Behind the Greenwashing

To my surprise, greenwashing is a much larger problem then I originally thought. Greenwashing is when a company decides to promote their product as “green” or “sustainable” although it isn’t at all. Probably one of the most shocking way greenwashing is used is to sell toys. Many toy products that can be bought in stores now-a-days have labels like “lead paint free.” This is all great when it is actually true. It is startling to hear of such cases like in 2007 when a toy company, Mattel, who produces Barbies and many other popular children’s toys, had a recall on most of its toys because of the discovery of lead paint on the toys. This isn’t the first instance of this happening either. 

Toys R Us is another culprit in the greenwashing facade of the toy marketing world. Because going green is becoming more and more mainstream, more and more parents are expecting a certain standard for what they are going to let their kids play with. This may be why Toys R Us and other large toy stores are beginning the switch to reusable bags. This is great for cutting back on the use of plastic bags, but what about the toys? If kids are playing and being poisoned because of toxic chemicals on their toys, then what do these bags do then? This facade is used by many to employ that they are in fact sustainable when in reality it’s a front.

The dangers of greenwashing doesn’t just stop with toxic toys. It is also important to pay close attention to food, cosmetics, cleaning products, and even airlines. The move towards wanting more green and sustainable products is great, but it is getting lost in translation between companies and consumers. It is our job as consumers to look out for these labels and to fact check the label.


When greenwashing was introduced in class, I have to admit that I had never heard about it before. After doing some research online, I found that greenwashing was a lot more complex that I originally thought. I thought that greenwashing only pertained to food, stating that it was “all natural”, ect. What surprised me is that it can affect all kinds of products that we buy. I found an article online (which can be found here: ) that discusses how Walmart has to pay $1 million to “settle greenwashing claims that allege the nation’s largest retailer sold plastic products that were misleadingly labeled “biodegradable” or “compostable” in violation of California law” (Hardcastle, “Greenwashing” Costing Walmart $1 Million). It doesnt fully surprise me that things like this happen, but I did not consider how it actually was greenwashing. It is sad to me how the populace is pretty much being lied to about not only what they are eating, but also many other products that we purchase on a regular basis. When we buy things that are marketed as biodegradable, we believe that they will eventually biodegrade and not have such a negative on the environment. The article discusses how using the term biodegradable is misleading because almost nothing biodegrades in landfills (Hardclastle). As I continued to research this topic online, I found out that in California, where this lawsuit took place, it is illegal to sell plastic advertised as biodegradable without an attached disclaimer that states how long it takes to decompose.

Learning about greenwashing will definitely change the way that I look at shopping as a whole. I feel like it is definitely worth doing your research if you but products that are made to seem more ecofriendly than they really are, especially if it makes them more expensive. If you care about the environment enough to take the extra step or spend the extra dollar on trying to make less of a negative impact on the planet, it is worth your time to go online and see if you’re getting what you think you’re buying.

As I learned more about greenwashing, it made me wonder how my hometown grocery stores were affected by this topic. Being from upstate New York, I definitely prefer a grocery store called Wegman’s (they don’t have any locations even close to Charleston, sadly). Looking into Wegman’s, I was thankful to learn how sustainable and green their practices really are. I was hesitant to believe everything I read from the first sites that I went to, but as I continued my search, I found that Wegman’s really is an ecofriendly business. When they advertise something as local, it truly is local. I learned how they work with farms across New York state and the surrounding states to provide their customers with local and sustainable goods. By working closely with their growers and responding to the demand of their customers, Wegman’s claims to believe in adding to its sustainable practices through keeping the farms they buy from productive year round. I know that this is a topic that we discussed in class, talking about how farmers can grow different crops at different times of the year to keep their lands productive while also producing better in-season produce. I feel like this is especially important in areas such as upstate NY, because our seasons are so extreme. It is beneficial for the farmers in that area, because they can grow crops that need warmth in the warmer months, and then grow crops that can withstand the cold (One of which I learned was baby leaf greens). This makes it possible for the farmers to make a profit, while also providing customers with a constant supply of local, in-season produce.

Learning this information was reassuring because I can know that when I am buying “organic” or “local” food at home, I can be at least a little bit more confident that I am getting what I pay for. Since what I learned mostly pertained to produce, I would have to do more research about other Wegman’s brand products, but after today I definitely believe that it would be worth it. I would 100% recommend looking into your own local grocers and see if they are being up front about how green their products really are, because there is a good chance that you will be surprised by what you find. I feel like I got lucky with the results of my search, and can see myself looking further into stores like Bi-Lo and Harris Teeter before I go shopping while I am down here at school.