Greenwashing:  Being an Informed Consumer

greenwashing-cartoon1We all know that “going green” is trendy, and while I’m happy many companies are truly becoming eco-friendly, many more are jumping on the bandwagon and claiming to be “sustainable” without any proof to actually back up their claims.  Furthermore, these companies are charging you and I more money, since many of us will pay more to be (what we think is) eco-conscious.

Adding to the problem, greenwashing can be very difficult to spot.  We live in a time where it is necessary to research everything before we buy it, since companies are going out of their way to trick us with their labeling. Studies show that about half of consumers seek out food with “natural” labeling, and companies know this.  In reality, “natural” isn’t regulated by any agency and has no meaningful standards.  Foods with GMOs, hormones, pesticides, and artificial ingredients can all be labeled as “natural”.

The problem is exacerbated with non-food products, such as “pure and natural” diapers or “better for the environment” plastic bags.  Some companies use the color green, pictures of trees or natural landscapes, or words like “eco” or “enviro” to trick consumers into purchasing their product, even though nothing about the product is eco-friendly.  If something “eco” seems too good to be true (especially plastics, overly-processed foods, and single-use items), it probably is.

So, how can you find things that are truly good for the earth (and your body!)?  I’ve got a few solutions for you:

  • Shop Local. Go to farmer’s markets and talk to the people who grow and butcher your food.  Visit their farms and check it out for yourself.
  • Read labels. I personally don’t buy foods with ingredients I can’t pronounce.
  • Look for USDA Organic labeling for foods.

  • Look for Third Party Certification
    . These are recognized bodies that ensure a company is actually backing up its eco-friendly claims. Look for these popular labels (see full list here):American-Grassfed.png

    • American Grassfed
    • Animal Welfare Approvedcertified-humane-raised-and-handled
    • Certified Humane Raised and Handled
    • Certified Naturally Grownleaping-bunny
    • The Leaping Bunny (for cosmetics)
  • When in doubt, Google it. Seriously, it takes three minutes to look something up on your phone while standing in the store.  Look for reviews outside of the company website, which will give you a more accurate picture.

It is more important than ever to be a conscious, informed consumer.  Current (lack of) regulations allow companies to misguide consumers.  Luckily, we have the tools to make informed decisions.  It is well worth the few minutes out of our day to make sure we are buying items that are not only good for the environment, but also good for us!

 

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