What is greenwashing and how to avoid it. Method #4 will shock you!
With today’s understanding of what our actions are having on the environment, it has become abundantly clear that sustainable practices and consumer behaviour must change for our future quality of life and the survival of the planet. Many people are making conscious choices in their day to day lives to reduce their impact on the environment. The internet has also made this a lot easier to find new ideas and solutions to help with our journey, with any information we want just a click away.
Large businesses are using this to their advantage to sell their products by using what we value and trust against us, our desire for a more sustainable future and trust in well-known brands. Some companies are ethical and put in time and resources to create services and products that are eco-friendly, sustainable and ethical that provide real value to their consumers. Unfortunately, other companies employ dishonest advertising, known as corporate greenwashing, by advertising that their company and its products or services are “green”, “sustainable” and “ethical” when in reality it’s a misleading statement and often completely untrue.
Through half-truths, white lies and selective information, companies that use greenwashing techniques have found a lucrative way to adapt to the growing ethical and environmentally conscious climate to make a lot of money, without actually spending resources or time to make their products and services any more beneficial for the environment.
Even though it is a dishonest and unethical practice, greenwashing has become widely accepted as a great marketing strategy and after you have finished this article, if you don’t already, you will start seeing it regularly in your everyday lives through social media, advertising and even in some companies that you currently trust.
Why is Greenwashing Important?
We believe it is important to know when a company is attempting to greenwash us because getting tricked into buying these kind of products makes us part of the problem, when we are all trying to be part of the solution. There is nothing worse buying a product or service thinking you are doing good for the environment and society only to later find out you have been duped into contributing to the exact problem you thought you were helping. That’s why in this article we will cover the common ways companies try to greenwash you and how to spot it.
We will now will expose the common greenwashing methods that companies try to scam us with.
Number 1 is obvious, but it has to be said.
1 – Claiming something is biodegradable while hiding the fact that it takes many years, sometimes centuries, to breakdown.
A classic example of this is “biodegradable” and “compostable” plastics. In the last decade many new plastics have popped up that make claims to be biodegradable and compostable, however companies intentionally hide the unfortunate truth that a lot of these plastics will not actually biodegrade under normal conditions and if they do it can take hundreds of years.
One of these plastics, PLA, is “technically” biodegradable because it can decompose however it requires the right conditions to do so. In normal environmental conditions PLA can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. For PLA to degrade faster, the plastic needs a high temperature environment (around 60oC) and a rich variety of suitable micro-organisms which is generally only found in industrial facilities specifically designed to digest the plastic and not your common backyard compost heap.
There are many other plastics like this and many companies misleading us into believing the plastic will biodegrade in a few months or years and we have nothing to be concerned about.
Only trust companies that have their plastic certified under Australian (AS 4736), European (EN 13432) or US (ASTM D6400) standards and make sure that the certification clearly states it the plastic is certified home compostable. Some companies will go as far to get certification, but it is only compostable in an industrial facility and not home compostable. This doesn’t stop them using it as a marketing ploy to sell their products and make misleading claims.
This is one the beauty industry thrives on and it is used all the time especially amongst the really big “trusted” brands. Whether it be in skincare, makeup to hair products, it doesn’t come to a surprise that the beauty industry uses plenty of green buzzwords to lure customers into purchasing a product that is harmful to the environment.
Using words such as “plant based” or “contains natural ingredients” many companies lead customers into believing the ingredients aren’t composed of bad chemicals, when in reality many have a wide range of chemicals, often bad for your health and the environment. Some include:
- Microplastics such as polyethylene, nylon, polymethyl methacrylate
- Hormone disruptors such as propylparaben (hormone disruptor)
- Chemicals that increase risk of cancer, such as retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate) which makes the skin more sensitive to sun and increases risk of skin cancer.
- “Fragrances” – these can sometimes be hormone disruptors but companies don’t disclose the actual chemical to their customers.
The best way to avoid being caught out by this deceptive language is to look at the ingredients on the product then doing a google search to find out what it is. Some products that can contain microplastics include lipstick, foundation, highlighters and mascara.
3 – Down playing down the environmental hazards their product creates.
This is often a bit more of an obvious one to pick up on but sometimes companies can be subtler. An obvious one to spot are statements such as “clean coal” – there is no such thing as coal that doesn’t create pollution.
A more obscure example however is from products that use a common material known as microfibers that is often used in wipes and towels. This is often marketed as “sustainable” and in line with the companies “environmentally conscious commitments” because they’re present in reusable products, but in reality, microfibers are made from 100% plastic which is often a mixture of polyester and nylon and these break down into microplastics.
When washed, these microfibers break down into microplastics in the environment (very small plastic particles). Many companies that sell products with microfibers know this and since its not something they can outright deny many will admit their products produce microplastics but downplay the adverse effects. “Because only a small amount breaks off and enters the environment” it’s “not that bad”. Considering more than 30% of all microplastic in the environment was created from polyesters, nylon and acrylics found in synthetic fabric (i.e. clothes and wipes), when using these on a large scale “small” amounts of microplastics add up. The attitude of “its only a small amount per cloth or per person” is how we got to this point of having vast amounts of microplastics in our environment.
In the last decade, scientists are finding an abundance of microplastics in fish, animals and even within human organs. This is having a wide range of adverse health effects, with scientists in the last few years finding the presents of microplastics causing hormone imbalances in both men and women to a point that newborn boys’ penises are getting smaller each decade. Males testosterone levels have also significantly declined from an average of 600 ng/dL in 1999 to 450 ng/dL in 2016 (25% decrease in under 20 years). Microplastics and chemicals in our environment are damaging our reproductive systems and hormones and it’s only going to get worse.
4 – Misleading claims regarding donations to green causes and charities
This greenwashing façade will shock you, especially since it is not illegal.
An example of is when some companies claim they are donating a percentage of their profits to a specific cause or charity, but manipulate their figures so that minimal or next to no funds actually reach the causes they claim to support.
One way some companies do this is by claiming that 50% or 100% of their profits go to charity or a cause, but in fine print make sure to state that its of their “net” profits not “gross” that go to charity. The importance of distinguishing net and gross profit is that gross profit is based on how much money is left over after you have paid for the cost of the product you are selling, whereas net profit is the money you have left over after paying all other expenses, including the wages to the owner of the business.
Net profit can be manipulated simply by the business owners listing themselves as an employee of the business, paying themselves a higher salary then going on to pay the charity the “net profit”, which is now next to nothing. As far as customers and the law is concerned, the company gave 100% of your net profit to charity as promise. As far as ethics are concerned, its very misleading and capitalising on consumers trust simply to make easy money. Greedy business owners who scam us like this get to enjoy all the riches from increased revenue, without actually having to give much of that money to charity.
This is difficult to spot and the only way to know for certain a company is being honest about this is if they are transparent about the actual dollar value that they paid to the cause or charity and how much they paid themselves as business owners. If a company states what the total net profit the business was and/or how much the business owners received as a salary, they’re obviously trustworthy because they’re being transparent about their finances and have nothing to hide. If they are unable to state any figures like this then all you have to go by is their word. That said, if the company is not activity showing the value of funds their giving to these causes and charities, why aren’t they? Wouldn’t it be something they’re proud of and want to announce to their customers?
These are just a handful of examples that greenwashing takes place in society and hope we have helped you become a little more aware at how seemingly “honest” businesses are often playing a very dirty game with almost no consequences. We believe being aware of these tactics can help us be more responsible consumers. If you would like to learn more or keep up to date with the latest news and information please join our mailing list.
Founder: Earths Tribe
How do you know which chemicals to avoid in skincare?
Guest feature by: Yvette Van Schie
It can be incredibly confusing and even daunting when you decide to go chemical free – or at least avoid toxic ingredients in your cosmetics.
The problems many of us find, is that the law is very relaxed in this area, and even if a product says it is organic – it still can contain nasties!
Health issues ranging from skin allergies through to hormonal issues such as infertility and endometriosis, and even cancer have been linked to many of the chemicals in skincare and makeup.
Below are some of the main ingredients that you will commonly find in many skincare and cosmetic products – disguised by long complicated names.
This should help you avoid them!
Pssst! – the Everything Skin Range contains none of these ingredients!
Why do cosmetic and skincare companies add synthetic fragrances to their products, why not use natural scents that also double up as a treatment?
Our sense of smell is a powerful thing. Linked to both our taste buds and our memory, a delightful fragrance can move you to purchase one product over another, based on your own personal taste, and a wonderful memory of a past experience.
The thoughts and memories that we associate with a scent can be very influential, so the more a product can influence you to purchase it, the better! So many skincare companies use scents which are similar to perfumes we might wear.
But in general, synthetic fragrances are not something that you want in your skincare if you can avoid it. They are often mixtures of various chemicals which come from petroleum or crude oil that produce a desired scent.
Often the ingredients for synthetic fragrances are not listed in the ingredients list of products, yet they include harsh toxins like benzene derivatives, aldehydes, toluene and phthalates.
They can cause a range of not so nice reactions, such as skin irritation, allergies, asthma, eczema, headaches, hives, nausea, psoriasis, wheezing and contact dermatitis.
Natural fragrance sources such as essential oils do not only smell divine, but they also treat the skin – and ensure that you don’t have any nasty reactions.
Silicones come under an umbrella of a multitude of names, which makes them hard to identify and avoid, especially when they are so widely used. So why do cosmetic and skincare companies like to use silicones?
They give products a silky smooth, spreadable, and luxurious texture. They fill crevices in your skin, to give a temporary, smooth surface look and feel. Hydrophobic silicones are also water-resistant, creating a seal over your skin, so that companies can claim hydration effects.
Why should you avoid them?
- Silicones trap debris in your pores as they form a seal over your skin.
- This can lead to acne and breakouts.
- Your skin can become dry and dehydrated, as your skins natural barrier becomes impaired, and is less able to shed dead layers of skin cells
- Silicones are difficult to remove. The most common silicone, dimethicone, is extremely heavy and leaves a coating on the skin unless it is carefully removed. This is often why people see such a difference from nightly double cleansing, because it’s properly removing the silicones from your skin—a single pass with a regular face wash simply isn’t enough!
- They block other active ingredients from absorbing and doing their job.
What to look for? Words that end in one of these:
-Cones: For example, amodimethicone, cyclomethicone, dimethicone, methicone, trimethicone, trimethylsilylamodimethicone.
-Conols: For example, dimethiconol.
-Silanes: For example, bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, triethoxycaprylylsilane, triethoxycaprylylsilane crosspolymer.
-Siloxanes: For example, cyclopentasiloxane, polydimethylsiloxane, siloxane.
This one is a big no no – a definite one to avoid.
These silicone-based compounds are used in cosmetics to soften, smooth, and moisten. They make hair products dry more quickly and deodorant creams slide on more easily. They are also used extensively in moisturizers and facial treatments.
Siloxanes are toxic, persistent, and have the potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms. It has also been classified as an endocrine disruptor, interfering with human hormone function and a possible reproductive toxicant that may impair human fertility.
In high doses, siloxanes have been shown to cause uterine tumours and harm to the reproductive and immune systems, and influence neurotransmitters in the nervous system.
Sounds scary, right!
But many popular skincare and makeup companies still use some form of siloxanes in their products, so it’s always a good idea to read your product label or just stick to completely natural skincare products like the Everything Skin Range.
Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives to stop bacteria growing in food, cosmetics (from shampoo to toothpaste to foundation).
You don’t want bacteria in your skincare, right? Of course not, but there are natural alternatives you can use.
Parabens can disrupt hormone function by mimicking oestrogen. Too much oestrogen can trigger an increase in breast cell division and growth of tumours, which is why paraben use has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues.
As well as these scary effects on humans, parabens have been found to for the first time in marine mammals, likely accumulating there when the products we use are washed into the water system and into the environment.
With so many preservative-free options available these days, there really is no reason to be using products containing parabens.
Look for anything with “paraben” on the end, like methylparaben and ethylparaben.
Now, you may know that formaldehyde as a natural preservative, which is why it is used in skincare and cosmetic products. It is actually a naturally occurring chemical, that nearly every living animal and plant produces at various levels throughout their life.
While exposure to low levels of formaldehyde is not dangerous, high exposure to the chemical is not so great.
High levels of exposure to formaldehyde, particularly in cosmetic products, can cause:
- sensory irritation
- skin sensitisation
- breathing difficulties
- cancer, in circumstances where there is chronic high exposure.
Any skincare which contains water will need a preservative which is why the Everything Skin Range is oil based.
Look out for formaldehyde labelled as DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, quaternium 15, bronopol, 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3 dioxane, and hydroxymethylglycinate.
Many artificial colours are made by using coal tar, petroleum or heavy metals salts like arsenic and lead. When absorbed on our skin, these can increase the risk of irritation, blocked pores, breakouts and sensitivity. Some have even been linked to carcinogenic effects. When shopping for skincare, there is really no need for artificial colour in your product, as long as the product itself is effective!
Cosmetics are a different story. Many of them, such as lipstick and blush, are primarily for their colour.
However, there are plenty of natural alternatives to create beautiful colours in without relying on synthetic substances. Foods like coffee and molasses, seaweed powder, clays and spices or for primary colours, ingredients like turmeric powder (yellow), beet root powder (red), and woad powder (blue) can create beautiful shades without putting your health at risk.
I hope you enjoyed this pos! If you would like more posts like this one- please subscribe via the website!
I look forward to helping you on your healthy ethical skincare journey!
Connect here: Ethical Beauty Expert
Swishing some coconut oil around your mouth for 10-20mins to kill nasty bacteria? Really? Oh yes indeed and it’s something that I religiously do every morning after scraping the gunk off my tongue with the back of a spoon… more on that later.
It involves swishing oil all around your mouth to kill bacteria which has built up during the night and encourages overall oral hygiene improving the health of your teeth and gums. It literally sucks the toxins out of your mouth and creates a clean, antiseptic oral environmentally friendly to prevent cavities and disease.
Oil pulling is an ancient ritual and used primarily in India’s Ayurvedic medicine, also known as gandusha. They believe that it can purify the entire system as each section of the tongue is connected to different organs such as to the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine, similarly to reflexology.
Introducing Essential oils into your routine for some extra punch!
Put a smaller container with organic coconut oil into your bathroom – easy access, no excuses
Put a large spoon ( I use a dessert spoon) into your toothbrush cup – again, easy access, no excuses
In the morning you wake up, go to the toilet. I then rinse my mouth to moisture things a little.
Take your spoon and scrape your tongue. You will be surprised at what comes off. Make sure to go from back to front & also down the sides. Clean spoon and rinse your mouth.
Using the same spoon get a generous spoonful of coconut oil out of the tub/jar. At this point you can add a few drops of your favourite essential oil ( see suggestions below)
Place this in your mouth. Be patient. It is a strange sensation as often the oil is hard and needs to be broken down by the warmth of your mouth. Move it slowly around your mouth and it will become liquid. The rule is to use an amount that you can tolerate and increase as you go.
Have a shower, do what you need to. Anything but talking! Swish the oil in your mouth as you would a mouthwash for at least 20 minutes as is the required amount to penetrate bacterias
When finished make sure you dont dispose of the oil down the sink as it will block the drains when it hardens. Dispose of in the garbage bin or compost
Thoroughly rinse your mouth using warm water
Clean your teeth with eco toothbrush to ensure all bacteria are gone
Enjoy the freshness!
- For everyday use: Add 3 drops of wild orange, lemon and peppermint with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.
- When battling an infection or sickness: Change it up a bit and mix clove oil, cinnamon oil or tea tree oil as a homeopathic remedy.
Coconut Oil Pulling with Young Living Essential Oils Suggestions:
- Peppermint: Peppermint is good for giving you an energy boost both mental and physical, give you lovely fresh breath, and helps maintain a healthy digestive system.
- Orange: Orange is very uplifting and tastes amazing.
- Grapefruit: Grapefruit is fresh, invigorating and tasty.
- Lemon: Lemon is good for so many things including cleansing, detoxing, uplifting, supporting a healthy immune system and easing everyday stresses.
- Oregano: Oregano is traditionally used to help cleanse the mouth so it’s a good oil to be used with oil pulling.
- Rosemary: Rosemary supports a healthy lifestyle regimen and smells and tastes wonderful.
Read more about US + THE EARTH HERE
Justin from ‘Coconutsy’ shows us how easy it is to make coconut bowls from raw coconut shells!
It’s super easy to make your own coconut bowl. All you need is a coconut shell and a few simple tools to make your own rustic bowls!
If you purchase a coconut shell from the market or supermarket you can cut the coconut shell in half using a saw. Or you can purchase one here from ‘Coconutsy’ that is ready to go.
WHAT YOU NEED
- Coconut Shell
- Sandpaper – course and medium grit.
- Coconut Oil.
- Linseed Oil – or any food-safe lacquer (optional)
- Use sandpaper to sand the entire outside surface of the coconut shell until you get the desired effect.
- Work lightly if you don’t want to remove too much of the natural texture.
- Using a cloth, rub the inside and outside of the bowl with coconut oil. Coconut oil will seal and bring out the natural shine of the coconut bowl.
Note: The coconut shell will look darker after you apply coconut oil.
- Let the coconut shell dry for 1 hour and apply coconut oil again.
- Optional – After your bowl is dry, brush some linseed oil on the outside of the bowl. You will need to repeat this step drying in between to 100% seal your coconut bowl.
Connect here with ‘Coconutsy’
When restrictions on outings and gatherings relax around the country the first thing we do is head out into nature for the day!
We have so many amazing places to explore around Australia even if it’s only 50km from your home, that really opens up a lot of beautiful places you can choose for a picnic.
Here are some tips for keeping your family picnics ‘eco-friendly’ this weekend….
What to take:
- Take your reusables. If you don’t have a picnic set, just take your regular cutlery and whatever flatware and containers you have that are practical and can come home with you. If you have children avoid breakables like glass and go for stainless steel and bamboo. Also ditch the plastic wrap and keep food fresh, wrap your food in eco-friendly beeswax wraps. Check out some ‘eco-essentials’ HERE
- You can use any blanket or throw you already have as a picnic blanket but if you’re looking for something new check out the beautiful range from ‘Weaver Green’ in Noosaville. These throws and rugs are as soft as wool but are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles!
- Pack finger food so you don’t need as much cutlery and can cut down on the number of plates and utensils you need.
- Prepare food at home to minimise waste and bring a spare container for scraps that can be correctly composted once you’re home. If you’re in need of a compact in-home composting system check out ‘Bokashi Ninja’.
- Eat green. Avoid packaged foods that create more waste and try to fill your picnic basket with organic, locally sourced, unprocessed plant-based food.
- When it comes to skin protection choose natural reef-safe sunscreen and insect repellents that are free from harsh chemicals.
- Learn from nature. As park facilities and playgrounds remain closed, it’s a good idea to have some games in mind for the kids to keep them entertained while social distancing from other families.
Here are some of our favourites:
- Counting butterflies, they are in the thousands here on the Sunshine Coast!
- Spotting birds and insects. See if you can identify the different types.
- A-Z bush walks. Alphabet walks are a great way for kids to learn. Keep your eyes peeled as you go through the alphabet or everyone can choose a different letter. Name the plants, colours of the flowers, bugs, animals and natural shapes.
- Collecting leaves and seedpods for crafts to do at home.
- Have a game of ‘tree tag’. Tree tag is a great way to burn off a little extra energy before the car ride home. Choose an area with several trees spread out in a open space and take turns running the track. The older kids will probably like their turns timed but the younger ones will just love the game, and likely turn it into a game of chase.
- Take only photographs, leave only footprints. Make sure you dispose of any rubbish you have correctly in the appropriate bins or bring it home so you can ensure it will be recycled correctly. If you see some litter on the ground, even if it’s not yours, do the right thing and pick it up.
We are so pleased to introducing our FREE eco-friendly travel ebook
There are many avenues of change that come with adapting an eco-friendly lifestyle. It can take time to implement these into our everyday lives, so when it comes to organising and planning things outside of our normal routine such as weekends away or holidays it can be more difficult to stay on track, or even know where to start.
I hope that our new e-book ‘A guide to responsible eco-conscious travel’ will give you lots of easy to follow tips and information on planning, packing, experiencing and returning from a responsible travel journey.
Enter your details below for your FREE copy!
Starting your eco-conscious journey is a pretty exciting time! You have made the decision to make changes to your lifestyle that will benefit not only you but also the world we live in. It may seem a little daunting at first as it can be hard to know where to start, however, it can be done easily enough if you just take it one step at a time.
Here are some simple tips to help you get started on your journey as a conscious consumer….
TAKE IT SLOW
Once you become aware of what changes need to be made you might want to jump in and go all out overhauling your lifestyle however, taking a ‘small changes often’ approach will allow you to ease into it with less chance of resorting back to your old lifestyle.
Choose a few things at a time that are important to you and make those changes first. Get use to those changes before implementing the next few.
These are 7 of the top easiest swaps to make:
- Say no to plastic water bottles and buy a reusable stainless steel flask likes these ones here from Blue Bottle Flasks with the added bonus of 1% of total sales being donated to ocean saving organisations.
- Ditch the plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush. You’ll find these just about everywhere. Online eco stores, the local supermarket & pharmacies.
- Buy a quality reusable drinking straw so you can say goodbye to nasty plastic straws. We recommend these fantastic glass smoothie straws from Sunshine Coast small business Seastraws. You’ll feel even better about your purchase knowing 5% of profits are donated to Great Barrier Reef Legacy.
- Stock up on reusable shopping bags. Pop them in your car, in the kitchen and a few in the garage so you see them just before you leave for the day. For farmers market baskets check out the beautiful range at Little Merchants.
- Instead of buying liquid pump soaps swap to packaging free soap bars, you can do this with your shampoo too!
- Buy some glass containers for your pantry so you can stock up on dry goods at bulk food stores and save on single use plastic packaging.
- Invest in a reusable coffee cup. The wax coating on takeaway coffee cups that makes them waterproof means that they can’t be recycled and neither can the black plastic lids. White plastic lids can be recycled.
There are lots of products out there categorised with labels such as; eco-friendly, sustainable, biodegradable, organic, natural, chemical free and much more. Educate yourself on what each of the terms means and how using products with those terms is going to make a difference. Follow some blogs, instagram account or facebook accounts that focus on sustainability, reducing plastic, eco tips and living consciously to keep you informed and motivated.
AVOID THE SHAME GAME
Just don’t be that guy! Your friends, family and colleagues may all be at a different point in their eco journey and some may not be ready to make the same eco-friendly changes to their lifestyle that you are.
Being exposed to changes you’ve made may encourage those around you to ask why you are making them and adopt similar choices. Spreading awareness through positive example is definitely the way to go!
It is always good to have support when you are making changes to your lifestyle or the way you do things. Ask your family to sit down with you and explain the changes that you would like to make and the impact the changes will have on them and the environment. It will be a lot easier to stay on track if your family is on board and taking part.
REMEMBER THESE 3 R’s
Reuse, recycle and repurpose. These should become three of your favourite words moving forward if you are making an eco-conscious change.
The three R’s help to reduce the amount of landfill being produced, the amount of manufacturing being done and reduces the overall effects on the environment.
The three R’s are a great way to start your eco-conscious journey as they are all things that you can do with items within your home. Again, stay up to date with green living blogs, news and social media for some inspiration on repurposing in the home.
Being eco-conscious does not need to be an all or nothing life change. Take it slowly and implement your changes one at a time and they will begin to become second nature. Remember why you are making these choices and the positive impact that you will have on the planet and our future generations.
Enjoy the journey and be proud of yourself for making eco-conscious changes, however big or small.