If you’re new to sustainability you may have not heard of the term “greenwashing”. Essentially greenwashing is the advertisement and marketing of a product that is not actually any more sustainable than a regular product. If you haven’t read my previous blog on the different forms of sustainability then I highly suggest you read it first and then come back to this one, it will make more sense with the examples.
First let’s start with an example, no brand names mentioned today. Setting the scene, we’re at Target and have decided to replace our regular detergent with a more environmentally friendly brand. We just saw on instagram that old detergent water goes back into our waterways and kills our plants, fish, and farm irrigation. We’re totally freaked out, want to do our part and are ready put our dollars on our ethics. We’re nervous that it won’t clean our clothes as well, our whites won’t be as white, colors not as bright but it’s a risk we’re willing to take to save the fish!
Enter the laundry detergent aisle, we know from the slew of instagrammers, pinners, and bloggers that Target has options for us and they are in a special little section, for our ease of course. All these detergents have minimalistic labels, weird looking plastics, and label themselves as “green” “clean” “non-toxic”; we know we have found our supplies. We pick the best deal and “greenest looking one.
Later, we find out that your pricey detergent is actually greenwashed and is just as toxic for the environment as your regular. We feel discouraged, lied to, and ready to give up. If the “good guys” aren’t actually good then why do we try and what else can we do?
This has been me on more than one account. This is actually a scene from my life. I still regularly feel like this with each new innovative product that is actually an old formula in a new bottle and new catch phrases.
There’s hope for us yet though, there are ways and tools to spot greenwashing with the scan of your phone or an easy search engine before you shop. My two favorite tools are EWG database which though a bit dated in some aspects still provides reliable information on everything from the best in season fruits and veg to the exact reason why certain chemicals and ingredients shouldn’t be used. It is a holy grail for someone with a little extra time and the drive to learn. I have spent many hours here just looking up ingredients to burn into my memory. The second app, mentioned in my Non-Toxic Skincare Haul is ThinkDirty app which is purely for make-up and skincare. This is a holy grail item as I can go to Ulta and scan products and see their toxicity to the human body. ThinkDirty is a very strict app and has high standards for ingredients, so while some ingredients may be non-toxic in small doses, ThinkDirty outlaws any that may cause issues.
Greenwashing though is a tricky business the full picture of sustainability is why we actually have to think harder and research more before we put our money down. Toxicity is just one marker on the sustainability of a product. We have to think of everything from sourcing it’s ingredients, treatment of employees from harvesters to packaging, to the biodegradability of the packaging. If a company has a clean product but uses slave labor and non-recyclable packaging then it’s not sustainable at all it’s just non-toxic. That is where greenwashing get’s it’s most sticky.
I want to end this blog with the 5 steps I take before I make any new purchases. This is an old habit I bringing from the grave because being lazy and feeling guilty is not a vibe I want to keep bringing to the universe.
- google products I want to replace
- research brands and products on their own website, FAQ, blogs, and related apps
- e-mail company with any questions, if they refuse to respond, respond without actually answering, or answer but no longer fit with my ethics then they leave the list
- find a human store to purchase my replacement products- normally I have a few options to replace my product incase I can’t find something
- be grateful I tried my best and continue to be aware about any issues about current products in use
Finally, I know that product swapping and can be a truly disheartening experience. We can’t find an exact replacement, the ethics of a company are hazy at best, and nothing truly seems to be good enough. That’s where I’m at, a place where it feels that nothing I do will be truly good enough to help our environment and humanity grow healthier and that’s okay. With every dollar spent on an ethical, green company creates a clear pattern of growth for large corporations to look at. Things are already changing and I’m excited!
Example: Rise in veganism and vegetarianism creates massive loss for Tyson chicken!
Comment below what products you’re tired of being greenwashed or what products you bought and later found out were just as bad as your previous ones! I’d love to know!