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Greenwashing & How to Avoid It

What Is Greenwashing & How to Avoid It

When looking for green products, it’s easy to fall into the greenwashing trap. Although you can find lots of items labelled as “all-natural”, “sustainable” or “eco”, 95% of them are greenwashed. So, how can you find truly eco-friendly options?

Nowadays, most people prefer products and brands that are kind to the environment. But that’s not all, they’re willing to pay more for these options. And companies are aware of it, that’s why they want to “go green”. That said, using greenwashing techniques is the easy way out.

If you’re not familiar with this term, keep reading to discover what greenwashing is and how to avoid it!

 

What is Greenwashing?

What is Greenwashing

Greenwashing is a marketing strategy that unethical companies use to give the impression of being eco-friendly. Instead of actually doing something good for the planet and people, they appear to be eco-friendly to increase their sales.

Usually, these companies spend more resources on marketing strategies rather than actually implementing sustainable practices in their processes. They tend to use buzzwords that aren’t regulated like “all-natural” or “sustainable” to make misleading claims.

Here’s an Easy Example of Greenwashing:

Would you consider a plastic bag earth-friendly just because it’s made with “20% less plastic”? Even if this claim is true, these bags could still cause some problems for the environment. So, they don’t make a real difference. 

 

The Seven Sins of Greenwashing

When starting a sustainable lifestyle, chances are you will feel tempted to buy every product that claims to be eco-friendly. That’s why it might be difficult to spot greenwashing at the beginning. 

But don’t worry, you just need to learn the most common greenwashing tricks that companies use. Let’s check some red flags to watch out for:

 

  • Hidden Trade-Off

Companies use this tactic to highlight some sustainable practices and hide others that might be more harmful to nature. For example, mentioning that they use recycled materials while hiding the carbon footprint of their production process.

 

  • No Proof

Another common greenwashing technique is making green claims without providing evidence or having a reliable third-party certification.  If a company says it uses sustainably sourced materials but doesn’t provide enough evidence about it, for example, it’s probably lying. 

 

  • Vagueness 

When companies use vague claims or broad terms to deceive consumers into thinking their products are better for the environment.  Some of these green terms include “100% natural”, “all-natural”, “environmentally friendly”, and so on.

 

  • Irrelevance

Some companies use irrelevant claims, like advertising products that are free of toxic substances which are already illegal. Although the claims are true, there’s nothing new or innovative about it. They’re just following the law like other companies.

 

  • Lesser of Two Evils

The lesser of two evils is another common greenwashing tactic. This marketing strategy makes a harmful product look greener than other options within its category. When in reality they’re all bad for the environment or your health. Take organic cigarettes, for example. 

 

  • Fibbing

Another unethical practice is making completely false claims. For instance, a company that claims to be Energy Star Certified while it is not.

 

  • Worshiping False Labels

If you’ve started buying green products recently, it might be easy to fall into this greenwashing trap. Some companies create fake certification labels to make you believe that their products are backed by a legitimate third party.

 

Why is Greenwashing a Problem?

Why is Greenwashing a Problem

Greenwashing is proof that most consumers prefer sustainably-made products over conventional ones. That’s why some companies use unethical strategies to look more eco-friendly than their competitors.

But there’s one problem: When people buy greenwashed products, they think they’re getting the best option for the environment. Yet, they’re supporting exactly what they wanted to avoid: harmful practices.

On top of that, they will keep buying these products instead of looking for true green options. As a result, greenwashing encourages unethical practices and makes it difficult for sustainable companies to become popular!

 

What Can You Do to Avoid Greenwashing?

As you might have noticed before, companies get creative when it comes to deceiving consumers. If you’d like to support brands that are really sustainable and eco-friendly, check these tips to avoid greenwashing:

  • Look for Official Certifications

The best way to avoid being greenwashed is by looking for official certifications. Recognized third-party certification programs guarantee that certified companies meet certain sustainability standards. 

But first, you need to get familiar with global certifications like B Corp, FSC, Fairtrade, GOTS, RSPO, and others. This way, you will be able to recognize official certification labels and avoid products with fake labels.

 

  • Visit the Company’s Website

You can also visit the company’s website to find out more about its claims. Don’t forget that sustainable companies will be proud to share their efforts. You should be able to find detailed information about their eco-friendly practices, policies, and materials.

Likewise, you can do a quick google search about the company.  Make sure to check the opinion of reliable sources about the company’s claims.

If you can only find vague and unspecific information, chances are the company is trying to deceive its customers.

 

  • Don’t Let Environmental Imagery Fool You

Some greenwashed products use green-toned packaging and natural-looking elements along with vague words to have an eco-friendly look. This is a common trick to attract consumers that are trying to protect the environment. They will automatically think that these “green” products are a better alternative.

When you find these eye-catching products, find out if the companies’ practices are as good as their marketing strategy. Always do your research!

 

  1. Shop with an Intention

Finally, you can look for reliable eco-friendly brands before going to the store. With this, you will avoid greenwashing and support companies that are making a real difference for our planet.

 

Greenwashing can be difficult to spot when you’re starting a sustainable lifestyle. But once you know how greenwashing works, it’s easy to recognise this unethical practice and avoid it. So, next time you find “green” products, make sure to double-check their claims and support true eco-friendly brands!

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