Saying No To Greenwashing

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the phenomenon of Brownwashing, a new twist on the well-established practice of Greenwashing.

Brownwashing is the term used to describe business practices that exploit a new consumer awareness that brown paper products can be made from recycled materials, and that they can be products not whitened with toxic chlorine bleach. This, of course, would not be an issue if it weren’t for the fact that paper can now be whitened without the use of chlorine, and one company has taken it one step further, adding brown dye to their product in order to capitalize on this new brown-is-green association.

Enter Method, a company that is founded on sustainable principles, a company that sells non-toxic cleaning products packaged in recycled plastic bottles, and yet a company that has made a conscious choice to not identify as a “green.”


In a wide-ranging conversation with GreenBiz Executive Editor Joel Makower today at the State of Green Business Forum, Lowry and Ryan explained why a company created 12 years ago with environmental responsibility written into its DNA would distance itself from the green label.

“We don’t run from the green, we just don’t make that the lead story,” Ryan said…

Consumers want better products, not necessarily greener products, according to Method Co-Founder Adam Lowry.

That means creating products that work better and give consumers a selfish reason to buy them, even if that reason is simply convenience. But if the only differentiator is a better environmental profile, forget about it.

It’s a rather subversive take on sustainability, and I find myself having mixed feelings about it.

On one hand, I admire the commitment to not take the easy way out by using green graphics and ad copy to market a product just because the green-is-good association exists.

On the other, it somehow strikes me as cynical, defeatist, and even counterproductive to declare so boldly that “consumers want better products, not necessarily greener products,” even if, for now, there’s some truth to it.

If ever there was a fad with a net upside it might be green products, even though some Greenwashing might be taking place.

5 thoughts on “Saying No To Greenwashing

  1. Many consumers have the impression that “green” products do not work as well as their chemical counterparts and thus will avoid trying them even if they really are better products. In some cases this may be true, in other cases not so much. I think it is best to let the consumer decide for themselves based on their values, not the company’s PR. If their product is good enough to compete, they do not need green marketing for your average consumer. And for those of us who truly care, we can read the packaging and research the company and make our decision independently, because you always have to be wary of greenwashers.

  2. Greta article!!!

    I totally agree! We need to break out of our ‘consumer’ shell. We are human beings, we are citizens not mere consuming machines!
    We need to educate ourselves to ‘read between the lines’ and go forward!

  3. Marketing the ‘Green’ element may in itself reduce the prospective consumer base? It’ll sell well with some but put off others? In which case, isnt it better to make sure more people make environmentally good choices even if they dont buy into the need to do so? Slightly paternalistic in deciding what is good for others, I know. But in this case, because I agree with the cause, it is easier to accept.:-)

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