Greenwashing isn’t cool, but being aware and informed about it is.
Greenwashing is a set of techniques that companies use to make themselves and their products seem environmentally sound. This ‘painting over’ of reality generally gives little thought to the actual greenness of the content, process, message, packaging, distribution, or the planet in general.
As public awareness of environmental concerns increases, so too does the cleverness with which non-greenies seek to mask their eco-destructive ways.
According to TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc. and thestar.com, there are six greenwashing sins:
1. Hidden trade-offs: A product that’s eco-friendly in some ways, but not others, such as paper from sustainable forests that’s bleached by methods that release dioxin.
2. No proof: A claim that can’t be substantiated by easily available information or reliable certification, such as toilet paper claiming a certain percentage of recycled content, but without evidence.
3. Vagueness: A claim so poorly defined its meaning will likely be misunderstood. “All natural” isn’t always non-toxic, for instance.
4. Irrelevance: A claim that may be truthful but not helpful – CFC-free is a frequent claim, but CFCs are banned by law.
5. Fibbing: False claims, such as products claiming to be Energy Star-certified that are not.
6. Lesser of two evils: A claim true within a product’s category, but not for the category overall, such as a “fuel-efficient SUV.”