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Corporations, Products, and a Giant Greenwash

“The phenomena of socially and environmentally destructive corporations, attempting to preserve and expand their markets or power by posing as friends of the environment.”- Definition of Greenwashing according to CorpWatch.

Perhaps a more consumer friendly definition is the one provided by the Stop Greenwash site, “Used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.”

The site goes on to explain,

“The average citizen is finding it more and more difficult to tell the difference between those companies genuinely dedicated to making a difference and those that are using a green curtain to conceal dark motives.”

Examples of greenwashing highlighted on the Greenpeace site are: GM’s Save Gas Ad Campaign and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Terrachoice has defined the Six Sins of Greenwashing

  • Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off
  • Sin of No Proof
  • Sin of Vagueness
  • Sin of Irrevelance
  • Sin of Fibbing
  • Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils

Go on over there and check out all the details, and if needed, download your Six Sins Wallet Cards to carry with you while out shopping (they are free).

Once you’ve printed out your wallet cards (on recycled paper, of course), then read up on Home Depot’s Eco Options. You may be surprised how easy greenwashing sneaks into our lives every day.

Be aware of generic earth friendly claims “earth friendly”, “eco friendly”, “environmentally friendly”, “chemical free”, and “all natural” are just some examples. If a product truly has environmental and/or health benefits, it will be clearly labeled in real language and should have certification to back up the claims.

There are no chemical free products, even water has a place on the periodic table. While out shopping I’ve come across bath and beauty products labeled with “Natural”, “Earth”, “Recyclable”, and packaged in attractive, natural looking containers (bags that look like feed sacks, boxes that are unbleached and look like recycled paper, etc…). The recycle symbol is popping up EVERYWHERE and in reality, many of these items may be recyclable, but there are not centers/collection readily available.

Some companies/products/marketing we believe are guilty of greenwashing:

What companies, products, policy or marketing have you seen that is a big greenwash?


  1. The Johnson & Johnson commercial for Windex always gets me. Sure they power the factories that make all kinds of nasty chemicals with methane, but what exactly is “Green” about Windex? Vinegar and water work better, costs less, and is edible. I guess the next step is to find a vinegar that is produced using alternative energies. Let me know if you know of any. Currently I buy Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar even for cleaning because it seems like they would be a little more thoughtful of the environment than the larger companies, but this is just a guess.

  2. Christine says:

    I’ve been looking for natural/organic makeup and cosmetics lately…it doesn’t matter what company. Almost every single one has some ingredient neatly tucked away that should disqualify it as natural/organic. Mainly natural. They just rename some ingredient and BAM! it’s natural. SO FRUSTRATING. But then again it’s also frustrating that the Skin Deep website isn’t complete, so it’s hard to get reliable info from them as well.

  3. A great post. Seeing through things can always be difficult even for the pros. Who is a pro at this, I am not sure.

  4. I don’t know why Simple Green is included in your list, unless of course you are working with a Simple Green competitor. Simple Green has been around for almost 35 years, longer that “green” has been popular. Simple Green was developed as an alternative to toxic chemicals. Simple Green has a 30+ year record that clearly proves it is not harmful. In addition, Simple Green has added natural products to its line in order to offer 100% naturally sourced, non-toxic, biodegradable products to the public.
    However, due to the green bashing that publications such as yourself, that line of products may never make it into the hands of consumers.
    Simple Green has documentation and 30+ years of use to back up its non-toxic and biodegradable claims. Simple Green is also continually developing new products that are safe and effective.

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