It’s not uncommon for businesses to see a trend and try to profit off of it without doing the leg work. This is especially true in the world of green weddings. Over the years of creating eco-friendly weddings I have seen my fair share of other companies who claim to offer eco-friendly services and host sustainable standards. Sometimes it’s difficult to sort out the ones who are truly “green” and those who drift more into a gray area.
What is “greenwashing” anyway?
We’ve all heard of whitewashing. You know, where a company tries to hide information that might not be so pleasant for consumers to deal with, similar to the way one might “whitewash” an old fence. Just glaze over an ugly exterior with a cheap finish and no one will know the difference. Greenwashing isn’t much different, only we’re speaking in an environmental context instead of business or politics.
Some greenwashing may be obvious. Such as a cereal company claiming to have “green” packaging because it is 100% recyclable. The key word here is recyclABLE. All paper products are able to be recycled, therefore any company can claim to have “recyclable” packaging that is made from paper. Claiming to be “green”+not actually hosting any “green” practices=greenwashing.
When I was researching this post I came across a website that was very helpful. www.greenwashingindex.com. This website’s purpose is to expose companies who practice greenwashing and educate consumers on how to detect what companies are truly hosting sustainable practices and which ones are just trying to make an extra buck. I particularly love the way that they worded their explanation of why greenwashing is a problem, so I’m taking the efficent (see lazy) route and letting them explain it for me:
“WHY IS GREENWASHING A PROBLEM?
Seems like anything and everything has “gone green” these days. Airlines, car companies, retailers, restaurants — heck, even networks and stadiums. Thankfully, more often than not, that’s a good thing. It’s only bad if it’s greenwashing — that’s bad for the environment, consumers, and, ultimately, for the very businesses doing the greenwashing — whether they mean to or not.
Environment: At its very worst, greenwashing is bad for the environment because it can encourage consumers en masse to do the opposite of what’s good for the environment. At its most benign, greenwashing makes claims that are neither good nor bad for the environment — it’s just making green claims to sell more stuff.
Consumers: We’ve all heard of lemon laws and bait-and-switch. Nobody likes to be taken advantage of, especially when it comes to money. So, the next time you see an environmental claim, ask yourself about “The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth” before you buy. The last thing you want to do is spend money on a product or service you believe is doing right by the environment, but in reality is not — or not as much as the ad might lead you to believe.
Businesses: Smart businesses are finding out that doing right by the environment actually does increase profitability in many cases. With so many easy ways for businesses to reduce their environmental impact or improve their products and processes, it’s just sad when they don’t. It’s even worse when they don’t make changes and claim to be a green company just to push their agenda. When properly trained, consumers see right through this “green screen.” Then greenwashing backfires, hurting the company’s reputation and, ultimately, their sales.
Another problem not mentioned is the impact on truly sustainable businesses. By offering a product that is only “green” on the exterior the unwitting consumer might be more inclined to opt for their version, because afterall, their cost is usually lower. Not only are they taking business away from real eco-friendly businesses, but they are lowering the standard for which we all must adhere to.”
How does this apply to the wedding industry?
As I mentioned earlier in this post, this trend has not evaded the wedding industry. As a matter of fact, from dresses to decor and favors to food, it is an issue that affects every facet of the industry. This is where knowledgeable bridal consultants (such as your friendly gals at Vera Green Productions) come in especially handy. Not all wedding planners are educated on this aspect, but most do have a knack for sniffing out the phonies, and can save you considerable time and frustration by making sure that they companies you hire meet your requirements of sustainability, and social consciousness.
I would love to detail every aspect of greenwashing in the wedding industry in this post, but you would seriously be reading into next week. So Starting this Thursday we will be featuring a weekly post that details each aspect of the wedding industry and how they are faced with companies trying to profit from a popular trend without earning it. In this series you can expect to learn how to spot greenwashing in action, from “recyclable invitations”, conflict free diamonds, and Carbon Credits, we will show you how to weed out the BS when planning your green wedding. And as a special treat, we are kicking off our series with an extra post to follow this one immediately! I hope you enjoy reading, and please give us your feedback! We love answering questions and hearing feedback from brides and other industry pros.
Where have you seen “greenwashing” show up in other aspects of your life? Do you take measures to avoid it now?