When shopping at your local supermarket for food or the drug store for personal care items, you've probably noticed many products claiming to be "green" or "environmentally friendly." Often times the product's packaging will put these details front and centre to catch a prospective buyer's eye. With more and more people becoming environmentally conscious and trying to live more sustainably, consumers are looking to purchase products that are not harming the environment. This is great! What isn't great, however, is certain companies exploiting this for extra cash to line their pockets. Often marketing their products as "green" but they are anything but! This is called 'greenwashing,' here are some things to look out for while shopping:

white and gray floral window curtain

Bubble wrap packaging by Wander Fleur 

1. Suggestive Imagery 

Sometimes an item's packing and textiles are enough to trick people. Using certain floral patterns or other designs associated with nature can suggest that a product is environmentally friendly without actually claiming it is. Suggestive imagery sells an image but is not actually selling anything environmentally safe. Sometimes companies include small logos that look like official environmental certifications but are actually meaningless. 

red and silver shopping cart on gray asphalt road during daytime

Red and silver shopping carts by Donald Giannatti

2. The Hidden Trade-offs

A product may be considered environmentally friendly if only examined through a very narrow scope of attributes. Unfortunately, many companies do this by claiming that their product is 'green' and explaining why, yet intentionally leaving out how said product is harmful to the environment in other ways. Sometimes advertisers try to make consumers believe their product is more environmentally friendly than it actually is

woman in black t-shirt standing near brown wooden shelf

Woman in black t-shirt shopping by Atoms

3. Symbolic actions

Many companies try to draw attention to their environmentally conscious actions, yet sometimes these actions have a very little overall impact on the environment. Unfortunately, some companies do this to appear more environmentally friendly to the public and/or cover up situations where they're anything but environmentally friendly. 

assorted fruit and can lot

Assorted fruits and other items by Maddi Bazzocco 

4. Overinflated phrases

Companies sometimes use phrases to skew people's perceptions of the products they're buying, even if what they are saying is technically true. A clothing brand may state their clothes are "now made with 50% more recycled fibres," with the increase being from 2% to 3%. This is an example of overinflating a benefit. 

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