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How to avoid greenwashing while online shopping

Don’t let greenwashing interfere with your goals to buy green products


With climate change a major concern, people are more conscious than ever about protecting the environment. Companies are aware of this trend, too, as they compete for consumer dollars. However, some use deceptive advertising and marketing practices called greenwashing to get shoppers to buy items that may not be environmentally friendly.

If your goal is to shop online for items that won’t hurt the environment, you need to be aware of greenwashing and how to choose environmentally friendly products across numerous categories.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing occurs when a company promotes products using terms and slogans that are associated with the green movement, but in reality, it doesn’t abide by environmentally sound practices.

Words commonly used to appeal to customers who prefer to buy green products include natural, organic and nontoxic. Some companies even claim that products are sustainable or eco-friendly when in fact, they don’t live up to those claims with sustainable practices.

Not only is greenwashing bad for the environment, but it’s misleading to consumers who want to invest in products that aren’t harmful to the planet.

Types of greenwashing

There are four key types of greenwashing to look out for as you shop.

  • Persuasive imagery: Some companies use lovely photos of flowers, trees, birds and more in the marketing of their products to make them appear green. While these appealing images grab attention, they mean nothing if the company is actually polluting the earth.
  • Irrelevant messaging: A claim that’s contradicting is another form of greenwashing. For example, if a cosmetic company lists that a product is free of parabens but contains other equally harsh additives, it’s not eco-friendly.
  • Misleading label information: A common form of greenwashing includes claims of organic, all-natural or pure on labeling without proof to back up these claims.
  • Unmentioned trade-off: You may think a product is green if it’s made of recycled materials. However, if the company is involved in other practices that pollute the planet, it’s not green.

Tips for shopping green online

As you browse for products on your favorite online merchants’ sites, there are steps you can take to ensure that you aren’t swayed by false promises of sustainability.

Do your research. When in doubt, look online to find out more information about a company’s stance on the environment before you buy.

Read beyond the product listing. When you shop online, retailers’ websites have varying amounts of information posted about each product they sell. However, many companies offer closer views of product labeling so you can easily check out fine details such as ingredients. For example, you can find an ingredient list for products such as eco-friendly laundry detergents to help you make an informed decision.

Look for certification by key green organizations. Certifications such as Energy Star, FSC and WaterSense ensure that products meet specific green standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also provides information on its website about sustainable products that are made without harsh chemicals.

Opt for energy-saving products. Investing in smart thermostats, battery-powered tools, water-conserving products and solar-powered gadgets will help make your home and lifestyle greener.

Best green products to buy online

Greenworks Pro Cordless Lawn Mower

Greenworks has been a leading company in battery-powered lawn tools for years. With a powerful motor and up to 45 minutes of runtime per charge, the Pro cordless mower is the way to go for cutting your grass without producing emissions.

Sold by Amazon

Goal Zero Boulder 200 Briefcase Solar Panel

Easy to transport and set up, this foldable unit features two 100-watt solar panels for powering small appliances and devices when paired with a power station. It’s a good choice for off-the-grid adventures when you need sustainable energy on the go.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Green Toys Farm Playset

Toys can be eco-friendly too! Green Toys is a sustainable brand that makes toys with 100 percent recycled plastic. This adorable set has a barnyard theme that youngsters love.

Sold by Amazon

Shark Genius Steam Pocket Mop

A steam mop may not come to mind when you think of green products, but the fact that it sanitizes with steam instead of chemicals makes it an environmentally friendly home cleaning tool. This top-selling model sets up in minutes and is easy to use.

Sold by Amazon, Wayfair and Home Depot

Biokleen Concentrated Laundry Detergent Liquid

This laundry detergent meets the EPA’s Safer Choice standards for its chemical-free formula, so you can feel confident using it as part of your green living plan. You can choose from three scents that are light and pleasant or a fragrance-free formula.

Sold by Amazon

Smart Solar Marin Fountain

We love this solar fountain’s stylish fish design that looks great in any outdoor living space. In addition to gaining its power from the sun’s rays, it also uses minimal water by recycling it through the unit.

Sold by Amazon

Jackery Explorer 240 Power Station Solar Generator

You can have power when exploring or when the power goes out with this solar generator. Simply pair it with a solar panel, and it will operate devices, lights and other small appliances. You can also charge in via a wall or vehicle outlet.

Sold by Amazon

Puracy Everyday Surface Cleaner

Made with plant-based ingredients, this cleaner doesn’t contain harsh additives such as petrochemicals that are hard on the environment. A little goes a long way with the concentrated formula that’s simple to mix and use.

Sold by Amazon

Google Nest Learning Thermostat

The Nest Learning Thermostat gets its name from the intuitive technology that learns your temperature preferences and sets itself accordingly. You’ll also know when you're saving energy — a leaf pops up on the vivid screen to alert you when you make a smart temperature choice.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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