fake green

Making Sure you're Not Greenwashing

Greenwashing?

Greenwashing refers to a regular, standard, or non-green product being "dressed up" and marketed as being more "green" than it truly is.

Unfortunately, as many people "jump on the bandwagon" for green, and many companies in turn are ramping up their production of eco-friendly, ethically-sourced, sustainable goods, the trend towards greenwashing is increasing. Compounding this trend is the issue that there is no definition of "green" and there is no industry-accepted, standardized method of labeling a product or service as being "green." There are green certification programs offered by cities or counties, but there is no one standard label.

So, for example, if I run a hostel, I could claim that because I have a view of the forest, then my hostel is a "green hostel." Or, if I offer a shampoo or soap, I could name it "organix" or "organique" and have customers believe that it is created from natural or organic products. Or, if I sell my regular products in a green-colored container, I can say that they are "more green".

 

Beware of greenwashing in your own marketing of products and services.

Are you selling to a knowledgeable and aware green consumer base? If so, be prepared to document your sourcing, your waste reduction practices, your use of ethical, vegan, or sustainable ingredients, or how you reduce/reuse/recycle in your manufacturing and delivery.

 

Proposition 37 in California during the 2012 election is an excellent example of the complications that arise from attempting to come to a standard and a industry-wide label. Proponents believe that the labeling of GMO-related products is important and a first step towards transparency in the food industry. Opponents believe that it is an unnecessary and poorly-implemented ruling. Who's right? In the end, the consumer is the one who decides, and my belief is that consumers need as much information as possible when making their decisions.

 

Beware of greenwashing when you purchase from others.

Are you buying (or trying to buy) more "green"? If so, what practices are in place for your chosen manufacturer or provider? Do they offer a "report card" on sustainability? Are they certified through their local organization? Are they accredited or somehow certified as being more eco-friendly? 

 

Be bold when taking a stand for green. 

Be the change by being responsible. 

Make the choice by getting informed.

Check ingredients.

Ask questions.

 

Those who truly care will take the extra step to make sure that they are going with the most green option; and those who truly desire a more sustainable, eco-friendly, holistic environment will take steps to make choices to support the planet.

 

What is Greenwashing?

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You will probably hear about many companies that are adopting green practices. How do you know when it's real?

Follow the money, ladies. Companies and people who fake being green have their own term: greenwashing. (more on Greenwashing: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Greenwashing

Here are three ways on how you find if the organization or company you support is greenwashing or is truly working to support people, planet, and profits:

1) Follow the money.
Who funds the organization? If funding comes from sources that are very different from your own values, consider spending your money elsewhere.
What kinds of grants or expenditures does the company fund?
Where do company founders or leaders give campaign or political donations?
www.opensecrets.org
Who are the main partners or investors, and who do they support?

2) Understand the name.
A think tank, non-profit, or initiative may have an innocuous or tame-sounding name but its purpose may be to confuse and cloud the issue.

Do a little research to understand if the certification or standard that the group promotes has some public input or has publicly available information about it and is not simply a lobbying effort or worse, a marketing ploy.

3) Drill down.
When a company is green, what does that exactly mean?
For a hotel that says it is green, they may simply mean that they have a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape.

Real green practices include stated and measured objectives in water conservation, energy conservation, pollution prevention, and solid waste recycling.

If you run a business, consider putting your practices into a public place like an online "report card" (here is my own sample: 10K Webdesign Environmental/Social Responsibility Report Card).

Originally published by Monica S. Flores at TheGreenGirls.com

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