J500 Media and the Environment

Educated Enough or Tricked into Greenwashing? by jackiemcc

When I first heard that Tyson Foods treated their chicken with antibiotics, I didn’t think twice about it. I knew that what happened was wrong, but I didn’t know that it was called greenwashing.

After reading several articles about greenwashing for my Media and the Environment journalism class, I began to notice a trend—many of the articles discussed consumers’ knowledge about greenwashing. This led me to wonder, are consumers educated enough to recognize greenwashing? Or are the companies brain-washing their customers enough, so there is no way of really knowing if they are telling the truth?

To answer this question, we must first know what greenwashing means. Although definitions vary, I would describe greenwashing as misleading customers into believing that a product or company is “green”, when in fact they are not. The seven sins of greenwashing describe the seven ways companies greenwash.

After defining what greenwashing is, and knowing the seven different types, I decided to search for some examples of greenwashing myself. Some other well-known cases of greenwashing have been: Kraft’s post select cereals and its Capri Sun juice boxes, McDonalds in Europe, and Frito Lay potato chips.

Even after all this, I am still not convinced that consumers are educated enough to recognize greenwashing efforts. Sure, they can know signs to identifying greenwashing, but can consumers really know a company’s methods of producing foods? They can make educated guesses, but it’s not until a major accusation against a company, when consumers find out the truth.

On the other hand, TerraChoice Environmental Marketing advises that some companies can be, it means the product has been certified and can be trusted as green.If a product has a reliable third-party certification, like EcoLogo or Green Seal, it usually means the product is certified as green.

If a product has this seal on it, it is certified as green. http://www.torkusa.com/upload/9__Region__US/Environmental/GreenSealLogo.jpg

As I learn more about this subject, I keep going back and forth to both sides of the argument. I understand that consumers need to be more educated on the signs of greenwashing to recognize it, but I also understand the belief that no matter how conscious of the issue consumers are, companies are still going to try to find ways to trick us into greenwashing. I welcome arguments for both sides of issue.

-Jackie McClellan


6 Comments so far
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I like your post, because I find this frustrating as well. It is scary to think that we are being misled by all of these labels that are placed on foods such as “local”, “organic”, “best life”, etc. Now every time I see some sort of claim on a product I am trained to not believe it. Is this what all consumers need to start doing, by not believing the product label? Is there a better way?
Becca N.

Comment by beccan


What did you mean by this: “Kraft’s post select cereals and its Capri Sun juice boxes, McDonalds in Europe, and Frito Lay potato chips?” -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

Thanks for reading my post Becca and Kristina!

Becca-I’m glad to hear you liked my post. I find it frustrating as well; We don’t know who to trust!
I don’t think consumers necessarily have to not believe a product label; I think they need to be a little more cautious in believing products that are labeled as such. Know that there is a chance it may not be as healthy as it says. Consumers could also do some more independent research on their own–look for seals like the ones that I have suggested, do some research on the Internet. Lauren’s blog post featured an item that would help determine how healthy a food is. I found that to be helpful too! I don’t think necessarily not believing is the way to go though, because there are some products out there that you can trust.

Kristina-as I mentioned in the post, before those words is a colon. Those products I listed have all been in other greenwashing cases where their products have not been as green as they had promoted. Hope this helps!

Jackie M.

Comment by jackiemcc

I guess what I meant was that I am curious to hear about their stories. I think I know what the McDonalds story was (was it the one from Italy?) but I don’t know about the Kraft’s, Capri Sun or Frito Lay stories. Do you have any links for them? thanks! -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

I have a magazine and it is in adobe pdf format we do not publish in paper format we send emails, blast ,and word of mouth does this mean we are green? because it would really make half of our staffs day 🙂

Comment by Frank

[…] when if fact you’re not.  I recently read blogs on this subject – known as ‘Greenwashing’ – where companies falsely pretend to be green simply to sell more of their products – […]

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