Our growing awareness as a society of the toxins present in our food and products is a beautiful sign that we are moving towards a more positive future for us all. Businesses who supply these products, long left unchecked, are picking up on our desire as consumers for healthier, cleaner, more eco-friendly alternatives. It’s not always clicking with them the way it should, though.
Unfortunately, instead of giving us the products we desire, many are simply changing their branding to look like a better product while still feeding us the same toxin-laden, environmentally harmful things they’ve been marketing to us for years. This is a deliberate deception and unethical on many levels.
This is the act of “Greenwashing.” By changing the label to natural colors such as greens and browns and adding “buzz words” like “eco” or “sustainable” when they aren’t, they’re fooling us into picking their brand over others. There’s no wonder our trust issues are so rampant.
Sadly, it falls on us as the consumers of the products to decipher which ones are who they say they are and which ones are trying to play us for fools. It is illegal, but so many follow the “ask for forgiveness, not permission” route and have to be caught before they change.
How to Recognize Green Washing
Since those above-mentioned buzzwords aren’t regulated, it can be hard to identify which ones are telling the truth and which ones aren’t. A few humanity-plus organizations are helping make this process a little easier for us by providing “seals of approval,” so look for those from:
- Fair Trade
- Cradle to Grave
- USDA Organic
- Carbon Trust Standard
Pay attention to the packaging. If it has extra, unnecessary plastic packaging, it’s a pretty good indication that they aren’t actually trying to do better in their practices. If the claims are irrelevant to the product (like a trash bag being recyclable), that’s another red flag on their intentions.
Verse yourself in label reading. The more ingredients listed, especially things you can’t pronounce, the more of a chance it’s not meeting the standards we’re looking for. The more you practice reading labels, the easier it’ll be to identify which products are the better choices, so don’t let it overwhelm you in the beginning.
Transitioning Into a Conscious Consumer
Research really is king when it comes to making better purchasing choices in our daily goods. It can feel very overwhelming in the beginning, but just as you’ve spent the whole of your life accumulating one way of living, it’s going to take a little bit of an adjustment to figure out the other side of it.
Don’t try and overturn everything all at once. That trap catches many and makes them give up before getting started. As you run out of one item and consider replacing it with a better alternative, look for small and/or local handmade items when you can. Stock up on soaps at the farmer’s market and support those who do their best to create a better world for us all.
We shouldn’t have to work so hard in researching what products are safe for us. In the future, perhaps we won’t have to. Until then, nothing beats a bit of research, and I thank those out there doing the in-depth, heavy lifting for us so that most of what we need to know is a simple Google search away.