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While we’re thrilled that green is “in” and more companies are making an effort to cultivate sustainability in their businesses, this rise in popularity has also given way to an increase in greenwashing.
Greenwashing is essentially a marketing tactic used to make products seem eco-friendlier than they really are. This may be as simple as redesigning packaging to evoke a sense of sustainability, like using plant imagery or featuring words like “clean” or even, literally, “green.” To a consumer scanning the shelves, these techniques can stand out and make them think a product is eco-friendly simply because of the associations we have with those phrases and styles. Here are our tips when buying sustainable products:
Much of what goes onto a product label isn’t regulated, so companies can use words like “eco-friendly” and “organic” as they like. “Organic” is only meaningful if it’s certified organic. Phrases like “eco,” “bio,” “green,” and the like have no regulation or certification, so it’s worth checking out the ingredients and packaging to see if the terms on the label really carry any weight.
A quick peek into a company can quickly reveal how legitimate their claims are. A great place to start is wherever you can find information about the company itself (their website is usually a good bet). See how they talk about their values and ethics – the more transparent they are about how things are made and what they care about, the better. You can check for animal testing, ethical means of production, and more. A company that has nothing to hide will have this information readily available.
Similarly, a company that has green initiatives and/or commitments in place will happily share their goals. You can find our Climate Neutral certification here and learn more about our 2022 impact statement here.
While it’s hard to know the exact carbon footprint of any one product, you can use these tricks to make a quick calculation to see just how eco-friendly it is:
What are its materials? Materials vary in sustainability, with plastic being low on the scale and a highly renewable material like bamboo being high. If it is plastic, is it made from recycled materials and is it recyclable itself? Consider the full life cycle to determine how sustainable it really is.
If a product was made in China, that means it traveled a long way to get to you in North America. Additionally, how a product is shipped and what container it’s shipped in makes an impact. Consider “Made in the USA” products that arrive in recyclable packaging before placing an international order that comes in plastic. Read about our shipping here.
Purchasing something from a big box retailer versus a local business is a very different story. When you buy local, you’re supporting the local economy and inherently reducing your overall carbon footprint.
As mentioned, consider the full life cycle of a product when evaluating its sustainability. Ask these questions:
The more reusable a product is at every stage of its life cycle, the more sustainable it is. So if something is made from recycled or renewable materials, has long durability, and can be recycled or composted at the end of its life, that makes for a sustainable product!
Our Shampoo and Conditioner Bars, for example, are ultra concentrated, so they don’t require the same amount of water as traditional shampoo does in production. They come in plastic-free, 100% compostable packaging and can be used until they’re completely gone. Compare this to a traditional shampoo, which comes in a plastic bottle that may or may not be recyclable – you can sense the difference!
As always, it’s about progress, not perfection. The more comfortable you become evaluating labels and packaging, the more readily you’ll be able to identify greenwashing. Whenever you’re looking for eco-friendly personal care products with claims you can follow, you know where to find them with The Earthling Co.