What Is Greenwashing and How Do You Avoid It?


Greenwashing essentially describes when a brand has spent more money on advertising how sustainable they are than minimizing their environmental impact, ironically making the entirety of the brand unsustainable in itself. Greenwashing is used to target an audience that prioritizes their own ecological footprint and due to sustainability becoming more mainstream as the climate crisis worsens, more and more corporations continue to use this deceitful marketing strategy. The term greenwashing was coined by the environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986 in his essay criticizing the irony of the modern movement  “save the towels” in the hotel industry. Westerveld noticed no other efforts in becoming more sustainable in participating hotels, leading him to believe that these hotels were just trying to reduce costs by washing their towels less frequently while marketing it as being eco-friendly. Greenwashing has become more prominent in recent years and more consumers are falling for these “green” products that claim to be sustainable or eco-friendly. To become a more informed consumer, I have created three ways to know when a brand is greenwashing you: research, packaging, and over ambitious goals. 

The most important step when knowing if a brand is greenwashing their consumers is researching the goals a company has created in order to become more eco friendly. Sustainable corporations can go the extra mile and receive certificates such as the Fair Trade certification and the Benefit Corporation, also known as B-Corp Certified. The Fair Trade certification standardizes ethical and environmental practices at every production level while based on an economical, environmental, and social model. The B Corporation is founded in ethical and environmental methods and has the requirement of re-qualification every three years. If a company is large enough to advertise their products as any of the three E’s but is not certified by any of the above organizations or others, then it’s safe to assume that the brand is greenwashing you.

Environmental packaging such as products being contained in a recyclable, compostable, and/or reusable package is an important part of a brands movement into sustainability while advertising their environmental efforts. However, it’s often the case that a company will market their bottle as composed of completely recycled products while their website claims that only some of their products are packaged in mostly recycled containers. This is one of the easiest ways brands try and greenwash their consumers by their claims of recyclable composites on their package, thereby attracting more consumers who won’t research their claims. 

Supporting brands who are either B-Corp Certified or create a production model to follow their regulations is the last step in avoiding being greenwashed. An example of a brand that acknowledges that importance is the Miranda Bennett Studio. They are a team of 9 full time partners with 4 part time employees that are transparent with their efforts in becoming B-Corp Certified as well as creating their own environmentally conscious pillars while they wait to become large enough to be certified. They claim on their website, “While we seek B-Corp Certification, we have found that as a small brand cut, sewn and naturally dyed in-house, many of the third party certifications available to evaluate, measure and report our ethical and sustainable practices are not engineered to measure our scale and particular production model.” Miranda Bennett has five pillars of sustainability: Climate Impact, Circularity, Conscious Design, Community, and Commitment. As the Miranda Bennett studio grows, they continue to stay true to their sustainable pillars while working towards their goal of becoming B-Corp Certified.  

It’s important to note that while greenwashing inherently is deceitful to consumers and goes against intentional environmentalism, for a company to attempt to become more green is a step in the right direction and that effort should be acknowledged. However, greenwashing is harmful to consumers and the environment, and therefore should be approached cautiously with research. I have outlined three guides to follow in order to avoid being greenwashed while becoming a more informed consumer. Researching a company to see whether they meet the standards of large environmental organizations, such as the B-Corp Certification and the Fair Trade Certification, is a good indication that the brand is being transparent with their efforts in becoming more eco friendly even with their packaging and realistic goals. Not all companies are large enough to meet these standards like the Miranda Bennett Studio but by researching their values they stand by, you can become a more informed consumer.




B Corp certification demonstrates a company's entire social and environmental impact. B Corp Certification demonstrates a company's entire social and environmental impact. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://www.bcorporation.net/en-us/certification/

Chilton, C. (2021, March 3). 42 photos from Miami's most iconic decade: The '80s. Esquire. Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/g29664917/best-miami-1980s-photos/

Flagship. Miranda Bennett Studio, LLC. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://shopmirandabennett.com/pages/flagship

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