You’ve likely seen it before: a brand comes out seemingly overnight with eco-friendly initiatives and goals, but no proof to back it up. Or a new “sustainable” fashion line pops up with fast-fashion prices. Seems too good to be true? It probably is. Rising consumer demand for sustainable products has motivated brands to shift their marketing in manipulative ways, creating the phenomenon known as greenwashing.
Greenwashing is an attempt “to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.” Keep reading for a list of common greenwashing buzzwords and what to watch out for when they’re being used, so you can continue to buy better!
When we think of the word “biodegradable,” the first thing that comes to mind is something breaking down and decomposing in a natural way. However, this isn’t always the case. Products like “biodegradable” plastic bags, even if they claim to decompose in an organic environment, can take hundreds of years to break down in the landfill where it is actually disposed.
The FTC’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims recommends looking out for “The product’s or package’s ability to degrade in the environment where it is customarily disposed; and the rate and extent of degradation,” when shopping for biodegradable products, and we couldn’t agree more.
Unfortunately, there is little to no regulation on how brands can use this term. Some brands use it to only speak to the eco-friendly aspects of a product, while excluding how the product was made and how the people making it are being treated. Make sure to do some digging to make sure that the company is actually living up to those promises. Do they have any certifications that confirm that their products are ethically sourced or better for the planet? This is just one of the reasons why our certifications are so important to us. Check out our sustainability page to learn more!
Bioplastics seem like a great idea at first glance. They perform like regular plastics, but use renewable plant resources like corn starch and sugarcane instead of petroleum. However, bioplastics often aren’t biodegradable or compostable outside of an industrial composting facility, and definitely can’t be recycled (despite what they might say). In fact, one bit of bioplastic can contaminate a whole batch of petroleum-based plastic in a recycling center and send everything to landfill!
There really is no “good” single-use plastic, so try to avoid it when possible (we have tips for this too). This piece by our partner, Oceana, does an amazing job giving more information on bioplastics and how they aren’t as green as you might think.
Continue to demand transparency from the brands you support. Greenwashing stemmed from a rising interest in sustainability, so we know they’re listening! Continue learning and sharing your voice - you are helping shape a better future for everyone!