How many times have you bought something that said “made with 60% more recycled materials than before” or “we have decreased our carbon emissions by 40%” or just by seeing the word “green” on a label, and thought you were being super eco?
My guess is - more often than you think. I know I have. You have then been caught in the marketing trick called “greenwashing” or “green sheen”, together with the majority if world population. The terms originates from “whitewashing”, which means using false information to gloss over some bad behaviour.
So what is greenwashing after all? According to Investopideia greenwashing is “… the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are more environmentally sound. Greenwashing is considered an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company's products are environmentally friendly.”
To put it in simple terms, greenwashing is a marketing technique created to make you believe that a product or company is eco-friendly when it actually isn’t.
Unfortunately this isn’t something that just started happening since Global Warming became part of our daily lexicon, it’s been around for a while. The term itself originated in the 60’s of the 20th century when hotels placed notes in hotel rooms advising their guest to reuse their towels to save the environment. The real reason for that was for the hotels to save on laundry costs.
The examples are countless, Coca-Cola and it’s “natural” sugar, VW and the low emission cars, BP and it’s relabelling to Beyond Petroleum and the gas stations with solar panels, Fiji Water and the untouched by man advert and so on and on.
Look at it this way, if the giants are doing it, most of the smaller companies are following suit. All natural, free range chicken is not good for the environment, it still requires those chickens to be fed with corn that is cultivated intensively in an area that was probably a rain forest in Brazil before that (besides the fact that you shouldn’t be eating animals anyway). A shampoo that says “now made with recycled plastic” and comes in a green bottle, doesn’t mean is eco-friendly. Have you pondered how much of the plastic that the bottle is made of is actually recycled or even recyclable?
If you see a label saying “save the Planet”, don’t buy it, you can’t save the Planet, they can’t save the Planet, no one can. What we can do is change our behaviours in order to let the Planet allow us to live on it longer.
I know this sounds controversial or even contradictory but, the best way to contribute to a greener, more sustainable future is to consume less, to consume more consciously, to consume smarter and to consume for your needs and not for your wants. Then you can claim that you are “saving the Planet”.
Buying twenty 10€ t-shirts a year doesn’t help, buying five, higher quality, sustainably, locally, consciously made 40€ t-shirts helps. Buying grass fed beef doesn’t help, going vegan does. Buying a coffee every morning and chucking the cup away doesn’t help, getting a reusable travel mug (plastic free if possible) and using it for a few years does. Having always a reusable water bottle with you and drinking tap water (if safe) does. Buying at the local market and carrying you groceries in a tote, reusable bag does. Growing some of your own food does. Recycling and repurposing or donating your clothes does. Not buying 50 billion presents every Xmas does. Hoping on the car when you can walk 2 miles doesn’t. The list goes on…
So next time you go shopping on or offline, check where the stuff you’re buying comes from, think if you really need it, see what is made of and read the small print (it’s always in the small print).
By becoming more informed, less greedy and more aware, you’ll be actually contributing for a brighter future and even manage to safe yourself some money.