Greenwashing and Its Impacts

Youth Climate Action Team Inc.
2 min readFeb 4, 2023

What Is Greenwashing?

National Geographic describes greenwashing as “a form of misleading information, often used to raise sales, promising to be sustainable, biodegradable, or environmentally conscious.” Simply put, greenwashing is a misleading claim about an organization’s positive impact on the environment.

What Are Ways Companies Greenwash Their Consumers? And How Can You Pick Up On It?

Companies, of all sizes, use keywords for marketing that are known to increase sales. With greenwashing, words like natural, less plastic, eco-friendly, and especially green are commonly used. Adding these words to products does not necessarily confirm greenwashing, but without giving examples and evidence that these factors are true, they are meaningless.

Below are three ways you can avoid greenwashing:

  1. Look for certification labels like Fair Trade Certified, NON GMO Project Verified, and USDA Organic.
  2. Do research into the company’s brand. Typically, on a brand’s website, located in their About Us section, they have specific details about sustainability practices and environmental organizations they work with. These websites should also have a section where they detail how all their products are produced and the materials they are made from.
  3. Compare different brands. This can give you insight into who is telling the truth and who is not. They may have different labels, materials, or numbers to contact them with questions.

What Are The Effects Of Greenwashing On The Environment?

According to the Research Library of Fordham, “In 2010, roughly 2,219 companies were making green claims, [and] about 98 percent of those products were guilty of greenwashing.” These numbers directly hamper the progress made toward sustainability in many ways:

  1. They create trust issues with real green companies. Falsely advertising products as “sustainable” causes consumers to question the reliability of real eco-friendly companies or products. This negatively impacts said companies and in turn any of their efforts to help the environment.
  2. They lead to improper disposals. When a product is marked as recyclable, sustainable, or “green,” consumers assume they can be broken down or thrown away with other recyclable materials. When these materials are placed improperly as a result of false claims, it causes the contamination of processed recyclable loads. This leads to the recyclables being completely thrown away, as they are unusable.
  3. They cause carbon emissions. These branded sustainable products are manufactured the same as non-sustainable products, therefore releasing the same amount of greenhouse gasses instead of reducing the overall amount.
  4. They hold back the positive impact of the sustainable movement. Companies become eco-friendly to help decrease their effects on the environment, but greenwashing negates their efforts on reducing harmful environmental practices.

To conclude, greenwashing not only negatively affects the environment but also consumers looking to make a difference. Next time you go searching for a sustainable brand, take these tips in account and do your research.

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Youth Climate Action Team Inc.

501(c)4 youth movement bridging the gap between non-climate groups & intersectional climate action. https://linktr.ee/officialycatinc