How to Identify and Avoid Greenwashing as a Consumer

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As a consumer, you’re already on the right path by reading about greenwashing and educating yourself!

Greenwashing is the act of making false or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, or company.

As earth-conscious consumers, it’s our duty to identify and avoid greenwashing where we can.

Knowledge is truly the key – do your research, educate yourself and others, and help promote businesses that are truly green over those that aren’t.

How to Spot Greenwashing

In many cases, greenwashing can be difficult to identify. While most commonly greenwashing businesses use general claims to make it seem like a product is more eco-friendly than it really is, it can also involve more sinister practices, such as fudging numbers or flat-out lying about a product’s environmental impact.

With the green movement gaining momentum, it’s important to be able to spot greenwashing so you can make informed choices about the products you buy and the companies you support. Here are some signs that a company might be greenwashing:

  • They make broad, unsubstantiated claims about their products being “eco-friendly,” “sustainable,” or “good for the environment.”
  • They use green symbols or images that don’t really tell you anything specific about the product.
  • They avoid talking about the negative environmental impacts of their products.
  • Their green claims are not verified by a third party.
  • They try to distract you from their environmental impacts by talking about other socially responsible practices they engage in.

Now, just because you see these signs doesn’t mean that a company truly is greenwashing. It’s simply a sign to dig deeper.

If you have doubts about a product or company’s environmental impact, do more research, ask questions, and get a better idea of what you’re supporting before doing so.

Types of Greenwashing Examples

The above mentioned signs of greenwashing can be great indicators to look more into things. Here are a few more specific examples of what these practices could look like:

  • Claiming that products are made from recycled materials when only a small percentage of the materials are actually recycled. While it’s technically true, the lack of information makes this seem better than it is.
  • Claiming that something is “carbon neutral” when the manufacturing process emits large amounts of carbon dioxide. This could be an example of clever wording – they may ensure that shipping is carbon neutral, but the production is not.
  • Claiming that a product is “100% plastic-free”, yet comes shipped in wasteful plastic packaging. Also an example of misleading phrasing, the product itself may be plastic free but overall the purchase is not. I’m sure most of us have had this happen at some point and it can be so frustrating.

Research to Flag Greenwashing Companies

Before purchasing a product or service, learn more about what you’re buying and who it is from. This research process can include:

  • Check out the company’s about page on their website or the product details to view what claims are made and if they’re supported by any certifications or specific details.
  • Read consumer reviews that are focused on environmental impact. (Tip: you can search on a webpage by pressing ctrl+F on PC or cmd+F on Mac to search for terms like “plastic”, “waste”, “eco”, or whatever aspect you want to look for within review content.)
  • Contribute to the consumer feedback after your purchase to help inform others, whether it is positive or negative.

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Citations for This Article

APA

Plonkey, Jim. (October 8, 2022). How to Identify and Avoid Greenwashing as a Consumer. Natural Replacements. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from https://naturalreplacements.com/learn/environment/avoiding-greenwashing-as-a-consumer/

MLA

Plonkey, Jim. "How to Identify and Avoid Greenwashing as a Consumer." Natural Replacements, https://naturalreplacements.com/learn/environment/avoiding-greenwashing-as-a-consumer/

Chicago

Plonkey, Jim. "How to Identify and Avoid Greenwashing as a Consumer." Natural Replacements, Last modified October 8, 2022. https://naturalreplacements.com/learn/environment/avoiding-greenwashing-as-a-consumer/

Jim Plonkey

Jim Plonkey is a Co-founder of Natural Replacements. A digital marketing professional with a passion for sustainability, Jim lives in Southeast Michigan and enjoys traveling to new places, spending time outdoors - kayaking, hiking, and gardening, and yoga.

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