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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Wilmink

What is greenwashing?


According to the Merriam–Webster Dictionary, greenwashing is the act or practice of making a product or policy appear more environmentally friendly than it really is.


Green washing creates a false impression that a company or its products are environmentally friendly. Companies greenwash to capitalize on growing demands by socially-responsible consumers, or to overshadow their environmentally damaging business practices.


Watch out for these common greenwashing tactics.


Baseless claims that a product is good for the environment.

If a company makes claims that are hard to verify, proceed with caution. A company that is truly invested in environmental and social responsibility will provide sources that measure and support its claims. The very best businesses will use third party organizations to verify their business practices, examples include B Corp Certified and Leaping Bunny.


Using unclear, vague, or misleading terminology.

Some companies will use deceptive terms like “eco-friendly” or “sustainable,” which are not measurable and are subjective to interpretation. A company committed to improving their environmental impact will be specific and transparent, and show you how they define and measure their claims.


Hidden trade-offs.

An example of a hidden trade-off is a company advertising that its product is produced with recycled materials, but is then sourced from a supplier that dumps toxic chemicals into waterways. These are the hardest types of greenwashing to spot, because the company is asking you to focus on something good that's not connected to the actual problem.


It’s important to note that there is a cost to doing business in any capacity. At CompostNow for example, we are transparent about the carbon emissions of our fleet, however the benefits of composting and diverting waste from landfills drastically outweigh the emissions our operations produce. Still, we share our numbers because we want you to make that decision for yourself as an informed consumer, and welcome questions and open dialogue about how we can continue to improve.


How can conscious consumers avoid greenwashing?


Buy local! Get to know the people and businesses that make, source, and sell the products you use.


Consume less! Ask yourself if the product or service you are buying is providing true value to your life.


Educate yourself! It can be overwhelming to know where to start, so start small (like the soap you buy or the fruit you eat) and learn slowly over time.


A good starting point is going directly to a company’s website or FAQ page to see if they openly answer your questions. You can also find a trusted list by a third party to narrow down which companies are worth investing in!


Bonus Points! Don’t just research the product, research the people that make the product! For example, do the company owners have a shady history or a deep connection to harmful companies? That could give you a clue about their true business motives and sincerity of their programs.


Conclusion


While it can be overwhelming to sort through good companies and companies that greenwash from the companies that don’t, starting slow and becoming an informed consumer over time will lead to better buying decisions.


The more consumers demand transparency and environmental responsibility, the more companies will have to respond by rising to the demand!





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