Sex sells has become green sellsWiebke Venter
It seems like the world does make a change. Everywhere we see eco-products, recyclable and recycled items, green packages, environmentally friendly cars and sustainable produced food. Big companies seem to become more aware of our environmental problems. However, at times, they make us believe that we can save the world just by buying the right stuff, but this is a false and dangerous belief. In fact, it’s just greenwashing.
Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s product is more environmentally friendly. The marketing term “sex sells” that has been used since 1870 has become “green sells”, because the positive image and feelings that are being created by making the packaging green/earthy and printing ECO on it, makes us want to buy the item. Green is selling well.
Here is a little example: Leon and I have recently been out to buy food containers and almost fell for a greenwashed item: An Eco container. It was a nicely coloured plastic container with a paper sleeve in natural colours and a big “eco” sign written in the logo. I was curious and wanted to know more about that appealingly “eco-plastic” product.
When I tried to find out what is ECO about this this product, I couldn´t find anything. The description said nothing except that the plastic was “food-safe”. I tried to find answers on the internet but wasn’t able to find anything. In the end, we decided to purchase a glass container. I left quite upset, as I felt betrayed. The product is still made of plastic and it doesn´t make it better that the sleeve around it has earthy colours, is made from carton and says “eco”.
Some companies may hide the impacts of plastic items and packaging behind marketing terms, sustainability language, and industry alliances. Claiming that a product is compostable, biodegradable, or made from plants, does not necessarily mean that product is good for the environment or will reduce plastic pollution.
The truth is that switching to paper, “bioplastics” or embracing chemical recycling is not the solution for our plastic pollution. We need to move away from single-use packaging and the throwaway mentality so that we can make a profound change. We need beneficial systems that prioritise refill and reuse and make it more convenient.
To solve the plastic pollution crisis, big companies should rethink how products are delivered to consumers and invest significantly in reusable and refillable delivery systems.
Nevertheless, we can contribute to preventing an increase in plastic pollution by shopping at local markets, bringing mesh bags and containers to the fresh produce area, the deli counter or the butcher; We can already avoid heaps of (plastic) packaging. Additionally, we can all change the world by being smart and reflected consumers, and more conscious about what we buy.