Identifying Greenwashing

Greenwash

/ˈɡrēnwôSH,ˈɡrēnwäSH/

Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound.

– Investopedia, 2021

When, instead of calling a spade a spade, you call it a diamond tennis bracelet.

– Us

Checklist to identify greenwashing:

01


Look at the ingredients

It seems simple, but most people don’t do it! Check out here a list of ingredients/items to avoid and product seals/certifications to look for.

02


Keep an eye out for vague lingo

If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Words like “natural,” “eco-friendly,” and “responsible” carry little meaning in and of themselves.

03


Beware of tricky packaging

Products may not be what meet the eye. Marketers know that packaging with rolling fields, happy cows, and sun-kissed mountains make us feel good. But, these are often meant to mislead. Look for substantiated facts on packaging, trustworthy product seals, and don’t fall for this slight of hand.

04


Watch out for event-centered offers

“Green” doesn’t only happen one day a year. Just because a company offers an Earth Day 20%-Off Sale or sends emails during Climate Week doesn’t mean the products support these efforts.

05


Think about the whole product

Yes, this includes packaging! Buying ethically and sustainably is key and much of this is about the product itself – how is it made? what is it made of? However, the product impacts also include things such as packaging, shipping, etc. While a company may offer a “green” item/line, you may receive less “green” than you thought.

06


Ask yourself: what aren’t they telling me?

What aren’t they telling me? Vague information or lacks of transparency are kind of like the side effects lists on medication. If a company says “carbon neutral*” think about what that asterisk might mean.

07


Think before you buy

If you don’t need the item, think twice before purchasing. While this isn’t totally about non-green companies trying to seem green, it is still important to combatting greenwashing. Even sustainable companies offer opportunities that can lead to waste. 2-for-1 sales on non-necessity products, or 24-hour flash sales can pressure us to buy what we don’t need. Even “green” products take resources to make or recycle.

To check out examples of greenwashing or submit your own (good for you, you sleuth!), check out our Greenwashing Alert page. To find examples of products doing things right (or tell us about additional ones), take a look at our Eco-Friendly Spotlight page. Thanks!

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