How to Spot Greenwashing When Shopping

How to Spot Greenwashing When Shopping

Recover Brands Recover Brands
4 minute read

It’s the holidays and as you shop for the season, you’re probably looking for purchases that are environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and sustainable.  Fortunately, there are great companies out there that realize energy savings, water-use reductions, and carbon emissions reductions and are intentional and mindful of supply chain, and local and global community benefit.  Unfortunately, there are also a lot of companies out there that are manipulating the market demand for do-good products and engaging in “greenwashing.”  Greenwashing is a common marketing ploy that uses attractive buzzwords like “natural,” “eco-friendly,” and “sustainable” on products and practices that don’t align with earth-friendly claims in order to increase sales.


To ring out your 2022 positive impact, here’s 5 quick and easy tips for how to spot and avoid greenwashing while you shop:


1)    First glance- check out the packaging.

Packaging from goods and food makes up 28% of municipal trash in the US annually, which amounts to approximately 82.2 million tons of packaging waste.  Minimal packaging made from recycled and compostable materials is a huge signal that a company’s eco-friendly claims are legit.  Alternatively, if an item claiming to be eco-friendly comes in a large plastic container with Styrofoam padding, it’s very unlikely that the manufacturer has much integrity behind any eco-friendly claims. 


2)    Look for vague claims and “fluffy” words.

The use of words such as “natural” hold no accountability or standard of being environmentally friendly or socially responsible. The Federal Trade Commission or FTC rarely intervenes with dishonest claims, especially those that are vague.  Something “naturally-inspired” or “natural” can still be toxic and harmful to you, the environment, and local communities where it is manufactured.  Look for specific and tangible wording that supports the company’s product, processes, and practices.


3)    Is the product built to last or destined for the landfill?

Truly sustainable companies design and build products to last because they operate from the foundation that sustainability ultimately means that people consume less. It is estimated that the average American throws away 81 lbs of clothing every year.  Both the consuming-driven marketing of “must have new” and the poorly made goods of fast fashion contribute to this huge consumption and disposal of clothes and other cheap goods, as well as the wastefulness of resources used to make them.  Look for companies that make durable and long-lasting goods, and those who go above and beyond.  Check out our Recover Closed Loop program, where our goods can be recycled at the end of their life.


4)    Don’t be fooled by the look.

Some greenwashing may use visual cues that, upon a glance, imitate sustainability. For example, a “natural” shampoo in a green bottle with bamboo illustrated on it may cue us visually that this is a truly sustainable product that supports the environment, but really all it may be is exactly that- a green bottle, most likely plastic, with a bamboo design on it. To make sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting, read about products and ingredients to cross-check any visual design.


5)    Check for third-party certification.

Even a product that is actually “natural” can still be sourced and/ or produced in ways that are harmful to the environment.  Well-known third-party certifications, such as Global Recycled Standard (GRS), USDA Organic certification, B Corp, and Fair Trade require that companies undergo a rigorous assessment of materials and processes and ensure that sustainability claims are real; however, beware of non-US based certification for organic and other eco-friendly criteria because some certifications are not as rigorous or accountable.  Also, look for 1% For The Planet membership, which indicates that the company is committed to donating 1% of its annual sales to environmental nonprofits.


Happy Holidays from Recover! Be the impact.

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