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  • Michael Oshman

Greenwashing Alert

We are launching this new section to help restaurants avoid greenwashing, which is defined as “Making misleading or empty environmental claims." Greenwashing is prevalent in the restaurant & foodservice industry, so we wanted to share some tips on how to avoid empty buzzwords and misleading products & services.

  • Avoid phrases like "We use organic and local products whenever possible." This is vague. For one restaurant, it might mean that they have 99% organic and local food; for another restaurant, it might mean that they just buy organic tomatoes in the summer. If you have certification by an organization like the Green Restaurant Association, then you can make claims as to the exact percentage of organic and local food. If you aren’t certified and don’t have that data, then it’s better to make claims that you can back up. By making your claims tangible and specific, you provide your customer with real information rather than general claims. Transparency and specificity are the key to green marketing. For example, you can make statements, such as:

  • The Fish in this menu item is Certified MSC.

  • The organic tomatoes in the salad come from Joe’s Farm, just 95 miles from the restaurant.

  • Demarcate which menu items are vegetarian or vegan

  • Beware of any polystyrene foam products that claim to "biodegrade.” What’s important about a product is the manner in which it is produced and whether it can truly be recycled or composted. The vast majority of recyclers in the country don’t accept polystyrene foam, including ones that claim biodegradability; and composters surely don’t accept polystyrene foam. Instead, look for disposables that are legitimately compostable, such as BPI Certified products.

  • Avoid claims of sustainability solely based on a business donating to a sustainable cause. While it is nice to donate to a good cause, it doesn’t make the restaurant sustainable. What makes a restaurant sustainable must be substantive, transparent, measured, and verified environmental steps.

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