What Is “Greenwashing” and Why Is It Bad?

As public opinion moves towards creating sustainable alternatives, many companies have now shifted from harmful practices to apparent long-lasting solutions.

Single-use plastic packaging has now become “biodegradable”, while a handful of corporations claim their products are “organic” and “vegan”.

What Is “Greenwashing” and Why Is It Bad?
Photo from Miljö Style

But how much of this sudden shift towards “greener” alternatives are true?

Actually, what people don’t know is that companies have started to take on “greenwashing” to try and lure more conscious consumers to buy their products.

Greenwashing is when companies spend more money on making their product seem more sustainable rather than actually making it more sustainable.

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Photo from IYNF

For these big organizations, the marketing aspect of appearing to be “green” and earth-friendly is emphasized without actually having real environmental benefit or contribution.

This can mean misleading marketing campaigns, false labels, and confusing information.

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A good example of greenwashing would be brands that include vague statements like “all natural”, “clean”, and “free of”. These phrases are all-encompassing and don’t tell you much about what’s in the product or what exactly makes it less harmful.

So then it raises the question of, why is greenwashing bad?

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Photo from Impakter

It’s obvious — greenwashing is a subtle lie. And it’s a waste of resources! Instead of actually putting money and research into becoming a truly sustainable brand, companies waste time and resources trying to build a false image to project to the public.

It essentially tricks well-meaning and caring consumers into buying products that don’t necessarily align with their goals.

And while it’s not exactly illegal, it is deceptive and can take away from real companies that actually implement sustainable practices.

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Tide’s supposed “plant-based” detergent, which is actually only 75% plant-based and 25% from “other” ingredients, including some derived from petroleum
Photo from Truth in Advertising

To avoid buying products from companies that greenwash, it’s important to look at the straight facts. If you’re concerned about what’s potentially going to be in your home and in your space, you should always check the label and the website for more data.

Any company that is honestly practicing sustainability wouldn’t be afraid to share the numbers. You should be seeing percentages, stats, and explanations about what the company has been doing and is currently doing to lessen their carbon footprint and combat environmental waste.

Check out Patagonia’s site for the gold standard of company accountability and sustainability.

Patagonia’s fleece pullover, with a percentage on how much of the material is recycled
Photo from Patagonia

The best way to check a company’s legitimacy is to look for established third-party organization’s logos on product packaging. These certifications (like Energy Star, USDA Organic, and Fairtrade) require the product to meet specific standards, so it’s more likely that the product is close to what it’s being advertised to be.

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It may be hard to completely avoid being duped by greenwashing companies, but remember to be a wise consumer and to keep discerning on what products you choose to buy. It will lead to a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle!


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