Are you familiar with Greenwashing? Greenwashing simply means when companies use eco-friendly wording as part of their marketing to convince the customers to believe the products are environmentally friendly but the products are not necessarily eco-friendly at all, or at least not enough. Many times, the good environmental impact of greenwashed products is so small, that it doesn't really make any change, and consumers end up paying more thinking they are doing something good. This is why as a consumer it is VERY IMPORTANT to be aware of what you buy, who you buy from, and what kind of impact your purchase has. It is up to you to do the research and be aware because unfortunately, there is not a lot of companies who will do it for you.
Especially now when eco-friendliness is a trend and people are more aware of the environmental issues, greenwashing is happening almost by an accident. The outrageous problem also is that many times, people who live eco-friendly lifestyle are okay spending more money on eco-friendly products. Therefore by just using the right words, companies can raise the pricing of their products and make more money. Greenwashing is one of the biggest issues we are facing right now. It is a shame that there are so many people who want to be eco-friendly and want to help but unfortunately they fall into the false advertisement of eco-friendly products.
So next time, if you are environmentally conscious, whatever you purchase follow this checklist:
1. If you can, DON'T BUY, borrow, or rent! The companies keep producing new products as long as we keep supporting them. If you want to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, stop buying new items and source from what you already have. Second-hand shopping is a great way to minimize unnecessary buying.
2. Check the material of the product Google is your best friend. When you buy something, check the material that has been used in the product and then google how you can correctly dispose of it. You will quickly learn the most harmful materials and also learn what are the materials that suit your lifestyle the best.
3. Where and how the product was made Shopping for local products is the best way to minimize the carbon footprint. What is that and why it is important to be aware of it? I found this blog post useful for myself, perhaps you like it too: TressPass - Why it is Important to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
4. Check the company's website, are they honest and open about how they are being eco-friendly. Don't be blind and trust every marketing word the company is using. You have the right to demand information on how the products really are making a difference. You can always contact companies and ask for this information. Most likely if you do not get a response, they are not interested enough in the environmental issues. For too long, we consumers have been blindly believing every single word we are fed through advertisement but we have the right and responsibility to demand details and even statistics on how the companies are doing their part to "payback to the environment".
5. Remember, biodegradable, organic, vegan, compostable, natural, pure, green, eco-friendly, earth-friendly, non-toxic, and sustainable are just "power" words, don't fall for those.
So how do we see greenwashing in party planning?
I would say one of the biggest issues I hear from my clients is "eco-friendly balloons". You might see balloons in the market that claim the balloons to be 100% biodegradable, but it still takes years for the balloon to decompose. So, it doesn't really do any difference to buy 100% biodegradable balloons, but it does make you feel better about your purchase, right? Congratulations, you've just been greenwashed! Unfortunately, there is no way you can be eco-friendly and use balloons. The only way is to use alternatives like paper lanterns, pompoms, and party banners.
Another thing, when you see party supplies claiming the words "compostable" or "biodegradable", you should dispose of these products correctly so that they decompose in the time they are meant to.
Nowadays instead of purchasing plastic plates, cups, and straws, we see lots of substitute products like example PLA plant-based plastic products. The truth with PLA plastic is that it is advertised to decompose in a couple of months but if it is thrown into a regular trash bin, it takes far more than that to decompose. So, throwing these items into the regular trash bin is not enough, they need a certain kind of environment to decompose. For example, when you buy compostable plates, you should throw those products to the composting bin/center to dispose them correctly.
And when it comes to biodegradable items, you never know how long those will take to break down, there are not really any requirements for the companies when they use the term "biodegradable". I talked about biodegradable and compostable terms earlier in my previous blog.
Many times, consumers think paper products are the solution when shopping for an environmentally friendly party but the dark truth is that lots of paper party supplies are covered with polyethylene which makes the items non-recyclable. So, when you shop for paper products be aware of this fact and double-check the products you buy are not covered with polyethylene.
My advice is: the best way to throw an eco party is to avoid as many disposable products as you can, and if you do decide to go with disposable products you should have a plan for how you correctly dispose the items you purchased. Just buying "eco-friendly" party supplies is not really being eco-friendly.