What is Greenwashing and how can you spot it?

What is Greenwashing and how can you spot it?

We are all trying to make the world a better place and contribute to a greener society. However, we’ve all been duped in to buying products from companies that make out that their products are green but when you dig a little deeper, it’s clear that their version of green isn’t really what it seems. The blurred lines in advertising can often make it really difficult to know the true intentions or credentials of a product or company.

This eagerness to do good is something that many companies are picking up on, and so many of us are being greenwashed.

Greenwashing is the act of conveying a false impression with unsupported claims to deceive consumers into trusting that company's products are environmentally friendly – it’s pretending to be environmentally friendly, when it’s not.

We recently made a post over on our Instagram about Cif ‘eco refills’. They come in single use plastic bottles, and only attach to Cif bottles meaning that consumers are unable to reuse bottles they may have lying around at home. This leaves us wondering what part of their refills is so ‘eco’. With only 9% of plastic being recycled, we must refill and reuse rather than buying more plastic.

Many companies are noticing the consumers desire to become more eco inclined, and they are cashing in. They are now sticking the word ‘eco’ on their products but are far from living up to it. Greenwashing capitalises on confusion. It can be really hard to work out who is genuine, and who isn’t.

We want to help you avoid greenwashing, so check out our top five tips of things you can actively do when shopping around, to make sure your good intentions aren’t taken advantage of.

  • If the claims of a company or product sound too good to be true, they normally are. Do some digging. If claims are being made left right and centre with no real transparency on how a brand has achieved such things, this is a major red flag. If a brand is truly sustainable and environmentally friendly, they will be more than happy to share specifics.
  • Never be afraid to reach out to a brand to get more information. Because everything moves so fast online, we rarely sit back and look into what we’re buying before we click the ‘pay now’ button. But if you’re making a purchase of a so called eco-friendly product, it’s always worth asking the brand any questions to justify claims they’re making. A great way to do this is by commenting publicly on their social media. Their response will show you how honest they are being. A brand that is true to their advertising and claims will have no issue being transparent online in front of their following. If you don’t feel comfortable using social media, drop them an email.
  • If it says it’s biodegradable, check what it’s made of! For example, 99% of sponges on the market are not biodegradable. If they are made of: Cellulose, Bamboo Fibre, Viscose or Rayon, then these ingredients are designed to make you think you’re going plastic free. When in fact, you might not be at all. These materials are a wood-based bio-plastic. A bio-plastic is a plastic that's made from a natural source other than petrochemicals. However, EU regulations state that these materials are a chemically modified Polymer and are therefore classified as a plastic. This means that they have been changed in such a way that they are no longer biodegradable even though they have come from a natural source. Chemically modified materials such as these don't naturally biodegrade and are not home compostable, they can take about 300 years or more to biodegrade, in industrial conditions only. The only cellulose fibre products that can be classed as biodegradable are those that use Tencell or Lyocell production methods which do not chemically modify the cellulose source. So make sure you look out for these names when buying.
  • Check the brand. Usually, companies that are selling you genuinely eco-friendly products, were built on that ethos. If a company has a known history of contributing to the climate problem, then their new ‘eco’ products stand to be questioned. If a company was introduced to the market as a solution to a problem, you’re already in better hands.
  • The use of the phrase ‘all natural’. When you hear the word ‘natural’, question what that even means. It’s a very subjective word and can cover a lot of different things. Without mentioning a specific quality, this phrase is almost always an obvious sign of greenwashing.

Overall, if you aren’t sure, reach out to the brand. Challenge brands, and don’t be afraid to question them on social media or by email. If they are ready to live up to their advertising then they’ll find it a breeze to reply, and if they don’t then you know to look elsewhere. As a consumer, you’re making an investment and you’re allowed answers. If they don’t have answers, you’re being greenwashed!

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