Are we as an industry sick with green? Consumer markets in general are saturated with a haze of green thought and activity, which of course is beneficial for and considerate of the planet on which we live—and frankly, long overdue. But, one might ask, in the race for products that are natural, organic, bio-derived, renewable, sustainable, processed more efficiently, synthetic but safer, based on green chemistry, Ecocert- or BDIH-compliant, USDA Organic, etc.: Are we confusing the consumer?

This point stirred some debate at Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine’s Green Summit. As one attendee observed, with all the logos representing the different certifications, product labels look like a collection of Boy Scout badges. The danger in this is that the consumer may overlook them all simply to avoid confusion, thereby defeating their purpose.

The industry is responding not by steering away from marketing products as green, but by attempting to better define the physiological aspects of a material’s greenness. For example, terms such as bio-derived and renewable are being used to communicate a material’s origin and efforts that companies are making to replace resources that are used. Bio-derived materials are the focus of Lochhead et al.’s article, “Recent Advances in Biopolymers and Biomedical Materials."

Organic is another green claim that is being better defined, primarily by stricter regulatory guidelines. In the end, it is not only important to communicate to consumers how a product is green, but also that green products are not necessarily safer. This key fact is expressed in Mehling, Pellón and Hensen’s feature, “Mildness Meets Greenness."

Does any of this feel like déjà vu, perhaps from the industry’s experience with naturals? An interesting cycle is taking place as science changes general consumer perception. Take natural as an example. Natural products impart in consumers a feeling of safety because they are believed to be unaltered and thus more compatible with the human body. Then science altered them, creating nature-derived and nature-identical variations—some of them actually being safer. Stemming from this natural-is-better phenomenon, green has instilled an overall feeling of well-being and safety, both personally and ecologically, but as mentioned previously, their various definitions are beginning to cause confusion.

What’s next? Supernatural naturals? Cosmespiritual experiences? Or will product claims just simmer down to a simplified ground state?

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