Any word associated with “green” tends to mean eco-friendly, but not with greenwashing.
As the word itself is already deceptive, greenwashing is a term used for false advertising.
It is a marketing strategy used by companies to project an eco-friendly image covering up the real nature of their businesses or products.
While its true that many businesses today are taking steps to minimize the environmental impact of their operation, there are some who took advantage of the eco-conscious market and used it for their own gains.
So in this article, we will discuss what greenwashing means and how we can protect ourselves against it.
How to spot and avoid greenwashing
It is very hard to spot greenwashing since it is phrased to deceive.
Spotting it too easily defeats the purpose.
But with enough knowledge on eco-friendly practices and materials, we will be able to weigh which businesses/products are truly eco-friendly and which ones are not.
We listed a few tips on how to avoid greenwashing:
1. Don’t fall for advertisements quickly
Let’s face it. All companies, eco-friendly or not-so eco-friendly, are in business for profit.
They will do whatever it takes to sell but to be fair, there are companies with pure intentions of being eco-friendly.
Advertising has science and is specifically designed for a certain market. Deception, however, is designed to fool and manipulate its audience.
This is what greenwashing is.
It is easy to put words like “green”, “eco-friendly”, “organic”, “natural”, and other words that may suggest a product is made for the benefit of the environment.
Hence, be vigilant with product advertisements and don’t fall for it until you are sure that the product is truly eco-friendly.
2. Check the product materials
One way to prove a product’s credibility of being eco-friendly is the materials used.
Material-wise, the best indicators for eco-friendly are biodegradable, compostable, natural, organic, and recycled.
But then, with greenwashing, they can also use these claims.
So how do we know which is which?
- Biodegradable Materials are materials that are able to decay and break down into smaller pieces by microorganisms in benefit of the environment.
- Compostable Materials, on the other hand, could also be broken down into small pieces like biodegradable materials, the only difference is that they can be used as compost for the soil.
- Recycled Materials are materials that are supposed to be garbage but are converted into new objects.
- Recyclable materials can help reduce waste and pollution.
- Natural and Organic Materials are almost related to each other. They are materials made by nature and untreated with chemicals. (eg, bamboo or hemp)
3. Production methods
While all materials are checked out, you should also check how these products are made.
The process of creating these products may have been done harming our forests, rivers, and seas.
For example, if producing organic paper led to the unsupervised cutting of trees, that obviously is not eco-friendly at all.
Or if recycling single-use plastics end up polluting our rivers and seas through toxic waste, the production has already compromised the health of our environment.
We must know these processes because we will never know if we are already taking part in this irresponsible production by supporting their products.
4. Check company background for history of greenwashing
By checking the company background, you will understand how the company was founded, its mission and vision.
Moreover, you will also find out how they handle its impact on the environment.
Most of the newly established companies are conscious about the environment and while their mission is still profit, they find ways to balance things out and help spread awareness about our planet’s current condition.
Here are some of the most eco-friendly product brands:
- 50 Eco-Friendly Clothing Brands
- 31 Eco-Friendly Underwear Brands
- 13 Best Upcycled Clothing Brands
- 30+ Eco-Friendly Dental Products
- 100+ Best Zero Waste Personal Care Products
- 10 Most Energy Efficient Refrigerators
- 10 Most Eco-Friendly Water Bottle Brands
- 80+ Eco-Friendly Baby Products
The companies we mentioned in the lists above also launched campaigns that focus on solving issues concerning the environment – like saving the ocean and marine life, how to reduce plastic waste, tree planting, and many more.
All of this information is available on their website for consumers to see.
It adds to their credibility of being an eco-friendly and sustainable company and helps you avoid greenwashing.
5. Avoid greenwashing by looking for eco-labels
Another great way to avoid greenwashing is by looking for eco-labels and third party certifications in a product.
Third-party organizations serve as certifiers of a company’s dedication to providing an eco-friendly service.
We have listed some of these third-party organizations.
You may have seen some of them:
- Forest Stewardship Council(FSC) – a certification that ensures responsible sourcing from managed forests that guarantee the product’s environmental, social, and economic benefits.
- Fair Trade Certified – guarantees fair work ethics characterized by the number of employees’ lives improved, good working conditions, and zero waste inland and waterways.
- Energy Star Certified – guarantees that a company or product saves energy and is environmentally friendly in terms of lower greenhouse gas emissions.
- USDA Organic Certified – guarantees that materials used are grown and processed according to standards addressing soil and water quality.
- Organic Content Standard 100 – guarantees that products are made with at least 95% organically grown materials.
- MADE SAFE Certified – guarantees that products are made without using toxic chemicals.
- Green Seal Certified – guarantees that products have less climate and environmental impacts.
- Leaping Bunny Certified – guarantees that products are cruelty-free and not tested on animals.
There are many more third-party organizations you can find that certifies a product or service is truly eco-friendly.
These certifications will ease your confusion because these third-party organizations have very high standards before they award their certificates.
Being certified means that the company has complied with their standards and guarantees that their material, production process, and work ethics are sustainable and eco-friendly.
6. Read product reviews from consumers
Who could have more experience with products than the consumers that already used them?
Personal reviews about products may cause confusion because they aren’t always leaning on the positive qualities of the product.
Nevertheless, these reviews are based on personal experience and they comment on a specific quality of a product making the readers informed on every small detail about the product.
Not all reviews could be useful though, but as you read along, you will know which makes sense and which are poor reviews.
Greenwashing is hard to spot.
But with this article, we hope that you are more wiser than ever.
And you may have been a victim of it at some point, what’s important is what you do with the new knowledge you learned today.
By complete avoiding these false eco-friendly products, you can make sure that our efforts in saving the planet will not be in vain.
And besides keeping an eye for “greenwashed” products and stop supporting them, you can also help educate other conscious consumers on the truth about greenwashing by sharing this article with them.
It is our responsibility to share and spread this awareness to have a bigger impact on these issues.
And considering the advanced technology we enjoy today, sharing any information online wouldn’t be hard.