When you’re looking to purchase and use green products sometimes it’s easy to be mislead. “Greenwashing” refers to any misinterpretation by a company leading consumers to believe that their product is environmentally friendly.
In December 2007 a company called TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Consulting Company became known for a study that established the seven deadly sins of greenwashing:
Sin of the hidden trade off: Referring to a product as green based on a narrow set of attributes without notice to other important environmental issues. For example, a restaurant with organic food but that requires shipping instead of using an equally beneficial local product.
Sin of No Proof: This one is tricky. The sin of no proof is an environmental claim that cannot be substantiated or certified by a third party. This is common with products like toilet paper and facial tissues with no evidence to prove green claims.
Sin of Vagueness: A claim that is poorly defined or so broad that it could be misleading like “All-Natural.” If you are confused be sure to look at the actual ingredients because things like uranium and formaldehyde are technically all-natural.
Sin of Irrelevance: This sin uses or references the truth but it is unhelpful or does not make sense. Products with wording like “CFC free” can intrigue consumers because it sounds good. . . Until you know that all products are CFC free.
Sin of Fibbing: This sin is when companies make claims that are simply false. Exxon Mobile claimed to have reduced emissions, while in actuality their emissions had been raised.
Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils: The “green” part may be true but on the whole it may distract the consumer from the real impact - such as organic cigarettes or green pesticides.
Sin of Worshipping False Labels: This sin claims a third party endorser through words or images to give the impression of being green, when in fact there no such endorsement exists.
To counter these misinterpretations that are all around us we must be aware, knowledgeable and unafraid to ask questions. The green trend and industry is evolving and if it is important to you staying on top of current trends and regulations can help your understanding. If a restaurant it green certified you have the right to ask how and what’s included in that certification.