So, the other day my sister freaked out a little on Facebook. She was upset due to an article at Forbes where a writer, in my sister’s words, “Bashes buying pink products to support breast cancer“. That’s true. This writer was pretty much bashing pink products…
“Breast cancer awareness month has bugged me for years–I imagine the cheap plastic factories overseas churning out all manner of things, rubbing their palms over how quickly American women open their wallets to anything pink or emblazoned with the Susan G Komen ribbon…
Before I’m lynched, I’ll put it out there: I am not anti-breast cancer research. I’ve known too many women lost to the disease and their families devastated to be that cold-hearted. Like everyone, I pray that a cure is found for breast cancer.
It’s just the crap I can’t abide.”
Honestly, it’s hard NOT to agree with this writer. The “buy pink” phenomenon that occurs during Breast Cancer Awareness month has become as overblown as Earth Day swag shenanigans. On top of that most of the swag served up for breast cancer awareness directly harms the planet, isn’t aligned with Fair Trade practices, and worse, could actually be causing cancer due to harmful, non-earth, non-people friendly chemicals.
Of course here’s where it gets a little fuzzy, because what matters more depends on who you ask. Do green issues matter more than breast cancer research or is it the other way around? Can you even compare the two issues?
That said, here’s some general swag (and companies) that have been associated with donating to the cure:
KFC’s pink buckets – I hope I don’t have to explain why this is completely backwards with regards to breast cancer research, but in case you’re confused read Greed, Cancer and Pink Buckets or KFC Peddling Cancer-Causing Food in Pink Buckets.
Georgia-Pacific – this year, the company is donating money toward breast cancer research if you buy their Quilted Northern Ultra Toilet Paper made of virgin pulp fiber and dyed with chlorine, which contributes to the formation of harmful chemicals that wind up in our air and water and are highly toxic to people and fish. This a product that’s killing whole forests and releasing tons of organochlorines (dioxins and chlorinated toxic pollutants) into the environment daily.
Huggies – a clear greenwashing company, not to mention a company that exposes your baby and the earth to harmful chemicals.
OPI – is selling pink nail polish for the cure this year. However, their products contain ingredients shown to cause cancer and the ingredients used by this company have been shown to cause developmental/reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, biochemical or cellular level changes and more.
Hershey’s Bliss – When you support Hershey you also support forced labor, human trafficking and abusive child labor. Ah, good times.
My sister specifically mentioned Payless Shoes and how she likes their support the cure bracelet, so I figured we’d take a look at that. Payless notes, “Payless will donate to Susan G. Komen for the Cure 100% of the net profits (at least $1.00 per bracelet) from the sale of Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelets.” These bracelets cost $2 each and there’s no sourcing available at the website. Payless actually has a global sourcing policy (better than most mainstream companies) but without Fair Trade certification to back it up, their policy is not much more than us having to take them at their word. Since I can’t find info about them at the Fair Trade Federation or Trans Fair, I’m guessing they’re not certified.
I do know that their shoes are mass produced in China, and for $2 I’m betting their bracelets are as well. This is where you run into trouble, because there’s been a slew of issues, not only with child labor to make cheap jewelry, but heavy metal cadmium has been found in these pieces which is harmful. Basically, it’s hard to tell how ethical a Payless Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelet is. But what it comes down to, is we really don’t know.
In the end, if your goal is green living, there are plenty of pink products you should avoid. Cosmetics with chemicals that cause cancer, products with chemicals that hit adolescent girls when they’re young, non-stick pink cookware, plastic pink water bottles, non-organic tees that contribute pesticides into our environment, special pink foods and so much more. If you support breast cancer research, it’s seriously counterproductive to buy harmful products that may cause breast cancer.
Before you buy any pink product read Think Before You Pink. Also, it’s almost always a better choice to give your money directly to a breast cancer support organization.
What do you think? Is pinkwashing as bad as greenwashing? OR do the pros of pink products outweigh the cons?