Don’t be Fooled by Greenwashing!

Don’t be Fooled by Greenwashing!

Keep reading to learn how to make genuine eco-friendly choices and avoid being scammed by "green" companies that aren’t.

Greenwashing is an emerging marketing trend where corporations were greening up merely by saying so.

TerraChoice, the Ottawa company that awards the EcoLogo certification on behalf of Environment Canada and helps manufacturers market green goods by using audited certifications consumers can rely on, has identified seven sins of greenwashing to look out for.

Sin of the hidden trade-off

Committed by suggesting a product is “green” based on an unreasonably narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues. Paper, for example, is not necessarily environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a sustainably-harvested forest. Other important environmental issues in the paper-making process, including energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and water and air pollution, may be equally or more significant.

Sin of no proof

Committed by an environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification. Common examples are tissue products that claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing any evidence.

Sin of vagueness

Committed by every claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer. “All-natural” is an example. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. “All natural” isn’t necessarily “green”.

Sin of irrelevance

Committed by making an environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. “CFC-free” is a common example, since it is a frequent claim despite the fact that CFCs are banned by law.

Sin of lesser of two evils

Committed by claims that may be true within the product category, but that risk distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole. Organic cigarettes might be an example of this category, as might be fuel-efficient sport-utility vehicles.

Sin of fibbing

The least frequent Sin is committeed by making environmental claims that are simply false. The most common examples were products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified or registered.

Sin of worshipping false labels

The sin of worshiping false labels is committed by a product that, through either words or images, gives the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement actually exists; fake labels, in other words.

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