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What is Greenwashing? - Earth Week

If you're like me, bright-eyed and still hoping for the best out of others, you might think that it's the responsibility of every company to ensure their operations are environmentally responsible. In fact, you might even trust these companies when they share their actions and views on what it means to be sustainable. In today's blog, I'll touch on what Greenwashing is, how to identify it, and what you can do about it.

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is when a company uses claims of sustainability or environmental consciousness as a marketing ploy without actually taking environmentally responsible actions. Sometimes, these companies are actively harming the environment while making these claims. These companies often spend more money on making themselves look environmentally responsible than they do on actual environmentally responsible actions.

The term Greenwashing was coined by Environmentalist Jay Westerveld in the 80's in a essay he wrote about the "save the towel" movement. Which was the push from hotels to encourage their guests to use towels more than once during their stay or not have the sheets changed as often. Per Westerveld, this movement served the hotels in reducing laundry costs but not much else.

Why do companies do it?

Many consumers are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and buying from sustainable companies who work for and care about the planet is one way to do that. Marketing to these consumers widens their customer base and generates profit.

However, not all companies do so maliciously. Some want to be part of the movement and may start advertising themselves as engaging in responsible actions before they've even done the work to figure out how they can be that type of company.

How can we, as consumers, identify Greenwashing?

  • Notice if the company uses lots of environmental buzzwords but doesn't have a lot of info on exactly how they are so "eco-friendly"

  • Look at their parent company and/or the origin of the company. For example, a known meat-producing company suddenly offering vegan options. It is likely motivated by profit and expanding the customer base, not by animal rights or environmental concerns

  • Think about the products themselves, how far do they travel to be sold? Is the cost incredibly low? We know the further a product travels to its destination the less sustainable it is, just as we know chemicals or products used to make items cheaply harm the environment.

What are some ways to identify companies who truly are making positive environmental impacts?

One way to identify a company that is committed to improving the world through their business is look for the Certified B Corporation stamp. "A Certified B Corp is a for-profit corporation that has been certified by B Lab, which is a non-profit company that measures a company’s social and environmental performance against the standards in the online B Impact Assessment."

Look for Certified Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance Certified labels

How familiar are you with Greenwashing? There is a lot to learn, I'm still uncovering so much! What will you do to avoid Greenwashing companies?

I'm loving reading all of your sustainability and environmentally responsible tips and tricks. On Saturday, I plan to compile them all into their very own blog. So share as much as you'd like on any of the Earth Week blogs this week, you're likely to see it highlighted in the wrap up blog on Saturday.

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