Walk down any grocery aisle and look for packaging that makes large environmental claims and you may see some greenwashing tactics. Greenwashing is when a company or an organization uses specific marketing to make the consumer believe the product is more environmentally friendly than it actually is. Some companies spend more money on making the product appear “green” than actually limiting their environmental footprint. As a consumer, each dollar you spend on a product supports the company that produced the product. It is important to recognize greenwashing tactics in order to make informed shopping decisions.
Due to the trend to become environmentally friendly, brands are able to use words that appeal to this trend in packaging. Some of the most commonly used words are are:
-Naturally essenced or fragranced
All of these buzzwords create an image of a cleaner and better quality product. One in which most consumers would pay a little more for than their competitors product due to this belief. Unfortunately, in greenwashing marketing, these claims are just words. Usually accompanying these words are supportive packaging like a clear bottle with clear liquid to support the words “gentle” and “chemical-free.”
If you now realize that you have fallen victim to these tactics, here are some steps to becoming a more conscious consumer.
1. Question the claim.
If a brand makes a bold claim, do your own research. An example of this would be the new trend of clothing made from water bottles. Water bottle clothing has become an extremely popular solution to eliminating plastic waste. The question you should be asking is, “where are the water bottles coming from?” If the water bottles used in the clothing are not listed as post-consumer water bottles or recycled water bottles, then the water bottles are being produced to create the “water bottle clothing.”
2. Look past the packaging.
Products with clear packaging and imagery that are presented as eco-friendly tend to fool us from searching for the facts. To see the full story of any product, all you have to do is look past the marketing. Look at where the bottle is made, ask yourself “who made this bottle?” Look at the ingredient list, do these ingredients match the claims the packaging was making?
One way to know if you’re getting the real deal is to check the certifications. Certifications help consumers recognize when a company has taken the extra steps to staying environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Some common certifications to look for are: USDA organic, energy star certification, Rainforest alliance certification, and B- corp.
4. Question the company.
When in doubt, research the company. Some questions you should ask yourself are: who owns this company? Where are the product ingredients being sourced? Is there a corporate responsibility statement? Is the statement hard to find or navigate? (most corporate responsibility statements links are at the bottom of the webpage)
In order to be a conscious consumer, it is important to ask questions and be curious. It is our responsibility as the consumer to vote with our wallets. Every dollar you spend on a product is used to support the company’s activities, whether it’s good or bad. Remember these steps next time you shop to avoid greenwashing tactics.