As you visit stores or shop online, you’ve probably noticed that more companies are choosing to go green. Newer generations want to be more involved in sustainability and eco-friendly products than older people, which is why you see more green products.
While it’s great that consumers like you are more aware of what you purchase, not all businesses are truthful about their products, which results in greenwashing.
What Is Greenwashing?
Businesses will greenwash customers to deceive them about their products. Companies will make their brand look sustainable and eco-friendly when they’re actually not.
This is a common practice. Greenwashing does the exact opposite of helping the environment by incentivizing a cheap, harmful product.
Here are 10 tips to avoid being tricked by greenwashing so you can live your life more sustainably.
1. Look for the Proof
A business can say a lot about the product they’re selling, but what they do as a company symbolizes their intent. When you’re considering a product, is there proof behind the ecological claims?
Check the website. There should be a ton of information backing up that claim, as well as third-party certification. If not, don’t buy it.
2. Be Wary of Buzzwords
All-natural. Eco-friendly. Green.
These are three common buzzwords that are often meaningless and get slapped on a label to entice customers. What makes them natural or green? There are no regulations for what makes something one of these words. Look further to avoid greenwashing.
3. Do Your Research
If you’re unsure about a product, research it. There’s no harm in looking at a company’s website to determine how it navigates this generation’s environmental concerns.
You can also read product reviews. Sometimes all you need is another perspective to decide whether or not it’s something sustainable.
4. Trust Your Gut
Some packaging and wording on labels can be tricky. If you’ve been conscious of what you purchase for a while, you’re probably good at deciphering whether or not a product is green.
In cases where you’re unsure, trust your gut. You can always research it later, but if it’s a spur-of-the-moment thing, don’t buy. You can always come back later.
5. Know That Green Packaging Isn’t Always “Green”
Imagery and colors can be just as deceiving as words. In the psychology of color, green relates to nature and the environment, so when companies use it for their packaging, you might be tempted to pick it up.
The visual does not always represent the product, so read the label.
6. Search for a Parent Company
As environmental consciousness grows in popularity, larger companies are creating smaller brands and marketing them to make them look green. Parent companies aren’t always listed on the packaging, so check to ensure the product isn’t backed by one.
This is a sneaky way for large corporations to make money because they trick people into thinking the smaller brand is independent.
7. View the Company’s Transparency
If a company is eco-friendly, it will make that 100% clear. You can read the label and find out more information about the product. The website should have an entire section explaining its values and practices, making things transparent for anyone who visits.
For example, fast fashion avoids noting how much their workers are paid or the clothing’s environmental impact. Sustainable fashion will list these details with transparency.
8. Watch for Disagreeing Values
Brands will often make claims on their packaging that support sustainability, but their product doesn’t match up. These items often rely on mass production and pollute the environment, even if they claim they’re eco-friendly.
You’ll often see this with bottled water. Some brands make smaller caps to limit plastic use. Others claim the water in the bottle is filled right at the source. However, the bottles are still plastic and mass-produced.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Never be afraid to speak up or ask questions about a product. Write reviews and use your voice to influence a business. Companies want to hear from their customers, after all.
If you want to know more about a product, email the company. You’ll gain information directly from the source rather than through a medium like a label or website.
10. Know What It Means to Be Green
Whatever types of products you purchase, whether it’s food, cleaning supplies or clothes, know what goes into making them green and sustainable. Be aware of the changing market, and educate yourself about green business values.
The more you know about greenwashing, the better you’ll be able to choose sustainable products when shopping.
Don’t Be Deceived
With these tips, you can better avoid greenwashing. Do your research and understand sustainability to make greener choices while you shop.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.
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