The words 'eco', 'sustainable' or 'green', are often associated with being environmentally friendly and good for the planet - but are they?

Greenwashing is a term that has become more prevalent in recent times, but it was first recognised by the Oxford Dictionary in 1999. Over the past 20 years, the term has been tweaked with greenwashing now defined as the 'activities by a company or organisation intended to make people think it is concerned about the environment, even if its real business actually harms the environment'.

A scary thought as we all regularly see companies publicly claiming a commitment to the environment, but behind the headlines they are actually damaging it, essentially trying to trick us into thinking the things we are buying are good for the planet, when practices by those companies are a actually causing harm.

A report earlier this year by Surfers Against Sewage named 12 companies responsible for 70 per cent of the branded packaging pollution found in the UK, despite their so called green credentials.

Around 4,000 volunteers collected litter along 13,000 miles of coasts, countryside, streets, rivers and green spaces in a year, for their annual report into packaging pollution.

The report found 12 companies, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonalds, are responsible for most of the packaging found in our waterways, yet with green logos and promises of sustainable practices, how do we know which companies to trust?

The reality is we need to do our research, choosing brands doing good - not just talking about it - and those who are actually having an impact and not just using our concern for the planet as a marketing opportunity.

But where do you start?

The Hunts Post: Martin Cooper is the owner of the Refill Shop of Ikigai in St Ives.Martin Cooper is the owner of the Refill Shop of Ikigai in St Ives. (Image: MARTIN COOPER)

Organisations such as the Ethical Consumer, do a lot of the research for us and you can find out a lot about brands that claim to have great environmental credentials, but actually are owned by big multinational companies with terrible records on damage to our planet.

While it can be very easy to see a green logo, be bombarded with 'eco-friendly' words and promises of protecting our planet, we need to be sure.

In my shop I choose to use smaller suppliers, to really make sure what they say they do is correct and their impact on the planet is as low as it can be.

So if you want to avoid being greenwashed, do your research and use small, local businesses who carefully select their products - it's the only way