Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Green Living: Greenwashing

Resources to help you green your home and make better environmental decisions.


Greenwashing is whitewashing with a green brush. It occurs when a company spends more time and money claiming to be green than it does implementing green business practices. At best, companies make green claims to sell stuff. At worst, it can encourage people to do the opposite of what's good for the environment. It also means that consumers don't know what to believe.

Be a Smart Consumer

  • Environmental claims should be specific. Look for specific amounts (recycled content, a certain percentage less packaging, etc.)
  • Some claims are too vague to be meaningful. Terms like "eco-friendly" and "environmentally friendly" don't mean anything unless there is more specific information.
  • Degradable products don't save landfill space. Anything degradable put into a landfill degrades very slowly. Degradable does matter if you're composting because degradable materials will break down quickly into useful compost.
  • Symbols are useful. Look for the recycling symbol or green certification symbols like Energy Star, Green Seal, EPEAT, and WaterSense. See the Product Guides/Certifications page for more resources related to ecolabels.