GREENWASHING: How to Avoid It

Updated: Dec 6, 2021


In the second part of our coverage on greenwashing, Claire Makepeace covers how to avoid purchasing greenwashed items, or from brands that use greenwashing to increase profits.



Don’t to be swayed by advertising!

  • The packaging that looks the most ‘green’ is not necessarily the best.

  • Take a critical eye to the packaging / advert - are they simply telling you the product is good for the environment, or actually proving it to you? - look for the proof.


''Greenwashing relies on the ‘emotional appeal’ of being good for the environment, but “often, that claim that they are making is not backed up by evidence or research”

Educate yourself and those around you:

  • Learn what genuine third party certification looks like in New Zealand, and seek out products that contain these logos. (one scheme that The Rubbish Trip recommend is b-corp certification)

  • Verify green claims yourself, and “don’t just go to the website of the company that makes the product, because they’re obviously not neutral” - Hannah Blumhardt

  • A helpful resource to start with for your shopping and household products is The Rubbish Trip Regional Zero Waste Shopping Guides

  • Connect with others in your area who are also looking to make more sustainable choices - “the most effective way to reduce waste is for a community to do it together… sharing skills and sharing resources” - Liam Prince (one way to do this is through Facebook groups, such as Zero Waste Wellington)




Where possible, consume less in general:

  • Items (such as fast fashion) which call themselves environmentally friendly, yet encourage you to needlessly consume, are a contradiction with the principles of sustainability.

  • “Reduce, reuse, refuse, BEFORE you think about recycling” - Hannah Blumhardt

  • eg. instead of wondering if single use plastic is as good for the environment as it claims to be, get into the habit of carrying a reusable coffee cup and empty container with you for takeaways.

  • This is a reliable way to ensure you’re not buying in to Greenwashing, as you avoid the issue altogether.


Resources for businesses:

  • Look into joining the Zero Waste Network or Sustain Aotearoa - a system of independent zero waste grocers around the country.

  • To ensure you aren’t greenwashing, see the Commerce Commission guidelines on making accurate claims here

  • From the website: “If you make environmental claims - such as about sustainability, recycling, carbon neutrality, energy efficiency, use of natural products or impact on animals and the natural environment - these must be accurate, scientifically sound and able to be substantiated.”



This article was originally written by Claire Makepeace for the Sustainability Trust in 2020. Full copyright belongs to them.




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