“Greenwashing” & “Greenhealthing”: How to Spot and Avoid False Claims

"Greenwashing" & "Greenhealthing": How to Spot and Avoid False Claims

Sustainability is catching on as consumers demand ecologically and socially ethical goods | Learn more on Commonshare |, but this only makes it easier for some brands to take advantage of people’s good intentions with spurious offerings. 
Deceitful Advertising
It has long been the case that many brands can engage in so-called “healthwashing,” i.e. claiming that a certain product is healthy even if the reality is that it is not. 
It is actually quite easy for food manufacturers to trumpet their use of “natural” sweeteners as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup – never mind the two having similar effects on health. 
Similarly, many products can legitimately be labeled “whole grain” or “high protein” – labels that sound healthy, even if the products themselves are not. 
This phenomenon of “healthwashing” now has a cousin: greenwashing, presenting products that sound more sustainable than they actually are. 
One of the best and most common examples of how producers greenwash their goods is by making them sound good using vague terms that don’t actually carry any real meaning. 
Vague Labeling: “All-Natural”
Take the term “all-natural meat,” for example. It sounds good. 
It would be all too easy to think that all-natural meat must mean that the animals were raised in a healthy and environmentally sustainable way. This would be a tremendous mistake: typically, products sold with this label do not come with any information about how the animals were treated or what they were fed. 
So, what’s the alternative?
Look for Actual Certifications 
The alternative is to look for actual certifications on the labels of food products you buy. For meat, look for things like Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership. 
Moreover, some certification programs incorporate social as well as ecological considerations. Certifications like Fair Trade Certified, Certified B Corporation, and Food Justice Certified are all concerned with the treatment of workers as well as animals and the environment. 
Deceptive Packaging
Sometimes brands will try to fool customers by using packaging that has a certain amount of eco-friendliness. In essence, if the company can sell you a bag of potato chips with the bag itself being made of recycled paper, you might not ask whether or not the potato chips are ecologically sustainable. 
While it’s all well and good for any company to use eco-friendly packaging, the problem is when eco-friendly packaging functions as a convenient cover for other, less environmentally-friendly processes used to create the product inside.
Again, Look for Certifications 
The solution is again to look for actual certifications. More and more, food brands are using carbon labels – in essence, they are carbon conscious | Learn more on Commonshare |. This is a much better indicator that a product is environmentally friendly. 
How to Approach Sustainable Shopping
When shopping, it is important to keep in mind that certifications have their limits. Health-conscious shoppers tend to gravitate toward certified organic products. While this is good for minimizing pesticide exposure, this does not by itself speak to social sustainability: organic | Learn more on Commonshare | does not mean fair trade, and does not speak to how farmworkers are treated. 
Certification also does not tell the whole story. Certification is expensive enough that some smaller, local producers and brands may not opt for it despite technically meeting the qualifications – another good reason to consider buying local.
Overall, certifications are important sources of information, but it is also important to shop local and keep in mind that no brand is perfect. 

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