As humans, we tend to be expert embellishers. Whether it’s highlights on a resume or highlighter on our cheek bones, it’s a natural tendency. However, what things do we tend to lay on so thick at the surface that, in turn, what lies beneath is neglected and worsening? This is the adverse effect of what’s known as Greenwashing.
Greenwashing, as defined by Deena Robinson, is when a company or organization markets themselves as being sustainable without actually minimizing their environmental impact. The embellishments of eco-friendly claims are sometimes used as a tool to attract a specific group of consumers. In these cases, the motives are more beneficial to the organization than the environment itself.
The term greenwashing came about in 1986 during the “Save the Towel Movement” which was a nation-wide push for decreased towel usage in hotel franchises. Hotels spoke of how much energy and water wasted for towel maintenance alone, hoping to inspire guests to become more conservative in their usage. Environmentalist Jay Westerveld later found that there were multiple areas in which these corporations were having a negative impact on the environment yet had no known initiative to address it. These lead to the discovery that Hotels were looking to decrease laundry expenses for the benefit of the company more so than the environment. While their laundry expenses decreased, electricity, food waste, and gas emissions continued to rise; and in some cases, they increased even more as hotels were being filled with guests wanting to enjoy their stay at the “eco-friendly’ hotel branch.
So, how am I supposed to know if a claim is greenwashed? Earth.org points out a few telltale signs. There a few questions one can ask themselves or the organization. Do they use broad language like “produced sustainably” without evidence or examples? Do they use complicated language that only an environmental scientist could confirm or deny rather than an everyday customer? Are they claiming environmental friendliness for an item that is otherwise harmful by nature (i.e. eco-friendly cigarettes)? If the answer to these questions is yes or something similar, an alternative brand may need to be considered. There are many tools and search engines such as Project Cece and Ethical Made Easy that list trustworthy sustainable brands.
At TK Collective, the items we bring to you are not only sustainable because they’re handmade, but they are radiant with culture. Every culture is formed and nourished by the environment that provides it, creating a oneness with Man and Earth. With every like, share and purchase you are standing with us in gratitude to this balance.
So, as you go through your day and begin to notice the plethora of eco-friendly advertisements you can freely wonder, what’s beneath the surface?