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Greenwashing is a term that's often thrown around in the beauty industry, but what exactly does it mean? Greenwashing is when a company tells you that their product or service is green, eco-friendly, or natural when it's not. The most common example of greenwashing is when companies claim that their products contain ingredients like aloe vera, olive oil, or vitamin E—but these ingredients aren't actually present in any meaningful concentration. There are several ways to spot greenwashed products on store shelves:
What is greenwashing?
So what is greenwashing? In short, it's an attempt by a company to sell their product or make themselves look good in the eyes of consumers by falsely claiming that they are environmentally friendly. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greenwashing happens when an organization makes unsubstantiated claims that their products or services are good for the environment. The EPA defines it as “the act of promoting something as environmentally preferable when it isn't, or making seemingly credible but dubious claims about how your business practices relate to sustainability."
What does greenwashing look like in the beauty industry?
Greenwashing is not always easy to spot.
The best way to distinguish green from gimmicky? Look for a seal of approval from an independent organization, like the USDA Organic or Ecocert labels, which are backed by regulations.
You can also look at the packaging and ingredient list: if there’s a long list of chemicals and preservatives that you can’t pronounce, odds are good that it wasn't made with natural ingredients.
What other products are commonly greenwashed?
How can you avoid greenwashing when shopping?
When shopping for products that make a claim to be "green," you should look for these certifications:
Carbon neutral or carbon offset (this means the company is reducing their own carbon footprint)
Look for the ingredients in your product and whether they are sourced from environmentally friendly companies. You can also look up the company's environmental policy, social responsibility, and track record when it comes to sustainability initiatives. Finally, give them a call! See if they have any transparency online and ask questions about what they do as an organization.
Greenwashing is a marketing ploy that attempts to make a product appear eco-friendly when it isn't, and it's important to be aware of it.
Greenwashing is a marketing tactic that attempts to mislead consumers into believing a product or company is environmentally friendly. It's important to be aware of greenwashing so you can spot and avoid it when shopping.
Often, companies will use buzzwords like “natural” or “plant-based” without any kind of proof behind their claims. They might also show images of plants or animals on their packaging to imply that the product was created with natural ingredients in mind—but it isn't always the case!
Some examples of products that are often greenwashed include:
Skin care moisturizers (many contain parabens, which can disrupt your hormones)
Shampoos (they're often filled with chemicals such as sulfates)
A short list of brands we like that DO NOT GREENWASH.
Greenwashing is a major problem in the beauty industry, but it doesn't have to be. If you're concerned about the environmental impact of your products and want to support brands that are truly committed to sustainability, look for these three things: transparency in their ingredients lists, 2% BDIH certification (or equivalent), and an absence of palm oil. You can also check out organizations like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth that help consumers identify which brands are upholding environmental values and which ones aren't.