Making Sense of Green Living Amidst False Advertising
Interest in buying eco-friendly products has spiked in recent times, especially among millennials and Generation Z. As sustainability becomes a trending value, many brands are aiming their marketing at environmentally-conscious people — but unfortunately, many don’t change their production or distribution practices to match their words. This practice, called greenwashing, can make it difficult for consumers to achieve a truly sustainable lifestyle.
To avoid misleading marketing and scams targeted toward people with good environmental intentions, you need to learn to read between the lines. Here’s what you can do to avoid greenwashing companies and reduce your carbon footprint as a consumer.
Choosing Slow Fashion Brands
Lots of fashion retailers market their brands as “green.” Whether they state their clothes are made with natural fibers, or claim they’re offsetting carbon by planting trees, many brands aren’t nearly as ethical as they appear to be. For example, while H&M has greatly publicized its sustainability initiatives, it’s still a fast fashion business that’s increasing its greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, H&M’s “sustainable” clothing donation program, which offers discounts in exchange for used clothes, fuels consumerism by encouraging new purchases.
When shopping for clothes, focus on incorporating slow fashion into your wardrobe. Prioritize pieces that are durable and timeless — which allows them to last longer — and opt for eco-friendly materials like organic cotton or hemp.
Furthermore, the brands you choose should be fully transparent about their production and distribution processes. Truly sustainable companies have sustainable supply chains.
Navigating Wellness Culture
The wellness industry is perhaps one of the most notorious for propagating false health claims and “cure-alls”. From promoting essential oils to ginger, which does have benefits, but which doesn’t improve your immune system, there’s no shortage of natural immunity-boosting, mind-clearing, pain-relieving remedies on the market. However, not all of these supplements are effective. Many of them are just overpriced and over-packaged goods.
Some wellness tips may drive you to use organic remedies that don’t work (like non-synthetic alternatives for anti-aging), which can hinder your health. To keep yourself and the environment healthy, prioritize getting the vitamins you need from unprocessed foods, rather than relying on packaged products. Doing so also allows you to improve your health through the meals you would’ve needed anyway, so you can reduce waste.
Buying from local farmers’ markets can further reduce your carbon footprint, in part by reducing the environmental costs of delivery. Consider walking, carpooling, or riding the bus to your nearest farmers’ market to avoid adding a solo car ride to your carbon footprint.
Making Your Home Eco-Friendly
Your home is where you spend a lot of your time, which means it can be an epicenter for your personal waste. But while opting for energy-efficient appliances and lighting — which practically every household needs — is a great start for reducing your waste, many salespeople are constantly promoting unnecessary eco-friendly products and upgrades for the home.
Making your home eco-friendly doesn’t have to be expensive or drastic. It can be as simple as planting a tree in your backyard, which delivers shade for less energy consumption in the summer, or switching to smart plugs that allow you to turn off lights from anywhere. While these actions may seem small, they can significantly reduce your carbon footprint
When you are making a larger investment for your home, do your research to ensure you fully understand the environmental value of your purchase. For example, solar panels don’t last a lifetime, even with proper maintenance — and when they go to the dump, they’re actually considered hazardous waste that can harm human and environmental health.
Consuming Less Is Key
Ultimately, green living isn’t about choosing the right products to buy. It’s about limiting your consumption altogether. Even the most sustainable brands create waste at some point in the supply chain, even if it’s minimal. By focusing on ways to reduce purchases and fully use what you buy — perhaps by mending clothes instead of tossing them or repurposing food scraps to dye your hair — you can ensure you’re only adding what’s absolutely necessary to your carbon footprint.
Despite the draw of eco-friendly items, it’s important to remind yourself new purchases aren’t always necessary. You don’t need a trendy mesh tote for your groceries — any reusable bags will do. Sustainable purchases are most impactful when they replace a necessary item that isn’t environmentally-friendly, as bamboo toothbrushes do for plastic ones.
Green Living Is Possible
While green living often feels difficult to navigate, due to the abundance of marketing pulling us in different directions, it is possible. Reading between the lines is all about spotting what information brands are omitting — like what happens within their supply chain — and opting for products that are useful and sustainable. However, avoiding the influence of marketing is always the ideal route to take. When you reduce your purchases and make eco-friendly decisions, you can live life greener than ever.