Huggies goes green!: Well, at least goes greenwashing

We’ve seen a lot of greenwashing efforts in our days here at Tree Hugging Family, (anyone remember the great eco Palmolive debate of 2008?) but the greenwashing campaigns that irk me the most are the ones aimed at green parents specifically.

The newer Huggies Pure & Natural diapers from maker Kimberly Clark, are a perfect example of greenwashing – maybe one of the better examples I’ve seen in a good long while. First of all these diapers appeared on the scene right around Earth Day this year – which is a great time to lure in unsuspecting parents because everyone has their mind on green topics; smart move on Kimberly Clark’s part.

BUT maybe they are green. Let’s take a look at what makes these diapers an eco-product according to Kimberly Clark

In their press release, Kimberly-Clark Corporation says that Huggies Pure & Natural diapers are “A super premium diaper that includes natural, organic materials and ingredients to provide gentle protection for new babies, as well as initial steps toward environmental improvements, without sacrificing performance.

The so called eco-improvements include:

  • Hypoallergenic, latex and fragrance free.
  • Features a breathable outer cover that includes organic cotton.
  • The liner includes natural Aloe & Vitamin E and materials from renewable sources.
  • The product’s outer packaging is sourced from 20% post-consumer recycled materials.

Kimberly Clark isn’t being all that sneaky in the press though, which I will give them props for. After taking a survey and seeing that moms want diapers with organic and natural materials, Kimberly Clark decided to make these diapers. They note that they expect that “Huggies Pure & Natural diapers will help the brand build inroads with those moms who are most interested in products that include natural materials to provide the best care for their babies.

Robert Thibault, president of Kimberly-Clark’s North American Infant, Baby & Child Care business, says, “Based on the preliminary response we’ve received thus far, we expect the unique attributes this diaper offers will be well-received by moms and our retail customers, and will help drive incremental dollar growth in the category.” So, at least they admit that the bottom line is driving dollar growth. It doesn’t make it right, but I like that they’re being honest.

What I don’t like is that they’re also being shifty. They don’t print press releases on the diapers so all new parents see are the lackadaisical eco-aspects. Let’s re-examine the eco-aspects they’re selling to consumers…

  • Hypoallergenic, latex and fragrance free – so are other much greener diapers.
  • Features a breathable outer cover that includes organic cotton – Is it certified organic? Where is it sourced? HOW MUCH organic content? Well Huggies won’t tell us on the package so make up your own answers. Also, organic on the outside cover (NOT touching your baby’s skin) makes it a moot point anyhow.
  • The liner includes natural Aloe & Vitamin E and materials from renewable sources – those renewable sources would be? Also, so what about the aloe (is it organic?)
  • The product’s outer packaging is sourced from 20% post-consumer recycled materials – 20% is laughable. All kinds of companies make products with 100% recycled packaging.

Here’s what else they don’t mention:

  • The ink used on the diaper: Is it soy or water based? Who knows?
  • It’s still disposable. “The average baby goes through 5,000 diapers before being potty-trained. Because 95 percent of these diaper changes are disposable diapers, most of them end up in landfills, said John A. Shiffert, executive director of the National Association of Diaper Services.” According to Wired.
  • It’s not biodegradable.

Huggies is not flat out saying, “This is a green diaper” but their campaign is selling them this way – the packaging is green and natural looking, the wording is sketchy, and many parents fall for it, which is what makes this greenwashing. For example:

  • One mom calls these “new green diapers” in a review
  • Another says these diapers are a good small way to go green
  • Another mom calls them eco-friendly
  • If you check around tons of other parents on blogs and at review sites like Amazon are calling this an “eco” or “green” diaper.

When I called Huggies I got some varying info. I asked who certified the cotton and one person told me that the organic cotton is certified but they weren’t sure who by. I asked about chlorine and bleach (I mean, the diapers are white so they must do something to them) and was told that a chlorine dioxide Elemental Chlorine Free process was used. If true, this is a more eco-friendly process than a true chlorine process, but is not recommended as an eco-friendly practice because there are better methods. Overall though the phone calls were pretty useless. I’m emailing the company and I’ll update when I hear back.

Later we’ll look at some actual green diaper choices.

What do you think? Have any of your pals fallen for this new “eco” diaper?

[image via Amazon]

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    • Peggy

      Sounds like greenwashing to me. They can use the word “natural” without any kind of regulation. Most people don’t stop to think about that.

    • DramaMama

      THANK YOU for posting this!! As soon as I saw those diapers, I immediately thought, “Great, now all those snobby moms will use this to say they are ‘green’ and better than the moms who use regular old Huggies…!” Ridiculous. As you said, they are still disposable. You are still throwing away at least 8 pounds a day of something that will take more than your lifetime to break down. I’m also concerned for people who have kids w/allergies to regular diapers. A friend of mine tried every ‘eco’ diaper she could to get her babies rash to stop. The only one that worked was 7th Gen. Before that she tried diapers like this and they didn’t help. Needless to say, she spent a lot of money trying things that didn’t work. Finally, some of us convinced her to try cloth for her poor baby and she did! She considers herself a convert and now has lots of packs of lame eco diapers to give away to anyone who wants to try them. She uses the 7th Gen. ones when they travel. Well, I’m really glad you posted this and please keep us updated on KC’s response. We drive past their main offices at least once a month so maybe you should come up here and we could take the place by storm if you don’t get answers!

    • Summer

      Definitely greenwashing. I’m glad they made a few changes in these diapers to be slightly more natural, but they are being suggested at being far more “natural” than they really are. Like you said, they’re still disposable. When they come out with compostable diapers then I’ll think about it.

    • Sandy Barajas

      Wow! This is a great post! I have a friend who was undecided on cloth and while deciding if she was going to cloth diaper she said that she was using the new “green” diapers from Huggies! Give me a break! I called her on it because I think it is a shame that this company is giving parents an “out” to ease their mind about dumping so much waste that is 100% preventable. Go cloth!

    • Jennifer

      @Peggy I know – so many people I know place the word natural with green living, but it means zip.

      @DramaMama agreed. I think this is a vehicle for mamas who want to buy something green, but there’s no real green behind it. I’m glad you converted a mama to cloth!

      @Summer – yup when they come out with a compostable type, I’ll gladly post about it.

      @Sandy – Good for you for calling your friend on that (hopefully nicely). It’s really a shame that so many consider these an eco-choice. I’ll give Huggies this, they know how to advertise to appeal to parents.

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    • alapierre84

      I used these on my daughter because all other “regular” diapers gave her a rash! They may not be totally natural or eco-friendly but because they are fragrance-free and hypoallergenic, they cleared up my daughters rash! Since I’ve had to switch to gentler diapers and have to spend a lot more money on them anyways I’ve chosen to go with Nature Babycare which costs about the same amount but are chlorine free, fragrance free and biodegradable. I never really understood the whole chlorine free diapers or the whole “green movement” until I had to start buying sensitive diapers but now I have a whole new respect for it and am trying to live a slightly “greener” lifestyle.

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