It’s Not Easy Being Green

Green Products are everywhere! As more and more people are becoming aware of climate change, the market for environmentally friendly products has skyrocketed. This is great for those who want to make lifestyle changes to benefit the environment. But as much as these products are great, some companies have taken advantage of the new market. In order to be the smartest, greenest consumer you can be, be sure to watch out for several of these greenwashing techniques.


What is Greenwashing?



Now that companies know that more people are buying “green” products, they are stretching the truth over what is actually sustainable. In order to sell more products or cut corners, the companies will deceive you over the actual environmental impact of the product. A very common example of this started back in the first environmental wave in the 60s when hotels would tell guests to reuse towels to help the hotel “go green”. When in reality, this was a ploy to help reduce the time and cost for the hotel to wash the towels and did not largely impact water consumption. Being aware of how companies can trick you will help you be a more knowledgeable consumer!


Keep a lookout for…


The most common form of greenwashing is the overuse of the term recyclable. A lot of times, products will be labeled recyclable but without specifying what is able to be recycled or if it is made out of recycled material. Labeling the product vaguely makes you think that you are
making a sustainable choice when in reality it is probably not actually recyclable. When you are buying products that are recycled, make sure to see if it is specific about the material or the part of the product that is actually recycled! The more specific the packaging is, the more likely it is actually recyclable.



The second thing to look out for is fake sustainable labels. Some labels are put on products without being substantiated, like labels that say natural without defining what they mean by natural. This is something that can be difficult to identify, but if you know what to look for you can make more sustainable choices. Double-check food packaging with labels that are certified with actual non-profits or environmental organizations. Also, labels that just say biodegradable might not be actually biodegradable in the near future. Eventually, everything, even hard plastic, will break down but it might take a couple million years and will release harmful gasses in the process. Some companies will mislead you with the term biodegradable to get you to think that you are buying a product that will dissolve in the near future. Look for products that use the term compostable instead as this means the product will break down a lot more quickly.



Packaging is also a huge propellant of greenwashing. A lot of times, packaging that is even colored green is meant to imply that the product is environmentally sustainable. The use of the words green, earth-friendly, eco, natural or bio are used to also trick you into thinking the product is sustainable. Make sure to keep an eye out for buzzwords that might mislead you, and don’t be confused by pretty packaging.


Be Critical


The final thing to keep in mind with greenwashing is just to keep a critical eye on sustainability products. Taking a couple extra minutes to verify the environmental friendliness of a product will help you lead a more sustainable lifestyle as well as keep companies accountable for pushing fake green products. Let’s all be conscious and careful with our consumption choices, small changes make all the difference in our fight against climate change!



Julie Schown
EarthShare New Jersey Intern