How to tell if a product is actually eco-friendly or not

soap and brush

With so many businesses these days wanting to jump on the green bandwagon and be able to say that they sell eco friendly products, it is important to be able to distinguish where these claims fall down. It can be difficult to tell where fiction and fact diverge, due to some of the high quality advertising campaigns that are being mounted to apply greenwashing techniques to enhance the reputations of certain companies. The only way to be sure is to scrutinise how what they say publicly stands up to the facts.

Details are key

Companies often make sweeping claims like their product is “all-natural” or “green” without actually going into what they mean by this. The less specific the claim, the more likely that it isn’t backed up by facts. If there is a much more specific claim like “we use 100% recycled plastic in our packaging”, this is far more likely to be true and verifiable. Most companies wouldn’t risk their reputations by lying about something that is easy to disprove whereas less specific claims are easier to fudge.

Treat “green” branding with a pinch of salt

Many companies attempt to cater to people who care about the environment by using packaging that reflects what they see as the values of the customer. This is usually just relatively clever marketing. I’m sure we can all think of instances with an overuse of pictures of trees on the packaging, maybe some earthy brown tones to suggest sustainability. The companies that do this are usually compensating for relatively poor environmental records.

Examine the labels / packaging

If products are truly eco friendly, they will likely have awards, seals and endorsements from reputable organisations to confirm this. Some Three green arrows in a triangle (called a Mobius loop) on any UK packaging means that it is possible to recycle it. The Forest Stewardship Council also has a mark that looks like a combination of a tree and a tick / check mark to indicate when wood has been ethically sourced and produced from trees in sustainable forests.

Look at the company website

Most companies will have a page on their website dedicated to explaining more about their environmental efforts. This can be a good place to drill down into the finer detail of what they are actually doing when it comes to green products. It is obviously a lot harder for companies to hide the truth in some sectors than in others. A company making vegan leather and selling through eco stores, for example, would have a harder time and be open to more intense scrutiny than a company not expected to have impeccable green credentials.

Reputation is Everything

Delve into online reviews of the product and company in question. Unless they are very new, other customers will have already done the legwork for you and the information is likely to be available online already. This is one area where the internet really comes into its own and active efforts are now being made to find out the extent of the environmental friendliness of many retailers.

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