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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Greenwashing: Be Aware

by Vestina F. Crayton, Extension Educator, Urban Sustainability

When purchasing an environmentally preferable or sustainable product or service be aware of greenwashing. TerraChoice (, a science-based environmental marketing organization, defines greenwashing as the ‘act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.’ Purchasing green starts with a decision and making a decision is a process. Part of this process includes gathering information. This information is retrieved from internal and external sources. Past experiences is a primary internal source while friends, family, advertisements, make up some of the external sources. Many consumers rely on advertisements and labeling to gather information to assist with making a purchase. Advertising professionals understand the psychology of the decision making process and appeal to the average consumer buy following the marketing mix: product, price, place, and promotion. Product is the tangible good or service, price is the amount given that reflects the actual or perceived value, place is the where or how the product or service is disseminated and promotion is the activities that entice the consumer to purchase.

For many, being green, environmentally conscientious, and sustainable is a way of life. However, there are others who are just discovering the social, economic, and environmental benefits of being green. This interest is attributed, in part, to marketing and promotion. Generally speaking, the novice green purchaser will initially seek out goods and services that highlight qualities such as environmentally friendly, eco-friendly, and green through packaging, logos and colors. This is not necessarily the wrong way to identify green products but make sure the product is actually what it is claiming to be. Be aware of greenwashing.

When gathering information to make a green purchase, do the research, look for the third party certified labels and ask the vendor or manufacturer the who, what, when, where, and how was the product created. Including this information into your decision to make a green purchase will give you the confidence that you will not be greenwashed.

TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc (November 2007)”The Six Sins of Greenwashing” (
Crayton Vestina F. (May 2008) ”How Do I know it’s Green?”
Crayton Vestina F. (April 2008) “Finding Green Products is Simple.”


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