Green washing, the latest cash-in trend?

Green washing, the latest cash-in trend?

Being environmentally conscious is arguably at a major high now, even more than when your parents and grandparents perhaps joined the early environmental movement decades ago. With the environment being everyday news now, no doubt you find it important to buy products helping to make an impact environmentally.

The question is, do you really know the difference between buzzwords and products enacting real change?

One thing to think about is we can't always rely on products to turn the tide on environmental protection. It's going to take a group effort to truly lead to progress.

Unfortunately, too many businesses deal in "green washing", or promoting a green product when it actually isn't. Here are five tips on how to wade through this deceptive advertising so you trust companies who really have gone green.

1. Understand What Green Washing Is

Greenwashing has become a key buzzword in climate change terms, yet arguably isn't used enough. You'll usually find it complementing other climate words that aren't necessarily common in everyday conversation.

If you spend time around those who care about the environment, you'll hear greenwashing being discussed often. It's a play on words for "whitewashing" with the same meaning, except deceiving on green practices.

Greenwashing can still fool people in a time when it's easy to think every product has honest green principles. You'll want to look out for a few things when greenwashing marketing occurs.

2. The Abuse of the Word "Green"

No doubt greenwashing came about when we all equated the word "green" with being automatically positive. Since so many companies truly are environmentally aware and ethical, it makes it tougher to find the real lemons.

One key thing to look out for is when a company seems to spend more time and resources promoting their products as green rather than proving their environmental clout. Look into the company's history and see whether they're doing this to cover for some kind of environmental disaster on their watch.

Other abuses of the word "green" include businesses or industries using it because they enable digital services rather than paper. In banking, for instance, you may see marketing materials noting green banking. Doing banking online doesn't always mean it's environmentally conscious.

3. Look for a Comprehensive Environmental Story

Before you buy a supposed green product, do some research online to see what the environmental footprint is of the company. If they've done anything significant to help the environment, they'll have a record of it somewhere in cyberspace.

The simple way to do this is to simply Google the name of the company with the word "environment." Finding nothing should give you pause about buying their products without further research.

4. Scope Out Suspect Claims

A sure sign of greenwashing is when a product markets itself with an environmental process that doesn't make sense. If it sounds overly technical, look up whether what they say is really workable. The company may use environmental keywords to sound official when it's not backed up with facts.

All environmental science is easy to research online, though always use official sources ending in .org or .gov.

5. Look for Official Environmental Labels

To add legitimacy, a real green product is going to have official environmental labels to prove all claims. Look out for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Certified Organic" label since no product can legally use this without it being real.

For other online sources, use the Ecolabel Index to look up any environmental labels looking wrong. This source can educate you quickly on which labels are real and which are fakes.

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