Are You Being Greenwashed?

6 things to verify as a conscious consumer

Ashley Lauren
Sep 29, 2019 · 3 min read

How many times have you gravitated toward a tag that says “natural” or “organic,” believing the product is safer for you/the environment?

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copyright @freshpressedginger

Companies have recognized the importance of conscious consumerism and have tailored (sometimes deceptive) marketing practices by using keywords such as “eco-friendly” and “green” to convey the idea that they’re sustainable, without that being the case.

Be wary of:

Fluffy Language: eco-friendly, bio-degradable, organic, natural, green, compostable, et cetera.

Straw Man Green: is a really dirty company selling one green product (such as an organic clothing line alongside its regular line, in a factory with low-wage labor that pollutes a water source nearby), or over-emphasizing a small “green” detail in an effort to cover up much larger, not-so-green practices (such as donating 5% of profits to a green organization, even though their company is destroying natural resources through unsustainable cotton sourcing)?

Fake Endorsements: does the “XYZ Green Academy” that you’ve never heard of recommend the product? Be wary of completely made up shell companies that are used to make something on paper, legally be “OK” when it means absolutely nothing.

Look for the business’s:

(usually done easily by a Google search — unless it’s right on the label)

  1. Intention
    Is the company’s sole mission profit and sales (bad), or is it to contribute to a better world for both the present and future (good)? Find this in the company’s vision and/or mission statements.
  2. Material Traceability
    Is the material sourced in a manner that doesn’t erode the environment it comes from? If possible, is it locally sourced, supporting livelihoods directly, and/or, does it meet Fairtrade standards?
  3. Labor Standards & Practices
    Is employment at the company freely chosen, with safe and hygienic working conditions? Are living wages paid, working hours not in excess, and regular benefits provided? No harsh/inhuman treatment is acceptable — nor is child labor.
  4. Plant Processing Methods
    Does the company process in plants that contribute to increased pollution (bad), or does it take measures to reduce/eliminate chemical byproducts (good)? Or, even better, does it operate in a closed loop process?
  5. Packaging & Shipping Materials & Process
    Are products shipped in biodegradable or reusable containers, with no microplastics or dangerous toxins in shipment?
  6. Transparency
    Are the company’s procedures and the products’ life cycles clearly traceable from start to finish and openly available as information to the consumer (you)?
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