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What’s This Greenwashing Thingy All About? (And how do I avoid it?)

If you came here wondering what this greenwashing thingy’s all about, then you came to the right place. Allow us to demonstrate what this means exactly via a story of everyone’s favourite pastime: eating ice cream (vegan ice cream, of course). 

Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re perusing your local grocery store ice cream aisle and you come across a brand sellingC-O-R-I-A-N-D-E-R flavour ice cream. Blech. Oh but wait, it’s covered in a delicious layer of creamy chocolate, and actually the photos make it look pretty damn good. As soon as you get home you dive into your sweet treat, but one bite is all you need to realise that no matter how much chocolate they coat it in, deep down it’s still just coriander ice cream, and it’s gross!

You see, greenwashing is a little like this. The coriander ice cream is the brand’s same old products, made in a way that’s bad for the environment, and rather than fixing the flavour of the ice cream, they’re piling on clever marketing tactics to make you think that their product is something that it isn’t. But no matter how much chocolate they coat their products in, deep down they’re just the same old products packaged in a shiny new way.

This chocolate-coating greenwashing can happen in a whole lot of ways, from earthy looking packaging, to only talking about 2% of what’s actually happening inside their brand. But the results are always the same - well meaning customers buy these ice creams (products) thinking they’re going to be delicious (great for the environment), when in actual fact it was just clever marketing tactics that tricked them into the purchase.

With so much real change needed in our purchasing habits in order to protect our home planet, it’s time we stopped letting brands scramble our brains and we learn to decipher the good from the Glad (cling wrap pun!). Lucky for you, your Fairy Greenmothers are here (that’s us) to teach you all we know.  

  Let’s get into some marketing muck to look out for:

  • Colours - green, brown, any earthy tones
  • Buzzwords -  sustainable, environmentally-friendly, eco, clean, green, vegan
  • Pictures – landscapes, green leafy stuff, animals, anything nature related really
  • Emojis – the plant and weather ones

The confusing thing is that there’s nothing wrong with any of these things on their own, and lots of great brands will be using these to market themselves too. They’re more like that alarm bell warning you to pause before you purchase.

Go to their website. A greener brand is honest and will disclose everything there, but a brand that’s greenwashing will be cagey AF.

While on the site, ask yourself some questions:

  • Do they have an environmental or thoughtful section in their menu?
  • Are they using generic or vague language around their environmental stuff?
  • Are they making blanket claims without statistics, collaborators or certifications to back them up?
  • Are they claiming they’re the best thing since Beyond burgers, or are they transparent about where they can be doing better?
  • Is it fast (fast fashion/fast food) – in which case be extra sceptical about what you’re reading because mass production is just about the biggest red flag there is.

If all else fails and you’re still feeling like OUCH STOP SCRAMBLING MY BRAIN BRAND – write to the brand and ask them some questions. If they’re worth your purchase they’ll take the time to write back to you and shine a light on anything that’s feeling shady.

Okay this is where we set you out into the wild, brave warrior. You are armed with all you need to do great things… and eat delicious ice creams. 

Love your Fairy Greenmothers.