How to Spot & Avoid Greenwashing

If you’re not familiar with greenwashing, allow us to explain. It’s essentially when companies market their products as sustainable—when they really aren’t. This deceptive PR stunt serves to increase sales by making eco-friendly claims without the proper documentation and action to back it up. By acting in a dishonest manner, even if it’s unintentional, greenwashing can lead people away from the environmental movement (by not knowing which products are actually sustainable, they may simply stop trying). 

Popular brands like Fiji, H&M, and many others are responsible for inaccurately portraying the impact of their products. If you want to train your eye from avoiding brands like these, you’re at the right place. Here’s how you can spot greenwashing from a mile away:


What Greenwashing Looks Like

Advertisements are littered with eco-friendly claims only present in marketing and not reflected in the product itself. With minimal effort placed into sustainable initiatives, greenwashing can be easy to spot. Like when a company claims to protect the ocean, but their products (*cough* Dawn’s dishwashing liquid) are made of toxic chemicals and are packaged in plastic.

Here’s an example BP, formerly known as British Petroleum Company, stated they would invest $1.5 billion a year in “alternative energies.” However, BP did not specifically explain what these alternative energies would be. It turns out, natural gas—a fossil fuel—was listed as one of these investments. Although solar and wind energy were also included, BP eventually sold these assets due to their financial difficulties

Misleading products often appear in green packaging with vague sustainable claims. Usually fashioned with generic trees and leaves, these products share no specific description of their eco-friendly goals. 


Fiji water ad

▴ 47% of Fijians don't have  access to clean, safe drinking water


How to Avoid Greenwashing 

Now that you know what greenwashing products/services may look like, here are some ways you can avoid them: 

Shop Intentionally By consciously selecting items that align with your values, you are less likely to stumble upon random products that make loud and misleading eco-friendly claims. Shopping intentionally also means shopping less; this is a simple way of reducing your carbon footprint. By simply resisting the urge to add those “environmentally-conscious” plastic products to your shopping cart you’re doing the planet a huge favor!

Search for Transparency Companies demonstrate credibility when they transparently communicate to the public. An example of this is with a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): a specific account of a product’s environmental impact from start to finish. This includes recording data from the extraction of raw materials all the way to the product’s disposal. Not only is this an honest practice, but it also gives you more information as to what exactly you are purchasing (and where your money goes). 

Select Items That Are Easy to Recycle If you’re well-versed in recycling, you can quickly catch on to whether or not a company is attempting to greenwash their product. Glass can be recycled indefinitely, but plastic can only be recycled once or twice. So, if a product is packaged in plastic and claims to be environmentally friendly- something’s sus. 

A better attentive, if available, would be choosing biodegradable products that don’t require any plastic what-so-ever (like us!).

“Doing your research,” is easier said than done; it can be pretty time-consuming. As a place to start, try thinking of the products you buy most frequently; what do you know about the company? Are they transparent? Is there an alternative option that’s more sustainable? These are some crucial stepping stones to keep in mind (you can do it!). 

Do you have any favorite sustainable alternatives? Share them with us in the comments below!


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Article by Impact Snacks Contributor, Ava Tajally

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