Greenwashing and Fish: Why Labeling Matters

Last week, conservation group Oceana dropped a bombshell report, finding that about a third of all fish was NOT the kind advertised. Though it’s not a scientific sample, some of the findings are truly alarming, like 94% of “tuna” sold in New York that turned out to be anything but tuna. This is bad for seafood eaters and the public at large. It’s a breach of trust, and it certainly raises some potential health and safety concerns.


But it’s worse because it suggests that marketers can easily get away with deceiving the public. And when we think about greenwashing and green scams, this is worrisome.

When we buy organic food, nontoxic shampoo, shade-grown coffee, wind-generated electricity, or even an energy-efficient refrigerator, we’re putting our trust in the label, the producer, and sometimes a third-party regulator or government certifying agency. Some products lend themselves toward easier fraud — fish may be a particularly good example. But ultimately, even in the case of a well-known brand with clearly labeled ingredients, we’re taking a leap of faith. How much do you trust these companies?

That’s why it’s so important that we come together and demand accountability. As green consumers, there are several key ways to do this:

  • Pressure the government to do more. We can trust labels like USDA Organic because the US Department of Agriculture responded to consumer and farmer demand, and created a landmark program that benefits all of us. But these standards are constantly under risk of weakening.
  • Join the movement. We are more powerful as a unified voice.
  • Vote with your dollars. Support companies that have a good reputation, use independent certifications for claims like “shade grown,” “organic,” and “compostable.”
  • Get informed, and spread the word. Know the difference between something that’s made with 100% recycled content, and something that claims to be 100% recyclable. Learn which labels you can trust.

Self-promotion: Maybe it’s a little too obvious, but The Green Life helps you do all of these things. And we can’t do any of it without member support, since we don’t run ads and won’t take any corporate contributions. Go here to learn more about membership.

… And if you’re buying fish, look for a retailer you trust and a fish you know — or you could be getting fooled. Good luck!

Photo credit: Oceana, via Flickr.

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