When Your Purchase Isn’t As Green As It Seems

illustration of green washing


We all like to have the feel good factor when buying products. So, when a product that we have been lusting after has been made with environmentally friendly ingredients and fairtrade practices, it is a double whammy in the buying feel good stakes.

When provided with the choice, we believe that most people will choose an ethical product over a less ethical product, if the quality is the same. Unfortunately, many big brand marketers know this and therefore want to try and attach their products to the “ethical bandwagon”.

“Greenwashing” has become a big business and sadly many consumers are being tricked by it. Coined in the 1980’s to describe outrageous corporate environmental claims, greenwashing has made it hard for consumers to deduce what is truly “organic” or “green” or “fairtrade”. Why? Because companies and their PR experts have become masters at making their bad-for-environment products appear green.

According to The Greenwashing Index, “Greenwashing” is when “a company or organisation spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimise environmental impact.”

Certification Counts

Some brands on the market look green by using clever eco packaging and touting themselves as “eco-friendly” or “chemical free” or “fair trade” but they are, in fact, far from it. According to Fairtrade New Zealand, there is no government regulation around the use of the term “Fairtrade” again putting the responsibility on the consumer to check the validity of claims, particularly if a product does not carry an independent certification mark. Fairtrade is a wonderful non profit company which works to support farmers, particularly in developing countries. The Fairtrade mark and certification, shows that the product has been audited and certified and that the ingredients have also been verified as fairtrade, right back as far as the supply chain from the farmers, traders to end manufacturer. If a product is calling itself fairtrade but does not carry the logo, then it is not certified fairtrade and its claims should be investigated further.

Organic Cotton Certification

Organic cotton products are often advertised as “organic” but have no certification to back them up. One might question the point in purchasing an organic cotton item, if the factory the organic cotton item was made in leaches harmful chemicals into the waterways. Again, it is up to the consumer to become educated in what to look for with regards to organic certifications. GOTS (Global Organic Textile standard) is a global organic standard, which consists of on-site inspection and certification of processors, manufacturers and traders performed by independent specially accredited bodies. It was set up to provide a credible assurance and certification for organic textiles. If a consumer sees this certification then they can be assured that the organic item is fully compliant with international organic standards.

If there is no certification but the item is touted as “organic” or “fairtrade” or “eco-friendly” or “green”, then the saying ‘buyer beware’ applies as there is a fairly good chance that all is not all it seems. If you are not sure, a quick google of the product will allow you to ascertain whether or not the company is as green as the packaging may be suggesting.

Buyer’s Checklist

To help you avoid greenwashing, House of March has created a quick and easy graphic with tips on how to avoid it when shopping. Also check out House of March’s buyer’s checklist, below:

  1. Look for the Fairtrade certification. Fairtrade and green are closely linked.
  2. Look for a certification on the packaging that represents a reputable 3rd party, e.g. “GOTS” for certified organic cotton products and the Fairtrade symbol for fairtrade certified products.
  3. Look for proof of the eco and green claims on the packaging. A quick google search of the company followed by the word ‘environment’ should give valuable insight.
  4. Ignore green fluffy language such as “eco-friendly” and “chemical free” and “recyclable”, these words mean nothing if not backed up by a reputable certification.
  5. Don’t be fooled by green looking packaging and green looking icons.

At House Of March we believe in full transparency with regards to our cotton products. Our products are certified organic and fairtrade and can be purchased here for your snuggling pleasure.


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