What is Greenwashing and How Can You Avoid It?

We spent years paying a premium for home and personal care products that we thought were safe and non-toxic. Down the line, we discovered that terms such as "non-toxic" and "eco-friendly" are unregulated, which means brands all over the world can use them rather loosely.

If you’ve ever shopped for sustainable and clean products, chances are you’ve run into greenwashing. Whether you recognized it at the time or not, many brands intentionally give the false impression that their products are somehow better for you or the planet.  While this is an aggravating issue to deal with as a shopper, there are several easy ways to avoid greenwashing. We’ll discuss them below so you can make educated choices and get products that are truly healthy and sustainable.

Greenwashing is a practice in which companies use false claims, unregulated terms, or distracting tactics to make themselves appear more environmentally conscious or healthier than they really are. Unregulated terms are words that make a product sound sustainable or healthy but are not actually verifiable. Examples include:

  •  Clean
  •  Green
  •  Sustainable
  •  Eco-friendly
  •  Natural

Brands may also use tactics to hide their ingredients by using generic terms, like:

  •  Fragrance
  •  Non-ionic surfactants
  •  Colorants

These umbrella terms are an issue because they can mask up to thousands of chemicals, many of which are harmful to our health and can contribute to respiratory irritation, allergies, headaches, infertility, and even cancer. You can often find brands that claim to be eco-friendly, plant-based, or natural yet they still contain synthetic fragrances, colorants, preservatives, and other harmful chemicals.


How Can You Avoid Greenwashing In Two Simple Steps?

1. Check ingredient lists: Don't rely on claims alone. Have a look at the ingredient list to determine how healthy a product really is. Look for generic terms that could be hiding actual ingredients, such as "non-ionic surfactants", "anionic surfactants", “fragrance”, "perfume", "colorant" and many others. Brands that aren’t using harmful chemicals will most often provide transparent lists of all the ingredients. According to the Environmental Working Group, over 3,000 chemicals can hide behind the words "perfume", "fragrance", or "parfum", many of which can be harmful endocrine disrupting chemicals.

2. Use free tools to check unfamiliar or suspicious ingredients: Reading ingredient labels and researching sustainability practices can be overwhelming. You can make the process easier by using free websites or apps that allow you to search for ingredient safety profiles to find out which are truly sustainable and healthy. A couple of our favorites are:

  • Environmental Working Group's (EWG's) Skindeep database: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep
  • Think Dirty (app)

At Rooted Regimen, we firmly believe in the importance of ingredient transparency. We list out 100% of our ingredients, every one of which is plant or mineral based and has a green safety rating "the safest" on EWG.

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