“Greenwashing” isn’t your niece’s latest art project—it’s the term for false claims made by manufacturers about their products’ eco-friendliness and sustainability.
95% Of Environmental Claims Unproven
Another word for this practice is “lying.” And it’s hugely common. Environmental-marketing company TerraChoice, through investigation of over 5,000 products sold in the U.S. and Canada, found that over 95% of these products made unproven environmental claims. From The Wall Street Journal:
Among the infractions found: fibbing about or having no proof of environmental claims, vague or poorly defined marketing language, such as "all-natural," and the use of fake labels designed to imply a product has third-party certification or endorsement of its claims.
It Starts With The Children
Particularly offensive are the claims made about baby products. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a compound used to enhance plastics that is often used for baby products such as pacifiers and bottles. Many recognize that it may have adverse health effects, especially on infants, and Canada has even gone so far as to declare it a toxic substance. Obviously, manufacturers immediately steered clear of the BPA, and said so right on the package. Well, maybe not so obviously—less than 1% of baby products can prove their environmental claims. How are we supposed to trust the sticker?
Another prime offender is products claiming to be Energy-Star certified, which means that they meet government standards for using less energy than previous models and saving us money.
Don’t Let Stickers Decide Your Purchases
This is a good time to access that well of cynicism. Manufacturers see the movement to become environmentally responsible—quite rightly—as a marketing opportunity, and jump to assert that their products are “better for the environment.” Remember, “better” is subjective. Generally, if it begins with "more" or ends in “er,” it varies on a person-to-person basis. Yummier, more fun, cleaner, smarter…advertisers have a host of words that we rarely question. But perhaps we should. As movements gain momentum, certain words lose their meaning: organic is right up there with environmentally-friendly. Feel free to buy whatever you want—but don’t base it on baseless claims. You could be getting greenwashed.
For official, trustworthy certifications, see the Journal’s list. CLICK HERE.
Tell us in the comments: Do you ever buy products just because they say that they’re “good for the environment?”