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June 11, 2019

“Greenwashing:” when Eco-Friendly Products aren’t so Green After All.

 

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Environmentalism.

Eco-friendly.

Going green.

Call it what you want, but this movement of reducing the damage done by man-made activities is something that businesses and marketers have adopted for a number of decades. These buzzwords have been thrown around by famous brands, celebrities, and even influencers for a while now.

According to National Geographic, 91 percent of plastic isn’t recycled. Humans have created over 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste since the dawn of plastic mass production six decades ago. Imagine how gigantic that looks clumped together, considering that plastics are generally lightweight?

So, what does plastic waste do to the environment? The majority of it goes to our oceans and disrupts the ecosystem. Some plastics even directly harm sea life when it gets stuck on their bodies. Other countries experience unnatural levels of flooding due to clogged sewage channels. Due to these rising ecological threats, more companies feel the need to jump onto the “green” bandwagon and provide their customers with alternatives that will have them feeling empowered (or at least less guilty of being part of the reason the environment is deteriorating).

Going Green

What does it mean to be “green” anyway? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a product is greener if it poses less harm to the environment than similar products with the same purpose. For example, an eco-conscious consumer will choose paper or metal straws over plastic ones. He might invest in a Prius instead of a regular gas-powered vehicle. These are minuscule but genuine attempts at trying to lessen our damage to the environment.

There are environmentally friendly companies out there that produce items that contain fewer harmful ingredients or components. Items like biodegradable waste bags, organic handmade rugs, and organic linen are just a few examples of these eco-friendly products. Other companies change their practices significantly—specifically with how they source raw materials, as well as manufacture, package, and distribute their products.

Greenwashing is a Thing

Unfortunately, some companies seem to have forgotten the real meaning of becoming eco-friendly, and instead focus on using the movement as another angle for their marketing schemes. This is what people refer to as “greenwashing.” It is the practice of making a misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a certain product or service. This is obviously a bad practice because it is basically lying to consumers. And not just any consumers—these companies are doing those who are hoping to help save the environment wrong.

Green companies usually charge a premium for certain eco-friendly products. Sadly, these won’t guarantee you a green product or service. Some brands, despite claiming repeatedly that they are eco-friendly, actually aren’t.

Take Lush, for example. A lot of their marketing materials convey that they are all about environmental causes, yet their products are packed with harmful preservatives, including parabens.

The Body Shop is also guilty of similar practices. Their beauty products are filled with synthetic fragrances and preservatives. The cosmetic industry isn’t the only one guilty, though. Huggies boasts that its Pure & Natural line of diapers contains organic cotton and is packaged in “green leaf nirvana.” It turns out that these diapers are literally only eco-friendly on the outside, as the material that comes in contact with the baby’s bum is just like a regular diaper.

How to Spot Genuinely Green Products

Thankfully, there are a few ways you can verify whether you are dealing with an environmentally friendly company. You will find a few sites online that can confirm which brands and companies are/aren’t totally honest about their eco-friendliness. Some of the sites include Green America, TreeHugger, CorpWatch, and GreenBiz. You may also contact the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), since they are the ones who regulate advertisements.

Go Green and Mean It

The hard fact is that the world is in big trouble with how much our daily practices are harming the environment. It’s up to each of us to be as responsible a citizen as we can be.

But before you hand over your hard-earned cash for supposedly green products, it is also your responsibility to know what the real environmentally friendly companies are.

Because if you’re going eco-friendly, why tolerate anything less than 100 percent green, right?

~

author: Raina Fadel

Image: Dan DeAlmeida/Unsplash

Image: @ecofolks on Instagram

Editor: Kelsey Michal

Bonus:

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William Peatman Jun 12, 2019 8:56am

I don’t get how so many organic products are packaged in plastic. If plastic is poison, organic lettuce that comes in a plastic bin should not be considered organic, nor should anything else that is packaged in a container that poisonous to the planet.

Angela Sweet Jun 12, 2019 8:30am

Everyone needs to read “Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

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Raina Fadel

Raina Fadel believes in eco-friendly living and is trying to persuade people to also do the same. Right now she works for Cyrus Rugs, the largest online retailer of handmade designer rugs. She helps the company by sharing how people can start living eco-friendly at home.