This study examined consumer perceptions of environmental advertisements and differences in reactions towards various message strategies, specifically various sins of greenwashing. To accomplish this, 180 students from The College of Wooster viewed one of five variations of an advertisement, each with a different message strategy, and were asked to complete a survey about their level of environmental concern, opinion of advertising, and perceptions of the advertisement they viewed. The strategies represented in the advertisements were derived from TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc.’s (2010b) seven sins of greenwashing and included: the sin of no proof, the sin of vagueness, the sin of worshiping false labels, and the sin of the hidden trade-off. One message contained no sins of greenwashing. Results revealed that participants were greenwashed and unable to differentiate between deceptive and honest environmental advertisements. The advertisement with the sin of false labels, which had a significantly different level of perceived greenness than the advertisement with no sins of greenwashing, was most likely to deceive in regards to product greenness. Additionally, the findings indicate that personal ideologies and values may be more influential than characteristics of the message to perceptions of advertisements.


Johnson, Michelle


Communication Studies


Advertising and Promotion Management | Cognition and Perception | Public Relations and Advertising | Sustainability


Environmental Advertising, Greenwashing, Deception

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Elizabeth M. Somsel