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Shopping Tips: Five Ways to Avoid Greenwashed Brands

Adriana_mnn Adriana Herrera is the Founder and CEO of Fashioning Change. She's a tree hugger and geek in stilettos. She's on a mission to use our shopping habits to change the world. Read more about Adriana Herrera

Follow Adriana Herrera on Twitter: @adriana_herrera

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Shopping Tips: Five Ways to Avoid Greenwashed Brands

Part of the reason I started Fashioning Change was because I’ve been mislead by brands into buying something I thought was green only to find out later that the product claims were false.  There were a lot of fashion scandals last year that brought attention to companies that claimed to be green but were not, an act also known as greenwashing.  With 69% of consumers now searching for greener products*, I thought it’d be helpful to kickoff the year with shopping tips to avoid greenwashing.  Here are Five Ways to Avoid Greenwashed Brands


Look for Proof

If you’re questioning the greenness claims of a product the easiest thing you can do to look for hangtags or product labels that provide information that supports the claim.  Does the product provide details about why it’s green?  Does it have reliable third-party certifications?  A first warning sign that a product might not be as green as it claims is that the product provides no obvious proof for that claim.


Look for Transparency

If I’m curious about a product’s greenness I immediately look for a phone number.  I’ve found that when a brand provides an easy way for me to get a hold of them the likelihood that they are making false claims is lower.  Brands that provide insight to green processes on merchandising or websites are also much less likely to be greenwashing. 


Clarify Vagueness

We’ve all see the phrase “All Natural” on product labels.  Have you ever stopped and wondered what “All Natural” really means?  I’ve learned that when brands use vague umbrella phrases like “All Natural” and don’t provide accessible details about what “All Natural” means the likelihood that the products are greenwashed goes up.


Look for All Elements of Green

An easy way to avoid greenwashed products is to look for products that consider all elements of green. Meaning, the product protects your health, the Earth, and human rights. 


I don’t eat meat and work hard to extend my animal-friendly lifestyle choice to the things I wear and the products I put on my body.  I often look for cruelty-free beauty products.  The problem I’ve found is that I’ll come across beauty products that are labeled cruelty-free and when I read the label the product is loaded with cancer causing ingredients.  I don’t understand how a product can present itself to be green but be bad for my health.  It’s important to be aware that green environmental claims do not always mean something is good for your health or made using processes that protect human rights.  Products that share details on the variable ways it's green are much less likely to be greenwashed. 


Look for Endorsements

Third-party endorsements can be a great way to easily figure-out if something is truly green or not.  I generally look for endorsements in pairs…meaning I look for more than one.  I’ve found that if a product is able to pass more than one organizations audit for greenesss then they are much more likely to truly be green. 


The thing to be aware of with endorsements is that small brands may not have the budget to pay third-party auditing fees so just because a brand doesn’t have any endorsements doesn’t mean they are misleading you.  A good counter balance to the lack of third-party endorsements it to see how a product stands based on the tips above. 


Do you have any tricks you use to avoid greenwashers?  Please feel free to share them…

*Sheldon Group, EcoPulse 2011:  Bridging the Gap Between Purchase & Intention  

Tags: 2012, greenwashing, informed consumer, how-to buy green, how-to avoid greenwashing, smart shopping, sustainable shopping

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