Yes it’s a real thing. Greenwashing is the use of marketing to portray an organization's products, activities or policies as environmentally friendly when they are not.
To spot greenwashing, it can be helpful to compare how much money a company or organization spends on being green versus how much it spends on publicizing that its products, services or policies are actually green.
Greenwashing can take the form of changing a product's name or packaging to evoke a more natural esthetic even if it still contains dangerous chemicals or ingredients that are environmentally unfriendly to produce.
Yes it happens and yes it is allowed. I fell for these traps for years. “If it says it’s natural it must be.” Nope! Reading ingredients, not the label, is what’s important. One example is Mrs. Meyers. Mrs. Meyers is made without chlorine, ammonia, petroleum distillates, parabens, phosphates or phthalates. They also say they are made with essential oils and fragrance.
Anytime I see fragrance on a product and it is not noted what is making up that fragrance I won't buy it. On their website Mrs. Meyers shows fragrance in their ingredients as “mixture of natural, high-quality essential oils and safe synthetic fragrance ingredients.” Nope. My nose is so trained now because I don’t use any chemicals that I can smell them right away. It’s strong and doesn’t smell natural.
I also contact many of the companies to ask where their essential oils are sourced and what grade they are. If they can’t tell me then I won't use it.
There are different grades of essential oils. Most essential oils are distilled quickly so they can produce more and use them to fragrance perfumes and other products. When you distilled them quickly, you lose all the healing properties and are left with only the smell. So when you see a product that says scented with essential oils or made with essential oils, unless you know the company and where they source the oils from, they are usually perfume grade.
Also there is no regulation on fragrance. Fragrances are linked to allergies, hormone disruption, asthma, neurotoxins and cancer. There are something like 3000 chemicals that companies are allowed to use to make their fragrances and they don’t have to label them all. They can use hundreds of them to make one scent and not say what they used. It’s amazing what they approve to be in products in the store and our food. We have to read labels if we care what goes on and in our bodies. Instead of figuring out what the labeled 'fragrance' is sometimes it's just easier to find fragrance-free products. One company I love for fragrance-free products is Ecover Zero for dish soap, laundry detergent, etc.
Here are some links to info about fragrance:
If you are wondering if the products you are using are safe this is a great website. You can plug in your product and it will tell you how toxic it is.