Updated: Mar 8
What is Greenwashing and How to Protect Yourself From It…
Greenwashing has been gaining more and more attention over the past few years. Luckily it has because I was one hundred percent a victim.
For those of you that are unaware like I was, greenwashing is a marketing tactic companies use to falsely market their products as “natural” or environmentally sound.
Now, before I ruin your day by providing a resource for a hefty list of brands you thought were better for you and the environment, let’s dig a little deeper into the process of being misled information.
how did it originate?
The term “greenwashing” was coined in 1986 by environmentalist Jay Westerveld. While he was staying in a hotel, he came across a card in his bathroom that most if not all of us have seen at one point or another. The card implied that the hotel was committed to saving water by encouraging its guests to reuse their towels instead of getting new fresh towels daily.
His issue was not with their initiative to condense their water usage, but with what the hotel was planning on doing with that money they were saving. Although this term, derived from the commonly used term “whitewashing”, originated in 1986, greenwashing surfaced in the ’60s.
Another prominent of greenwashing in the ’80s was with Chevron. They were advertising both on TV and their commitment to being “eco-friendly”, when in fact they were violating the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and spilling oil into wildlife refuges.
modern day greenwashing
It’s no brainer that greenwashing is completely unethical. Companies are straight-up lying about their products for profit, but…America, right?
One of the biggest indicators of greenwashing is what we have come to see literally everywhere now. There are a few underlying issues in terms of products that claim they are environmentally sound or free of harsh chemicals and ingredients.
If a company is promoting they are more sustainable or eco-friendly, it’s important to dig deeper into their work as a corporation. Are they implementing what they preach? Often times a company will advertise or promote that they are being environmentally conscious but these are false claims.
The main issue is with what ingredients are hiding in our products we love so much. The problem is, there is little to no regulation or standards in terms of beauty products.
When comparing the US to Europe, Europe bans 2,000 chemicals while the US bands a whopping ELEVEN.
Let that sink in…
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what to look for and how to avoid greenwashing?
Greenwashing is so prevalent in household goods, beauty products, food, self-care products, and fashion to name a few, it can honestly be so overwhelming to add this to the list of things to worry about but here are some easy tips and solutions.
For starters, if you see “fragrance” in a products’ ingredients list, game over. The problem with fragrance is that a company is not required to list what ingredients and chemicals go into their secret copyrighted fragrance.
BUT here is where it gets shitty…
For example, I have my own brand of hand soap. I have clean ingredients listed that don’t raise any red flags or concerns, but then I list “fragrance” because it smells nice. Thanks to the Fair Packaging and Label Act, I can hide whatever shit I want under that term that may not even have any relevance to the actual fragrance of my soap. Assholes, right?
Buzzwords are not always bad but they’re not always good. These buzzwords should help you dig a little deeper, not completely forgo the product right there and then.
Buzzwords are marketing words that will get your attention. This is obviously frustrating because when you are trying to make proper choices and decisions these companies are making it almost impossible. It’s just extra work.
sites and apps
EWG (environmental working group)
EWG is an incredible resource to use to look up ratings on products and understand sneaky ingredients better. (They also have an app).
They have separate sites for different categories, but I’ll list the EWG Guide to Healthy Cleaning site here.
For example, I went to Target and started buying this dish soap by Seventh Generation. I go home, I’m washing everything that has direct contact to my food and mouth with it and I feel aaaamazing because I am using a safe, clean option.
Alright, a “C” isn’t terrible…But we want an A rating.
Alright, laundry detergent time. So, you drive all the way to Whole Foods and end up grabbing their 365 line because hello it’s Whole Foods that shit is organic to a T, right?
Is it just me or is it extremely ironic that there is moderate concern for the environment with a Whole Foods brand item?
Welcome to the world of greenwashing, my friends.
There is an app for everything, including looking up products.
Think Dirty is an app you can use to look up products and check their ratings as well.
boasting claims and vague info
If the product is boasting about their good deeds, also continue looking. Most companies will include credible information to back their claims. If the information is vague, then it is probably fake.
verified certifications and labels
You know that little bunny ear logo that says “cruelty-free” on beauty products? Well, some are fake. Always look for the verified certification and label whether it’s the green leaf, bunny ears, whatever.
Some verified labels include:
do more research
The more you research, the more you can know what to look for. It will get easier with time and the amount of information available to you on the internet is such a blessing. Obviously, it goes without saying not everything your read is true or false, so do adequate research.
have an understanding of how this affects you
We have become so blindly trusting to cute imagery, cute packaging, and marketing words. Products are priced higher to seem like they are of greater quality, but they’re not. You just got owned.
There is so much harm in some of these products from a reproductive and hormonal standpoint to a cancer-causing standpoint (hey, Prop 65).
The greatest tool we have is the internet and smartphones. Use some of your scrolling-time to start understanding how we get played each and every day by corporations in this country.
For more information on ingredients to look for in cosmetics, check out this post.
when in doubt, DIY
There are so many cheap and easy ways to make your own products. Not only is it seriously satisfying and fun, but you know exactly what is going on your body, plates, countertops, and what you’re breathing in.
Go Pinterest crazy, after following me here, and get your DIY on, baby!
Here’s to being one less victim of greenwashing!
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