be above greenwashing!

Greenwashing is basically a marketing scheme by different companies to make their products seem green when, in actuality, they aren't. And now that 'green' items and the thought of protecting the earth is popular, greenwashed items are more popular.

True Goods has a list of the seven ways a product can be greenwashed:

  • There is a hidden trade-off (claims of being made of recycled paper, without considering the overuse of other resources needed to make and distribute the product).
  • There's no proof of the claim (no citation or source study).
  • The claim is too vague (especially on items that claim to be all-natural. Even natural ingredients can be anti-green).
  • The claim is irrelevant (advertising a product as being free of a certain component that is already banned).
  • It's the lesser of two evils (something being marketed as the greenest in its not-green category).
  • It's a lie.
  • It has a false certification label (being certified by a non-existent organization with an official-looking seal).
So, when you are out shopping for green products, take a minute to scan the labels to look for any signs of these misleading attributes. Don't fall prey to a company who slapped a shiny "eco-friendly" symbol on their product - do some fact-checking online, or simply with your own judgment. If you don't trust that the product is actually eco-friendly, then don't use it!

One item I can instantly think of that I will always consider greenwashed is bottled water. Many brands today promote their "eco" bottles made of less plastic. But, it's still using plastic with a single-use intention. Skip the bottles altogether and fill a reusable bottle with tap or filtered water - the actual eco-friendly way.

Some of the good things to look for in your products are: local/regional production (so the product requires less resources in distribution and doesn't travel as far to get to the store), recycled materials, minimal/sustainable/recyclable packaging, certified by a real and reputable organization (for example, Energy Star or the Forest Stewardship Council), and actual eco-friendly ingredients or materials. The Eco-Friendly Family has a great list of cleaning product ingredients to avoid.

Green Philly Blog wrote a post last year about a perfect "greenwash" product: a #5 plastic tool that helps you wash Ziploc bags in the dishwasher. The tool is marketed to help you recycle plastic bags by helping you wash and reuse them. Except for the ingredients of the tool itself being dangerous, and Ziploc bags are not exactly what you want being washed in hot water, since they can leach BPA.

While I haven't used it myself, Greenwashing Index is a site where ads are posted and rated for how misleading it is in terms of green claims. It's a great way to review good and bad ads and learn why the bad ones are such.

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