How to Spot Greenwashing (And How We Avoid It at Thrive Market) 

Last Update: April 26, 2024

Have you heard the term “greenwashing” before? It refers to products or companies that use marketing to appear like they’re good for the planet through the use of vague or misleading labels and identifiers or unregulated claims. 

While these products may seem like better options for your health and for the environment, they often don’t have the credentials — such as certifications from established environmental organizations — to back them up. 

Here are some examples of greenwashing terminology you might find in marketing, as well as the labels you can look for to identify products with measurable, substantiated certifications and credentials toward those well-intentioned environmental claims. 

Common Greenwashing Terms — And How to Validate Them 

“Green”.  The term “green” is frequently used to describe products that are supposedly better for the environment or better for your health, but without any set guidelines in terms of ingredient content, sourcing practices, or supply chain management, it can be difficult to validate. 

“Eco-friendly”. In your attempt to seek out products that help to preserve ecosystems or avoid pollution, you may be drawn to the phrase “eco-friendly” on packaging. While this descriptor doesn’t technically have a specific definition in terms of recycling, recyclability, or sourcing practices, a brand may choose to explain what makes their products eco-friendly, which could help to avoid greenwashing. 

“Natural”. While many products with the label “natural” are, in fact, made with more natural ingredients or materials than other products, when it’s used alone, consumers have no way of knowing where those ingredients come from or how they’re sourced or processed. If you notice this term, check to see if the brand explains exactly where each ingredient comes from to avoid greenwashing. 

“Clean”. In food, beauty, skincare, or household products, the term “clean” is one that is used often — but unfortunately, often means very little. While these products may be better than their conventional alternatives, there is no measurable scale for declaring something “clean”. At Thrive Market, when we use the term “clean”, we make sure to describe what that word means to us.

Nature-inspired icons or colors. One other common greenwashing tactic is using nature-inspired icons that may seem like certifications (i.e. a logo of a leaf or a tree), but don’t actually allude to a certification. The same goes for green packaging; while it may look like a more “natural” product, these marketing tactics often mean very little (if anything at all). 

Environmental Certifications to Look for When Shopping for Food & Personal Care Products 

At Thrive Market, our Mission, Merchandising, and Owned Brand teams are committed to adhering to a set of standards when it comes to the sustainable practices we follow and the products we carry and produce. Many of these standards have to do with our environmental impact, which is one of the tentpoles of our mission as a company. 

Here are just a few of the most important certifications we prioritize when it comes to our own practices and products from both our brands and the ones we carry. 

Organic / USDA Certified Organic 

The USDA Certified Organic label ensures that products are third-party organic certified to confirm they meet the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) Standards. Even without the certification, in order for a brand to call a product organic, it must contain 95% organic ingredients

Products to try:
Thrive Market Organic Raw Cashews, Thrive Market Organic Taco Night Spice Blend, Thrive Market Organic Raw Honey 

Regenerative Organic Certified / Regeneratively Grown 

If a product is regeneratively grown, it means that it is produced using regenerative organic farming practices that help to sequester excess carbon and reverse the effects of climate change. While regenerative organic farming is a fairly new identifier for age-old indigenous farming practices, the Regenerative Organic Certified label is one way you can be certain that a product is produced regeneratively. 

Products to try: Thrive Market Regeneratively Grown Organic White Quinoa, Thrive Market Regeneratively Grown Organic Dried Mango, Dr. Bronner’s Regenerative Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Certified Fairly Traded

When a product carries this certification, it means that it comes from a supply chain that ensures fair wages for farmers, supports community development, and uses only environmentally friendly farming practices. 

Products to try: Thrive Market Organic Cane Sugar, Thrive Market Fair Trade Organic Earl Grey Tea, Alaffia Everyday Shea Bubble Bath, Lavender

Non-GMO Project Verified

The Non-GMO Project is a third-party organization that ensures that a product is made without GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, which are used in commercial farming to engineer food crops through biotechnology. As a company, Thrive Market is proud to be GMO-free since day one. 

Products to try: Thrive Market Organic Jasmine Rice, The Good Crisp Co. Crisps, Thrive Market Pink Himalayan Sea Salt   

Certified B Corporation 

B Corps are companies that have met a rigorous set of standards (upheld by a nonprofit network known as the B Lab) when it comes to environmental and social responsibility. These standards help to improve the impact that corporations have on the planet and its people. Thrive Market proudly achieved B Corp status in 2020.

Products to try: B Corp Brands Shopping List

G.A.P. Animal Welfare Certified 

If you care about the ethical treatment of animals when sourcing and purchasing meat and seafood products, you’ll want to look for this label. G.A.P. (Global Animal Partnership) Animal Welfare Certification ensures that animals are raised without antibiotics or added hormones, are fed a vegetarian diet with no animal by-products, and are treated ethically and humanely.

Products to try: Thrive Market Organic Baby Back Pork Ribs, Thrive Market Organic Cajun Style Chicken Sausage, Thrive Market Grass-Fed Organic Ground Beef

Leaping Bunny Certified 

This certification is overseen by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) and ensures that beauty, hair, and skincare products are not tested on animals during any stage of the production or supply chain process. 

Products to try: f.a.e. by Thrive Market Bentonite Clay, Rosey by Thrive Market All-Purpose Cleaner Concentrate  

Plastic Neutral Certified 

If you’re committed to cutting back on your single-use plastic waste, look for this label. The Plastic Neutral Certified label is vetted by an organization called rePurpose Global, which helps to measure how much plastic is used by a company and then recover that same amount of plastic from nature. At Thrive Market, all of the packaging for our own brands (Thrive Market Goods, Rosey, f.a.e., and wellmade) and shipping materials for all member orders are Plastic Neutral Certified. 

Products to try: Thrive Market Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Thrive Market Organic Quick Oats, Bees Wrap Reusable Food Wraps 

Climate Neutral Certified 

Climate Neutral Certification is earned by brands that demonstrate they have invested to avoid, remove, and reduce all of the carbon emissions from making and delivering their products and services. The certification is given by an organization called the Change Climate Project, a nonprofit that offers programs to help companies measure and reduce their emissions. Thrive Market became Climate Neutral Certified in 2023. 

Share this article

Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts is Thrive Market's Senior Editorial Writer. She is based in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh, PA.

Download the app for easy shopping on the go

By providing your mobile number, you agree to receive marketing text messages from Thrive Market. Consent not a condition to purchase. Msg & data rates apply. Msg frequency varies. Reply HELP for help and STOP to cancel.

If you are visually-impaired and having difficulty with our website, call us at 1‑855‑997‑2315

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

© Thrive Market 2024 All rights reserved.