Any company can say it’s green — but is it transparent? At SaltyLama, we know trust isn’t given, it’s earned. And we take your trust in us as seriously as we take our commitment to putting the planet over profits.
So, we were especially proud to earn the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased Product Label for our Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Strips. It makes SaltyLama part of an exclusive group of businesses. Our strips can now display a unique USDA label that highlights its percentage of biobased content. Third-party verification for a product’s biobased content is administered through the USDA BioPreferred® Program.
“We applaud SaltyLama for earning the USDA Certified Biobased Product Label,” said Vernell Thompson, USDA BioPreferred Program. “By having their products become USDA Certified Biobased, SaltyLama joins an expanding list of businesses combating inaccurate marketing claims and the practice of greenwashing.”
Standing against the greenwashing trend is important because it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of eco-friendly labels and green claims out there. Moreover, it’s only getting worse as companies jump on the “green” bandwagon, making it difficult to know what’s genuinely eco-friendly. But don’t let these false marketing tactics fool you!
As a conscious consumer, it’s essential to make informed choices about what you buy. So read on as we reveal five tips you can use to spot greenwashing — and avoid it. Once you’ve honed your skills as an eco-detective, you will be able to ensure you’re making a real impact with your purchases!
What is greenwashing?
In short, it’s a deception tactic used by companies to make you think a product is eco-friendly when it’s not. By making false, misleading, or exaggerated environmental claims about a product or company, they hope to attract customers who are concerned about the environment. These claims are often vague and unsupported by evidence to create a false impression of being environmentally friendly. Greenwashing can be found in advertising, packaging, labeling, and other forms of marketing, and it can be used to promote products ranging from food and personal care items to home appliances and building materials.
The problem: The practice of greenwashing undermines genuine efforts to promote sustainability and protect the environment, and it makes it difficult for consumers to make informed choices about the products they buy.
1. Look for certifications and third-party seals of approval
Third-party certifications and seals of approval from reputable organizations can help indicate that a product is genuinely environmentally friendly. Otherwise, the product may simply be tied with a misleading, greenwashed bow. Some examples of well-respected certifications include the Rainforest Alliance, Energy Star, and the USDA, which, as mentioned, recognized SaltyLama for its biobased content.
When considering products with these certifications, it’s worth looking into what those organization standards and processes mean to make sure you’re well-informed.
Additionally, be wary of certifications and seals that are created or owned by the company itself, as these may not be as reliable. A lot of fast fashion brands slap on a “sustainable” tag followed by a blurb on how the product is sustainable, but don’t let these labels trick you.
2. Check the company’s transparency and history of sustainability efforts
Remember: past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. So, a company’s practices and history of sustainability can be a good barometer for its commitment to environmental responsibility. If you can’t find anything on the company’s website about its sustainability or environmental efforts, chances are these efforts aren’t part of their business model and it’s best to pass.
When you’re shopping online, always check out the website’s “about” section, which may often be linked at the footer of the page. From there, you should be able to find information on its sustainability practices, business model, and stats on how efficient their efforts have been. Look for practices such as reducing waste, conserving energy, fair wages, and using sustainable materials.
If the company shares details about their products, processes, and impacts on the environment with transparency, then chances on they are taking the right steps in avoiding greenwashing and being honest to their consumers.
If a company is unwilling to share this information, it may be a red flag that their sustainability claims are not genuine. Hello, greenwashing.
3. Watch out for vague greenwashing claims like “biodegradable” and “natural”
When it comes to generic marketing language, these terms mean nothing regarding a company’s sustainability and values. It’s not uncommon to see this generic form of greenwashing. You might see “biodegradable,” “natural,” or “eco-friendly” described on packaging to trick consumers. If you read the ingredients label or can’t find anything online that confirms the company’s claims, this is a red flag.
Instead, look for products with specific, verifiable environmental benefits, such as those made from recycled or organic materials, using renewable energy in production, or using all-natural, non-toxic ingredients. We also recommend returning to Tip No. 1 and checking the product’s packaging and labeling for certification logos and detailed information about its environmental impact. By doing all of this, you can confirm this product or garment’s environmental impact, rather than just falling for a marketing ploy. Takeaway: don’t fall for greenwashing marketing tricks — do your own research instead.
4. Consider the entire life span of the product, and seek out independent reviews
Leave the company’s websites and investigate reliable articles or independent reviews to learn how the product holds up on its claims. If you’re buying clothing that is aimed at being sustainable, it should be long-lasting while using eco-friendly materials and being kindly manufactured.
If a clothing company, for example, claims to be eco-friendly and sustainable but thrives off monthly subscriptions, this is not a sustainable practice. Rather, it’s sprinkled with traces of greenwashing. Instead of subscribing to underwear or makeup subscriptions, choose lasting products that have come from clear sustainable practices.
5. Educate yourself on what constitutes sustainable practices and products
This is key to avoiding greenwashing as a consumer! Learn about the environmental impact of different industries and products, as well as the potential harm caused by certain production practices, such as pollution, waste, and resource depletion. By educating yourself, you can better understand the issues and be able to identify and avoid misleading environmental claims.