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Know how to spot greenwashing

So, you're trying to do the right thing and want to buy products that are eco-friendly. But as you walk down the grocery store aisles you don't even know what's actually sustainable and what's just misleading and clever marketing. Don't worry, you're not the only one who is frustrated by corporations making their products seem greener than they actually are. This issue is so prevalent there's even a term for it: greenwashing.

According to Wikipedia greenwashing is “a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception an organization's products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.” Greenwashing happens all the time and sometimes it seems like a constant battle to not fall into PR traps and decipher what's actually green.

Here are 5 tips to help you see past these sneaky marketing practices

  1. Be critical of language like “eco-friendly,” “all-natural,” "naturally-derived," or “green.” Lots of harmful products are naturally-derived! These terms aren't necessarily bad, but make sure they can back up their claims (which leads us to tip #2).

  2. Look for respected, third party certifications on the label such as FSC certified paper when buying toilet paper (Day #23), the USDA Organic label when buying food products (Day #77), or EPA's Safer Choice certification when buying cleaning supplies (Day #3).

  3. Be aware of more subliminal marketing strategies such as images of grass, flowers, farms, etc. on the packaging. Keurig's Green Mountain's coffee pods are a perfect example. What's sustainable about that product? Nothing! Greenwashing is so essential to their marketing strategy it has even taken over the name.

  4. Just because a company prints their packaging in green or earth tones, doesn't mean it's environmentally friendly. Next time you go to the grocery store, notice how much of the poultry has a green label on it.

  5. Know your laws. We laugh every time we see companies market products with phrases like “No Hormones Added” or "CFC-free." Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in poultry and meat, and CFCs were banned forty years ago! So, basically they're just saying their product is legal.

We're not trying to be Debbie Downers, but so many products that are presented as green really aren't, and we don't want y'all falling for the illusion that the packaging presents when you're just trying to make a sustainable purchasing choice. The way some companies are presenting their products might not be accurate, but it isn't illegal. It's up to us to do our research and be aware of greenwashing.


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