Green or Pretending

Considerations for the Environmentally-Conscious Consumer

As of recent, there has been a bigger push for green products in the marketplace. Some key terms people may seek out include “eco-friendly,” “sustainable,” “fair-trade,” “organic,” “recyclable,” “made from recycled products” – the list could go on. But, apart from the feel-good sense one may receive from purchasing these products, what do these words really mean? Although there are laws behind certain labels used, marketers sometimes can find loopholes on making a product appear to be “green,” when reality it’s not much better – or the company isn’t much better – than the ones that sell for less without any environmental claims. This Earth Day make sure you understand how green marketing can be used to best help our planet with the purchases you make.

Puffery– Puffery is when a product’s label says something like “the most eco light bulb” or “the best at saving energy.” These terms aren’t backed by scientific claims and therefore are simply being used to promote the product. These claims should not make you chose one product over the other, and do not carry much weight. They are just very good marketing terms.

Claims– When a product makes a claim such as “saving 50% more energy than brand B,” by law, these claims have to have a study to prove them true. That’s not to say to forgo all caution; some companies may not have the most ethical studies, such as having lower target groups or shorter research times. However, because claims must have experimental evidence, a consumer can trust these products more to mean what they say. With that, be wary of very broad claims or claims that don’t seem very significant.

Greenwashing– Sometimes when consumers see a product that is packaged in green coloring, they may think that the product is signifying its eco-friendliness. However, without claims backed by scientific results, these “green” products should not be considered eco-friendly.

Natural– This is a word that can sometimes fall under greenwashing, which is to convince a consumer a product is good for the environment, when in fact it may use the same ingredients or products as the other products on the shelf similar to it. When purchasing natural products, look at the ingredients or products it is made out of to get a better understanding of the product. The word natural does not always signify something of importance or that it is better for the Earth, despite what one may assume.

Materials– Despite what a product’s packaging says, consumers should be wary of buying these materials such as these over another when trying to be eco-friendly: nylon, polyester, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), plastics, chlorofluorocarbons and styrofoam. In addition, when buying products, consumers should consider the waste of the packaging and lean toward buying products that have less packaging to create less waste.

When buying products, it’s good for consumers to do research. When purchasing a product that says it is eco-friendly, see if the packaging explains more and do a quick google search to ensure the company is being honest in their marketing. Considering how eco-friendly one product may be over another may take up more time than originally, but long-term, you can then continue to buy a product that is better for our Earth. Purchase responsibly this Earth Day-- and every day after.

Tiffany Hammond