5 tips to avoid the greenwashing trap

The world is perfect in the supermarket: cows grazing in green pastures look at us from the milk cartons, happy chickens flutter at us from the egg cartons. Everything is somehow “sustainable”, “regional” and “free of …” – or at least packaged in “old plastic”.

It feels good to shop responsibly and in an environmentally conscious way. But if we take a critical look at what ends up in our shopping cart, we sometimes find that the “green” bill can be deceiving. It is no coincidence that many products appear to be consumed with a clear conscience. Behind this is the greenwashing marketing strategy.

Why do companies do greenwashing?

Quite simply: they want to generate higher sales. The ecological sympathy bonus gives them a possible competitive advantage and it seems to be paying off. Greenwashing campaigns enable us to identify ourselves more strongly with the products and reward companies that apparently offer green products by placing them above comparable offers when making purchasing decisions. So we can consume as usual with a clear conscience and behave similarly to a fried potato diet. We know it doesn’t work, but we’re happy to be fooled.

With greenwashing campaigns, companies can also cover up environmentally harmful manufacturing and business practices or even create acceptance for such working methods. A “green” image should distract from the weak points. Political motives are also not uncommon. Greenwashing should have a positive impact on opinion leaders and critical consumers. The companies suggest that they are already in the process of solving environmental problems on their own and that binding rules are therefore superfluous. In this way, the economy succeeds again and again in undermining legislative proposals.

5 tips to avoid the greenwashing trap

  1. Look closely: Do the picture and product really match? Or are the eggs with the photo of the free-range chickens only from barn hens?
  2. Critically question terms: Completely different standards apply to an organic apple than to an apple shampoo, where the term “organic” is usually just a marketing phrase. Because the terms “organic” or “eco” are only legally protected if they are used to label food that has been produced in accordance with the requirements of the EC organic regulation. In the case of other products such as cosmetics, cleaning agents, textiles or furniture, there are currently no special legal regulations for dealing with the word “organic”. In the case of commodities labeled “organic”, the legislator only expects that they consist of natural substances or that they do not pose any health risks.
  3. Know empty words: Unfortunately, words like “regional” or “sustainable” are often just empty phrases and can be used freely. They do not guarantee any specific quality criteria. “Regional” can be anything that has been manufactured, processed or just packaged in Germany. It is better to pay attention to specific regional information such as Rhineland, Uckermark or Markgräflerland or to buy directly from the farmer.
  4. Shop seasonally: When it comes to vegetables and fruits, you should make sure that you buy seasonal products as much as possible. This actually makes it easier to consume regional fruit and vegetables and thus avoid long transport routes.
  5. Know seals and certificates: Be aware that manufacturers sometimes use made-up seals and certifications on products to make them “greener” than they actually are. However, you can rely on some reputable seals. The NABU Siegel-Check app can help you keep track of the jungle of seals.

Documentation “Green Promises – How Consumers Are Deceived”, ZDF Mediathek :

Seal check app from NABU:

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