What Is Greenwashing And How Can I Avoid It?

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A term you are likely to come across often as a natural minded mom is greenwashing. Whether you are new to natural or have been crunchy-minded for years, greenwashing is something everyone sees when scanning the aisles or catalogs. It’s basic definition is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound.

Greenwashing is basically the show of a marketing ploy and is a claim to deceive consumers into buying a product which isn’t really all that close to nature, nor environmentally friendly. It’s done to boost their products, drive sales, and all sorts of things which don’t have much to do with the environment at all. And it’s very, very common today. (Another word for this tirade is whitewashing, which is used in reference to really anything else… but we are speaking of greenwashing, for this ploy specifically in the natural-minded market)

This is easily seen in how many big box companies have “natural” lines;¬†Tide now has a PurClean detergent line, Huggies has a Pure & Natural diaper line, or General Mills is making cereals with whole grains. Although it does look like the lesser of two evils, or maybe the best of both worlds, these green-type products from a brand line known to contain harmful and unethical ingredients and practices, are still coming from those same companies, and still contain extremely harmful and not-very-natural ingredients.

While it’s hard to rid of everything under the sun that is toxic to the human body, we can do better. And we must, because we are called to care for our bodies and our planet, and to steward and treat them each well. Also, as mothers we are to care for ourselves and our families well…. What better way to do that than to research the products we use and consume every day? Taking care of ourselves is the bigger picture in what we consume – even in products that aren’t food… especially so. You are what you eat, what you do, what you have, and what you use… After all.

Here’s another way to think of it. Many products which are considered greenwashed are from companies who spend more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing, rather than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact, and changing their product makeup to tangibly reflect that, in every way considerable. Yes, it may sound very technical, but it’s true, and as natural minded moms, we need to know it exists. Look closer to the actual product itself, not just the wrapping and marketing. Does it hold up to the claims?

With that said, we know what greenwashing is, we’ve seen some examples…. how do we actually avoid it? There is one simple phrase I tell myself: know what you are buying.

To find the truest natural products, look for companies that show concern for:

  • the welfare of the people who make the products (fair trade or small business)
  • the environment (eco-friendly, biodegradable, etc)
  • animals (vegan or cruelty-free)
  • YOU (non-toxic, organic formulas, without additives such as parabens)

Looking for these factors in products is a way to avoid greenwashing. It’s easy to spot those products which are bad, and it’s fairly easy to spot those that are best for us. It’s the middle that can get gray, which is where many products are what we would call greenwashed. To stay more on the green end rather than the grey middle or bad end, these four practices and factors in a product and company are areas to look out for.

Yes, it is hard to find this, but it is worth it for peace of mind.

Yes, it is okay if you can’t find it, but it is worth it to look for products which are closer to this than not.

Yes, you will survive if you can’t buy everything from Whole Foods, but you will feel better if you fuel and nourish your body with real food and clean products.

Yes, it’s not always possible to know the motive of a company or to be able to even take the time to research products, so it’s okay to choose what looks best and safest out of the bunch.¬†

It’s all a big step forward to a brighter future in a more natural direction for you and your family, mama, and that’s a big deal.

More Resources:

Would you be interested in another article with a list of harmful ingredients to stay away from, and why? Share your questions in the comments!

~Katherine Newsom writes at Simple Natural Mama

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