Consumers Beware! How to Avoid "Greenwashed" Products
We've all fallen for it. A product that appears environmentally friendly simply because of its use of the words "all natural", "botanicals" or "eco-friendly." But... what does this really mean? I've been a victim of this marketing trap. Greenwashing refers to when a company misleads a consumer by spending more money on making the company appear eco-friendly, rather than actually making it eco-friendly. Buying a product because of its green and leafy-patterned packaging, without really understanding that these tactics have everything to do with profits and nothing to do with sustainability.
I decided to get to the bottom of these traps and give some good information to all of you for how to avoid greenwashing when shopping.
We have tremendous power as consumers and it is very important that we know the signs of greenwashing before we make our purchases.
I hope these help!
1. Look deeper into a company's claims. If you see something on the label, go to their website and look for more information. If this information seems intentionally vague or broad, there's a good chance that this company was using greenwashing techniques.
2. Look for certification! A company can put "natural and organic" on their labels but if it doesn't have a certification label, it is most likely NOT organic.
Here are some good certifications that you want to look for:
3. A prominent example of a company that utilizes greenwashing techniques is Fiji Water- their commercials feature a natural landscape with a child's voice saying "Fiji Water is nature's gift to us", "bottled at the source," and "untouched by man." Look out for these aesthetically-pleasing traps!
-There is no proof to these claims!
4. BEWARE of the common greenwashing words! These include: eco-friendly, green, all-natural, earth-friendly, non-toxic, plant-based, plant-derived, pure, raw, healthy, organic (without certification). These words mean NOTHING. Natural does not mean environmentally friendly so be skeptical of these claims.
Here are some good examples of greenwashed products:
*See how Ziploc claims these bags are "better for the environment" and attracts customers with green packaging? In reality, the sustainable thing to do would be to stop using plastic bags, but as I mentioned, these marketing techniques are about money, not the environment.
*Tide also utilizes the green packaging. The leafy pattern, the "clean" claims. All baseless and meaningless.
5. Ask questions- don't be afraid to reach out to companies and question their claims.
6. Look for irrelevant claims. These are claims that are "technically true" but not really relevant. One example is a "CFC-Free"- CFCs are banned by law so this is not truly an indication of sustainability or environmental friendliness.
7. Look for companies playing on the "Lesser of Two Evils" concept. A company might be claiming to be "greener" than a competitor but if the industry itself is unsustainable, does this really make a difference? (ex: plastic bags)
8. Transparency is important! If a company is not transparent with their practices and or claims, its usually because they aren't really environmentally friendly. Ask these companies about their other projects- who they support, donate to, etc. This is a telling sign of their true actions and intentions.
9. Shop with an intention. Do your part in making environmentally friendly choices. For me, it helps to do research on the products I am purchasing before going to the store. That way, I can go for that certain item and not fall for other greenwasher advertising at the store.
10. Look for minimal/recyclable packaging. In many cases, companies using greenwashing tactics will still have their products in an unnecessary amount of packaging- contradictory to claiming they're sustainable, right?
11. This seems like a no-brainer but the real way to be more sustainable in your life is to buy fewer things. In reality, reducing the amount you buy and reusing what you have is the best way to ensure that you are being sustainable.
But... when you do shop, don't get trapped in greenwashing scams!
As we always say, keep cutting the crap! And in this case, call out the crap!
Know your power as a consumer and don't be afraid to use your voice.
Here's a helpful graphic to understand for avoiding greenwashing