Guilty of ‘greenwashing’? Half of Americans pretend they are eco-friendly citizens

NEW YOK — We’ve all heard of “catfishing” or pretending to be someone you’re not online. But the new sneaky facade presented nowadays is “greenwashing,” according to new research.

What is greenwashing? It’s a term used to describe when someone pretends to be more environmentally sustainable around others. A survey of 2,000 general population Americans revealed half of respondents are guilty of doing this.

Why do people ‘greenwash’?

What’s the motive?  More than half of survey participants (53%) have exaggerated their environmentally sustainable practices specifically to impress others. The survey also revealed that 54 percent of respondents are less likely to practice eco-friendly habits if nobody can see them.

But while a fifth of Americans surveyed admit pressure from society (20%) and not wanting to be judged (19%) motivate them to be environmentally sustainable, those aren’t the top reasons.

Commissioned by Avocado Green Mattress and conducted by OnePoll, the survey found caring for the planet — and wanting to protect it for future generations — was the top reason to live sustainablyThat was followed by it feeling “like the right thing to do,” and environmentally sustainable actions making respondents “feel good.” Respondents also want to be positive role models and said their loved ones encourage them to be sustainable.

Woman volunteering to plant trees with children, helping environment
Many Americans are choosing more sustainable lifestyles to encourage younger generations to do the same. (© zinkevych –

Actions speak louder than words. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed agreed that people’s motivations for doing so don’t matter, as long as they’re actually acting on being eco-friendly.

“We only have one Earth, and future generations will judge us by the state in which we leave the planet,” says Avocado Green Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing and Sustainability, Jessica Hann, in a statement. “When it comes to sustainability, it matters less what people think, and more that we all just do the best we can.”

Are ‘green’ companies actually sustainable?

While some individuals may be guilty of “greenwashing” — working to present a more environmentally responsible image than is true — the survey also delved into this from a corporate perspective.

Forty-five percent of respondents have purchased an item solely because it was marketed as sustainable, but only 27 percent are “very confident” they can tell when a company is genuine, versus when they’re trying to appear more environmentally sustainable than they are.

This might be why 42 percent have purchased something, only to later realize the company they bought it from wasn’t as sustainable as it seemed. Even then, 70 percent said regardless of the truth, they feel better purchasing something that claims to be environmentally sustainable.

That said, 79 percent believe it’s important to shop at environmentally sustainable companies, and 78 percent agree that more companies should be committed to practices that help the planet.

“Businesses know that customers prefer ‘green’ brands,” says Hann. “But it can be difficult to distinguish what’s ‘green’ from what’s greenwashing. We let our independent, third-party certifications validate that we’re operating at the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Avocado Green Mattress between March 7 and March 8, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

About the Author

Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia is a recent graduate from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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