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Local Limelight: Weeklyish Articles Of Interest

Fool Me Once: How to Avoid Getting Greenwashed

Greenwashing is a set of practices that companies use to mislead consumers about their environmental practices or about the environmental impact of their products or services. You want to make responsible buying choices, but with so much “green” everywhere, how do you avoid getting greenwashed?

First, learn what greenwashing entails. There are seven sins of greenwashing:

•    hidden trade-offs (e.g. phosphate free but not biodegradable detergent)
•    no proof for the green claim (e.g. percentage of recycled content)
•    vague claim (e.g. “all natural” or “local”)
•    false labels
•    irrelevance (e.g. “CFC free” while CFCs were banned decades ago)
•    lesser of two evils (e.g. organic cigarettes or hybrid SUV)
•    fibbing

Next, understand that to catch greenwashing claims you must do your homework. Verify claims for all products, particularly in children products, cosmetics, and cleaning products categories, where greenwashing occurs most frequently. Greenwashing counts on consumers' ignorance or confusion so educating yourself, through websites like GreenwashingIndex.com, is the best strategy. You may even find you don't need that green product at all.

Finally, be aware that few products are, in fact, green. For a product to be truly environmentally friendly it must have no or, even better, positive or restorative impact on the environment. Only products designed according to cradle-to-cradle or closed-loop principles meet this definition, because their production, consumption, and disposal generate material (food) for other products or nature, instead of waste. “Green products” on the shelves these days fall somewhere on the green spectrum, but rarely are they completely green.

By Peter Korchnak, owner of Semiosis Communications and writer of the Sustainable Marketing Blog.

Image credits:
•    Convenient truth: Shira Golding
•    Sins of greenwashing: unity.project





 

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