A few years back, I was on a wine tour in New Jersey. It was a delightful adventure! At one point, however, a very lovely vineyard owner told our tour group: “We don’t put any chemicals on our plants.”
I had to bite my tongue. What I really, really, really wanted to say was: “Oh? Not even H2O?”
Whenever I’m told something is “chemical free,” I am legitimately unsure what that means. I know chemical free is supposed to mean free of artificial chemicals, or free of dangerous chemicals, or something to that effect. But which chemicals do you consider dangerous? Which chemicals do you consider artificial?
Let me put it to you this way. If you’re saying you don’t put any chemicals on your plants, then you obviously don’t consider water to be a chemical. What about fertilizers? Fertilizers are packed with sulfates and phosphates and nitrates. I guess those don’t count as chemicals either. So just how many chemicals do not count as chemicals?
Labeling a product “chemical free” creates a vague space in which some chemicals are chemicals and some aren’t. I feel like there’s enough vaguery there that all sorts of things could be called chemical free. Now I’m sure that that New Jersey vineyard owner had no nefarious intentions; but I’m equally sure that someone, somewhere—perhaps someone on the top floor of a skyscraper—is chuckling over how gullible the consumers of “chemical free” products can be.