Illustration by Marianna Spiliotaki

The answer to Greenwashing is conscious consumers

Spending a few time online or watching advertisements on TV, one can easily believe that nowadays more and more people are motivated to save the planet. Unfortunately though, if one looks a bit further, soon they will realise that all this advertising in nothing but a way for companies to make their products more appealing for the consumers. We are talking about the misguidance of the consumers through the promotion of a product’s “green” characteristics and the creation of an “environmentally conscious” image for companies, in an attempt to rise sales — the so-called Greenwashing. Numerous companies around the world use such techniques in order to achieve this very goal.

The most frequent and probably the most persuasive of these techniques is the selective promotion of certain ingredients a product contains. Sometimes advertisements focus solely in a “green” ingredient, without presenting any evidence that proves it is indeed eco-friendly, while at the same time they choose not to mention other, harmful for the environment, ingredients. A consumer can easily make do with that and forget to check the fine print on the packaging.

Furthermore, let’s not forget that an advertising campaign may seem like giving solutions to an environmental problem, but at the same time company’s activities may be causing another. A good example are clothing companies that claim they use eco-friendly material, while working conditions in their factories are extremely unhealthy and dangerous for their employees.

Additionally, corporations often form a fake “green profile” to make profit from consumers’ will to embrace a more eco-friendly lifestyle. This particular phenomenon, contemporary and at the same time dangerous, is based on the fact that as customers we rarely take a careful look at what we actually buy. Companies that follow such methods usually take advantage of today’s fast paced lifestyle and of the fact that it is probably a luxury for someone to dedicate time to think what they buy.

It is in our hands to adopt a more conscious mindset as consumers and not trust blindly advertising campaigns — and more importantly to reduce consumption on a personal level. We must always keep in mind that, if we really want to contribute to protecting our planet, we ought to constantly consider what we spend our money for. It would be even wiser to search for eco labels and reports by NGOs, that usually present a more objective notion on products.

So that means that we have to denounce any environmental activity that is being conducted by big corporations? Of course we don’t encourage being dogmatic. Our purpose is to question, always in good will, whatever we hear or see happening around us. Through this critical thinking we will be able to discriminate misinformation from valuable information. By supporting such a way of thinking we can affect friends and family in a positive way, so that they will also be able to apply such methods in their daily life.

Mariana Spiliotaki