With greenwashing the latest trend, how do we know what’s actually green?

As consumers, there are many factors to consider when making purchasing decisions. Alongside quality and price, we also need to assess how sustainable a product is. We must ensure the product itself and the company behind it are not harming the environment, and are as socially conscious and eco-friendly as possible.

But businesses know that today’s savvy consumers prioritize sustainability—and, unfortunately—some use tactics to present their products as green when in reality, this portrayal is more of a marketing gimmick. This is called greenwashing, and we as consumers need to be wary of it. We have a responsibility to discern if our products are truly sustainable or not, in order to protect the planet to the best of our ability with every purchase we make.

So we went behind the scenes of the beauty industry to interview the founder of Elate Cosmeticsa company that takes sustainability seriously. Melodie Reynolds (pictured below) has been creating sustainable beauty products since 2014, operating under the mantra that “our daily choices create global impact, and choosing ethical products means a more positive result.” Reynolds is environmentally conscious throughout all aspects of her business and has some advice for consumers on how to spot when a business is genuine in its sustainable practices or if greenwashing is at play.Melodie Reynolds Elate CosmeticsElate Cosmetics

Reynolds shares that greenwashing comes in many different forms, but there are two main ways that companies greenwash their products: either a package is designed to make customers think it’s more eco-friendly than it is, or a marketing campaign makes claims that sound like the product is better for people and the planet when subtly (or not so subtly) suggesting that any other product is bad for people and the planet. In order to avoid greenwashing, Reynolds advises that the main thing to look out for is the company’s track record.

“Have they suddenly come out with a new sustainable line, but have never before cautioned you about overconsumption?” asks Reynolds. “This probably means that their new eco-friendly outlook is a marketing campaign to get you to buy more than you need.”

She says that one of the biggest problems is that traditional products are designed to encourage us to over-consume—and when companies greenwash these products to make us think that they’re better for the planet, we tend to not consider that we're buying more than we need.

So what should we look for in a product? Unfortunately, certifications don’t necessarily mean that a company is sustainable, but Elate Cosmetics and other sustainable companies do seek out the B Corp certification; these companies are obligated through the terms of their incorporation to do better for the planet, and are recognized worldwide for putting people and the planet first.

“We also are very open with our customers and have conversations with them rather than telling them who we are. Sustainability is not a destination, it's a journey, and we always talk about the things that we are currently doing, why we're doing them, and how we hope to improve in the future,” says Reynolds.

The sustainable model of Elate Cosmetics is one that all companies would benefit from adopting. When asked why it was important for Reynolds to design her company in an ethical and environmentally friendly way, she explained.

“Before I started my brand, I had an experience that made me realize that no matter how conscious I was being, I was still throwing a lot of things out at the end of their life. This made me angry as a consumer who always tried to make the right decisions. I focus my company's growth based on the notion that corporations should be taking responsibility for their products from idea to end of life. This is also because I recognize that recycling is not an individual choice; it's often up to the municipality or even the country that you live in, and so we can't assume that everybody has the option to properly dispose of the packaging that their products come in. I think it is so important for the future of business and the future of the world that we demand more responsibility be taken by the companies that make our products.”

Visit Elate Cosmetics’ website for more information on this sustainable company and its products.