Letter: 'Green' misconceptions should not deter action

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Sir: Bernadette Valley's report on the EC ecological label ('Bungled chance to help shoppers buy green', 1 June) makes some useful observations but falls into the trap of deriding the scheme with the aid of some common misconceptions about environmental issues.

In order for the eco-label to be credible and visible, standards have been set so that approximately 10 per cent of the current market in each product category could qualify. A fact observed by Ms Valley that today a higher proportion of washing machines will meet the criteria is surely indicative of the success of the scheme, so far, in motivating manufacturers to reduce environmental loads. Criteria will be reviewed every three years.

On the issue of animal testing, although this is an ethical question, not an environmental issue, its inclusion is still the subject of debate in the product groups involved.

The writer denounces the inclusion of paper kitchen towels in the scheme. The aim of the label is to help the consumer make more informed purchasing decisions, not to dictate whether we should be allowed to buy certain products.

Paper towels are just one of several paper products under consideration. Would it be preferable to ban writing paper, too, I wonder? Most paper is produced from fast-growing tree species which are replanted; not by destruction of natural forests as implied in the article. In the growing process, the trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, helping to counteract the greenhouse effect.

Indeed, one of the 'green' truisms that eco-labelling research has exposed is that recycled is not always best. In some cases paper produced from virgin pulp using hydroelectric power can be less environmentally damaging than recycled paper.

Having followed the development of the scheme closely, I believe that in most cases industry is serious about making real environmental improvements based on hard data, not just spurious claims, if only because these improvements are usually accompanied by reduced manufacturing costs and increased competitive edge.

It is a shame to promote the old stereotype of industry and the EC as the bad guys by reinforcing some convenient misconceptions about 'greenness'. The eco-label scheme has had more than its fair share of problems but I believe that it needs all our support if we truly believe in reducing the environmental impact of today's society in a positive way.

Yours faithfully,


Design Research Centre

Brunel University

Egham, Surrey