Monday, August 24, 2009

Treehugger's Responsibility to Get It Right

Finally a cool morning; mist deep in the valleys.

Treehugger's Lloyd Alter is not only "for real" but also the latest "come back kid". After a licking from readers, myself included, Lloyd kicked out a descent article about alternative choices for safe water bottles. And it didn't include SIGG, Laken or any BPA lined aluminum knock-off. In case you missed the biggest BPA scandal drama over the weekend, it began with Treehugger responding to the news about SIGG admitting to the world that their old bottles did indeed have BPA in their "water based epoxy". (SIGG says their new bottles are BPA-Free but still won't say what exactly the ingredients are; it's that damn secret again)

Lloyd's first (of 4) article began with an over view of SIGG's confession but did end with a note of disgust at SIGG's lack of transparency about what the heck is in this liner anyway followed by many comments, including mine and SNEWS'. The next day followed with Lloyd noting the angry responses and an article headlined "Did We Get it Right?". Some comments, mine included, continued the outrage at the entire sham and Lloyd "hailing" SIGG and Laken and their educating the public about their BPA linings. I'm not sure "educating" is the right word because since then SIGG is sticking to their 0% leaching mantra and continuing business as usual without a hint of conciliation. Later that day, Lloyd followed with an article "Should I Dump My Old SIGG... " which concluded that SIGGs were safe, but the company was not transparent.

Well I guess I cracked and wrote a scathing comment, and then ended up blogging about it which apparently got Lloyd's attention. Lloyd kindly commented on this blog and we had a friendly back and forth "discussion". Lloyd Alter's fourth article reviewed safe drinking alternatives to SIGG as a culmination to the drama. Oh, I almost forgot the most important part - Lloyd mentioned moi in his opening paragraph (thanks Lloyd!). I guess that damn old squeaky wheel can still get some attention.

So besides this being the biggest eco scam scandal everrrrr, with the Twitterers and Bookers going round the clock, what happens now? Where do we go from here? I do have several thoughts and points to make as a follow up. (ya, okay, I never say die, but I gots passion)

First, I think what Treehugger has accomplished in 5 years is absolutely amazing. Treehugger is the first go-to source for all things green, with nearly 40 posts per day, over 50 writers and millions of monthly visitors from around the world. They have expanded by leaps and bounds to different medias, partners and...advertisers. I hope Treehugger can continue to bring us fresh, informative and honest information. Honest to the point that there will never be a conflict of interest so that their first obligation remains to the readers and not their advertisers. I'm not the only one concerned about this. Several comments on their posts felt that Treehugger wasn't being hard enough on SIGG's big business deception and referred to ties with advertisers. That is the problem with "getting" paid, either through advertising or accepting products or money for writing. The twitter comments are pretty darn angry but Lloyd really never slammed SIGG like so many of us were hoping. Could be Lloyd is just a mellow guy. Or could be Treehugger gets (did?) mucho advertising dollars from SIGG and other big "green" companies who produce the knock-offs (from China with BPA, either knowingly or didn't bother to ask). I hope Treehugger doesn't go "lite" on us and can be true to good green "tell it like it is" writing, and doesn't succumb to that subtle conflict of interest.

So why is this important? I think it is important because this isn't the end of the BPA scandal. I think it is actually just the beginning. It's important to watch how SIGG has handled all of this. It's important to read the article by the sleuthing Milwaukee duo BPA Industry Fights Back. One scary quote, "The industry has launched an unprecedented public relations blitz that uses many of the same tactics - and people - the tobacco industry used in its decades-long fight against regulation. This time, the industry's arsenal includes state-of-the-art technology. Their modern-day Trojan horses: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and YouTube.... the Society of the Plastics Industry - has launched a $10 million campaign to sell the benefits of plastic to people ages 18 to 28 who are the likeliest to be buying baby products in the next decade. The association has committed $400,000 to the effort and hopes to raise the rest in the next few years." Taking a look at SIGG's Facebook sites, you'll quickly see the same deceptive "speak" over and over. "A lie told often enough becomes the truth". (Thanks Lenin) SIGG's deception wreaks of really big business - big like the plastics and tobacco industry. "...chemical makers launched their own Web site, It features nine videos, all posted on YouTube and intended to debunk worries about BPA." SIGG's mantra continues... 0% leaching, 100% Safe.

My daughter reminded me last night that 2 1/2 years ago I wouldn't let her get a SIGG (it was cool and pretty) because I said their was something "sketchy" about it. Call it mother's intuition - If it looks and smells like a rat, it must be a rat.

And so this brings me back to Treehugger. If this is just the beginning of the BPA Industry's fight for plastic, we environmentalists need to watch out and be prepared. And that includes Treehugger taking a hard, first to the punch, a knock out punch, approach. The BPA/Plastic propaganda will be everywhere; it is every where and will cast doubt to many. This is why we all have to keep our passion and do what's right. As Lloyd said, BPA is in everything. Plastic surrounds us, with little hope of improvement, if we don't stand up to this big incoming wave of deception, tactics and really big money. We readers, bloggers, moms and ordinary people look to Treehugger for guidance, to show us the way, to give us the umph to fight the environmental fight. Sometimes when you're big you lose site of just how important you are, like the third grader who hangs on her teacher's every word.

Treehugger and its writers have created big shoes that must stay filled. They need to continue to "do their homework" and keep up the good work they've started. So when a company has spent millions creating a slick eco image, dumped big bucks into their website and seductive marketing tactics, used celebrities for pop appeal, paid for lab results hoping to show their stainless steel competitors would seriously leach metals (which they didn't) and then flaunt the weak results on their SIGG websites, all the while deceiving their devoted customers, then they, SIGG, deserve to be publicly slammed, run out of the eco -world and told to take their "0%", their certifications and their new eco-secret liner and shove it. (are you listening Mr. Laken?) Shame on SIGG for doing this. Shame on us if we let it happen again. This is why Treehugger has a responsibility to "get it right".


Sandra said...

The debate about BPA-free bottles is really interesting, so thank you for your articles. I've just begun interesting me about "green things" and I'm a little bit confused. It seems me nice to buy a bottle for water: I use and re-use and re-use a 500 cc PET bottle (I don't buy water, I use the one flowing from tap), and I think it should be better change my plastic bottle with something else. SIGG's looks really nice, so I looked for more informations on the net, but I found many proofs about this company's lack of... informations. A TreeHugger articles showed BPA-free alternatives to this label, but it's hard to find who sell and deliver those products in EU (Italy). This makes me feel sad: it is not simple do the right (and healthy) thing and I understand most of people have no idea of the question. I don't know what can be better: no glass bottles because of their frailty, plastic is a waste of resources, aluminium is not bad, but no money to people who don't tell us all the truth. Uff... every green action needs a lot of consideration. Again thanks for all.

Lloyd Alter said...

There is a real problem in trying to "get it right". I have been so troubled by this issue; I have been writing anti BPA posts for two years. I also was in direct personal contact with the president of SIGG, and it when they tell you that there is no BPA coming out of their bottles (always careful with their words) you tend to believe them.

In print journalism, there are fact-checkers and editors and others that review everything; in blogs, speed is everything. So sometimes we get it wrong, or have to let the story evolve as we learn more.

People (including you) jumped all over me for suggesting that this was a trust, rather than safety, issue. In the end I think you are right, and that perhaps you cannot have one without the other.

We have all been deceived here, but it is a complex issue, and sometimes a blog just doesn't deal with it properly; we don't give it the time, the analysis, the review that it deserves. Tough lesson, but I have learned from it.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. I look forward to more of your writings. I'm counting on Treehugger. Cheers

lisa-vox said...

thank you real green girl!! i first found you online when i was doing research on buying a quality, safe, reusable bottle. i emailed you and you answered back right away and told me about your research on the Sigg bottles. it's because of you that i didn't purchase one. (i wanted a Sigg because of their pretty graphics.) there are so many misleading labels out there - you have to be your own scientist these days!
when i saw that treehugger first posted their 'new finding' about BPA + Sigg, i felt compelled to write on their FB wall that i first found out about Sigg's liners through you! i've told my other concerned, 'green' friends about your honest work as well, so thank you again and please keep it up! this hypocritical, profit driven society we live in needs more bloggers like you.

lisa-vox said...

p.s. i just posted your blog url on EWG's FB page too! u rock real green girl.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

whoah, man, I won't sleep tonight! Thanks for your total support. Now, keep spreading the word. (I have no doubt you will)