A growing number of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for products with a sustainability message.

But when something sounds better for the environment than it actually is, that is called greenwashing.

This is a form of spin in which green marketing is used to promote the perception that an organisation's products, aims or policies are environmentally-friendly.

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People are concerned that the regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission in the USA and the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice in the UK do not enforce legislation.

Because of the combination of poor enforcement and the widespread use of greenwashing, consumers are very sceptical of all claims, even accurate ones.

No-one wants to do homework before going shopping. So how do you tell if a product has been greenwashed? Read the labels before you buy: whether it is packaged food, cosmetics, clothes or furnishings, the label has information to help you decide.

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An eagle-eyed shopper will notice that many Persil non-bio, Persil colour protect, Surf golden blossom biological liquid and Ariel laundry detergents state 'Harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects'. So every time we do a wash, the water goes into the system, the detergent ends up in our rivers and harms wildlife supported by that river.

Labels and certifications can refer to a number of different aspects of a product. Does 'sustainably produced' mean a commitment to minimal packaging, farming practices, or efficient manufacturing? There is a wide spectrum of practices that go into food production.

As a basic guide for food, the less processed it is, the more likely it is to be what it seems to be. Look for things like the Red Tractor (signposting traceable, safe British food and drink) and the Soil Association (certifier of organic and sustainable food schemes).

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Food from the junk-food aisles, i.e. crisps, biscuits etc, are probably not going to be the healthiest food to eat lots of, so be sceptical of claims and earthy-type packaging and colours. But you can check if it is produced sustainably.

On a different subject, come along to our Incredible Edible event at Wallingford library, September 28, 10.30am -12.30pm. Enjoy healthy fresh snacks, make scarecrows, bring any spare fruit/veg from the garden to make more snacks.