4 Ways to Spot Greenwashing

Finding the truth behind labels on your favorite household cleaner, beauty product or health food isn’t always easy. Now that the consumer marketplace sees the trend towards more natural, safer and non-toxic products, companies are using just about every label possible to entice consumers to buy their products. Buyer beware.

avoid greenwashing

“Greenwashing” is a term that’s used to describe when companies use misleading marketing terms to convince consumers that their products are safer, or more natural than they really are. So when you’re looking for safer beauty products, household cleaners or healthy snacks, how can you spot greenwashing?

Follow Your Nose

Avoid buying products that have a strong scent, including vinyl plastic or beauty products that list ‘fragrance’ on the ingredient list. This code word—fragrance—is protected by trade secrets and can contain dozens, or even hundreds different secret chemicals. Any company who isn’t fully disclosing fragrances, cannot in good conscious label their products as “safer”, “natural”, or “organic”. Please note that companies can safely use essential oils to scent their products, but they should be labeled accordingly.

“Organic” Marketing Claims

Double check the ingredient list of food or beauty products to confirm how much of the product is actually organic. Did you know that the term organic is not regulated in the personal care industry? Since organic foods are healthier, many people have assumed that organic makeup is also healthier, but due to the lack of regulation that’s not always the case. While I strongly support reducing the use of pesticides across the board, beauty products can use certified organic raw ingredients (like coconut oil), but the rest of the ingredient list could be full of harmful chemicals like parabens, phthalates, or PEG compounds.

Excessive Packaging

How green can your company really be if the footprint of each product is excessive? Case in point, a company I love called Beyond Meat, makes plant based protein (aka fake meat products). Their veggie burger looks delicious, but is packed in excessive plastic and paper cardboards. I’ll pass! Being “green” isn’t just about what’s inside the box, it’s also about how the product is stored and shipped.

Ranks Poorly in the Skin Deep Database

For beauty products, check to see how they stack up in the handy Skin Deep database by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). This search engine helps rank scores for common beauty products, helping consumers navigate a complicated marketplace. You’ll notice several brands that are marketing themselves as “natural” have products that rank 7-10 on the hazard scale. I aim to choose products that score 3 or less.

I hope these simple tips help you navigate a complicated consumer marketplace. Feel free to ask questions below if you’re particularly stumped, and always hold companies accountable for truth and transparency in their labeling.

Find this all kind of confusing? Shop my fully-vetted, hand-picked safer brands HERE.

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2 Responses to 4 Ways to Spot Greenwashing

  1. Micaela @MindfulMomma March 8, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

    Good point about the packaging – some companies don’t do a good job of thinking through that part!

  2. Diane Hoffmaster March 15, 2017 at 8:36 am #

    Excessive packaging drives me nuts. Why do grocery stores wrap my organic produce in plastic???? These are great tips to remember when shopping!

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