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What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing — also known as “green sheen” — is a lie.
You’ve seen it before. You might have fallen for it, maybe you’re a skeptic. It’s the marketing that occurs around green-ness, or sustainability, designed to persuade consumers into thinking a product is “good” for the environment. The irony of Greenwashing is that the amount of money and time companies will invest in marketing themselves as sustainable… can sometimes cost as much as simply investing in actual sustainability.
But these days it’s everywhere — on product packaging, billboards, online advertisements, and social media. Dr. Pete explains that part of the success of Greenwashing is that it’s twofold: “Part of it is just purely marketing schemes that use unfounded sustainability claims,” he says. “In many other situations, there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the scientific criteria and standards behind each category of consumer products.” Because the science of sustainability is still very young, most consumers — and many brands — don’t have much information around what makes things truly sustainable. So, the best way to combat Greenwashing is to educate yourself and those around you. The more you understand about sustainable science, the less vulnerable you’ll be to false messaging about it. Here are a few tips on keeping yourself informed.
How to keep an eye out for greenwashing in laundry detergent:
1. Lack of ingredient transparency. Vagueness in ingredient lists and sites that don’t disclose their ingredients in full is never a good sign. For reference, there are two bills that went into effect in New York and California requiring ingredient disclosures. Here’s a good resource to learn more.
2. Formulations that contain chemicals of concern, including potentially carcinogenic, mutagenic, and reprotoxic substances identified by designated lists.*
3. Over-packaging or overuse of non-recyclable or non-biodegradable packaging materials.
4. Encouragement of overdosage in cleaning applications.
5. Encouragement of over-consumption in energy, like hot water or additional wash and rinse cycles.
*While there are many lists for concerned chemicals issued by many organizations and agencies worldwide, the Designated List in our article is referring to the legal term used in California SB-258 Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017.