It’s no secret that we try to be more caring about other people and the planet. We don’t generally go out thinking that “today I’m going to wreck the environment”. But being green isn’t always as straight forward as it may seem. In the socio-economic environment that we live in, we often try and make decisions based on what’s good both economically and environmentally or socially. But this can be difficult at times. Businesses often try to do the same, especially as they try to capitalize on the green movement. And travel companies are no exception. Therefore, if we truly want to reduce our environmental footprint as we travel, we have to be wary of travel companies using a type of spin called “Greenwashing”.

Greenwashing can be defined as the practice of putting an environmental spin on products, services or activities that may not be as green as they seem to be. Common examples of greenwashing include “eco-friendly” detergents that say “made with biodegradable ingredients”. Regulations do not specify how much of these ingredients need to be in a product before they can label it as such. Most of the time, very little biodegradable ingredients may actually be present in the detergent. In the travel world, some companies may boast about ecotourism but exploit wild animals, indigenous people, disturb local ecosystems or destroy wild habitat.

The point here is that sustainable travel is not as simple as it seems. But by critically looking at a travel company’s product or service, we may be able to see through any potential greenwashing spin marketed towards the environmentally conscious traveler. Green travel expert Richard Hammond offers the following: “I like to talk about being more responsible. It’s not a black and white area, where you’re being either responsible or you’re not. Nothing we do is one-hundred percent green, and the very nature of travelling means you have a footprint. Responsible travel is about lessening that footprint”.