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GREENWASHING

“GREENWASHING”

At it’s core, Greenwashing is a lie.

It’s a glossy sheen over a product, organization or business to make us think they are eco-friendly when they definitely are not.

When you’ve been greenwashed, you have been deliberately misled into believe something that’s not true.

Today, over 95% of “greener” products use some sort of greenwashing.

And really, why wouldn’t they?

Sixty-six percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products. Among millennials, it’s 72%.

What does this mean?

Companies know doing good for the environment is good for business. They also know making us think they’re doing good for the environment is just as good for business.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) only has vague voluntary guidelines for green marketing. Compliance on these guidelines is completely voluntary.

Of course, the FTC can pursue legal action against a false claim, but that’s where the marketing geniuses usually rein. Their words are very carefully chosen to make us believe they are acting in the name of the environment without legally “claiming” they are.

The truth is, most of us will have a difficult time telling the difference between companies that are trying to be eco-friendly and those that are trying to get us to think they are. And the scary thing is the companies most likely to greenwash are the most “socially and environmentally destructive corporations” out there.

HOW TO SPOT GREENWASHING

If something is promoted as having “50% more recycled content than before,” but that content has only risen from 2% to 3%, it’s technically true. Greenwashed.

Trash bags are frequently listed as “recyclable” when in actuality trash is NEVER separated from the contents within, and therefore unlikely (at the least) to actually be recycled. Greenwashed.

Or, a company might actively promote an honestly eco-friendly product or service, while the majority of their business is inherently unsustainable. Greenwashed.

Sometimes products will brag on about something that is actually already required by law. Greenwashed.

Others may wax poetic about their corporate commitments to sustainability, while lobbying in dark corners against environmental laws. Majorly greewashed.

Watch out especially for health products who try to convince you that healthy for you equals healthy for the planet. Bottled water is a perfect example of this. 

Be thoughtful about the meaning behind the words.

For example, any disposable plastic item is NOT eco-friendly, even if it’s 100% recyclable. Since our recycling systems are still too inefficient to make that a good choice and less than 10% of plastics are actually recycled, it’s greenwashing.

HOW TO AVOID GREENWASHING

Here’s the hard truth.

Most products we buy aren’t ever “good” for the environment. There are only varying degrees of bad. Any claim that it is “good” is dishonest.

The best way to avoid being greenwashed is to be educated about products you frequently buy and companies you are committed to.

How many products have the word “natural” plastered on the front? “Natural” doesn’t mean anything in the world of regulatory ingredients or products. Neither does “made with organic ingredients” or “green.”

In truth there are really only a few labels to trust.

Third-party verification is your best bet that a company is doing what they’re claiming.

The USDA’s Certified Organic label truly can only go on products that meet a specific standard.

EcoLogoFairtrade and Green Seal also have rigorous, scientifically verified qualifications.

Despite the initial terror of being greenwashed, there is a positive side.

The fact that companies are exploiting our desire to use our consumer power to do good has some benefits.

It means the public at large is truly starting to care about how a product impacts the environment.

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