The zero waste community isn't immune to greenwashing.

A Drop in the Ocean Why transparency is essential for sustainability
Listen to the audio of this post here:

This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on June 6, 2022.

Hey, friend
! Today’s blog was an unexpected one, and not the topic I had originally planned for today, but when I read what I’m about to share with you, I knew I had to shift gears.

I’m really proud of the way we do things here at A Drop in the Ocean.

Every single thing we do has so much intention and love behind it. I’m forever on a mission to bring you the most sustainable products available and shower you with resources to help you be the badass EcoWarrior I know you are.

Our commitment to sustainability goes far beyond the products you receive on your doorstep from us. It’s woven into how we receive our products, where and whom we source them from, what they’re packaged in when we get them, and even how we display our products when we do pop-ups.

Last month I shared several ways we’re keeping things as sustainable as possible around here, and we’re working hard to get those posts up onto our website, too, but here are just some of my favorite highlights:

  • In the first four months of 2022, A Drop in the Ocean produced just two pounds of unrecyclable trash - less than half of what the average American produces in one day.
  • 31% of our products are made right here in our hometown of Tacoma, while another 21% are also made in western Washington. Another 25% are sourced from Idaho, Oregon, or California, meaning our shipping footprint is tinyyyyy.
  • All of our refillable products are totally closed loop, meaning we return the empty containers to our vendor to be reused and refilled over and over and over again.
  • 69% of our products are completely package free or in returnable packaging. And included in that 31% that aren’t are things like lip balm and deodorant that just inherently need packaging.

So needless to say, when I saw this post from a fellow zero waste shop owner in a Facebook group, I had a lot of thoughts:

"Super find! Dollar Tree has 1oz bottles with lids in a 5 or 6pack. I am retailing them for $2 per bottle and people love them!"

And the bottles this shop owner is referencing…?

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop glass bottles

And I’m also 99% sure these two packs come packaged together in yet another plastic bag.

I can not get behind this. And not only do I not support it, I am against it.

One of the hardest parts of running a zero waste shop like A Drop in the Ocean is competing with large corporations who are doing everything in their power to greenwash us as consumers. They’re doing whatever they can to convince you that their products are sustainable, when in reality they’re anything but.

Meanwhile, their “green” products are cheaper because they’re not using quality materials or ingredients, their wages are low, their manufacturing process is atrocious, and their packaging sucks.

And then when shops like ours are sourcing our products from other small businesses, paying living wages, using sustainable and quality materials, handmaking our products, and packaging it all as zero waste as possible, our prices are inherently higher.

As a consumer, it can be so incredibly difficult to sort through what’s actually sustainable and what’s greenwashing. And I am always trying to help you cut through the noise to make the best choices for you and your family.

I know that going up against greenwashing is just part of this job. I’ll step up to the big guys any day.

And I know that I think about these things differently than a lot of other shop owners. I don’t post in that Facebook group often because my views on the role of zero waste shops in the world doesn’t often align with the others in the group. And that’s fine. We’ve all got our own ways of doing things.

But I neverever… imagined that it wouldn’t just be the big guys we’d have to watch out for.

This move by this shop owner choosing to purchase 4-packs of glass bottles at a dollar store packaged in plastic, twice, and then just remove the plastic and sell them as sustainable, zero waste products undermines the entire zero waste shop community. (And did you notice the post got likes and comments, too?)

You trust us, and in particular you trust A Drop in the Ocean, to do the research for you. To find the best products out there so you don’t have to waste your time, energy, and money on products that aren’t in line with your values.

Now if you’ve put your trust in a shop, a small business, a business owner, to do that for you, and then you find out that they’re doing things like this, you’re going to lose trust in that shop and potentially all other similar shops, as well.

You have put your trust in us. 

This move betrays that trust.

This move is gaslighting you and greenwashing you. It’s undermining the integrity of small businesses. 

And it is not okay.

This is why I am so adamant about transparency. This is why I’m always showing you what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s why I started our Vendor Spotlight series at the beginning of this year. It’s why I have this weekly email series. It’s why every single product in our shop has all of the details you could possibly want to know about it.

This is why.

Maybe my standards are too high. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard that. But you know what? I don’t care. Because I built - and am building - A Drop in the Ocean to be that resource I wish I had when I started my sustainable journey. With total transparency, zero greenwashing, and so much love for every. single. freaking. product. in this shop.

I pinky promise you, my friend, that I will never do something like this. 

I will not betray your trust in me, in A Drop in the Ocean, or in the zero waste community.

Because you deserve better than that.

I will also say that I recognize that we are operating in imperfect systems. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to sustainability, and there are no perfect answers. I’m the first to admit that as truth. 🙋‍♀️ I love me a frappuccino and my nearest Starbucks still isn’t allowing personal cups.

But when your website says that you “only work with companies that started their business for a good cause, that donate to charity, are transparent, and strive to improve the world on a daily basis,” and that you “emphasize plastic and package free goods,” and then do things like this, that is greenwashing.

So, friend, I say all of this not to discourage you. But to remind you - and myself - that greenwashing is real, and it’s everywhere. And because of all of this, I’m going to bring back my workshop from last year, “An EcoWarrior’s Guide to Greenwashing,” because I want to arm you with all the info you need to be a greenwashing spotting machine. Registration is open, so mark your calendars for June 30th July 14th!

Did you miss out on the workshop? Join our community of EcoWarriors to be the first to know when we host it again!


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