According to a poll by Eurobarometer, 83% of Europeans feel that the environmental impact of a product is an important element when buying something. But how to be sure that what you buy is as green as claimed?
Ecology has become a key marketing selling point for manufacturers and retailers across Europe, offering a growing range of eco-friendly products and services. But when it comes to eco-labels, it can get very difficult for consumers to sift out the truth from the lies, knowing that a number of brands only use green advertising to improve their image. This is known as greenwashing, as expains communications specialist Solitaire Townsend :
“The word “greenwash” comes from the very old term “to whitewash”. That you whitewash over a bad wall to make it look new and fresh. Greenwash is the same; you put a wash of green over something that is not very green.”
For Jean-François Rixen from Belgium’s Ecoconso assocation, the green products to be particularly cautious about are those bearing self-awarded eco-labels :
“Some ecolabels are produced by the brands themselves but they aren’t always checked by third parties. Labels like these can cause confusion.”
Conversely, the most trustworthy labels are those awarded by independent certification bodies after passing rigorous tests, like national official labels -for instance the “NF Environment” label in France, or the European ecolabel identified by the flower logo :
“Take a cleaning product which mentions the European Ecolabel. It’s subject to an assessment by a selection committee in each country. For a product to pass, it must go through all the advisory committees, in France, Germany, Belgium, etc.”
Today the EU Ecolabel covers a growing number of products and services, including paints, cleaning products, light bulbs, televisions, textile as well as hotel rooms and campsites.
Don’t forget Europe Direct! It is how you can get more information about Europe. There is a free phone number, a web site and information centres all around Europe.