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What the Heck is Green Washing?! + How to Avoid It!

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Danielle Alvarado


Green is in! Because of that, businesses and industries are trying to innovate their products or services to have a tinier carbon footprint. A lot of consumers are also demanding eco-friendly choices. This demand means income to businesses and industries. And because of their eagerness to sell more, a marketing strategy we call greenwashing has begun. 

How to Avoid Green Washing in your Purchases

  1. Know what the definition of Green Washing is!

    According to Wikipedia, greenwashing or “Green Sheen” is a marketing strategy in which “green values” or green marketing are wrongfully used. Their target is to make consumers believe that a business or industry aims to produce environmentally friendly products or services. 

    For example, a company will claim that their products are made from recycled plastic or emit fewer carbon footprints during production. Although some parts are actual, businesses exaggerate their advertisement, which misleads consumers. This marketing strategy aims to exploit the expanding demand for eco-friendly products.

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  2. Understand how Green Washing began

    In the 1960’s Jerry Mander, a former Madison Avenue advertising executive, called a new marketing strategy “ecopornography.” It started when environmental awareness is booming, and most companies began to create advertisements that make their image eco-friendly. Fast forward to 1970, when the first Earth Day was celebrated; this event encourages industries to promote themselves as environmentally friendly.

    Jay Westervelt, a New York Environmentalist, wrote the term greenwashing in his essay regarding the hotel industry’s practice of placing cards on hotel rooms that promote to reuse of towels to supposedly “save the environment.”. These hoteliers show little to no effort to be environmentally friendly. The sole purpose of their advertisement is to increase income. Hence, Westervelt labeled this and other allegedly eco-conscious tactics yet aimed for a more significant profit, greenwashing.

    Many more companies have used this marketing strategy since 1970, and according to a survey, these companies are trusted more by customers regarding being green. Up until now, this marketing hype is used to exploit consumer’s interest in being eco-friendly.

  3. Know the various types of Green Washing out there

    Greenwashing can be identified in different categories.

    Secret Agreements: Some companies put up an environmentally friendly front, but at the back, a non-environmentally friendly agreement has been happening. 

    Proofless Companies: assert that their products are green with all those expensive advertisements, yet they don’t show proof that their products are eco-friendly.

    Pointless Testimony: You may encounter some labels that say “not tested on animals”. This label is pointless, especially if it is from China, where animal testing is required. Another example of meaningless testimony is companies claiming that their products don’t include a particular ingredient when the government already bans the said ingredient. So it is pointless to put it on the label or advertisement of a product. Companies that do this want to have something to put on their campaigns, so people who have less knowledge on these things will be deceived.

    Eco-images: Usually, when companies that your environment images, like grass, leaves, animals, and other green ideas are greenwashing. In my observation, eco-friendly products mostly use plain packaging and simple branding.

    A notch under: These companies’ claims are 100% true for their products, but beneath it lies a higher risk or environmental impact.

    Deceitful Characterization: Products that are labeled without additional proof of what they claim. Most greenwashing advertisements has these words “all-natural”, “100% organic”.

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  4. Identify Greenwashing VS Green Marketing VS Green Scamming

    There’s no doubt that our market is now full of eco-friendly products. These products have substantial proof that backed up their claims of being environmentally friendly, like industry-recognized certificates or government standard certificates. Moreover, these companies are transparent about their business operation. 

    So what is the difference between the three?

    Green marketing is very complex to define but let’s just put it this way. Green marketing is the process of manufacturing and advertising your product in a crystal clear way with its true environmental sustainability. Companies show how they can change from being revenue-focused to eco-conscious companies.

    One good example of green marketing is Patagonia. As you know, Patagonia is one of our recommended brands when it comes to sustainable fashion. They spent their effort researching how to be more sustainable. Their transparency on being not entirely “green” captures the heart of the consumers. 
    While green marketing is being honest, green scamming is another thing. These companies use green-sounding names for products or organizations that are not eco-friendly. Some companies use this tactic, so people will presume that this company really cares for the environment when they have an ulterior motive. 

    One example of a green scam organization is the Northwesterners for More Fish. The name suggests that they are protecting our ocean, but the truth is they opposed the conservation measures for endangered fishes. In 1998, they had a budget of $2.6million. They also tried to smear environmentalist who promotes fish habitat. 

  5. Finally, it’s all up to us (until we can get the government to step in)

    In conclusion, greenwashing is advertising a product exaggeratedly, and most of the part is not true. In contrast, green marketing is being true and transparent about your company. And green scamming is like having a mask; the outer look eco-conscious, but they are not environmentally friendly behind the mask. Sadly, it’s up to the consumer to find out if the company is honest or not about its “Green Approach”. Another reason why Sustainably Kind Living was started! Shop our full sustainable directory to find the best sustainable and eco-friendly brands out there.

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