natures-Bounty-Fish-2400-OilSoftgels/dp/B002QMB55Y

Puritan’s Pride. (n.d.). Echinacea 400mg-200 Capsules. [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Puritans-Pride-Echinacea-mg-200-Capsules/dp/B004R657LA/

Viva Naturals. (n.d.). Premium Non-GMO Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids and Rose Hips. [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Viva-Naturals-Premium-Non-GMO-Bioflavonoids/dp/B00C6C3GCY/

Statista. (2017). Retail sales of vitamins & nutritional supplements in the United States from 2000 to 2017. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/235801/retail-sales-of-vitamins-and-nutritional-supplements-in-the-us/  

University of Maryland Medical Center. (2007). Possible Interactions with: St. John’s Wort. Retrieved from http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb-interaction/possible-interactions-with-st-johns-wort

U.S Food & Drug Administration. (2017). What is a dietary supplement? Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm195635.htm

Zelman, K., M. (2010). The Benefits of Vitamin C. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-benefits-of-vitamin-c#1