Greenwashing: Avoid falling victim to misleading marketing claims of eco-friendliness

IL Environmental Council has tips on how to spot greenwashing

ByTracy Butler and Blanca Rios WLS logo
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Avoid falling victim to something called 'greenwashing'
Avoid falling victim to a misleading marketing practice called greenwashing with these helpful tips from the Illinois Environmental Council.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More and more people want to be good stewards of the earth by being green and more sustainable.

But despite their best efforts to research and stay informed, it's easy to fall victim to something called greenwashing.

"It's essentially a marketing ploy by corporations and companies to get consumers to buy their products under the guise that they're more environmentally friendly," Samira Hannessian, the Energy Policy Director with the Illinois Environmental Council

But there are ways around greenwashing.

"Trying to steer clear of products that have some of those buzz words with no grounding: natural, sustainable, ecofriendly, recyclable or even compostable," said Hannessian.

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And don't be fooled by imagery.

"The box is green, there's some nature elements we have a mountain, explains Hannessian. "Look a little closer because what the product is selling are k-cups for coffee and those are not recyclable but what we have here is that they are."

Take a look at these two cans of very similar vegetable soups. You may think the more earthy-looking can on the right is the one that's more eco-friendly but both cans and their labels can be recycled.

"Just looking at these two side by side on the shelf, someone might just by default gravitate to the one that's just a little bit more earth oriented, or like speaking my language," said Hannessian.

And how about these clearly labeled "flushable wipes?"

"Regardless of what they're made out of though, they're not flushable, our sewer system cannot handle them. Please never throw them down the toilet," advised Hannessian.

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Despite what may appear to be seemingly wrong, companies are able to get away with greenwashing. Technically, they are not doing anything wrong, they're just marketing.

"Check those labels, it is unfortunate that it puts the onus on consumers because it should be on the corporations," said Hannessian. "Shop local whenever possible, that's one of the better ways of getting around this greenwashing issue, is just going straight to the source."

Check the Illinois Environmental Council for more information on greenwashing.