The Ultimate Cost of Greenwashing

Tips for avoiding pricey greenwashed products 

From toilet paper to disinfectants, more and more everyday cleaning products and consumables are going “green.” Looks, however, can be deceiving. Common label claims like “natural,” “green,” and “sustainable” are, for now, not federally regulated. This has created the growing phenomenon of “greenwashing,” when marketing actively misleads consumers about a product’s environmental sustainability — often so they can sell at a premium cost. This also comes at a time when certified green options are more affordable than ever, and are often cheaper than their false counterparts.

Greenwashing is not only dishonest, but also expensive, wasting valuable time, effort, and money. Here’s how to avoid greenwashing at home and in your building, and get the most sustainable bang for your buck.

Check for Certifications:

Don’t trust a green label in name only. Look for cleaning products with third-party certifications either operated or recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Popular examples for both commercial and retail products are EcoLogo, Green Seal, DfE, GREENGUARD, and Safer Choice. These organizations systematically test product formulations for their human and environmental health impact.

Avoid controversial consumer rating organizations like the EWG, which operates a pay-to-play model, and has been repeatedly criticized by scientists for their misrepresentation of ingredient toxicity. At SparkleTeam, we only use products with EPA-approved third-party certifications for all our cleaning services.

Choose Sustainable Consumables:

Common consumables like paper towels, toilet paper, trash bags, and food-service ware are particularly prone to greenwashing claims. These types of products may misrepresent their biodegradability or use of recycled and renewable materials.

Again, look for options with third-party certifications like EcoLogo, Green Seal and Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI). These labeled products must follow EPA guidelines on how materials are sourced and manufactured. For our clients at SparkleTeam, we offer inventory management services, sourcing the best third-party certified consumables for your facility’s needs.

Pay Attention to Packaging:

Being truly environmentally friendly means paying attention to more than what’s inside that box or bottle. Eco-conscious products also carefully consider how to reduce or eliminate packaging waste. Look for products that thoughtfully address this issue. Green packaging often uses recycled and/or biodegradable materials. Many commercial cleaning products also use concentrated formulas designed for dilution, which require less packaging material.