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Ecolabels and Greenwashing

Many products we use for our day-to-day cleaning and personal grooming will end up in the ocean, whether it’s a body scrub you’ve used in the shower or the toilet cleaner you just cleaned the master loo with. It goes straight into the ship’s black and grey tanks before being disposed of in the water. The water that is home to colourful coral, playful dolphins and the odd turtle. Do you want to help preserve this environment? If so, I’d recommend you have a good look at your onboard toiletries and cleaning products. Try to opt for eco-friendly and biodegradable options. I have by no means a master’s degree in chemistry or biology, so instead I rely on common ecolabels to make an educated choice.

Ecolabels & Greenwashing

Okay, easy enough, look for a green label on a product and you’re good to go! Or maybe not? The world of eco-friendly promises on labels is infinite and quite a challenging maze to conquer. Any label with vague statements like “made with organic ingredients” or “100% recyclable” are generally not that trustworthy. Lots of companies nowadays are guilty of greenwashing where they make false or exaggerated claims about their product’s eco-friendliness. You want something with more substance to back up any green claims.


Europe has a few different organisations boasting their own ecolabels. The main ones in Europe are the EU “Flower” Ecolabel, the Nordic “Swan” Ecolabel and French EcoCert. These ecolabels all follow the benchmarks of the International Organisation for Standards regulation ISO14024.

There are pros and cons about these ecolabels. The major pro is that these labels do not just promote the use of eco-friendly ingredients, they go much further than that. The EU ecolabel only certifies products and services that “minimise the use of hazardous substances and substances that may be harmful to the aquatic environment. Substances contained in the products are also highly biodegradable, so they are less damaging when they flow into the waste water system. Packaging is also reduced as much as possible and fitness-for-use criteria guarantee the efficient performance of the product.” This last bit means that a product with the EU Ecolabel has to outperform equivalent non-ecolabel products.  Whoop whoop!

Now, the dark side… Companies requesting these labels do have to pay for certification. This obviously casts a bit of a dark cloud on how valid these certifications are. I mean, if I’m a company paying for certification, does that mean I’m “buying” my certification? It could be, but then again, if the companies aren’t going to pay for the inspections and the organisation who does all the work behind it, who is?

Personally, having read up on the different inspections and tests companies and products have to go through to obtain these labels, I have decided that they are currently my best option out there. I find the EU Ecolabel, Nordic Ecolabel and EcoCert to be trustworthy and will ensure all the toiletries and cleaning products onboard are certified by one or the another. EcoCert also certifies products for CosmeBio so they’ve gone onto my approved list too.

United States

America, the land of Amazon Prime, drive-through-everythings and confusing green advertising! European ecolabels are great if you’re doing a season in the Mediterranean. It gets much more complicated when you hit the other side of the pond as I found out during my first American season. Gone were my trustworthy brands and European suppliers… Back to the starting blocks!

The US’ answer to the European ecolabels is the Green Seal. Its certification process “ensures that a product meets rigorous performance, health, and environmental criteria” to create a greener world. The non-profit organisation adheres to ISO14024 standards and has a list of approved products on their website. I was pleasantly surprised to find the 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner & Protector on there.

Another main player is the USDA Organic label. Only products with at least 95% certified organic ingredients and no GMO’s are allowed to carry the label. I’d say they’re a pretty sure bet to purchase too. Though this label was initially more food oriented, more and more cleaning products are starting to carry the label.

Rest of the World

Are you currently on a yacht in Asia or down under? Have a look at the Global Ecolabel Network to research eco-friendly products in your area.

Blacklisted Greenwashers

When I researched different product lines to stock the boat with, I found quite a few accused of greenwashing. Some of the major ones are Jason, Avalon Organics, Candilicious, Balance Me, Liz Earle, Neem by Sunita Passi and good ol’ Aveda. None of them had anything to back up their green credentials at the time of writing.

If you’re unsure about a product, how about you research the brand, email the company and google “brand + greenwashing” to see what you come up with. It’s tedious, but once you’ve got your go-to brands sorted, you’ll sleep with a clean eco-conscious.

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