Eco labels : find one’s way into this greenwashing jungle

Our muppet friend says it best: it’s not easy being green. But in a world where the word green has taken on a whole new meaning, Kermit had it right, it is definitely not that easy. If you think that better shopping implies better understanding, you will find in this article the keys to buy without thinking twice about the trust you can put in ecological labels.

“It’s not easy being green”

If you’re trying to change your habits in a more sustainable manner but you have trouble finding your way through eco labels, we can easily relate: which one to choose? what at the guarantees? Are they trustworthy? This is why at Ecogarantie we want to change that and help you consume differently.

Consume “differently”, yes, but how? Shopping for self-care or cleaning products has become an obstacle course lately : we are easily lost between complicated ecological labels, unknown labels and greenwashed eco labelled products. It would be understandable if you felt the sudden need to flee from this abundance of information.

But if you are still here, you definitely want to know what you buy and from who you’re really buying. Let’s find out what eco labels really stand for and how you can tell the difference between a real ecological label and self-proclaimed ones.

What is the aim of an ecolabel?

In order to buy responsibly, you ought to know why the ecological label you buy from does what it does. That being said, most of them have a double aim : on one hand, they promote products with a minor impact on the environment compared to similar product. On the other, they inform and empower people about the effects on the environment of the production, consumption and waste phases of those products.

This implies taking into account the whole product’s lifecycle : every step of the supply chain will have an impact on the environment, from the material extraction to the manufacturing and transportation, so it is crucial to have a multi-impacts approach. Indeed, ecological labels can’t focus solely on improving one environmental aspect, because they might neglect others just as important and generate pollution transfer.

For example, the replacement of plastic bags with paper bags : each has its advantages and its environmental impacts. Except that the consumption of fossil energies generated by the plastic bags is replaced by the wood consumption for the paper bags with a risk of forest exploitation. Remember this: something reusable is always preferable than something recyclable.

How can you identify a good ecological label ?

Imagine your favourite brands of self-care products. They know that natural cosmetics are trending and that they are the future, however, their products are full of chemicals. If the brand wants to be perceived as ecological and/or natural, they can directly print a label on Google Images and put it on their products. No control, no guidelines, nothing. A simple copy paste did the trick, and as consumer we sometimes get fooled by it.

Some brands don’t hesitate and use this method, which is honestly chilling. Luckily and to ensure its reliability, a good eco label certification has guidelines to follow before the label can be used: One of the elements that ensures the reliability of an ecolabel is its compliance to a certain “standard”, a bill of specifications that states environmental criteria to uphold. The compliance with these conditions for a definite product allows the brand to have eco labelled products. 

The other element would be an ecolabel certification : without any inspection from an independent control body, the consumer holds no proof over the guarantees offered by the label.

You also need to identify the commitment to nature of your chosen label : a good ecological label does not only care for the environment, but also cares about animals and humans. That is why the best ones have a clear social and environmental responsibility policy about wages equality, cruelty-free products, discrimination and transparency in the supply chain for example.

Another common mistake made by consumers wanting to do the right thing, is mixing up eco labels and bio labels, when in fact they are not actually standing up for the same things.

What’s better then, bio labels or eco labels?

We call a product “biological” or organic, when it’s organically grown (production method that excludes all chemicals and GMOs). However, a product is called “ecological” when its design, conception, wrapping, distribution and recycling are thought in a way that minimizes the environmental impact. 

This means that a biological product is not necessarily ecological and vice versa. If you take a tomato for example, it can be organic and ecological if you buy it from a local producer that uses no pesticides and cares about the environment because he uses horses instead of tractors.

Conversely, an organic tomato that comes from another country isn’t necessarily ecological because of the distribution by boat or planes, and an ecological tomato with zero waste wrapping by a local producer isn’t necessarily organically grown. 

In general, the difference between bio labels and eco labels is not that obvious, which is why it’s great to keep yourself updated. In the end, choosing an ecological label that includes an organic policy in its standards is obviously the best option you could hope for.

Where can I find all those information?

Get your bearings into this multitude of ecolabelled products is getting harder and harder. We are convinced that a simplification of the environmental communication is mandatory and would probably encourage consumers to switch their habits for a more sustainable way.

On top of that, you need to take most of the environmental allegations greenwashing brands are throwing at you with a pinch of salt, because many of them are making up ecolabel criteria that don’t even exist: “natural”, “green product”, “respect the environment”. They are prevailing on greenwashed packaging to enhance the visibility of the product, but aren’t checked out by an independent control body.

To ensure that a label is really ecological, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the label inspected by an independent control body?
  • Is there specifications with clear and strict criteria to protect the environment?
  • Does the label cover all the lifecycle of the product, from design to waste phase?

You can usually find those information on the label’s website, in their social and environmental responsibility policy (if they have one), or on websites such as Label Info, a very reliable source that explains everything you need to know if you want to trust real ecological labels.

Social Media & Public Relations Manager
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