This post originally appeared on The Eco Hub, a website that connects conscious consumers to options that look out for people and the planet.

If you are trying to go green, you have probably heard the words “greenwashing”, what does this mean and what are the signs to look out for? Here 6 Simple Ways To Protect Yourself From Greenwashing!

Greenwashing is a major problem in the market place, its a shameful practice where companies try to fool consumers that their goods are indeed organic or natural

In 1999 the Oxford Dictionary defined Greenwashing as the “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.”

What’s the big deal? Well, greenwashing detracts from those who are truly making a difference, it also makes consumers more cynical.

The problem lies in the fact that all Green companies are placed under the same umbrella, compromising our confidence in green products and practices. But false green labeling may get us to unwittingly participate in activities or use products that actually harm the environment. So what’s the eco-conscious consumer supposed to do?

First, read the labels. If in doubt, check it out. Do your homework before you make your purchases. Now, I know it’s difficult to research every eco-label, good news, there are organizations that can help.

Greenpeace, for example, offers a checklist called CARE, it will help you determine which company is attempting to greenwash you based on four key principles. TerraChoice Environmental Marketing has also created the Six Sins of Greenwashing, after testing over 1,018 products claiming to be green and finding all but one made claims that are either false or that risk misleading intended audiences.

Here are the six signs of greenwashing: 

  1. Some products claim to be green based on a single environmental attribute. While not exactly false, this practice paints a greener picture of the product.

  2. Look for proof, any claim that cannot be backed up by supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification should be questioned.  

  3. Claims that are poorly defined or broad are usually trying to hide the real meaning, for example, chemical free pesticides. Pesticides are chemical,s period.

  4. Watch out for claims that may be truthful but are unimportant and unhelpful for consumers. If the product claims to be CFC free, that’s great, but keep in mind that CFC’s,ozone-depleting chloro-fluoro-carbons have been outlawed since the late 1980s.

  5. Also, be wary of environmental claims that may be true, but risk distracting you from the bigger environmental impacts of the category as a whole, such as organic tobacco or green insecticides.

  6. Finally, stay away from claims that are simply false, this happens when a company misuses or misrepresent certification by an independent authority when no such certification has been made. 

Bottom line is you need to protect yourself and be vigilant about green labels.