Let’s break this down. Greenwashing. Maybe you’ve seen this word before, or maybe this is your first time ever hearing it. Either way, if you are trying to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle it’s important for you to know exactly what greenwashing means and how to look out for it. First off, let’s define it.
The act or practice of making a product, policy, activity, etc. appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is.
In the past decade, it’s become clear to the public that the environment is headed in a dangerous direction. The research is clear with how changing your lifestyle to be less wasteful, use less plastic, and be more knowledgeable of where you are spending your money can really help our environments.
Companies know this too…and they want in.
These businesses know people want to know where their money is going now more than ever, especially as people are buying with a more eco-conscious mind. So, with advertising, they will package their product to look more sustainable than it is. This includes car companies misleading their customers to thinking a new car contributes less harmful emissions (when it doesn’t), a company advertising a product’s new packaging is 100% recyclable or compostable without proof readily available, fast fashion brands having “sustainable lines” without accepting responsibility for massive clothing landfill they contribute too, coffee chains getting rid of plastic straws but still selling fully plastic cups, the list goes on and on.
Greenwashing can be as simple as water bottle companies putting images of trees, mountains, or any nature on their labels. They do this with the hope that the buyer subconsciously thinks this water bottle is better for the environment than others. It can be that simple.
Large corporations and “greenwashing” businesses that do not have environmental values and accountability, are slowing the progress that is required for us to live sustainably.
What to do instead:
First off, be aware of where you are shopping, and to whom your money is going. It’s always best to support businesses that have their vision aligned with your values. You can typically find their mission statement/impact on the environment right on their website, but it’s even better to do a quick search to find if they are meeting their promises. Local businesses that strive to source and manufacture their products in eco-friendly ways are always your best bet, as there is usually lots of transparency, thus eat and shop local. Thrifting and buying from second-hand stores are a great way to combat overconsumption and practice sustainable buying.
Feeling overwhelmed? Totally understandable. But try to remember there is a lot of work that has been done for you to make sure you are shopping ethically. There are many standards and certifications on products that clearly indicate when there are eco-friendly options, and these certifications can be found on a variety of products/events/companies/etc. Examples include FSC, iso 14001, for enviro, Fair for Life, Leaping Bunny, Rainforest Alliance, etc.
Companies that have clear goals and mission statements about their impact on the environments will be sure to show that they are not greenwashing. They will have labels (like the above paragraph mentions) that are clearly visible and easy to read. You can check out our products for some examples.
Already being aware of greenwashing and what it is, is a great step forward. Continuing to research and being aware of where your spending is going is how we can hold these companies accountable.
Remember, your wallet has power!