5 green marketing clichés that aren’t helping anyone

because we are not that gullible

A group of plastic bottles, focusing on their bright green plastic caps.
Photo by Eduardo Soares on Unsplash

Striving to sustainability and being more eco-friendly are great things. Incredible even, considering the impact they have on our natural habitat and our future.

Stick a recycling label on the box, paint your product in some green pattern, and dish out the same overused words like all-natural or 30% less water.

You got yourself a brand-new green product for us, “eco-conscious” people.

Instead of striving to change, the same marketing ploys are used to hit that sweet, sweet, expanding market and drive their sales up.

To help organizations that are striving for a sustainable future, but aren’t sure how to show their environmental goals:

Here are 5 of the most annoying clichés in green marketing

A group of objects on a kitchen table, all green. A Cucumber, apple, smoothie, and lettuce.
Photo by Toni Cuenca from Pexel

1. Putting the word “Green” wherever you can.

Calling a product or service green isn’t the solution when marketing something that is supposedly better for the environment.

Green coal… anyone?

Unless green (color & context) is the central point of your brand or product and you have the data to back it up, please don’t stick a green label hoping it’ll differentiate your brand from the competitor’s non-environmentally friendly ones.

(I’m hoping for some smart-ass to create a green green tea)

A small cardboard cut-out, with Amazon sign on the front and logo on the side, in the middle of a green meadow with one little green leaf sitting on top of it.
Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

2. Create a leafy logo.

It’s lazy and even worse, you’ll drown in the noise of million other similar logos. Again, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you can meaningfully connect your brand to a visual representation of a leaf and this describes your product or service, then sure, go for it.

The point being, each story is different, don’t stick a leaf or even a tree branch just for the sake of it. Try to understand the origin of your product or brand, the road it had to take to become what it is today.

A crumpled McDonald's paper bag in front of a white background.
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

3. Don’t rely only on the recycling logo to show others your brand recycles.

Everybody does! Okay, not everybody, but most do! Back it up with meaningful action, there’s no need for a simple pat-on-the-back badge.

Create an infographic explaining the whole process of recycling. Explain what this means to the environment and the client.

Two little girls (age around 3) holding hands while walking from the camera surrounded by open plains and nature.
Photo by Josue Michel on Unsplash

4. Don’t use children or nature to sell your product.

You don’t need pictures of planet Earth. Again, you need to create something characteristic of your brand or product. Placing some pretty pictures won’t change the overall sentiment, it’ll be another lazy attempt to grab the user’s attention.

Great products sell products. Let’s create a deeper conversation, not show what the earth should look like. Focus on your business and the change it makes, always.

Try to connect your product cycle to the consumer and explain how it will benefit him/her and the environment.

Women putting a small amount of somekind of moisturizing cream on her left hand.
Photo by Thirdman from Pexels

5. Don’t use vague terms, like “all-natural”.

Unless it really is. Always strive to be clear and concise to others when explaining what your product or service is about.

And for the love of all that is natural, please don’t use cupped hands with some environmental imagery, ever. It’s overused and not really clever. There are much better visual metaphors to reflect the ever-changing environment and a need for common ground (heh).

The problem with using some of these clichés is, apart from creating even more skeptical users, it leads to something much worse than a failing product or brand — irrelevance.

And nobody wants to be irrelevant.

Now, this isn’t about bashing those who want to capitalize on a new trend. The paradigm needs to change, period.

Being sustainable shouldn’t become another marketing gimmick, it needs to become a norm for all to aspire to. If a company wants to reduce waste incrementally, we should applaud the effort, not spam them with cynical Twitter mentions.

A typewritter in front of a white background with a pair of hands on top of it.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In Summary

We need to tell authentic, honest stories. If your product makes a difference, the green backstory will serve as an inspiration to others and show them that being green is the new normal.

We’re not talking about a special (read: more expensive) way of creating products, it’s the new paradigm that we all need to accept.

Sooner rather than later.

Deceiving or focusing only on the green benefits (which are vague or undeveloped), you’ll quickly receive the greenwashing label, which doesn’t help anyone.

Not your brand, nor the consumers.

And certainly not the idea of sustainable living being achievable.

If you want to learn more about how I can help you share your story and understand the importance of proper messaging and design while avoiding any greenwashing concerns, click here.



I help green start-ups and NGOs design & narrate their story. 🌿 One eco-friendly mission at a time. 👉 greentogether.design

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Ivan Jacimovic

I help green start-ups and NGOs design & narrate their story. 🌿 One eco-friendly mission at a time. 👉 greentogether.design