All of us have come across products that have green packaging and words like ‘eco-friendly’, ‘proudly green’, ‘sustainable’, ‘high-quality natural ingredients’, ‘environment-friendly’, ‘plant-based’, ‘Raw’, ’Pure’, ‘Earth-friendly’ etc. Unfortunately, they are not. They create an illusion in our minds by letting us think that we are making smart choices and helping the Earth. This idea is referred to as Greenwashing – which is a strategy to trick us into thinking that if we choose their product, we are being green. The concept of greenwashing is derived from whitewashing – which means to cover something that is unsavoury hoping no one sees through it. It doesn’t just mean the ingredients present in the product, but also the packaging, unethical production, and unfair trade. The results in the environmental problems staying the same, or in most cases, getting even worse.
Culprits of greenwashing are present in any industry we pick – fashion, beauty and skincare, souvenirs, home-care, packaging, paper products, construction, communication and any other industry one can think of. Some more popular brands who greenwash their customers are H&M, Uniqlo, Lululemon, Aveda, Babyganics, Seventh Generation, Moroccan Oil, Herbal Essences, and The Body Shop. There are many more brands who do the same, you can find a list of them here. To read more greenwashing in the skincare industry, click here
If we analyze their names and packaging closely, we can see that it has been designed and marketed in a way that greenwashes their customers.
How to avoid being greenwashed:
- Do not fall for pretty packaging and the aforementioned terms that greenwash unsuspecting consumers.
- Read the ingredients and research more about anything you are not sure off (we all carry phones while shopping, so researching on the spot isn’t too difficult).
- Research intensely for a brand that has clean ingredients and sources their materials ethically, including the packaging. Remain loyal to those brands.
- Ask more questions.
- Look for certifications. If a brand is genuinely worthy they will be proud to display and give more information about their sustainable practices. Find more information about certifications
- Learn about the Seven Sins of Greenwashing
Let us take a look at some greenwashing examples below:
|The packaging here is green. Which gives a pure and eco feeling to it. The words ‘pure and natural’ are just a bait. Only 3% of uncertified organic cotton is used on the outside of the diaper. It has no reliable certification anywhere on the packaging. And it is certainly landfill trash.|
|This one says ‘Boxed Water Is Better’. This is wrong in so many ways. First of all, the minimal design with whitespace gives it a modern feel. The word ‘better’ plays a psychological game. The box is lined with plastic which makes it non-recyclable. And it’s time to ask whether boxed water is really better?|
Source: Information for the above table was taken from https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/how-to-tell-if-youre-being-greenwashed/
In 2019, H&M launched a clothing line named “Conscious”. They claimed to use 100% Organic cotton and recycled polyester. Their mission statement was “Shop our selection of sustainable fashion pieces that make you both look and feel good.” At the very first glance we can see that the collection was named aptly to make us feel ‘conscious’ and lead us to thinking that we are making a better choice by buying their product. But here is something not many of us knew while buying – a men’s green long sleeved shirt took 20,000 litres of water to produce. There is no mention about the kind of dye that was used to colour the shirt. Is that sustainable? The sad truth is companies are legally able to get away with blatant misrepresentation and technical loopholes.
As consumers, we have the power to see through Greenwashing and call out brands who intentionally play such psychological games. In this era of social media, the voice of each person who recognizes greenwashing can be made loud and noticeable. It is a critical time for those who want to do better. We have to be more conscious and ask more questions, discover ethical and sustainable brands, and set an example for others to follow. At Green Schools Green Future we understand the importance of making informed decisions, adopting better ideas, and making the changes we want to see in this world. Leaving behind a better world and living in harmony with nature is the legacy we want to pass on to the children of this Earth.
If you want to support clean and green, visit our store here and show some love to these wonderful small businesses who do what it takes to sell authentic products. To read more information on greenwashing, click on the links provided below in our sources.
By Kritika Rao