A little list of greenwashing techniques you will encounter online and in person. List will continue as I think of more of them or encounter new ones. I thought of making this a drinking game, hence why it's written in a jokey way, but you'd die pretty quickly if it was. Some of these sound very similar to one another, but were left as separate entries for some key differences.
1. "The lawsuit wasn't about intentionally harming consumers. It was about misleading/mislabeling information on the label!"
2. "This known cancer-causing pollutant didn't get into the product on purpose by the company. It just happened to get there because this pollutant is literally everywhere, so it's not a big deal the cancer causing, environment destroying pollutant is in this product. It is fully safe to use."
3. Product is made of any type of plastic, including recycled plastic when a non-plastic version exists.
4. Company brags that it uses plastic because it's recyclable (despite most not being to start with) if the consumer chooses to recycle it instead of using a more costly, better alternative (i.e. glass, paper, metal, wood, etc) that can be repurposed or reused. Recycling is the last option before dumping in the trash, not the first. If something can be repurposed or reused, this is a better option than it being recycled, not a worse one.
5. Made of "plant materials" (turned into plastic).
6. "It's made with science-y, tech-y magic! Isn't SCIENCE and TECH great and MYSTERIOUS and COOL!" as the sum total of their disclosure of their production process.
7. Product claims to reduce the amount of plastic going into the trash by selling you a product also made of plastic that involves disposable plastic parts that must be regularly bought.
8. Product claims it is intended to replace a disposable product but must be used with a disposable product that doesn't require the use of the "eco" product in the first place.
9. Environmentally safe and cruelty-free (but also sells in China, where those claims go right out the window).
10. Acting like the alternative to their product is a low budget Amazon product when products of a significantly higher quality than their product that are more sustainable have existed for years.
11. It involves a "system" of multiple products that are proprietary to their devices that don't work for most people, are very expensive, and will likely not last beyond a year.
12. Product relies on some component of it not only being produced, but mass produced, continuously for the product to be used at all.
13. A subscription is involved.
14. "We know we were found out to have had a very harmful chemical in our product in the past, which we totally didn't know about, but we've changed and would never allow that to happen again!"
15. Thinking someone needs a specific company's technology with specific branding for the specific task to get a job done that can be done with a more basic item. ("Use our special eco friendly sponge to clean your dishes instead of the rag that your mom bought ten years ago that still works just fine!")
16. "Our product is safe because it falls within the FDA's exceptionally lax standards (but is banned in the EU and has a massive warning label in California)!"
17. "It's not toxic. Don't inhale it and you'll be fine."
18. The source of safety of the product is from the company itself claiming it checked itself and found itself to be safe. Double points if the product is one the FDA allows to not have to disclose most, if any, information about their product (which is a lot of them, btw).
19. Fake "eco", "organic", "fair trade", "natural", and "cruelty-free" labels. It is not illegal to put labels that resemble real organizations related to those issues with similar looking images and similar claims.
20. Green organization suddenly starts fighting for deregulating and largely never really regulated the people it allowed to have its label on it to start with.
21. An organization that's "for the environment" but has members of its board that own major polluting companies, like oil companies. Double points if the organization also seeks to remove land from the hands of indigenous people of an area under claims practices from another area by a major corporations would be "safer" and all of the land should be taken and gifted to a handful of corporations in another country.
22. Eco-supportive text/slogans on environmentally harmful product.
23. Company has a certification for some sustainability claim in regards to their head office, where none of the products are produced.
24. Making claims of supporting the environment by using the byproducts of the finished product which everyone in the entire industry has always been using in the first place for the exact same material and money saving purposes.
25. Having certificates for some of the materials used in the making of the product, but not for the end result product because toxic processes are used in between those two points. This difference is only vaguely disclosed to the consumer.
26. "This disposable product is eco-friendly because one component of this product is now made with a percentage less plastic by simply making the product thinner and more susceptible to bacteria infestations."
27. The recycling logo on nearly anything, but especially on products that cannot be recycled post-consumer use.
28. Looks like it's cardboard, it advertises it is cardboard/paper. It's plastic on the inside.
29. "Carbon neutral" via purchased "offsets" through companies that are not legally required to do, well, anything whatsoever.
30. Product says it's eco and is colored green. There's literally no other claims on the product. It may even just say "green" on the label.
31. Reusable shopping bags made out of plastic. Extra points for having a company's name on it, so you can be a walking ad for the company.
32. Labeling suggests the product is made from recycled plastic pulled from a polluted source ("ocean plastic") but it's really only vaguely related ("from plastic that 'might' one day end up in the ocean") to suggest the company is investing in actual environmental clean-up when it's not at all.
33. "Sustainable" clothing made out of "long lasting" polyester (i.e. plastic) fabric is claimed to be better than the cotton alternative because it will "last longer" (because it's plastic and won't biodegrade the way cotton will).
34. "Vegan" leather (it's plastic, and yes, even when it's claimed to be plant-based, it's still usually plastic).
35. Something being labeled as "vegan" in general to imply it's "sustainable". Only some vegan products are related to sustainability in any way. A Dasani water bottle can technically be called "vegan".
36. Clothing made from recycled material being used to imply the company is repurposing their own fast fashion to give "new life" to old clothes or saving trash from landfills. Most clothing made from recycled material is made from recycled plastic from non-clothing sources, if they are recycled material at all. Many claiming to be made from recycled bottles will not provide proof of sourcing and are likely not made from recycled materials. Natural fibers are usually used to make lower quality items, like insulation, not clothes. Most clothes cannot be recycled at all if they are made from textile blends, and pretty much no clothing is being recycled into new clothing. Most clothes become trash, and most of it won't degrade for a long time. Avoiding fast fashion is more important than wearing clothing made from "recycled materials".
37. Posts on social media praising a random product or even product type about how it's so much better monetarily and environmentally than a more natural product that involves no or less products/chemicals that seem to come out of nowhere but happen to line up with a major corporations getting sued or fined for environmental reasons or outright lying about their product. Posts will go viral, comments will overwhelmingly have one opinion, and commenters' and poster's history will largely be strange gibberish or regularly related to defending or promoting companies.
38. The entirety of what makes a product sustainable, according to the company, relies exclusively on something the consumer is expected to do with the product after it is sold and no longer usable.
39. The company has a supposedly sustainable "line" but the majority of their products are not. The company is thus backhandedly admitting their normal version is extremely toxic and that they're fully okay with selling toxic products. Due to lax regulations in the US, if buying in the US, it's likely both versions will have the nasty ingredients regardless anyway.
40. Product states it's safe or sustainable because it claims it's within FDA guidelines when its products aren't even regulated in the first place by the FDA at all.
41. Bill was expected to pass in regards to the severe longterm health and environmental effects of the product, but failed to pass (due to bribery "lobbying") and the company has claimed every since that any connection to these problems are a "myth", "unfounded", and "based on fringe internet conspiracies/misinformation" in addition to the company paying to have information about this connection surpressed and research into it defunded after the failure of the bill to pass by using failure of the bill to pass (thanks to their "lobbying") as reason why no more research is needed.
42. Company itself provides detailed information about its products' own common toxic ingredients, but claims that this is not "clearly proven science", "unsettled", or they sell the same product but with a different, equally or more toxic ingredient as a "safer" alternative.
43. Company claims product is safe, natural, cruelty-free, etc based on a specific country/region's regulations (US, EU, etc) of its materials where the company's HQ is, but will not disclose the source of their materials and said materials have extremely varied regulations worldwide, with more lax regulations or animal-testing focused countries being the cheaper supplier option.
44. Heavy focus on "FDA approval" on site, product label, or in marketing when product isn't actually or wouldn't be under the jurisdiction of the FDA in the first place. (See list here of all the things the FDA doesn't do anything about whatsoever!) Many products that do need to be registered or approved likely won't be going through the same process as the first company that made that type of product and many don't have to go through any testing before market at all at this point (ex: menstrual cups), starting in 2014. Others may simply need to pay a fee to be cleared, depending on the product.
45. PETA said it was good. Run away.