We’d all prefer to buy from companies that share our values—and for those of us who strive to be environmentally conscious, picking out which products we purchase is a vital decision. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell if a product is truly eco-friendly just by looking at it. Green is in, after all, and plenty of companies will go to great lengths to appear green when all they’re really after is making more money.

If you truly want to ensure that the things you buy are making as little environmental impact as possible, you’re going to have to spent a little extra time. Here are 5 simple techniques you should keep in mind.

Disregard “Greenwashed” Branding

Plenty of companies will try to trick you into thinking their product is environmentally responsible with earth-toned packaging or a label featuring an illustration of a tree. Don’t be fooled by any business that pays lip service to sustainability with broad, vague imagery. Tactics like this are known as “greenwashing,” and it’s important to look past them when judging a product’s impact. Instead, you’ll need to…

Focus on Specific Claims

A good place to start is by looking at the claims the company makes about their product—whether that’s on their website, in their advertisements, or on the packaging of the product itself. Pay special attention to how detailed and specific they are. It’s easy to claim that a product is “green” or “all natural,” but broad statements like that don’t really mean anything when you get right down to it. If, on the other hand, a product is advertised as being made from 100% recycled material, that’s a very specific detail—one that’s much easier to trust.

Look for Official Certifications/Labels

One of the most reliable ways to judge a company’s eco-friendliness is to see how it’s been judged by reputable third-party organizations. Check their website or the label of the product itself for green certifications. In particular, look for Energy Star (for energy efficiency), USDA Organic Seal (for organic products), Forest Stewardship Council (for products made from trees in responsibly managed forests), and Green Seal (for general sustainability).

Check the Company’s PR

Generally, the things that third parties say about the company are more trustworthy—but it’s also worth looking into things that the company says about itself. Check the business’s website, particularly the About Us and media room pages. CompanyFolders.com has a great example of this, devoting a special page specifically about their eco-friendly initiatives and printing practices.

You can also check to see if a company has won any awards or accolades for their sustainability efforts. There might also be published corporate social responsibility reports or sustainability reports; these are often the best way to find facts and statistics.

Research the Company Externally

Invest a bit of time into researching the business in question. Do a quick Google search and see what the media is saying about what the company does to help the environment. Be sure to seek out reputable, trustworthy sources with a long history of integrity. Ethical Consumer, for instance, profiles and rates companies on their eco-friendliness. Try using the Aspiration app and check out the business’s Aspiration Impact Measurement; this is a score that is based on things like greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, and other stats.

Being socially responsible isn’t about putting every single decision you make through a “purity test.” No company is perfect, after all. But you can make reasonable choices on a day-to-day basis. Try to frequent sustainable businesses that make an effort to maintain a low environmental impact.


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