What is Greenwashing?

If you’ve watched TV or been in a mainstream drugstore lately, you’ve witnessed “greenwashing”, but perhaps you’ve never heard the term before. I hadn’t until recently I read it.

Greenwashing“, as defined by the corporation watchdog group CorpWatch is:

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

Countless cosmetic companies are jumping on the trend, spending millions and millions of dollars convincing consumers that they are either concerned about the environment, or have created products that are eco-friendly or “natural” in some way. I know my readers are quite knowledgeable about the fact that “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actually natural. But these companies do such a great job of appearing natural, that sometimes even the best of us will be fooled. Here are some tips for trying to tell the difference between Greenwashing and the True Blues:

  1. Scrutinize the label. This can be arduous for sure. Recently, I bought a cleanser and moisturizer from my aesthetician, who always talked to me about the benefits of natural products and diet in keeping skin supple. She shared a personal story of her son, who had extreme eczema and couldn’t use most mainstream chemical products. When she recommended I purchase the products she had used on me during my facial, I glanced at the label. When I saw words like “olive oil” and “chamomile extract”, I trusted her judgment and handed over my credit card. Big mistake. When I got home I entered the product list in the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database, it rated both products as 9 “HIGH” level toxicity cosmetics! I’m afraid to say I’m a little embarrassed to go back to the salon and return the expensive purchase. What will I tell her? Should I even go to that salon for facials anymore?
  2. If it’s by a “mainstream” corporate giant (you know the ones I’m talking about, so I don’t have to name names), just don’t buy it. Just stay away. These companies are simply NOT looking out for you or for the environment. They are just looking to make money. They test on animals, they use the most toxic ingredients they can just to save money. Just… don’t.
  3. Look for watchdog agency labels. Look for a cruelty-free label by PETA or Leaping Bunny. Look for a USDA certified organic label or a Campaign for Safe Cosmetics endorsement. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s 100% natural, but if it’s cruelty free or organic, it will contain fewer chemicals by default.

Surprisingly, box-store companies like Target are starting to carry reputable natural brands that are True Blue green companies. This is a testament to the shift in awareness among American consumers and the strength of the natural cosmetics movement. People are starting to connect the dots between our health, the environment, and the products we use in on our bodies and in our households. The health food store is always a great option, but it’s nice to know you can go to your local box-store and find reasonably-priced healthy cosmetics. So turn up your nose to the “Greenwashers” and happy hunting!

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