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What is “Greenwashing”? | A Look Into Our Labels

Caroline Roser

1 May, 2023


“Eco-Friendly! All Natural! 100% Green!”


Sound familiar? These are just a few of the many claims that grab our attention when walking through the stocked aisles of our favorite cleaning, clothing, and home decor stores. Beyond this, I’d argue that these logos are also pasted across many of the products we use daily in our homes, on our bodies, and in our foods. The unfortunate reality? More often than not, these claims are mere stretches of the truth, many times even completely inaccurate.


Defining Greenwashing


Coined as Greenwashing in the 1980s, this term describes the exaggeration of a company’s environmental credentials. Essentially, marketers are able to stretch the truth — making broad sustainability claims without supporting evidence and overstating positive environmental impacts. The Pew Research Center found that 75% of Americans claim they are in favor of domestic and international environmental efforts — a staggeringly high number. Many marketing teams have since taken advantage of and abused this angle, altering product labels and claims in an effort to drive sales and increase brand loyalty. And they’re doing this with little to no environmental action or accountability.


Learning to discern the truth and make the switch to truly eco-friendly, sustainable and ethically made products is by no means an easy feat. In this blog, I’ll attempt to address some hot questions surrounding greenwashing and provide simple ways to take the first steps into a future of responsible consumption!


Unfortunately for consumers, there isn’t much regulation around many of the terms we associate with sustainability. Words like “green,” “eco-friendly,” “environmentally friendly,” “natural,” and “sustainable” are all broad terms, also known as “loop-hole” words that brands are able to use without having to prove that they really abide by these things. Even the term “recyclable” can be slapped on a label without any evidence of being such, in an effort to mislead a buyer. Outside of verbiage, examples of greenwashing can be found in products covered in green or brown packaging, maybe even with photos of cute animals drinking from crystal-clear lakes or frolicking through the trees of a lush forest. Remember when Starbucks switched to straw-less lids a few years back? Many were so excited at the thought of saving the turtles and ran to Starbucks to try these assumedly eco-friendly lids. What we failed to realize, however, was that these lids actually contain more plastic than the old straw and lid combo, and therefore are far worse for the planet. It’s time for all of us to wake up and smell the marketing! We need to take a deep dive into the brands behind our labels and make conscious efforts to support those who are really making strides for the betterment of the Earth.



The Key to Green Marketing


Rather than greenwashing, what we want to look for is green marketing. This term describes the brands that are committed to honesty and transparency, and are actually making a positive impact for the environment. So, how can we do this? Here’s what to look for:

  1. Brands that give clear claims. Think quantitative over qualitative. Are they giving specific numbers? For example, do they share that their products are made with “organic cotton,” or that they’re using “70% organic cotton?” Factual data is key!'

  2. Look for third-party certifications or verifiable endorsements. Examples of these are LEED and Green C Certified, Certified Fair Trade, or members of 1% for the Planet. Having these certifications is something they can’t lie about and will allow you to give an easy “yes!” to their products!

  3. Sustainability data is clearly found on their website or packaging. If you have to search long and hard for it, more likely than not, they’re trying to hide something. Transparency within a company’s mission is demonstrative of their values. If a company is explicitly admitting where they’re lacking and showing proof of their journey to make positive change — even better! Have you heard of shade-grown coffee? This has been found to improve soil protection and erosion control, as well as aid in carbon sequestration and improved pollination. Additionally, it’s an example of something to look for the next time you’re shopping for your morning brew!

  4. Clean and easily recognizable ingredients. Similar to #3, a brand’s ingredient transparency is always a good sign. You can usually tell their commitment to ethically sourced and raw ingredients (what they are using, and where they are getting them from) by a simple search on their webpage, if not directly on the packaging.

  5. Avoid sulfates, parabens, and fragrances. Often used in cosmetics, these ingredients cause ecological harm to land and sea life, and have negative impacts on humans as well. If it says “natural” fragrance, it’s still no good. Think about it, if the fragrance was truly a clean ingredient then they would boast about it by listing the real name on the label.These things have snuck their way into some of my favorite products — and I’ve unfortunately had to ditch and switch! I’m sure many of us have seen the brand “Mrs. Meyers Clean Day?” Their bottles sport green logos and claim to be non-toxic. I hate to break the news — but if you’ve used this product, you’ve fallen victim to one of the worst greenwashing schemes to date! Mrs. Meyers is anything but safe, having only gotten rid of their use of the word “fragrance” simply by listing out its constituents in an effort to mask the truth. Their products contain methylisothiazolinone, a chemical that often causes eczema, blisters, welts and peeling skin. Scary, right? Even still, this product is often found in the natural and organic cleaning section of the grocery store!

  6. Compare! Compare! Compare! Check out what similar brands are saying and doing in an effort to educate yourself and make the wisest choice when buying. Learn which brands are playing their part in the future of environmental protection and stand behind them in shopping for their products!


While these tips may seem simple, they’re oftentimes the last things we think about when running out to buy new dish soap or laundry detergent. The good news is that once we find brands that truly are sustainable and ethical — and ones we actually like — we never have to look again! Even better, World Changer Co. has done a lot of the searching for you! Check out our sustainable brands directory and get access to over 500 brands that are committed to sustainability and the betterment of our planet. These are brands we trust and love, and are hopeful you will too!

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