Title

Talk isn't cheap : the effects of greenwashing on the environment.

Date of Award

5-1-2014

Document Type

Thesis

School

College of Liberal Arts

Degree Name

Bachelor in Arts

Abstract

The rise of green claims and green products on the market has grown exponentially in recent years. With this, there has also been a rise in greenwashing. This includes products pretending to be environmentally friendly when they are not and often cause real harm to the environment. While these false advertising claims run rampant, is greenwashing a significant environmental problem? Through the analysis of two indirect effects on the environment from greenwashing, this thesis concludes that it is a significant environmental problem. It negatively affects consumer choices that move away from lower impact products and reducing the level of consumption. The first indirect effect that greenwashing creates is skepticism of all green claims. This turns certain consumers away from all green products while other consumers do not recognize greenwashing and buy greenwashed products thinking they are positively contributing to the environment when they are not. Greenwashing claims have run rampant because the Federal Trade Commissions Green Guides are not legally binding and hence do not prohibit this dishonest behavior. Other countries have provided positive models of how to improve the current system that give consumers more of a role in reporting greenwashing. Stronger FTC guidelines would severely decrease the amount of these false claims. The second indirect effect that greenwashing encourages is green consumerism as a way to solve environmental problems. False green marketing makes consumers feel like they have done their part to help the environment. Green consumerism is not a viable solution because it individualizes environmental problems, creates more waste, and does not force a change to societys excessive consumption habits. The solutions to this problem are not as clear cut. They include a widespread PSA campaign and society-wide paradigm shift advocating for a decrease in consumption but not at the cost of well-being. There are several organizations working with this issue but none that are widespread enough. This problem is unlikely to be solved without mainstream media attention. Greenwashing is more than just poorly designed advertising but poses significant threats to the environment.