5 Ways to Beat the Greenwashing Game

June 22, 2023 0 Comments

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Sustainable development is becoming fashionable, and this is not necessarily a good thing. Yes, consumers are demanding more green products than ever before, and they are willing to pay more for products that cause less damage to the environment. In response, some brands are radically changing their supply chains to use greener materials and processes. But there is one big problem: many companies do not want to continue. Instead, these manufacturers use buzzwords about sustainability:organic, green, natural, etc. — to package and charge a premium. The company makes a profit, and consumers are left to sort out the truth behind vague marketing claims. This phenomenon is called green leaching.

Why Greenwashing Matters

When you buy “green” products, you unknowingly support a system that prevents companies from developing truly effective solutions to the environmental crisis. But the planet isn’t the only one getting the short end of the stick. Green foods can also be bad for you.

According to Amy Ziff, founder and CEO of third-party testing company MADE SAFE, government agencies like the FDA and EPA don’t provide much oversight. In fact, they only ban about 14 chemicals known to be toxic to humans or the environment. These same agencies allow companies to use thousands of other substances known to be hazardous. And many do.

According to Ziff, the stakes are highest for products you interact with for hours every day. Mattresses are a great example. “We humans spend about a third of our lives sleeping,” she explains. “So when people start evaluating their lives for what it can cause [chemical] influence, I tell them to start by cleaning the sleep environment.” Many mattresses are coated with chemical flame retardants that can penetrate the skin over time (think: six to eight hours every night). Chemical flame retardants have been associated with a number of health problems, including neurological problems, hair loss, and organ toxicity. So, if you are buying a mattress and want to avoid contact with harsh chemicals, truth in marketing is crucial.

How to outsmart Greenwashing

How do you determine which brands qualify? These tips will help you shop according to your values.

1. Check for trusted third-party certificates. Whether you’re buying household goods, outdoor gear or furniture, look for independent third-party endorsements. These certifications are a clear signal that brands are truly raising the bar for environmental and social responsibility, not just talk. Some good certifications to look out for are:

> DONE SAFELY or blue sign means going through a rigorous evaluation of each product’s ingredients to ensure they are free of known harmful substances.

> Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) check the organic content of products such as mattresses and bedding. You’ll also want to check if the entire product is certified or just the materials themselves. This will be entered into a public database.

> B Corp Certification means that the business meets high social and environmental standards.

> Greenguard Gold guarantees low chemical emissions during production.

Some brands are certified in one or both of these categories. Others like Green avocado, earned the label of sustainable development for all four. All Avocado Green mattresses are MADE SAFE, Greenguard Gold, Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) for latex foam and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for finished product. Additionally, Avocado received B Corp status (and has a score of 126.2, well above the required minimum).

“Also look for valid certification numbers,” advises George Matthews, Avocado’s vice president of procurement and certification. “When a company displays a certification logo without a corresponding organization number, it can be assumed that it does not undergo an annual audit or that it does not meet the certification standards.” If the brand does show a number, look it up on the certification authority’s website to make sure it’s legitimate.

2. Look for details. Vague platitudes should be treated with suspicion. Does “natural” material mean it’s “certified organic” or lab-tested to be safe for humans and ecosystems? If a product is “toxin free”, what toxins are listed? Take the new Eco Organic mattress from Avocado as an example. In addition to being made from GOTS certified organic cotton and wool and GOLS certified latex, it is made without chemical flame retardants. This is possible because Matthews says organic wool extends to the top of the mattress, creating a natural fire-resistant barrier. The mattress is also made without fiberglass or fossil fuel-derived polyurethane foam. It doesn’t get more specific than that.

3. Priority of vertically integrated companies. Many brands are doing their best to prioritize sustainable materials, but global supply chains can be quite murky. Companies that control their supply chains are better at implementing strict standards at every level. Avocado, for example, co-owns the farms and factories in India and Guatemala where its materials come from to ensure maximum quality control. “This allows us to build strong, long-term relationships at every stage of our supply chain,” says Matthews. “In this way, we can ensure that all our partners receive adequate support and never have to take shortcuts.”

Green avocado mattress
(Photo: avocado green mattress)

4. Demand transparency. Brands that deserve your trust should have nothing to hide. That’s why he uses avocado advanced blockchain technology document the source of the materials it uses in its products. According to Matthews, all of its wool and latex materials will be blockchain-verified by 2024, and Avocado will make this data freely available to any certification body that asks. The brand also publishes with unflinching honesty environmental impact statement every year.

5. Look for zero waste commitments. Materials are not the only questionable aspect of greenwashing. Brands that truly care about the environment also work to limit the negative impact of production processes. To that end, Avocado diverts 78 percent of its waste from landfills, as verified by third-party certifier Underwriters Laboratories (UL). This is achieved through responsible recycling and recycling of residual materials Waste-free collection. These actions helped Avocado gain recognition as a climate-neutral business.

Matthews says that for Avocado, the climate-neutral process is simply part of being a good global citizen. “We want to be a useful part of every community we work in,” he says. “We believe that when you do simple things with passion, you can really make the world a better place.”

Avocado’s mission is to be one of the most sustainable brands in the world. It creates certified organic mattresses, pillows, bedding, bath products, handcrafted furniture, responsible loungewear, and a skin and body line that’s better for people and better for the planet.

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