Lies have colors. There are white lies, and there are green lies—try not to fall for the green ones. And when I talk about green lies, I’m talking about greenwashing.
Greenwashing is a deceitful practice. It profits off of the people who are taking action for the earth. It involves using designs, claims, and cues implying products are more natural, eco-friendly, or sustainable, but in reality, they’re lying to you for them to earn more.
Why would companies lie about how “green” they are?
Let’s face it—our planet is deteriorating.
Because of this, more people have decided to act and create changes in their lives for the good of the planet.
More and more are switching to a sustainable lifestyle. This increasing demand for sustainable options drives companies to provide what people need.
Some corporations offer their products and services with a genuine desire to help.
Unfortunately, some companies take advantage of the rising demand for greener options. They’ve even become more creative in deceiving us to keep and add more customers.
Here are the most common green lies they make us believe:
Green Lie #1: No Proof
They make claims without providing accessible evidence on the product labels or on their website.
Example: Labeling a lamp ‘energy-efficient’ without supporting data.
Green Lie #2: Hidden Trade-off
Companies label their products as eco-friendly but ignore practices that have a bigger impact on the environment.
Example: A product has recycled content but production methods might be using energy from coal.
Green Lie #3: Vagueness
Using terms that are too broad or vague to be properly understood. This leads to misleading consumers into thinking the product is safe or good for the environment.
Example: Labeling a product as ‘all-natural’ but may still contain harmful ingredients that are occurring naturally.
1,358 natural substances appear in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI). Most of them are from plants, others are of animal, fungal, or bacterial origin. Out of these, 655 are enrolled in the EU database for classification and labeling, with 56% classified as hazardous chemicals and 21% as harmful to the environment.
Green Lie #4: Irrelevance
Their claim might be true, but it’s not a distinguishing factor when looking for eco-friendly products.
Example: Adding ‘CFC-free’ on the label when CFCs are already banned.
Green Lie #5: Fibbing
Advertising something that’s not true.
Example: They claim the product to be USDA Organic but it isn’t.
Green Lie #6. The Green Effect
Product designs include lots of greens and nature elements like leaves, flowers, or grass to project that the product is indeed eco-friendly.
Example: Consumers perceive that a hair color product is ‘organic’ because of its green-colored packaging and the statement ‘with natural extracts.’
Green Lie #7: Rebranding & Adding a Slogan
Companies create a new look for an existing and established product or brand to influence a customer’s perception. They use natural elements or colors in their logo, product, promotions, or website to connote an environmental vibe.
Example: Way back in 2000, British Petroleum replaced their old logo. The new design was meant to symbolize the company’s green growth strategy. Funny though, there’s nothing green about drilling oil.
Green Lie #8. Using False Labels
Implying that the product has a third-party certification that doesn’t actually exist.
Example: Using fake certification labels.
How not to be fooled by greenwashing:
- Thoroughly fact-check the labels and complete list of ingredients.
- Get to know which labels are fake.
- If the labels are from known certifying bodies, check the products from the online database of the certifying body. You can check if a product is USDA Organic here.
- Stop trusting slogans, pictures, and ads depicting nature. Instead, check the ingredients and research anything you’re not familiar with.
- Check their website or social media pages for proofs of being authentic sustainable products.
- Message the company. If they have nothing to hide, they can explain and prove their claims.
Have you seen examples of greenwashing, or would you like to add more ways to not be fooled by greenwashing? Tell us in the comments below!