What is it? How do we figure out which companies are greenwashing and which are really trying their best?
It’s not easy being green. Because being green is the right thing to do, some businesses falsely advertise to make what they do appear greener than they actually are. When they do this, it’s called “greenwashing”. But where does the term greenwashing come from?
Greenwashing grew out of the use of the term “whitewashing”. Whitewash is a type of paint made from lime. A building that has been whitewashed is often made of cob, brick or stone, and when it’s finished being whitewashed, it looks bright white and clean. It not only looks clean, but actually has antibacterial and antifungal properties that make it ideal for humid climates where indoor air conditioning isn’t the norm. An older cob or brick home can be whitewashed to make it look new again.
From there, whitewashing came to mean when a person or thing is made to appear better than they may actually be. For instance the makers of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) have started labeling their product as “Fructose” or “Corn Sugar” because consumers became overly aware of the harsh effects that HFCS has on diet. HFCS as been whitewashed into Corn Sugar. People buy products not knowing that the ingredient is the same thing and still just as bad for metabolism as when it was labeled HFCS.
From there, the term morphed into Greenwashing, meaning any company that is trying to make its name or processes appear greener than they actually are. Greenwashing has become a business model in its own right. There are commercial associations that were created entirely to misdirect attention away from business and lay blame on consumers.
It’s not nice to point the finger at a particular group and say, “Hey you’re a Greenwasher!” And researching just about any company or organization shows that being green really is hard! If it’s hard for citizens, it’s probably harder for business. So rather than lay blame, for now, I’m going to suggest the following:
Check out what companies you buy products from. Are they using Zero Waste tenets in there production, packaging, delivery methods and post-use materials recovery? Is there an alternative product made by another company that comes closer to Zero Waste principles? Why not vote with your wallet and buy greener products?