Understanding Eco friendly through Greenwashing

Eco Friendly

Nowadays the word eco friendly is everywhere, on products, flyers, websites, everywhere. There seem to be so many eco-friendly things and products that it is overwhelming. The true meaning of eco friendly seems to be diluted. It can be hard to understand or know what is the true meaning of eco friendly or be confused by it. In addition, with the current market, there can be chances of the product being misleading or greenwashing. So today, we are going to take a deep dive on the true meaning of eco friendly, and whether or not the product or service is really eco friendly or greenwashing. In the end, I got some basic beginner tips and tricks on eco friendly.

Eco Friendly’s True Meaning

Beautiful Okinawa Beach
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, eco friendly means “not environmentally harmful”(Eco-friendly). This prevention of environmental harm is applicable not only to individuals, but it is applied to corporations, services. However, overall dictionary meaning can be really broad, what is considered to be environmentally harmful, how should we define what is considered harmful, and so on. Ideally, there should be a set of laws that define what is considered environmentally harmful, and companies, corporations that want to market as eco friendly should be regulated. However, the term eco friendly has been overused and can be quite ambiguous, such as causing confusion and misleads the consumers. Luckily there are some international certification bodies that can help and resolve the issues with the ambiguity and so on. In summary, the meaning of eco friendly is the prevention of action or product that can cause harm to the environment.

Eco Friendly or Greenwashed?

Before we dive into this section about how to know if the product/brand is truly eco friendly or just greenwashing. Allow me to first define what is greenwashing.

Greenwashing: when one makes claims about certain products, services, brands being environmentally friendly when in reality it might just be a marketing move and is trying to deceive the consumer with eco friendly appeals. Such actions are quite harmful to the movement of becoming eco friendly, as it misleads consumers and causes distrust between brands and consumers. When it comes to environmental causes, it is best if everyone is trusting and working together.

So you must be wondering how you can tell if it is eco friendly or greenwashing. Here are just a few tips, but to be able to truly identify greenwashing, you’ll have to do some more research.

First, look at how much marketing and PR there is on the brand’s image, specifically, their eco friendly image or that green image they want you to see, and then compare to how much is actually done. Is the brand actually donating to charities or organizations that are making a difference? A lot of the times more is said than done.

Second, always do your research. A quick google search and you can easily find out information if the company is truly doing what they are marketing. See what other people have commented on. Like buying any products it is good to give it a search that way you can check to see if the product is actually good and eco friendly.

Next, is there proof? Many brands would make claims of being eco friendly or green without actual proof or science to back it up.

Next, be careful of some terms as they are ambiguous and don’t necessarily mean that the process of making the product did not harm the environment. Such terms include “all natural” (unless it is a non-GMO fruit without packaging, most products are derived or made into something synthetic), “biodegradable” (unless you are personally going to compost that after using, ending up in the landfill will not compost it) and so on.

Last but not least understand the complexity of being eco friendly and understand what is greenwashing. The more you know the easier it is to identify it.

How to be more eco friendly

Eco friendly actions: having your own farm/garden
With all that being said, I am sure you are still interested in becoming more eco friendly. After all, everyone wants to do something for the environment and future generations’ rights. So here are a few tips and tricks on becoming eco friendly.

Tips and Tricks

Do your research!! > It is important that you understand what needs to be done to be eco friendly. What are the issues and how are people coming up with ways to solve such issues?
Shop Ethically > Buy products that you have done research on and know that that is it doing more than it claims. Or buy products that have been checked and verified by third parties. Such as Fair Trade Certified, B-CORP, FSC, and so on.
Reduce and Refuse > Only buy products that you absolutely need. Reduce the number of products that you are buying or just stop buying products that are not eco friendly, like PET bottle water, plastic straws, and so on. Unfortunately, consumerism does not work well in eco friendly ideals because you want to reduce the production of trash, pollution, and carbon footprint that it takes to make products. The more you buy, the more trash and pollution it takes to make and more trash once you are done using that product too.
Reuse, Repair, and Repurpose > Very similar to the idea of zero waste, you want to use products for as long as possible. Counteract the amount of energy and trash it took to make that product by using it longer and with multiple purposes so you don’t need to buy new.
DIY > if you can cook or make something yourself (toothpaste, deodorant…)! Not only is that a great way to reduce waste and make products out of natural items that are eco friendly, but you are also saving money!

Let’s do it together!

These are just some of the tips and tricks there are for you to become eco friendly. Being eco friendly might sound like a lot and a hassle, but it is definitely easier than one would expect. Anyone can do it and remember you are not the only one, there are many people who have shared their journey online. You can easily learn from them and share your story to inspire others to become eco friendly. Also, becoming eco friendly is an ever-evolving task. In the future, there will be more eco friendly services and options for all of us.
I hope you have a better understanding of eco friendly and greenwashing and have a few tricks up your sleeve, it is time to get ready for your eco friendly journey.

Check out our new article about eco friendly fashion!



Resources:
“Eco-Friendly.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eco-friendly.
Acaroglu, Leyla. “What Is Greenwashing? How to Spot It and Stop It.” Medium, Disruptive Design, 8 July 2019, medium.com/disruptive-design/what-is-greenwashing-how-to-spot-it-and-stop-it-c44f3d130d5.
               
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!