6 Tips to Avoid Greenwashing (and why it's important)

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is when a product or business says they’re green or eco-friendly, but they spend more on resources to make sure you know that, rather than actually implementing this into their business practice.

For example, a grocery store runs a huge campaign about how green they are because they recycle plastic bags. In reality, the best thing the store could do, is simply not offer single-use plastic bags to begin with. Or, they could spend all of those resources on a campaign to incentivize bringing your own reusable bags, by offering a $.05 discount per bag used!

In the end, it comes down to profit. Typically, it is a company or a business making a claim in order to sell more products. For example, a streaming service announces that it’s now partially powered by renewable energy. That’s great! Now you feel better about using their services. However, what they don’t tell you is that only 3% of their servers are running on renewable energy. Doesn’t sound so good when you put it that way…

Why is Greenwashing a Problem?

Greenwashing is hiding a larger problem. At it’s best, it’s a marketing ploy, and at it’s worst, it actually incentivizes something that hurts the environment. Using the grocery bag example- By running a huge campaign about recycling plastic bags, people will be subconsciously encouraged to take more plastic bags. They think by taking more plastic bags and having them recycled at the store, they are doing the right thing- the “green” thing.

However, in reality, they are encouraging a non-eco friendly habit. As the eco-friendly movement grows, the more marketing experts are going to use it to their advantage. Their main goal is to sell more product, and if they can do that by making the products “green”, then so be it.

How can you tell?

  1. Do you see an awesome green claim? Double check it. Visit their website. Is there a lot of information? Or is there a lot of ambiguity and vague information? If it’s unspecific and vague, chances are it's greenwashing.

  2. Is the ad diverting you from the big picture? Sure, BP helped clean up the cute little ducks, how cute! But, if it weren’t for gross negligence on their part, those ducks wouldn’t have been covered in oil in the first place. That’s greenwashing.

  3. Are the words misleading? Are they saying a whole bunch of nothing? Is there any substantial information? Are their sources for their claims?

  4. Are the graphics all green? Do they depict a beautiful nature scene? Are they trying to make you feel like the product is natural when it might be anything but that?

  5. Does the claim feel too good to be true? Are they overstating their intentions? Do you really think the company can follow through with their claims?

  6. What’s your gut reaction? We all know not to take advertisements at face value. There’s always an ulterior motive to get into your pockets. Trust your gut feeling.

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