Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Found in the Wild: A Chemical Free Sink

The most recent submission to The Chemical-Free Bear is this tweet (sent in by @Free_Radical1):

This one's a bit difficult. Sure, the usual argument would be something like "Oh, so my hands aren't made of chemicals?!?" But that just seems like I'm being difficult for no reason. We all know what this sign means. There was a bit of discussion on Twitter about what the sign should read ("No Waste Disposal" or perhaps "No Glassware or Waste"). Really I think the sign could just read "Handwashing only" and be done with it. You could say "Handwashing only. No Glassware. No waste disposal. No bathing. Not for drinking. Not to be used in the production of methamphetamines." but everything after "Handwashing only" isn't really necessary. If students have a habit of washing glassware adding "No Glassware or Waste Disposal" is fine.

This subject reminds me of the most common response I get when criticizing the phrase "chemical free". People tell me "Oh, you know what I meant!" The truth is: No, I don't know what you meant. Advertisers like to promote products as "chemical free" because it sets them apart. It puts their product on a pedestal and subtly tells you that there is something wrong with their competitor. But they don't do it because it's the clearest way to inform their customers. An informed customer is often the last thing they want.

The irony in all of this is that many consumers that buys into the "chemical free" nonsense are also in the crowd that demands labeling for GMO products. A "Chemical Free" label is the ultimate lie in advertising - not only because there is no such thing as "chemical free" but because the label means you don't have to be specific about what chemicals were removed or what documented harm those chemicals do. Just say "chemical free" and sell it at Whole Foods.

So please, don't label your products "chemical free". Label them "No Glassware or Waste Disposal" or whatever else it is that you actually meant to say.

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