Greenwashing, What Is It?

I am sure you have heard of it, maybe you haven’t but what EXACTLY is greenwashing?

Well, in basic terms it is when a company/brand falsely promotes a product or practice by deeming it ‘eco’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ when it is in fact not! Yes, *shock horror* this happens, more than you think.

With the whole ‘eco movement’ rapidly taking over the world AND social media a lot of companies are RACING to get on board the eco-ship by pumping out products that are seen as eco or sustainable in order to boost themselves or allow themselves to call their company “eco-conscious”. This, as you can imagine, is NOT how we become a greener society. Think about some products you’ve seen recently… let’s talk metal straws for example. HOW MANY different companies have you seen promoting or releasing their own version of this particular item?

To keep it small, let’s focus on Instagram for a moment. I have lost count of the amount of ‘brands’ that have approached me asking me to back their new product which is yes, just another stainless steel straw. When I started my eco journey that was one of the first items that I “just had to have” in order for me to consider myself ‘eco’. I raced out and purchased a pack of four from the company EverEco a nice small (well okay not anymore) Australian company (backing a local business is important to me). From there I felt my journey could really begin.

#Trending – Do Trending Topics Help or Hinder a Cause?

I think the reusable straw movement really kicked off when the video of a sea turtle having a straw removed from his/her navel cavity filmed back in 2015 began recirculating in 2017. (Click the link if you want to watch it, viewer discretion is advised. Watch at own risk). This video REALLY picked up A LOT of traction, Instagram pages began popping up, #savetheturtles became a trending hashtag even celebs hopped on the reusable straw bandwagon. HOWEVER the problem with something going viral is that it doesn’t last long.

Now, I am not saying this is a bad thing, the more people know about what is going on in our world the better. Education is an extremely powerful tool that can empower a community and create real change. Think of any movement that has been successful. It was (a.) backed by people who believed in the cause and (b.) allowed people to learn and educate themselves on said topic, ultimately empowering, helping and giving a voice to the individuals or community involved, think of the #MeToo movement for example.

However, for real and meaningful change to be made it cannot just be a hashtag, it cannot just be buying a straw, it is a lot more than this. Policies need to be changed, laws need to be put into place there is only so much we can do as a community before we need the government to step in. Now, I’m not saying give up, I’m saying, make your voice louder. If you really want to incite change and are really passionate about something write a letter (respectfully, obviously) to your local council, to the minister of the environment, to the PM if you really wanted to. Basically, to someone who will listen, that’s where the change needs to happen. But I DO NOT want to get into politics at the moment, it’s not really my scene anyway. Maybe another post…

But, back to greenwashing.

Some Examples

  • A plastic package containing a new *insert item here* is labelled “recyclable.” However, it isn’t clear if the packaging or the *item* recyclable. Either way, the label is deceptive due to the fact that the item or packaging may not actually be recyclable, it could only be small components (It is not specified). NOTE: Companies attempting to be greener or are green will specify which parts of their products can and cannot be recycled.
  • An item/product is labelled “50% more recycled content than before.” The manufacturer increased the recycled content from 2% to 3%. Although technically true, the message conveys the false impression that the item contains a significant amount of recycled materials.
  • A bin liner is labelled as “recyclable.” Bin liners are not ordinarily separated from other rubbish at the landfill or incinerator. So chances are it isn’t going to be used again. The claim is deceptive since it suggests an environmental benefit where one doesn’t actually exist.

True Intentions

Image taken off of their website

The marketers of truly green products are only too happy to be specific about the benefits of their products. The website for Allbirds, for example, explains that their shoes are made from merino wool, their laces made from recycled plastic bottles and the insoles contain castor bean oil. They even go as far as to say that the shoe boxes are made from recycled cardboard.

How To Spot It

  1. When looking at a green product, check and see if the company is known for being eco-friendly. Is it easy to find information on the company’s sustainable business practices?
  2. Search the company name with the word “environment” and see the search results. If there are any consumer and environmental advocates complaining about the company, buyer beware!
  3. Trust your gut feeling! Does it seem real, or is it fake?
  4. Look for certifications and labels! Sometimes “greenwashers” will make their own fake certifications. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up. – Here are examples of real certifications: Australian Certified Organic (ACO), NASAA and MSC Approved just to name a few.
Picture taken by me at Taronga Zoo – Note: This seal cannot be released back into the wild due to medical reasons. He is now being used for educational purposes AND no, no one is allowed to touch, go near or pose for photos with him.

Summary

  1. Greenwashing is an attempt to capitalise on the growing demand for products that are environmentally sound.
  2. Greenwashing can convey a false impression that a company or its products are environmentally sound.
  3. Truly green products back up their claims with facts and details.

My Final Thoughts…

What are your thoughts on greenwashing? Have you seen an increase in false advertising regarding green products? Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram or shoot me an email at makgoeseco@gmail.com if you have any questions concerns or if I missed anything. A friendly reminder; this is a learning platform where I myself am still learning (every day). So, if you do not agree with something that is OKAY let me know (respectfully) and I’ll make sure to update this post or any future posts, ideas, stories etc… 

HAVE A GREAT DAY AND THANK YOU FOR READING!

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