Whether or not you knew there was a name for it, you’ve most likely encountered an instance of greenwashing at some point in your life. Greenwashing is essentially when a company uses certain marketing tactics in order to appear more eco-friendly, when in reality they’re covering up for the harm they cause the environment.
Greenwashing has always been an interesting concept to me, I even made a presentation about it in my psychology class! It’s important to recognize greenwashing so that you don’t fall victim to the false claims of corrupt companies.
What Does Greenwashing Look Like?
Irrelevant claims, eco-friendly imagery, and green projects are just a few examples of how greenwashing can be present in product packaging. They allow the company to give the illusion of sustainable products with no real positive impact.
These baby wipes are a perfect example of irrelevant claims as a form of greenwashing. The words “natural” and “plant-based” have no significant meaning about the environmental impact of the product. Just because the wipes contain plant-based ingredients, doesn’t mean they are free of synthetic components.
The word natural is one of the most common words on greenwashed products, because the item doesn’t have to meet any regulations to be labeled as “natural”. However when consumers see these words they assume the products are more eco-friendly compared to others.
Another element of greenwashing that is also present on the package of baby wipes is eco-friendly imagery. The green packaging and leaves on the label make the product standout among the other items, and people who want to live a sustainable lifestyle may be drawn to it.
It is important to recognize the difference between products that are actually sustainable, and ones that use environmental imagery in order to manipulate consumers.
A green project is when a company makes a small change in a product, that allows them to market their brand as eco-friendly. Dasani’s plant bottle is a good example of this, because obviously a plastic water bottle company will do whatever they can to appear more sustainable. While the disposable water bottle may be more eco-friendly than other brands, the better alternative would be a reusable water bottle.
How Can You Tell If A Product Is Greenwashed?
Just because a product has green packaging doesn’t mean it’s harmful for the environment. Many sustainable brands use environmental imagery and wording, the difference is that they follow through with their claims.
You can be a smart consumer and avoid shady marketing tactics by reading ingredient labels and researching the brand’s methods of production before purchasing their products.
Many products that are greenwashed are made by large companies in order to give their brand a more positive environmental image. When you compare product lines, “eco-friendly” items often have the same ingredients as the original items the company produces. By avoiding the greenwashed products, you discourage the brands from using questionable marketing tactics.
Are All Greenwashed Products Bad?
A product that is greenwashed can still have environmental benefits compared to other items of the same type. Although the baby wipes shown above had false claims on the packaging, they were fragrance free which can be safer for infants. And while a reusable water bottle is more sustainable than plastic ones, Dasani may be a more sustainable option than other disposable water bottles.
The most important thing to take away from this is that we as consumers have the ability to choose which products we buy, and which companies we support. While brands may attempt to make false claims, you can do your research and determine whether or not that product is really eco-friendly. Until marketing tactics change, if they ever change, it is up to us to choose to support sustainable brands.