Category_Consommation responsable/durable

What is greenwashing and how to avoid it?


At the beginning of the year, we publish on the blog the article 2018 and its war against plastic by our collaborator Jeanne Desrosiers. Since this publication, several actions have been taken by our governments to reduce, or even eliminate, our consumption of single-use plastic. This is particularly the case with the announcement by our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June 2019 to ban single-use plastic in Canada by 2021.

Plastic has become a hot topic and several companies are taking advantage of this craze to offer “ecological” alternatives to single-use plastic. However, all these alternatives are not miracle solutions and it is important, as a consumer, to find out about the veracity of the information conveyed to us.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing , also called eco-bleaching in French, is a marketing method that relies on the ecological argument of a product . This is a practice that can be misleading for the consumer, who wrongly believes that the product he is purchasing has a positive impact on the environment, when this is not the case at all. .


credit: unsplash

The plastic case

We have seen them appear on our shelves for several years now as an alternative to plastic: compostable and biodegradable plastics. Although companies that offer these types of products are no doubt trying to limit their fossil fuel consumption, selling these alternatives as a “miracle” solution to reduce our ecological footprint is misleading. Indeed, the main difference between conventional plastic and its biodegradable cousin is the ability of plastics to break down through a natural chemical process. Plastic “bio” degrades.

In theory, it's positive.

On the other hand, in practice, it is a little less…

To be able to decompose, the biodegradable plastic must be confronted with a temperature which is around 50 degrees. Which only happens in very rare cases… and never in an ocean, where there is a lot of single-use plastic. In addition, most biodegradable plastics contain, among other things, metals to facilitate their fragmentation. Biodegradable plastic therefore splits into nanoparticles that are just as, if not more, harmful to our planet.


credit: unsplash

Where the situation can become even more problematic is when, by dint of seeing and hearing that biodegradable plastic is better than conventional plastic, we start to consume more of it, because we think we are doing the right thing. for the planet by opting for a biodegradable plastic product… whereas the ideal gesture would be not to get any at all.

This is the perfect example of what greenwashing is.

But how do you spot greenwashing and avoid it?


Boxed water, with its slogan “Boxed water is better” is a good example of greenwashing. The company relies on the ecological and recyclable side of its packaging compared to plastic bottles. However, the truth is far from rosy (or rather green). Tetra Pak are cardboard packaging covered with a thin plastic film on the inside (question that the cardboard does not soak up water). Although they boast of being recyclable, they end up in the trash the majority of the time. Cities do not have the facilities to recycle this type of packaging. A debate could be launched between the environmental impact of using plastic bottles versus cardboard bottles, but in the end, to be ecological, you should simply not buy bottled water.

In order to be more skilled in recognizing greenwashing strategies, here are some tips to avoid falling into the trap :

1. If the product you want to buy uses mostly green packaging and includes images of beautiful landscapes in nature without demonstrating concrete proof that its use is an alternative beneficial for the environment, ask yourself questions!

2. If the product claims to be “organic”, “eco-responsible”, “ethical”, etc., but it has no certified logo to prove it, ask yourself questions!

3. If the “green” terms used to describe the product are vague and non-specific or there is too much information to say nothing, ask yourself questions!

4. If the ad, although it shows a positive impact for the environment, diverts your attention from the bigger picture, it's probably greenwashing! For example, if a large clothing chain releases a marketing campaign highlighting their new "eco-responsible" fiber collection, but it continues to sell products at ridiculous prices and release 52 collections a year, ask yourself questions !

5. Finally, if after asking yourself these questions you are still unsure whether it is greenwashing or not, do some research on the internet and you should get answers quickly.

We hope that these few tips will make your product choices easier!

Reviewed by Marie-Pascale

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