I was surprised to see how popular my first post on Companies that are Greenwashing has become in recent months – it’s fantastic to see that people are taking an interest on this important environmental issue. For more information on greenwashing see: Tips to Avoid Greenwashing. So, I thought I’d do a little update on more companies and concepts that I’m calling greenwashing! Here are companies that are greenwashing – part 2!
Simple Makeup Removal Wipes
I’ve mentioned these before in my Beauty and Home Decor Product Regrets post. This brand has recently had a revamp and claim that their product is now “better for the environment” because the wipes are biodegradable. I call greenwashing. First, there is no regulated definition of the term biodegradable, it just means that they may break down in certain conditions. Microplastics and microfibers are a major polluting issue, so I’m skeptical when a product claims to break down into smaller pieces. Items often don’t break down in landfills, and many people still flush wipes down the toilet (please don’t)!
Leaving aside the claim, it irks me that some social media influencers known for their environmental content are paid ambassadors for this product. These wipes are still single use products. They still come wrapped in plastic, and need to be manufactured and shipped across the world. In no way are makeup removal wipes (or any disposable wipe) good for the environment. I actually call greenwashing on influencers who are meant to be promoting sustainability working with brands like this; it’s disappointing.
Industrially Compostable and Biodegradable
I call greenwashing on these terms; they are misleading to consumers. Items that are labelled industrially compostable cannot be put in your home compost. So, where do you put them? Well, that’s the problem because my council certainly doesn’t have a scheme to collect these types of compostable items. If you put them in recycling, it messes up the recycling scheme. If you put them in general waste, they sit in the landfill. Please be sure to look for “home compostable” on the products you buy.
As I mentioned above, biodegradable is also a sneaky term. An item breaking down into tiny bits isn’t necessarily a good thing and even if it is, you need the right environment for products to biodegrade. I don’t think it is a bad endeavor to make products biodegradable, but I strongly believe that biodegradable as a term should be certified and regulated with a clear definition.
Check out this article on debunking the compostable myth for great info!
As the saying goes, reduce, reuse, then recycle. We all know that the recycling system is broken. China isn’t accepting the world’s garbage any more (rightly so), and Malaysia has also started sending back contaminated recycling. The reality is that most of the world’s recyclable items are not being recycled. It is not THE solution. Companies like Coca Cola modified their branding so that the tin/bottle reads “100% recyclable” – they are putting the responsibility on the customer and not taking accountability for the physical waste they produce, not to mention the manufacturing, transportation, and unethical impacts they create *cough* GREENWASHING. The priority should be reducing the amount we consume in the first place. If you want to know more, check out the history of the keep America beautiful campaign.
Vegan Junk Food
I want to be careful here. I’m supportive of people reducing their meat and dairy consumption, and I applaud people who took part in veganuary. But, companies jumped on the vegan bandwagon like crazy! At the end of the day, this is still junk food. It’s processed food with a high carbon footprint and most likely comes in unsustainable packaging. Do I think fast food and supermarket chains should offer vegan alternatives? Yes. Do I think these “foods” should form the staple part of our diet? No. Stick with whole plant-based foods, and try to source locally, seasonally, and organically when possible (see Eating Seasonally and Locally in the UK while living Zero Waste). Enjoy that vegan burger or faux chicken as an occasional treat.
Eco or Ethical Slogan Clothing
I see this creeping onto my Instagram feed a lot , but mainstream fast fashion retailers are also guilty. For example, fast fashion that has feminist slogans… which are garments made by women in unethical working conditions. “Save the planet” slogan fast fashion is a similar oxymoron. Perhaps you could join a non-profit organisation that promotes positive change in these areas and wear their t-shirt as a volunteer instead. In my opinion, meaningful environmental/ethical change should not be driven by consumerism.
One similar case I came across was a baby clothing company selling koala print onesies during the height of the Australian bush fires. They claimed that 25% of their profits would go to help wildlife affected by the fires. Perhaps they will donate a quarter or their proceeds, but I have to question why someone needs to buy fast fashion (a significant contributor to climate change) in order to help animals impacted by fires exacerbated by climate change. There are lots of reputable wildlife charities to donate to instead, and you can shop for a cute secondhand outfit for your baby.
Trendy Zero Waste Products
As much as I think zero waste products can be a great alternative to single use items, the market has become saturated with “zero waste” solutions for us to consume. The whole point of zero waste is that you make do with what you have… not feed into mass consumerism and profit. Two hilarious (and disappointing) examples of this are: silicone bags shaped like mason jars. Maybe invest in good quality silicone bags that can actually hold a reasonable portion of food, or just use mason jars. Also, reusable water bottles with crystals in them. Why?! I call greenwashing.
These are the examples I’ve been thinking about recently, but more pop up every day as companies seek to profit from the social consciousness of the climate crisis. If you enjoy these sorts of posts, let me know and I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more greenwashing!