What is Greenwashing?

Ever hear the old saying “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” That’s how I feel about greenwashing.

Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound. Greenwashing is considered an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly. For example, companies involved in greenwashing behavior might make claims that their products are from recycled materials or have energy-saving benefits. Although some of the environmental claims might be partly true, companies engaged in greenwashing typically exaggerate their claims or the benefits in an attempt to mislead consumers. (Source).

All types of brands – from paper towels to H&M – now offer products that aim to make the consumer feel better about the item while still capturing their dollar. Here’s an example of an ad I saw the other day on Instagram

Is this option better than regular, conventional sandwich bags? I guess, sure. But you know what’s best for the environment? Not using them at all. Buy reusable bags and tins instead. Save the plastic bags from boxes like cheddar bunnies so that you have disposables for those rare times they’re really needed. Another option is looking for disposable bags that can be composted. Buying more landfill waste through single-use ziplocks is antithetical to “being green.”

“Greenwashing means that a company puts forward what they deem to be a positive public relations move without actually changing things for the environment. Companies greenwash to pretend they’re addressing an issue, while in reality, they’re just looking to silence environmental critics,” Perry Wheeler, a spokesperson for Greenpeace USA, says. (source)

In full transparency, my family has fallen for it too. We are staying at home, so appliances and such get dirtier. This bottle of toilet cleaner was purchased in an effort to find something that works while also adhering to our “green” values. And you know what? The marketing worked. We bought it and, dare I say, like the product. But will I buy it again? No. Here’s what I might do instead – take this bottle and refill at the bulk store. I can also make my own cleaner via Sals Suds or something similar. There are even cute toilet cleaner bomb recipes that you can find on the internet. A crafting project for when your kids have nothing to do? Ultimately, we should aim to “purchase home goods from companies that have met stringent environmental and social sustainability criteria to earn B Corporation Certification” (AD).

No one is perfect. If you’re new to your eco-journey, and it’s a choice between generic and something a bit better, choose the bit better like eco-Tide versus regular. Even a small improvement is an improvement. Then think about how you can swap for something else the next time and keep going. Maybe you go refill at the bulk store or try something like Dropps for less packaging. (I’m personally loving laundry paste that dissolves into liquid.) Baby steps count!

Cleaner, eco-friendlier products can also be more expensive than their conventional counterparts. I could go into a whole diatribe about we pay for these “cheaper” products by “spending” elsewhere, but I live in the world. I know we have budgets and finite amounts of money. So choose your battles – maybe this month you focus on cleaner bathroom products while buying that bottle of Dawn that’s on sale – and do the best you can. Progress, not perfection. – Rachel

PS The above photo was borrowed from lexiscleankitchen.com.

One thought on “What is Greenwashing?

  1. Greenwashing particularly frustrates me because it is meant to fool consumers.

    Like “free range” eggs means nothing. There is very very minor ranging that is done if any.

    And all of the Mrs Meyers and Method brands drive me nuts. I guess it’s not straight up bleach but their fragrances are not at all natural AND they’re not even legally required to tell you what’s in them.

    I did a post about fragrance vs scent a while back on my blog (now taken down). EVERYTHING it seems is fragranced now. Trash bags, toilet paper, and on and on. Is it toxic? Don’t know because they don’t tell you the ingredients and legally don’t have to.


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