Beware of being misled when buying environmentally friendly products in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
environmentally friendly

MADRID – The demand for environmentally friendly products continues to grow. Manufacturers know this. Consequently, they enthusiastically respond to the trend. However, not all products with an eco-image´ meet the requirements for this. So, how can you tell if a product really is good for the environment? 

The Spanish consumer organisation OCU warns against fraud in products that are sold as environmentally friendly. In theory, these products are supposed to contain a higher percentage of organic ingredients, be produced in environmentally friendly ways, and generally be more sustainable and natural. 

However, as the trend for eco-friendly products has grown, it has become increasingly apparent that many products are labelled “eco” just for show. This phenomenon, known as “eco posturing” or “greenwashing”, refers to the deceptive marketing tactics companies use to sell products that are not environmentally friendly. 

Green image 

According to OCU, the cosmetics industry is one of the sectors that is particularly guilty of this. There are no clear legal guidelines here. Therefore, that allows companies to use deceptive advertising to sell their products. Consequently, OCU wants to help consumers make a better distinction and learn what to look out for if they like to buy environmentally friendly and responsible products. 

Related post: Which supermarket in Spain has the most organic products? 

Many companies create a “green” image for their products. They do this using designs and colours that customers associate with nature and environmental friendliness. Despite their ‘green’ appearance, many of these products contain ingredients that harm the environment. In addition, these products are often overly well-packaged in non-recyclable materials. 

The use of natural ingredients does not say everything 

Another problem is that using natural ingredients does not necessarily mean that a product is also environmentally friendly. To conclude this, other things must be considered. For example, the process used to extract these ingredients and the environmental impact of their production and transport. For example, coconut oil can be organic, but its production can contribute to deforestation in tropical forests. 

Some products use blatant false labels or designations, such as “Bio”, “Organic”, or “Ocean Friendly” that mislead the customer. As an example, OCU points to the product Bio-oil (available from pharmacies). This is a cosmetic oil that contains paraffin, a petroleum derivative and is therefore not “bio” at all. 

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Be careful with unrecognised eco-labels 

Consumers are also advised to be careful with all kinds of eco-labels. Many companies make these themselves. These are then not recognised because there is no control whatsoever. Only certain labels, such as the EU Biolabel or Ecoert, are certified by public and private institutions that also carry out checks that all requirements for the label have been met. 

Labels for the entire European Union 

In addition to organic production, information for consumers is also important. They must be informed about the type of product they buy and its characteristics. Regulation 66/2010 establishes the ecological label. This is a system to identify products of this type that can be purchased in all EU countries. 

The label is only granted to products with a lower environmental impact compared to other products of the same category. The criteria for this are based on scientific data that examine the entire life cycle of the products. 

EU Ecolabel for organic products 

The European Ecolabel or the flower is a flower against a white background formed by 12 blue stars. This badge must be visible on the packaging. It must also contain a reference to the control body that certifies the organic nature of the product Only foods with more than 95% ecological ingredients can carry this label. 

When is a product ecological, biological or organic? 

Ecological: Products are made using practices or processes that respect the ecological balance and minimise environmental impact. 

Organic: Products produced without the use of synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers or genetically modified organisms. Organic products are often more environmentally friendly and healthier for human consumption. These receive the EU organic label. 

Sustainable: In the context of products, the term sustainable refers to products that are made with practices that respect the ecological balance and can be produced continuously without depleting natural resources or damaging the environment. 

The OCU’s warning reminds consumers that not all products labelled as environmentally friendly are. It is important to consider the ingredients and packaging used in these products to make more informed and environmentally conscious purchases. 

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