Greenwashing: What to keep in mind when booking your next trip

Plant sapling in a forest

What is Greenwashing?

With the rise of Eco-travel set to continue well into the future, we are beginning to see a rise in Greenwashing from more scrupulous travel companies. I always encourage good travel habits whenever I plan a trip, but now it’s more important than ever to choose carefully what companies we support and who we give our money to. The term “Greenwashing” is used when a company makes environmental claims such as they are sustainable or have won eco-awards, but in reality they are intentionally being misleading. Although there are many companies out there that are making a difference to the planet and supporting locals. Many companies are turning to greenwashing in an attempt to drive business. But without the costs and actions involved with making a difference or any concern to what their impact is. 

The term “Greenwashing” is used when a company makes environmental claims such as they are sustainable or have won eco-awards, but in reality they are intentionally being misleading.

The fact is Greenwashing has a terrible effect on everyone. Many companies have put pictures of leaves and trees on their page to give an impression it’s environmentally friendly. Or they put an emphasis on one benefit they may provide whilst hiding the other ways it takes advantage. This is the ugly side of sustainable tourism. It can make travellers turn a blind eye to unethical practices as they believe what they have paid for is sustainable. As the Eco-travel movement gains momentum, so is the sneaky marketing tactic of greenwashing. By researching and spending our money with companies that have actually earned those awards we can be a better traveller and prevent this tactic from working. 

The warning signs of Greenwashing?

It’s one thing to be aware of greenwashing, but how can we spot it? Below I have made a list of the ways greenwashing can be spotted so you know for your next trip. 

Greenwashing Buzzwords

Anyone who works in marketing loves a buzzword. I even use them myself when I write this blog. Buzzwords attract attention as they flag up on search engines easier and bring their page to the top of the results page. Take for example the term “Eco-Lodge” many booking sites like to name their accommodations this as it simply sounds better. It rolls off the tongue and conjures images of a small lodge surrounded by lush rainforests, using local produce and fresh fruits all with a small environmental footprint. But is commonly used to describe any sort of lodge in a forest.   

Lack of Locals

Being an eco-conscious company doesn’t just mean that it reduces water consumption or plastic wastage. An ethical company should provide an overall benefit to the community, often in the form of fairly paid jobs to the local area. The products they use should use locally sourced too, hotel toiletries promoting local produce, or food from a local provider. This benefits everyone and also yourself, as you get a real taste of your new adventure. 


If a company says it has won an award, regardless if that’s from a big or small company. There should be some sort of proof. To Greenwash, Some businesses like to claim they have won awards for being eco-friendly, but in reality they are just hoping you don’t fact check. There should always be some evidence to support their claims, for example if they say they have won an award from Lonely Planet, then Lonely Planet should be able to back that up. 

Contradicting socials

If a company says they are an eco-conscious hotel, and yet their socials are displaying overfilled buffets, single use plastics and toiletries that are not locally sourced, there’s a high chance they are greenwashing. Socials can be the biggest giveaway as brands love to promote overindulgence, which contradicts the eco-travel lifestyle. 

Triangular Eco cabin in the forest for a post on Greenwashing

How to find sustainable companies

It’s one thing to be aware of greenwashing, but it’s another to actually find sustainable travel options. There are many great sites out there that can help you make sustainable choices about your travel and ensure you enjoy your time abroad guilt-free. 

I have recently been looking at trips on which works hand in hand with trusted travel guides Lonely Planet. Intrepid organise single or multi-day tours run by local guides. You will not get a better tour than one run by a local, often there passion comes through as they thrive off excitement of teaching others about their culture, and it ensures that the money you spend benefits the local ecocnomy. 

The easiest way to avoid being blinded by Greenwashing is just do your research. Don’t take companies at face value and do a little digging. We should all be trying to be better travellers, and that means making more responsible choices. 

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