If you don’t know what greenwashing is, it's what a company markets their product as sustainable or ethical when it's really anything but.
I interviewed 232 individuals about what the hardest part about shopping sustainably is. Here were their answers, ranked from their largest to smallest:
When discussing greenwashing, this is what the interviewees sounded like: ”Aidan, I want to shop sustainably, but it takes so much time to try to figure out which companies to buy from. I don’t want to spend more money for a product that’s tricking it’s way into being green”
“I understand, and I carry the weight of greenwashing on my shoulders every single day” - Aidan
It’s hilarious [make this text to the left slightly bigger] (It’s actually ironic, and not hilarious in the slightest), but people don’t trust Ecoternatives. You see, today, people equate price with quality, and that’s a reasonable, easy thing to do. What’s hard to do, is crush that status quo.
People can’t wrap their head around a company that’s low price, but high quality. And that’s because, no prominent brand has really ever done it before. My business mentors don’t get it, my parents don’t get it, and… I’m still figuring it out.
But what I can tell you is this, Ecoternatives is doing everything it can to sell high quality, sustainable plastic free products, at the lowest price possible. I’m obsessed with it and it’s all I can think about. Because I didn’t start this business as a business-person, I started it as an environmentalist.
Okay enough of the yatta yatta. How are you, a 22 year old, deciding whether a product and company is as sustainable (and socially ethical), as you think they are.
Well… I never know for certain. But I can tell you that I take weeks trying to figure it out, and over the past 3 years, I’ve gotten quite good at it.
This is Aidan’s 12 step process to try to figure it out:
- Where is the product manufactured? Naturally, this can say a lot about sustainability and social standards.
- What accredited 3rd pary certifications does this company have? This is great to know, because it means somebody has already done the research for me. For example, B certifications (which we wrote a blog post about previously) are legally obliged to uphold certain environmental and social standards. It doesn’t mean that they’re the most sustainable, or even plastic free for that matter, but it means they generally do a good job. What’s important to note though, is that you kind of need to be a bigger businesses to get an accreditation like this, and there are many small businesses that do just as good, if not better than many B-Certs.
- What raw materials or ingredients does this product or company use? Is it local? Does it support small busiensses? Are the suppliers for these ingredients even reliable!? Why the hell are they using fragrances? Are they using post consumer, or preconsumer recycled plastic??? And so forth.
- Does the company sell on Amazon? I generally trust these companies less because Amazon’s packaging and supply chain is hard to trust.
- Does the company have giveback programs? How much are they donating? And are they donating profits? Or sales?
- Who is behind this business?! Why did they get into it? Is it because eco-friendly products have higher profit margins, or do they really care about the planet and it’s people.
- What does their packaging look like? Is the company shipping their products in already used cereal boxes (very zero waste of them), or is this company shipping their products in a biobag from a questionable supplier, or in a huge and wasteful box? Are they using petroleum free ink for printing? Are they using paper tape instead of plastic tape?
- Are their company reviews good? You can find a lot of dirt about a company through reviews.
- Do their products contain plastic, or any other questionable materials? If a company has 9 eco-friendly products, and 1 product made in plastic. We won’t work with them. It doesn’t make sense.
- What articles or press have been published about this company? Are ecofluencers supporting it? Are they trashing it?
- How big is the company? Does it have a parent company?
- Anything else… This might mean emailing the company and asking futher questions, or setting up a zoom call with the founders.