The sad truth about the news

Day4, a Swedish production company specializing in motion graphics and video for web, motion picture, television, and corporate films has reminded us how vulnerable we are to receiving misinformation through the media.

Day 4 recently posted an image of a non-functional screw with the text “A friend took a photo a while ago at that fruit company, they are obviously even creating their own screws “. Less than 12 hours later, other websites, and soon the mainstream media, were carrying stories that Apple had designed the special screw so as to ensure that people could not open their Apple devices. Clearly many Apple device owners who like to tinker with their electronic products were outraged.

We tell this story not to glorify the Swedish production company nor to demonize the media but to show how easy it is to scam the press. GallonDaily and its partner Gallon Environment Letter staff regularly see environmental news articles that contain simple errors of fact. Many of the environmental reports that one sees on the internet, on television, and in print are at best a distortion and in some cases just plain wrong. Sometimes the misinformation is deliberate; most times it is because the author of the story has no expertise in the topics being written about.

What does this mean for sustainable business:

  • companies should monitor the media continuously and be prepared to respond quickly and decisively when inaccurate stories appear regarding their products or brands.
  • businesses should proactively communicate with the public so as to reduce the risk of inaccurate stories appearing.
  • business should never quote the media as a source of reliable information about anything. Unless our story is actually about the media, GallonDaily always goes to original sources, preferably peer-reviewed sources, for the information which we publish. It may still be wrong but at least it is authoritative! If we see a company quoting a media story as substantiation of claims for its products, it immediately inclines us to think that the company does not base its product claims on science-based research.
  • organizations making product or process claims should always have them confirmed by a third-party. Third-party confirmation or verification may not be perfect but at least it serves to improve the credibility of the claim when it comes to marketing of the product or corporate activity. The third-party may also offer useful independent advice on how the claim will be received in the marketplace.

For more information about how Day4 deliberately scammed the media visit

Johnson & Johnson raises the bar on personal care products

Johnson and Johnson has published a new stand-alone website entitled  The site is one of the most extensive published commitments to product safety and corporate sustainability performance that we have seen from any personal care products company. While GallonDaily is disinclined to report on promises, greatly preferring to report on targets achieved, the J&J website is sufficiently outstanding that it could be helpful to any company seeking to establish internal targets for consumer product manufacturing.

Sections include J&J’s Commitment and Principles, Safety Assurance Process, Research Promise, Sustainability Promise, and Ingredient Policies. The Company’s Healthy Future 2015 program sets out what it describes as “15 of the boldest and broadest sustainability goals we have set to date”.  GallonDaily agrees that the goals are quite ambitious.

On the product side, J&J states that it will

  • phase out formaldehyde releasers from all baby and products, making rare exceptions for adult products only when alternatives are not feasible or safe in formulation with other ingredients.
  • phase out the use of all parabens from our baby care products and, for adult products, the use of parabens in new products will be restricted to methyl, ethyl and propyl parabens, which have been extensively studied for safety and are supported by Regulatory Authorities around the world. All other types of parabens will be phased out in all our adult products.
  • reduce traces of 1,4 dioxane in our baby products to what is currently the lowest reliably measurable level, 1 to 4 ppm. The methods we use are designed to limit the amount to 1 ppm, but since tests cannot reliably discern among levels this low, we can safely say 1 to 4 ppm. In our adult products, we are reducing 1,4 dioxane to below 10 ppm, which is lower than the levels considered safe by regulators around the world.
  • phase out diethylphthalate, the only phthalate currently used in adult products. It is already not used in J&J baby products.
  • eliminate triclosan in adult products. It is already not used in baby products.
  • phase out the following fragrance ingredients:
    • Animal-derived ingredients
    • Nitromusks and polycyclic musks
    • Tagetes
    • Rose crystal
    • Diacetyl
    • Diethyl phthalates  (already eliminated in our baby care products)

An excellent green retailer initiative

West Marine, a specialty retailer of boating supplies and accessories, has just launched its fourth annual  Green Product of the Year Award. The contest is open to Canadian companies except those from Quebec. The competition is open to manufacturers, distributors and/or inventors of boating products. There is no requirement that they be a supplier to West Marine. Nominations close November 23, 2012.

Criteria for the Green Product of the Year Award include:

  1. Effectiveness: Is the product as effective as competitive products in the marketplace?
  2. Economy: Is the product priced competitively with existing solutions or similar products in the market? This can be measured on a per-use basis or a cost-justified basis (use of the product will save $xx).
  3. Environmental Impact: Is the product different from anything else in the marketplace? Does the product incorporate new materials or technologies?
  4. Degree of Innovation: Was the product introduced to the marketplace in 2011, 2012 or will it be introduced in 2013? Is the product different from anything else in the marketplace? Does the product incorporate new materials or technologies?
  5. Timing: Was the product introduced to the marketplace in 2011, 2012 or will it be introduced in 2013?
  6. Verification of claims: All environmental or efficacy claims must be verifiable and substantiated by an independent third party. Entry must provide actual data, test results, laboratory analyses, etc.

West Marine has 315 company-operated stores in North America, including five stores in Ontario and five stores in British Columbia. The Company publishes an annual sustainability report and has set the following ‘aspirational goals’ for 2017:

  • Reduce landfill waste by 25%
  • Reduce carbon footprint by 25%
  • Improve product Sustainability by 25%
  • Be a leader in ocean conservation.

Details of the Green Product of the Year Award and an application form can be found at

A more sustainable approach to packaging recycling

The recent Annual Report of the UK Government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging  indicates some directions that are intended to put recycling on a more economically sound basis than has previously been the case.

Among the many points made by the ACP:

  • industry groups should provide greater research based evidence on the potential impacts of identified packaging trends.
  • there are a number of levers which create an incentive to recycle including:
    • Legislation
    • Fiscal measures e.g. Landfill tax and the Packaging Recovery Note scheme (PRN is a form of recycling credits trading)
    • Political and public opinion
    • Income from sales
    • Resource security (which is becoming higher up the agenda for a number of major companies)
    • Increased demand from new markets
  • municipal councils should be given the responsibility to act as a supplier of materials for the market thereby reducing the amount of ‘waste’ they have to pay for and at the same time to engage more with the income streams available due to market value from the sale of materials.
  • the stretch film recycling targets set by the Government represent a significant challenge to industry. Plastics because it is a much more diverse material than the others categories, with a large number of different polymer types and formats with very different characteristics, which mostly cannot be mixed for recycling.
  • to meet future targets the UK needs to open up significant new sources of different plastic materials, as well a further increasing collections from existing sources.
  •  decontamination trials are being carried out to determine a process for producing food grade polypropylene that can be re-used in food packaging.
  • for a given tonnage of waste the aim should be to maximize the total volume of material turned into as high a quality product as possible. “High-quality” recycling should mean getting plastics back into plastics, not just fuels or low quality products.
  • there is evidence to suggest that collection systems that are simple for householders and businesses to use get better returns and can result in more material being recycled overall than systems which are more complex for householders to understand and use.

There is much in the 12 page report, plus an appendix on Sustainable Considerations and Trends in Packaging, that should be of value to those involved in packaging recycling policy and direction in Canada. The report can be found at or by going to and scrolling down to ACP Annual Report.

Green moving solutions

GallonDaily’s editor recently needed to help move an elderly family member from a small apartment to an even smaller apartment. We decided to use plastic reusable tote boxes instead of the more common cardboard boxes. Packing into plastic boxes was easier, the piles of boxes were more stable and less likely to fall over, the household goods were better protected from crushing, and fewer boxes were needed in a do-it-oneself move because boxes could easily be returned from the new location to the old location for refilling. At the end of the exercise some full boxes went to storage, where they provide much better protection for the contents from moisture, water, and collapse of a pile of boxes than would cardboard boxes. The remaining empty boxes went to a charity shop where they were much appreciated.

Even the cost was reasonable. The plastic boxes were purchased from a big box store where they were on sale. We estimate that the total cost of boxes was not much greater than the cost of single use cardboard boxes from a moving or truck rental company.

Now we have learned of several companies in Canada that rent reusable moving boxes. At Frogbox in Toronto, 25 boxes are $79 for one week, with discounts for more boxes and more weeks. Remember that if the old and the new places are sufficiently close together you can easily make several round trips and hence reduce the number of boxes needed. It is amazing how much easier and quicker it is to pack a plastic box than a cardboard box. With the plastic box the contents are more likely to be sure even if the packing is a bit sloppy. At 25 boxes plus two more specialized containers and a dolly are $165 for 30 days rental.

It is worth checking whether reusable box rentals are available in your area. We suggest Googling something like “green moving boxes Canada”.

Baltimore housing authority at risk from lead claims

Since 2004 the Housing Authority of Baltimore City has been sued in 327 cases relating to poisoning of residents from lead paint used in the Authority’s homes. These cases relate to lead exposure in HABC homes that occurred prior to 1996. This week HABC announced that it had made the largest payment ever, $3.675 million, in compliance with a judgement on just one of those cases. HABC estimates that settlement of all of the current cases may leave it with a bill totaling $900 million, an amount that will be more than problematic given the Authority’s annual budget of about $300 million. New cases may still be filed.

The situation in HABC housing may be unique in the US. The Authority claims that other housing authorities have not experienced either the high volume of cases or the large size of the judgments. The issues are certainly complex, as a search on Google for Baltimore lead paint will illustrate. But even in the context of the budget of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, $43 billion, $900 million is not an insignificant amount of money. HABC has no insurance for these lead paint cases.

The liability facing HABC, which could bankrupt the agency, raises key questions that need discussion in Canada as we continue the move towards greater use of litigation as a tool for resolving environmental disputes. Some will argue that $3.675 million is too much as compensation for one family for harm to health arising from an environmental contaminant. Indeed, the State of Maryland would seem to agree because it tried to cap lead paint settlements at $200,000, However the courts have, according to HABC, not uniformly applied the cap. On the other side, many will argue that those people who need public housing should not be the ones to bear the costs of a government agency’s failure to properly deal with a harmful, and well known by the 1990s, environmental contaminant. They will see this level of court decision for damages to be entirely appropriate.

There is merit in both points of view, though GallonDaily is certainly somewhat inclined to the concept that the cost of society’s environmental sins should not be borne only by a few families.

Canada needs to have these discussions and needs to determine the path that we intend to follow. The issue is relevant not just to lead paint, which hopefully is an issue that is today in significant decline, but also  with respect to risks from such things as toxic contamination, flooding caused by climate change or other human-induced factors, and energy facilities of all kinds that are borne disproportionately by some people who may not even be among the beneficiaries of the activity. Just food for thought.

News of the HABC current payment is at

A more complete discussion of the lead paint cases facing the Housing Authority of Baltimore City from the HABC perspective is at

Sierra Club: Clean Energy Under Siege

In a report, entitled Clean Energy Under Siege: Following the Money Trail Behind the Attack on Renewable Energy, the Sierra Club in the United States presents information on what it claims are the political and non-renewable energy interests supporting the push-back against renewable energy in the country.

The report is interesting to the Canadian context for two reasons: 1) in today’s age of much greater access to information (and misinformation) it is difficult for corporate interests to maintain a zero profile when providing funding to organizations that help advance those interests; and 2) it is still difficult for observers to determine the organizations that are behind an apparently grass roots campaign unless a group like Sierra Club publishes a report of this nature. Even then, publications like GallonDaily or even a daily newspaper, are not readily able to verify Sierra Club’s claims.

This is more a political than an environmental document. It does reinforce the mantra that “There is no reason to shy away from questions about the advantages and disadvantages of clean energy . Robust, rigorous, and open debate powers the engine of democracy . But it is also important to know who is initiating that debate and ask what their self-interest is.” This is something that every organization, whether environmental ngo, community group, or corporation, should ponder before launching a campaign to inform the public about their views on an issue. Outing of funders and spokespersons can sometimes do significant harm to reputations, especially when the reasons for political support of an issue are not at all clear to the public.

Clean Energy Under Siege is a distinctly US analysis and may even lack some of the punch, especially in terms of previously unpublished information, that its subtitle suggests. As an example of the kind of critical, and potentially unhelpful, analysis that a campaign may face, we recommend it to all who are involved in seeking to influence government policy on any aspect of the environment. Find it at

Environment: manufacturers cannot be too careful

A US Department of Justice case against Gibson Guitar Corp. illustrates how easy it is for companies to get into trouble if they do not take environmental issues seriously.

Last year, Gibson’s facility was raided by federal agents and a batch of ebony wood that had been illegally imported from Madagascar was seized. The wood was seized under the US Lacey Act that banned importation of woods declared endangered by the government of the exporting country. Typically, the CEO of Gibson claimed that the Company had been totally abused and would fight vigorously to prove its innocence.

The Department of Justice presented evidence that an employee of the Company knew that importation of the wood in question was prohibited but that senior management had not acted on the information. With the out of court settlement the evidence has not been tested in court.

This week the Company agreed to a major series of penalties to settle the case:  a fine of $300,000, a payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation to support protection of at-risk tree species used in the musical instrument industry, and surrender of wood for which the Company had paid more than $260,000. In return the Department of Justice has agreed to stay the criminal charges. However the CEO is still not totally contrite, stating in a published statement that “Gibson was inappropriately targeted” and that “the Government used violent and hostile means with the full force of the US Government and several armed law enforcement agencies costing the tax payer millions of dollars and putting a job creating US manufacturer at risk and at a competitive disadvantage.”

Gibson manufactures guitars, pianos, jukeboxes, acoustic instruments and other music-related products under a variety of brand names.

Details of the settlement are available at

Slow progress addressing green refrigerant challenges

The Refrigerants Naturally Initiative was one of the partnerships registered during the recent Rio+20 conference. This is a partnership intended to replace refrigerants in the food and drink, food service and retail sectors with alternatives that do not contribute significantly to climate change. Currently, the refrigerants used in most commercial coolers and freezers, if released, either harm the ozone layer or contribute significantly to climate change.

The partners in Refrigerants Naturally are Coca-Cola Company (Belgium), McDonald´s (Germany), Unilever (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), and the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics of the United Nations Environment Programme. PepsiCo was a partner for a while but is no longer listed as such. Greenpeace, the first promoter of Greenfreeze technology, using hydrocarbons instead of ozone-depleting substances, was also once a partner but now is listed as a supporter.

This initiative has been going since 2004 but only limited progress has been made. According to the Initiative, by 2011, Unilever had placed more than 900,000 hydrocarbon-based ice cream cabinets throughout Europe, Latin America and Asia. About 800,000 bottle vending machines had been installed in China, Europe and Latin America by RedBull, PepsiCo and The Coca-Cola Company, either operating with CO2 or Hydrocarbon as refrigerant. However, global penetration of this technology is still low and the Refrigerants Naturally Initiative is a long way from replacing all HFC refrigerants with less environmentally-harmful alternatives.

Details of the partnership are at and the Initiatives website is at

Fire retardants: trade-offs may be necessary

A recent US Environmental Protection Agency report highlights the challenges facing manufacturers of products which require incorporated fire retardants: there is no perfect fire retardant for many of these products. Either we go without fire retardant, which would almost certainly cause an increase in fires, property loss, and deaths, or we have to tolerate some level of risk to the environment. In many product situations GallonDaily likes to seek out and report on win-win opportunities but in the case of fire retardants, at least until new chemicals with lower environmental risks are developed, there do not seem to be too many, if any, win-win possibilities.

The report was written to address one fire retardant of concern, decabromodiphenyl ether, which has been widely used in textiles, including children’s clothing, plastics, wiring insulation, and building and construction materials. DecaBDE is now being phased out because of potential environmental risks and the purpose of the EPA report is to look at alternatives that would fit within the Design for Environment program criteria.

The report reviews more than 30 fire retardants that are available today for use as a substitute for decaBDE. The criteria cover human health, ecotoxicity, persistence, bioaccumulation potential, and exposure potential. While the report itself, which is still in the form of a draft for public comment, does not draw any overall conclusions, the reader is almost certainly drawn to the conclusion that there is no  totally satisfactory retardant. The 800 page report does provide both useful information and advice for product manufacturers and brandowners seeking a fire retardant with which to provide protection to users of their product.

The full draft report is available at