Turn it off. Eat less meat. Don’t eat any meat at all. Recycle. Don’t use plastic. Don’t drive. Don’t fly. Living a green lifestyle can be overwhelming, if not confusing at the best of times. The message can feel conflicting, and many different factors will affect to what extent you can live an eco-friendly life. The masses of information from an influx of sources can leave you feeling paralysed and unsure of where to even begin. In fact, a recent survey by Wealthify found that two in five of us feel a societal pressure to be more ethical.

With let’s delve into the biggest marketing villain of them all: greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

Don’t quite know what ‘greenwashing’ is? Fear not. Three-quarters of UK consumers don’t know either and only 37% of the most conscious consumers amongst us – 18–24-year-olds – have recently admitted that they could spot a brand that’s ‘greenwashing’.

Greenwashing provides the consumer with the impression that their products are environmentally friendly, even when that is not the case. Companies will often lead their consumers to believe that they are doing more to help the environment than they are. These companies are not outrightly lying but, it’s certainly not a case of little white lies, either. They may release a ‘green’ product produced somewhat sustainably, but their overall environmental footprint remains the same. A bit like putting tape over a puncture and hoping for the best.

How do you spot greenwashing?

Sometimes, products that have been ‘green-washed’ are a little too shouty about it. The products will be covered in green-branding and over-the-top eco-friendly language. You shouldn’t take what a company has to say about sustainability at face value. If they are truly ‘green’, they will provide their consumer with the evidence. To apply the ultimate cynicism rule of thumb: if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

3 ways to avoid greenwashing

  1. Look for proof of a brand’s claims: look on a company’s social channels and their website to see how the brand presents itself as a whole and if they live up to their claims.
  2. Trust credible sources: Ethical Consumer offers independent ethical consumer guidance so is a great place to double check if a brand can stand-up to it’s claims.
  3. Think about products beyond the one you’re considering buying: a brand may claim that a particular product is ethical, but the concept might not go hand-in-hand with the rest of its product offering or wider business practices.

Isn’t going green too expensive?

There is a preconception that going green means going pricey. It’s true that some sustainable and ethical products are more expensive but as a consumer it’s important that you balance up the product that’s available to you and the long-term benefits the product will bring. Often sustainable products do exactly what they say on the tin; they are more sustainable and therefore you get more longevity and use out of a product. In doing so, you’re able to make ethical strides and play a part in saving the planet.

Getting going without the greenwashing

Knowledge is king! Finding out more about the brands you shop with and their ethical score can be a good starting point in determining where your commitments lie and how this marries up with your purse strings. It also means you avoid brands that don’t live up to authentic ethical standards.

Happy sustainable shopping!