Supermarkets offer an overwhelming choice when it comes to food and most household items. Consumers are smarter than ever about ingredients and the harmful effects of processed foods. The challenges of climate change mean that we’re no longer in the dark about the ways in which the manufacturing process can affect our environment. As a result, many conglomerates are adopting shady practices to save face. Greenwashing occurs when companies mislead consumers about the environmental and health benefits of their products and services – and they are able to profit by doing so.
McDonald’s claims to be ‘green’ because it has begun to use biofuel made from leftover grease in its fleet of trucks, and is using recycled paper in its takeaway bags. A great step forward, of course, yet the company still uses beef grazed on deforested land in South America, and of course bases its entire concept around disposable packaging. Some companies are not only twisting the truth — but also abandoning it altogether. Vegan leather is a perfect example; although it is often promoted as being eco friendly, ‘vegan leather’ is essentially plastic by another name, and is just as harmful for the environment, if not worse, than leather production. Furthermore, some beauty companies are claiming to be ‘inspired by nature’ or even use the words ‘pure’, ‘herbal’, ‘bio’, ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ in their packaging, yet sell products that contain dozens of harmful synthetic chemicals, such as sodium laureth sulfate, diazolidinyl urea, fragrance and many others.
Unfortunately, there is currently very little governmental control of misleading environmental advertising claims, but some companies, such as Dr Bronner, have shamed companies that greenwash–such as Avalon and Jason– by taking them to court over their unsubstantiated claims, and there are a number of non-profit organisations that monitor greenwashing.
Check The ‘Facts’
Sustainable” is a big claim – and it needs to be backed up. For a practice to be sustainable it has to be able to be sustained indefinitely. Lessening one environmental impact doesn’t make a product sustainable. More useful, specific claims should contain reliable information on how much of the product is made from renewable ingredients and should provide evidence that they’ve been harvested sustainably. The best way to know what to buy is to look for Third Party Certification. What that means is, check that the label has been certified by a recognised body that ensures a product is eco-friendly, such as:
- • The Soil Association
- • EcoCert
- • The Green Seal
- • FSC (for paper and wood)
- • LEEDS (for homes)
- • The Leaping Bunny (for cosmetics)
We need to be careful about the companies we trust and do our own research to ensure that they are making a positive impact on our environment. Lets face it, the challenges of climate change are too important for us to be distracted.
IMAGE CREDIT:hoack / 123RF Stock Photo