How to Avoid Greenwashing When Shopping for Eco-Friendly Products

How to Avoid Greenwashing When Shopping for Eco-Friendly Products

How to Avoid Greenwashing When Shopping for Eco-Friendly Products

Greenwashing is when companies make misleading claims about how environmentally friendly their products are. As a conscious consumer, you want to avoid buying products that engage in greenwashing so you can make truly eco-friendly purchases. Here’s how to detect and avoid greenwashing when shopping.

Identify Vague, Misleading Claims

Companies that engage in greenwashing often use vague claims about their products being “eco-friendly,” “natural,” “green,” or “sustainable” without providing specifics. Be wary of overly broad claims – they are often meaningless. Look for concrete information on what makes the product environmentally friendly.

Some claims to watch out for include:

  • “All-natural” – This doesn’t necessarily mean environmentally friendly, especially without context.
  • “Non-toxic” – Few standards exist on what constitutes toxic, so this claim is vague.
  • “Green” – This term is broad and often misused for marketing purposes.

Seek out details on manufacturing processes, sourcing, emissions, ingredients, certifications, and lifecycle analyses to better understand how sustainable a product really is.

Examine Third-Party Certifications

Reputable third-party eco-labels and certifications back up claims with substance. Some labels to look for include:

  • Energy Star – Certifies energy efficiency of products.
  • USDA Organic – Verifies organic farming methods for food and textiles.
  • Forest Stewardship Council – Indicates sustainably harvested wood.

Research the standards behind the certification to see what criteria a product must meet. Beware of fake certifications created by the company itself with no verification.

Investigate Ingredients and Sourcing

Check out a product’s ingredients and sourcing. For example, personal care products loaded with synthetic chemicals are not eco-friendly regardless of marketing claims. For food and textile products, look for organic materials sourced through ethical supply chains.

Contact companies to ask for details if this information is unclear. Transparency is a good sign. Lack of transparency may indicate greenwashing.

Compare Against Competitors

Compare sustainability claims against similar products in the same category. Generate some skepticism if a product seems to stand out with exuberant claims. Dig into competitor reports for perspective. For example, reviewing sustainability reports from multiple fast fashion brands can illuminate discrepancies.

Consult Reliable Resources

Consult consumer advocacy groups, eco-labels, sustainability experts, and green rating systems for guidance. For example, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database rates cosmetic products on toxicity. Look to trusted third parties for insight on distinguishing truly eco-friendly products.

With scrutiny of claims, ingredients, and certifications, you can make empowered choices to avoid greenwashing. It takes some extra sleuthing, but the impact on driving positive change is immense. By supporting authentically eco-friendly products, our purchasing power catalyzes companies to prioritize sustainable practices.