Greenwashing: Going Green Isn’t Always Easy

April 15, 2019

Lights, camera, action! The Hollywood scene often portrays futuristic or scary scenarios of brainwashing that illustrate severe forms of social influence causing changes to a person’s perception without their consent or awareness. Phew, good thing most of these situations are invented for entertainment and don’t really happen in real life – right? You sit back on the couch with a bowl of popcorn thinking, “How could anyone be so easily fooled?” Unbeknownst to you, these Hollywood fantasies may not be as farfetched as we think. A simple form of brainwashing may be occurring right under your nose. Are you being “greenwashed”? Duh-duh-duh!

Greenwashing is a marketing tactic that portrays a product as “environmentally-safe” or “eco-friendly” when in reality it may not be. Greenwashing allows unsubstantiated or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, or technology. Sometimes these labels are in fact true, however, only tell a fraction of the truth. You start contemplating this greenwashing concept. “Are all the eco-terms on my products true or am I being bamboozled?”  

Greenwashing techniques may not always be done maliciously and manufacturers are not required to fully disclose the exact details of how much of their product contains recycled content or which components in the box labelled organic are in fact certified organic. Below are the three most common misconceptions when it comes to eco-terms on products:

#1 – The Recycling Mobius ♺

Recycling is great and a way for consumers to reduce extracting virgin natural resources for new products and materials going to landfill. On the plastic packaging of the popcorn bag, you find a recycling symbol without a number. Without further elaboration, the consumer may be confused as to what the “recyclable” labeling refers to; the plastic packaging, popcorn bag, or the kernels of corn themselves. The recycling mobius on your products indicates that the product contains recyclable materials, not that the product can be recycled again. Without labeling restrictions, if a product contains as little as 2% recycled content it can still be labeled with the recycling mobius or have the “made from recycled content” label. Technically the company is not false advertising because there is a small amount, just less than the consumer thinks. The best option as a consumer is to look for products made from “100% recycled materials”.

#2 – Organic

Scientific studies have identified that organic foods have increased nutrients compared to their conventionally-grown counterparts. On the popcorn bag, you see the word “organic”. Great, this must mean the corn kernels are grown without chemicals! Well – not necessarily. The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. While the regulations vary, organic crops must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, GMOs, or petroleum or sludge fertilizers. This does not mean that crops are 100% chemical free as farmers are allowed to spray crops with “organic approved” chemicals. The “Organic” product label can only go on products that meet the federal government’s organic standard. However, the certification process is extensive and complex. Therefore, just because a label says, “made with organic ingredients” or “all-natural” does not mean the product qualifies as “Certified Organic”, so be sure to look beyond the hype.

#3 – Green

“Green” is an umbrella term that refers to products, services, or practices that allow for economic development while conserving our resources for future generations. The last item on your lap is the popcorn bowl. You turn over it over and there it is stamped on the bottom. What a shocker! The greatest downfall about the term “green” is its vagueness and very few products are actually 100% green “eco-friendly” or “all-natural”. This is because product development will always have some impact on the surrounding environment, but green labeling is allowed depending on the degree of the overall impact. Nevertheless, green products have less of an environmental or human impact than their traditional counterparts. Green products are usually energy efficient, free of ozone depleting chemicals or toxins, often created from recycled or sustainably sourced content, or created locally.

The world around us may appear to be healthy, but as a whole it is hurting from our misuse of products and improper disposal techniques. To combat this issue, the best solution is to educate ourselves about the products that we buy and the terms associated with them. If you don’t like what a product is made out of, write to your manufacturer and ask for alternative solutions. Don’t understand the terms on your products? Call and ask us. Don’t be greenwashed! Know the difference and understand the products you purchase.

More Articles
%d bloggers like this: