How to Avoid Greenwashing and become a savvy conscious consumer

You may have heard the term “Greenwashing” but I wonder how many of us really understand it, how to identify it and most importantly, how to avoid it.

It's time. I mean, has there been a better time to become a confident conscious consumer who can cut through the BS?  

How to Avoid greenwashing | Planet over profit

So, what is Greenwashing? And why should you care. 

Put simply, Greenwashing is when a brand makes misleading or outright false claims that deceive you into thinking you’re buying a natural (clean) or an environmentally friendly product when in really, you're not. Pretty shifty huh!

Sadly, greenwashing is EVERYWHERE. This practice misleads consumers into believing that they are making environmentally responsible choices when instead, they may in fact be supporting products or companies that have a negative impact on the planet.

It’s so important for you to be aware of and avoid greenwashing. You can and should actively seek out credible, third-party certifications or evidence to support environmental claims made by companies.

You’ll see so many claims; ‘natural’, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘from recycled plastic’, ‘biodegradable’ but what you won’t see is any evidence to back up them up. Deliberately left out will be any evidence to support these claims and of course any negative impacts the product (or its production) may be having on the environment.

Cue you becoming savvy at spotting greenwashing!

Here are 8 ways to spot and avoid Greenwashing. 

       1. Be wary of green imagery:

Green imagery (think leafy, nature-y logo) and fancy flora on packaging does not mean a product is green so don’t be swayed solely by packaging. The marketing goal here is to be perceived as natural but truth be told, the product inside may be far from it.

Look for evidence that supports their clever packaging; check out the ingredients list and also delve deeper into the business’s practices and credentials. If you find label reading tricky (you’re not alone), we’ve broken it down for you in in our ‘Understanding labels’ blog. 

       2. No, ‘made from recycled plastic’ is NOT green. 

    Arghh, it’s still bloody plastic (and a huge pet peeve of ours). Have you wondered where it will end up? Sadly, it’s heading straight to landfill; taking 100s of years to break down.

    Unfortunately, more than 90% of plastic produced today is NOT recycled, and yep, the majority ends up in our oceans. It’s been estimated that plastics in our oceans will outweigh fish by 2050, please stop for a moment to consider the impact of this. Currently in Australia, about 80% of the plastic that we conscientiously put into our curbside recycling bin is not being recycled. That's a lot of plastic pollution. 

    Plastic pollution | Avoiding greenwashing | The White Pigeon Said


    Let’s look at the facts here; plastic can only be recycled 1-2 times before heading to landfill so using recycled plastic or claiming a product is recyclable isn’t the solution and claiming that it is greenwashing.

    It's time to stop falling for the ‘it’s recycled' or  'recyclable’ marketing. If there is an option to buy cardboard or tin over plastic, please choose the truly environmentally friendly option.

    No Plastic | Avoiding Greenwashing

     Another important note that I feel must be addressed here are Bioplastics.

    These are bio-based polymers made from natural starting materials (usually sugar) rather than petrochemicals. Sounds pretty good right? Bioplastics are often thought to be better for the planet (a debate that I'll save for another day). Yes, they break down much faster than traditional plastics but what isn’t openly shared is that they require very specific environmental conditions (including access to oxygen and sunlight) for them to break down; conditions that are greatly lacking in landfill. So really, just another form of greenwashing. 

          3. Check for certifications.

    Check out the certifications the business has to back up their claims.

    Many little logos you see on packages are just simple graphics that can be downloaded and added to any product. Look for third party certifications from reputable organization. One example is the Australian Certified Organic Standard (ACO) for products claiming to be organic. Unless you see this logo on an organic claiming product it is not certified. Others might include Fairtrade or EcoCert

    A little side note; some certifications, like ACO are pretty costly to acquire. If you're looking to support a small business (and I say, go you!!!) and they are claiming to be organic but you don't see the authorized ACO logo, it's worth reaching out to them.

           4. Research!

    Research the company claiming to be environmentally friendly. Go to their website, check out what are they are actively doing for the environment, what environmental initiatives they've got going on. Have a look at a companies values; do they align with sustainable practices beyond just marketing claims? 

           5. Watch out for vague claims; What are you not being told?

    Buzz words like “eco- friendly” or “sustainable” without anything to back it up must be questioned. Look for specific details on how it’s sustainable or eco-friendly. Genuine sustainability claims are usually backed by clear explanations and verifiable information.  

          6. Scrutinize marketing language

    Greenwashing often involves exaggerations or overstatements, using phrases like ‘Greenest Ever’ or ‘100% Eco Friendly’ without any further explanation; red flag alert! Look for concrete and specific claims rather than broad statements that lack substance.

           7. Consider the bigger picture and assess the entire product lifecycle.

    A company that produces just one environmentally friendly product will potentially still have a huge carbon footprint due to other products or their supply and production practices. Genuine sustainability extends beyond one aspect.

    Consider the entire lifecycle of a product, including sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, use, and disposal. If a product is claiming to be planet-friendly, these factors should be addressed, not just one isolated factor.

           8. Trust your instincts

    If something seems too good to be true or raises your suspicions, you’ve got to go with your gut. Avoid greenwashing by using critical thinking and a discerning eye to properly assess sustainability claims.

    By being vigilant, researching and questioning claims, you will become a savvy consumer and start to spot greenwashing more effectively. Hold companies accountable for their sustainability claims and support genuinely eco-conscious brands making a positive impact.




    1 comment

    • As someone who was naive to the term thank you


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