What is Greenwashing
Companies have caught on to the fact that consumers, that’s you and me, want to live in a way that is more environmentally friendly. So many companies have started marketing the ways that their products are environmentally friendly, even when they aren’t. This is called Greenwashing, the act of making a product look like it will do good things for the environment when it actually won’t.
Examples of Greenwashing
Here are a few examples of Greenwashing that have happened in the past.
- Tide purclean claimed that the laundry detergent was 100% plant-based when in fact it was only 75% plant-based.
- Simple Green Cleaning Products was marketed as non-toxic despite having ingredients that are harmful to people, pets, and the environment.
- Nestle Chocolate claimed their chocolate was sustainably sourced despite the company having “virtually no environmental standards in place” in West Africa.
You can find these examples and more on Truth in Advertising.
How to Avoid Greenwashing
It might seem like greenwashing is impossible to avoid, but actually, thanks to smartphones and a little common sense it is easier than ever!
Look for Certification
Should a product claim on its packaging to be organic or fair trade then be sure to look out for the certifications on the packages that back up this claim. If something is certified organic by the USDA then they will proudly put their certification on the package. If you don’t see any such certifications, this is a pretty clear indication of greenwashing.
Look Out for Common Greenwashing Words
There are a few words that without the certification to back them up mean absolutely nothing. These words include:
Better for the Environment
These terms aren’t regulated and anyone can use them on anything.
Look at Packaging
If you still aren’t sure about a product then take a look at its packaging. Is it a bag of individually wrapped items? If so, it likely isn’t as green as you think. A lot of packaging is often a sign of greenwashing. This is especially true when it comes to the use of plastic packaging when paper or cardboard would work just fine.
Look Out for the “Lesser of two evils” Concept
If the brand you’re looking at advertises itself as 15% more green than the leading competitor then once again, you’re looking at greenwashing. They aren’t saying that their product is good for the environment, they’re simply saying that it’s better the other guy. Most of the time there is an even better alternative to be found in a health food store or a zero waste store, so don’t be afraid to step away from the big brand names.
Don’t be afraid to pull out your phone in the middle of a grocery store and do a quick Google search for a brand you may not have much experience with. Just type in “Is (Brand name) environmentally friendly” or “Does (Brand name) greenwash” and you should be able to find out the answer quickly.
Finally, remember to look around at all the alternatives on offer. Avoid plastic containers where possible, and always recycle your cardboard and glass.