"Greenwashing is the unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government, a politician or even a non-government organization to create a pro-environmental image, sell a product or a policy, or to try and rehabilitate their standing with the public and decision makers after being embroiled in controversy."Source Watch (A Project of the Center for Media and Democracy)
They say it better than I can, so I might as well let them say it.
If you're like me, you're really pleased about all of the green products and services out there. But you're also becoming suspicious. When the chemical companies start declaring their products natural and eco-friendly, you have to get suspious.
See, these companies and people have realized consumers are becoming eco-conscious and that there's money to be made if you can hitch your wagon to the earth's welfare.
But you know what makes even more money? Doing things the same dangerous way and calling it green to rake in environmentalists' cash.
I'm not one of those cynics who think it's all PR crap designed to part us and our money. I believe there are companies out there who are dedicated to making a difference. I believe there are companies out there who aren't dedicated to the earth's wellbeing but will do the right thing to make more money, and that's OK, too.
But I also know that slapping "natural" on a bottle of chemical cleaner doesn't make it natural. And I know that making up a green label name doesn't make your product good for me or the world.
Even worse, people will buy those faux-green products, believing they are helping. They'll chuck out some great cabinets to replace them with sustainable bamboo ones. You know what's greener than fast-growing bamboo? The cabinets you already have, because their negative impact on the earth has pretty much ended. The energy has already been spent to produce and transport them, they're finished off-gassing and they're not in a landfill. But greenwashing has everyone thinking they can and should renovate their entire house and that doing so is the only green option.
What's a wannabe greenie to do?
Learn what products are really good for us and the earth. Don't trust a made-up label at the grocery store. (Find out what eco labels really mean and how they're enforced at Consumer Reports' Eco Labels site.)
Realize that keeping what you have, while not green per se, is probably greener than buying something new, no matter how eco-friendly it is. (Appliances are a good exception to this. Just make sure your old appliance is recycled or finds a new home.)
Research before you shop. It's irritating, but you don't want to be faced with two bottles of cleaners, neither of which lists ingredients, wondering if one is going to give you a headache. You'll learn brands that make claims you can trust, making shopping easier.
And don't lose hope. Greenwashing makes it harder to do the right thing, but if the right thing was always the easiest, it would be called "the easy thing," not "the right thing."