Don’t Get “Greenwashed”

“Green” is in and as a result there’s been an explosion in environmentally friendly marketing claims. From cleaning products to automobiles everyone is claiming that they are “green.” But how do you know which claims are for real and which are greenwashed?  Greenwashing is “the practice of promoting environmentally friendly programs to deflect attention from an organization’s environmentally unfriendly or less savory activities.” On Green Yahoo Lori Bongiorno offers the following tips to get the best green products for your money without getting “greenwashed.”

  • Read the labels. Check ingredients lists against marketing claims. For example, some personal care products labeled “fragrance free” may contain fragrances to make them not have a noticeable smell. It’s easily caught with a quick glance at the label.
  • Look for specific rather than general claims. Terms like “natural” and “eco-friendly” are vague and do not have any standard definitions so they’re essentially meaningless. Instead look for specific attributes such as “made from post-consumer recycled paper” or “formaldehyde free.”
  • Choose products that have been certified by a third party. These products have been vetted by an independent agency to ensure that they meet certain standards. Some credible logos to look for include Energy Star, Forest Stewardship Council Certified, and USDA Organic

Visit Consumer Reports’ Eco-labels center for detailed information on labels and certifications.

To learn more about sniffing out false claims check out The Six Sins of Greenwashing or read the Federal Trade Commission’s Sorting Out “Green” Advertising Claims

Don’t have the time to do your homework, but still want to make smart choices? The following web sites were designed to help you discover the impacts of the products you buy without having to spend a lot of time on research.

  • GoodGuide rates personal care and household products based on environmental, social and health attributes. It takes into account both the product and the company making it.  Data is collected and synthesized from a number of sources including academic institutions, government data sources, and private research firms. Create a shopping list comprised of your product choices and email or text it to your phone. An iPhone application is coming soon.
  • Greenzer collects product and merchant info from across the Internet to create a score for each product it features on its site. It looks at green labels and certification (products that are rated, labeled, or certified by a third party), green attributes (such as organically grown or solar powered), green categories (such as re-usable water bottles which are inherently greener than disposable versions), and green brands (companies that have made sustainability a priority). Like GoodGuide, the site is still in beta and will be evolving over time.

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One Response to “Don’t Get “Greenwashed””

  1. Thanks for the great advice! I didn’t think that would happen, but it makes sense. It’s just like the low-fat craze. Companies would advertise low-fat to sell product, but they would twist the definition of low-fat to meet their needs.

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