Understanding Greenwashing

Greenwashing, or the art of making a product more environmentally-appealing based on a biased (read false) marketing statement

Yes, Environmentally Friendly products have become all the rage… you see them everywhere: on food labels, cleaning products, and even on plastic containers. 

But what does Environmentally Friendly even mean? Well, that’s a great question, and the fact that you can’t answer it with a short straight-forward answer is exactly the reason why companies are cashing up on these claims.

Thank you for making it even more confusing for me to buy the best (ethical and sustainable) options out there!

Reading through articles on this very topic, I stumbled on this video, presenting the 6 sins of greenwashing, and I believe it’s worth sharing.

Even though different articles list different types (categories/sins) on the concept, I tend to agree with the 6 sins laid out in the video mentioned above. To me, the companies guilty of greenwashing practice the following activities, or sins…

  • The Sin of Lying: Making a statement that is simply not true, such as labelling a plastic bottle as made of 100% recycled paper (True story)! 
  • The Sin of No Proof: Claims that aren’t backed by data or by an accurate scientific method.
  • The Sin of Irrelevance: Factually true statements that don’t mean anything. 
  • The Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: try to focus the customer’s focus on only one single environmental issue, so you don’t look at the others. Magicians use the same technique to distract you. 
  • The Sin of Vagueness: What the heck does “eco-friendly” or “100% natural” means? Exactly!
  • The Sin of the Lesser of Two Evil: “If you are about the environment, smoke these organic cigarettes!” 

I don’t know about you, but the more I write on environmental concepts, and practices, the more depressed I get… Cause, how are we suppose to keep up with all this information, if companies and marketers are working to provide us misleading information! 

I know, I know, I feel you…

Let me share a beautiful and romantic statement that my boyfriend said earlier this week. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “My beautiful princess, the reality is that nothing that’s worth it will come easy in life, and you should always keep in mind that what you get out of life is a combination of what you put in + timing, and maybe a little touch of luck”

Okay, in reality it sounded more like “Businesses don’t owe you shit, so stop complaining”… Hum hum… I love paraphrasing! 

Point is… I know you have day jobs, or that you’re very busy IGing right now, BUT because we’ve established that businesses are out there to make money, and many don’t feel remorse practicing greenwashing, you do need to pay a little more attention. And trust me, I’ve been using my greenwashing lense for a while now and the more you take an intentional step to notice it, you’re building a mental awareness that will systematically question things you’ve taken for granted before… 

If you want a quick reminder to refer to, in times of hardship, here are a few key points you might want to keep at hand (printscreen, save as picture, etc.) :

When looking at a suspicious environmentally friendly product, keep in mind…

  • …that the term Natural just means can be found in nature, but doesn’t exclude processing, alteration, concentrated form.
  • …to always look at the labels and the ingredients list: the trick is the more you feel you could win a game of scrabble with this list, the worst off you are off – most times.
  • …that companies will always find the loopholes to seem more appealing to you, so don’t base your purchasing choice only on the vague environmental claims printed on products. Base your choice on sound judgement, prioritizing other elements if necessary.  
  • …that our regulations are always playing catch up… As long as the USDA or the FDA has not banned the use of X & Y, or restricted the messaging associated to them, companies will sell you X & Y as the new environmentally friendly solution.  
  • …that unfortunately, the US are usually more permissible than other countries, in terms of accepting the use of potentially harmful products, thus when you do find some time, you should make some research about the best purchase in each category of goods.
  • Here’s a great reference to get you started: https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/

If you’re curious about how far these practices can go, please watch this other good video:

And, as a bonus, here are some actual Certifications you can trust. 
(to a certain degree of course) 

Good Luck on your Sustainability Journey