Trader Joe’s is a very popular store and is often praised for having green alternatives, but many may just appear more sustainable, like the Tea Tree Tingle shampoo. The 16 oz bottle contains a blend of organic botanicals, typically ranges between $8-13.00, and is suitable for all hair types. Corporate greenwashing is responsible for creating a false sense of complacency in consumers because it only appears as if some meaningful action is being taken. Personally, I have switched over to soap bars because even though organic ingredients can replace synthetic chemicals, bottled hygiene products would still depend on fossil-fuel-derived plastics. Even if the shampoo bottles were made recyclable, the product would still be a single-use plastic and contribute to our waste stream and emissions. Trader Joe’s has some distance to go before they reach adequate transparency which is essential for helping consumers partake in a regenerative economy and holding the correct parties accountable for their harm or commitments to our environment.
Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil Shampoo is made of a blend of certified organic botanical ingredients, such as peppermint and tea tree, and contains no laurel/laureth sulfates. The shampoo bottle is made from unrecyclable plastic, so if disposed of incorrectly it can result in the contamination of our recyclables or environmental litter that will require centuries of degradation as microplastics get released. Organic botanicals are used in shampoos for their aromatic fragrances but there are other ingredients of moderate concern because they increase the risks of allergies/immunotoxicity; e.g. melaleuca alternifola (tea tree) leaf oil, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and Cocamidopropyl betaine. Furthermore, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (C6H12N2Na2O6) is one of the ingredients in violation of industry recommendations. It is restricted in cosmetic use, concentration, or manufacturing and considered unsafe in products that are not rinsed off and left on the skin. Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate also has environmental concerns because of formaldehyde byproducts as it breaks down in the environment. Learning these impacts surprised me because I have used this shampoo for a while without knowing its external costs.
Across all sources, it was evident that no animal testing was done throughout the manufacturing process based on the available information from leading international certifiers PETA and Leaping Bunny. Although the product has certified organic botanical ingredients, being organic does not determine the sustainability of that product. The manufacturing/production process is necessary to understand the environmental costs of a product, however, I was unable to find any sources as to how the Tea Tree Tingle shampoo is made. This makes our analysis more difficult because we cannot visualize how much land or water - in botanical planting and shampoo production - is used, nor can we understand the potential degradation/impacts caused by the processes. Trader Joe’s lack of transparency in production further hinders our ability to analyze shampoo and bottle production impacts because we are unaware of the total (and type) of energy required, the GHGs released, as well as all materials that makes up its composition. Gaining a wider understanding of these will allow us to analyze the true sustainability of the product and how injustices may occur as a result of it.
Green America is a non-profit dedicated to harnessing economic power - at all levels - to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. According to Green America, Trader Joe's has a bad history of leaking dangerous climate pollutants and not disclosing the labor practices in its supply chains. The company doesn’t even report how it plans to address these serious issues aside from their prevalent greenwashing techniques seen in the Tea Tree Tingle shampoo. The bottle claims that it is certified organic, however, there is a lack of transparency because there is no official governmental label that classifies it as organic. The claim is made because it contains some 'certified' organic botanical ingredients. Without an official label, it implies that the product is organic-based solely on the company’s standards, but almost all of us are unfamiliar with the company's definition of organic. Another greenwashing example is adding green and floral patterns to the product for a sustainable appearance rather than making actual changes to the product like converting it into a bar of soap free of a plastic container and chemicals that harm humans and the environment. Trader Joe’s has a fair selection of local products, but it does not atone for the plethora of single-use plastic packaging still used in nearly all of its products. Although greenwashing is not ideal, it shows some sort of effort on the corporate end while providing us with the opportunity to call them out and hold them accountable to enable a just transition into a circular economy.