The other day I was waiting in line at Border’s and noticed the various items being sold at the checkout counter. There was an “eco-friendly” lipstick  for sale that was advertised as being made from 100% organic oils. Well, if customers were to turn the package over, they’d notice a slew of synthetic chemicals listed before anything organic in the ingredients list. They’d also notice the packaging was not recyclable. And maybe even have time to realize that no one is helping the environment by buying an organic cosmetic product that will most likely get lost among the rest of the junk people tend to accumulate.

This is just one example of what is becoming a huge trend. Greenwashing. Advertisers who make products that they advocate as good for the environment, but aren’t quite showing consumers the big picture.

According to the EnviroMedia and the Greenwashing Index,

“It’s greenwashing when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. It’s whitewashing, but with a green brush.”

Products like environmentally conscious Barbie, eco-shaped bottled water, or the cosmetic product I mentioned are all designed to make people feel like they are helping the environment. The truth is each one of these products is harming the environment much more than it could ever help. With the assumption that helping our environment is what we should be doing…We shouldn’t be buying Barbies at all because they’re plastic wrapped in more plastic (and  young girls shouldn’t be encouraged to strive toward “plastic”) and Barbies can’t be recycled. We shouldn’t be drinking bottled water at all no matter how eco-friendly they tried to make the disposable container.

These products that advertise as being green are a part of one tier of the greenwash effect in that they are wasteful and their minute environmental contributions don’t cancel out their wastefulness. The next tier of greenwashing includes the products that are notoriously harmful to the environment and all of a sudden are conscious of the environment.

A potential hummer hybrid has got advertisers promoting the vehicle’s eco-smarts. Even if this future fuel efficient hummer were to be eco smart, it won’t make up for the years of gas-guzzling trucks the company has put on the roads and it won’t take them off of it either. Along with the hummer advertising, BP, the petroleum company, has a new green logo and a website vamped with windmills and fresh grass, implying environmental consciousness. They’ve made numerous claims about “aiming for,” “focusing on,” and “working toward” clean energy but not a whole lot of actual contribution toward our environment. At the same time, BP continues to sell a completely non-renewable resource, transporting it all over the world.