100% recyclable. Eco-friendly. Made with 50% more recyclables. Made with natural ingredients. Do these labels sound familiar at all? Whether we are looking at packaging, household supplies, personal care products, or food, we seem to believe that a product is better when it’s more environmentally conscious. I mean, wouldn’t we all want to reduce our carbon footprint even in the smallest ways possible? However, these labels can be misleading towards consumers as the amount of natural resources conserved is ambiguous, with a lack of disclaimers describing when the product will biodegrade. Essentially, this is known as “greenwashing” as it is used as an attempt to capitalize on the growing demand through false advertisements depicting the wellness of the environment.
A garbage bag is labelled as recyclable, even though garbage bags are not reused when diverted into the landfill or incinerator
Batteries from LEI Electronics are labelled as carbon-neutral, made from 80% recyclable materials, compostable and biodegradable. With further research, these batteries only had recyclable packaging, rather than the entity of the battery. Their certifications of carbon-neutral was just approved in Canada based on a life-cycle assessment, but did not pass the certification for the US Market.
Arrowhead is a water bottle that states “mother nature is our muse”, showing pristine photos of mountains and forests on their bottles as well as advertising to “double down, grab two” making it seem ok to buy more bottles based on their claim of an “eco-slim” cap.
In addition to labels, companies publicizing their efforts in reducing water pollution or greenhouse gas emissions, or investing in environmental initiatives such as reforestation is a form of greenwashing as well. It is imperative that companies are aware of consumer behavior , especially millennials that spend $600 billion a year, making up 30% of the global market. The Shelton Group published the Millennial Pulse Report that surveyed 1000 respondents.
72% of millennials were skeptical or neutral on companies claiming to have environmental and social business practices, whereas 36% fully trusted companies
59% of millennials rely on companies to target solutions regarding climate change and complex sustainable solutions.
70% of a company’s environmental practices impacts a millennial’s purchasing decision
How to Distinguish Between Greenwashing and Genuine:
Full transparency of accountability: MEC is an outdoors clothing retailer that has a page quantifying the reduction of waste, various techniques in reducing water use, investing in renewables such as solar panels on the roofs of select stores.
Overly complicated scientific language of a product with no proven evidence
Oil, petroleum companies such as Exxon Mobil, and Shell that claim to have environmental initiatives are false
Look for a rating system. Whole foods has an Eco-Scale Rating system for household cleaners that display no harmful ingredients such as formaldehyde, phosphates, chlorine, surfactants and synthetic thickeners that would impact human health and the environment