The Sins of Greenwashing

Green-wash (green’wash’, -wôsh’) – verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. – The Greenwashing Report

When I made the connection between eating clean and living green I quickly realized that both would take a considerable amount of effort to achieve. While eating clean has taught me the value of reading labels, it’s much harder to make that leap with the living green part. Typically, I don’t purchase a food item if I don’t recognize or understand what is listed on the label. The more ingredients an item has the less likely I am to purchase it – especially if there are chemicals, processed food additives or refined sugars. That’s pretty easy to figure out.

With other household items it’s a whole lot harder. As I mentioned in my Parfum and Gloom post, the ingredient lists on beauty products are almost impossible to decipher without a degree in chemistry. Household cleaning products and other items are even more complicated. That’s why I was so irritated when I read The Greenwashing Report 2010, which outlines just how many corporations are misleading consumers about the environmental impact of their products. The report found that, “more than 95% of consumer products claiming to be green were found to commit at least one of the ‘sins of Greenwashing.’” It was a startling number.

I learned with cosmetic products that often those labeled as natural or organic still contain potentially toxic chemicals. If you aren’t able to pick out the toxins from the ingredient list you are left with only the marketer’s claims about how green the product is. And those are wholly suggestive. With Greenwashing you also have to consider things like ‘The Sin of No Proof’ or “The Sin or Irrelevance.” You realize that you really need to look beyond marketing to figure out what is truly safe and truly green.

The report is not all doom and gloom – it also shows that consumer awareness and interest is helping to change things for the better. And that’s a great thing! The more we know about what we’re purchasing, the more likely we are to make good decisions and to steer corporations towards making greener products. I encourage everyone to read the report and to look at the ‘green’ products in your home. If you find any that are Greenwashing, be sure to complain to the company and post your findings on Facebook and Twitter to let others know. Leave a comment here too, as I would love to hear about your findings!