Green is chic these days, and advertisers plugging all sorts of products are jumping on the eco-bandwagon. Eco-consciousness is definitely a good thing, but news out today warns the Federal Trade Commission has made virtually no effort in recent years to enforce its "Green Guides," issued in 1992 to protect consumers against some companies' baseless claims to environmental responsibility. "Green" has become more than just a color -- it is now a social, political, and economic issue. And in the advertising frenzy to sell "green" while it's at the height of its popularity, consumers are rightly confused.
Scot Case, Vice President of the environmental consulting firm TerraChoice, testified before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection earlier this month. In his testimony, Case claimed the environmental certification labels on 22 percent of all products are completely meaningless -- designs that look somewhat official or earth-friendly, but in reality have no substance. Worse yet, a frightening 98 percent of the thousands of products reviewed by TerraChoice were found to have committed at least one of its "Seven Sins of Greenwashing," a cute yet poignant list of no-no's perpetrated by manufacturers trying to falsely amp up their eco-cred. Included in the seven are "sins" such as the making of erroneous claims to environmental stewardship, or the championing of products free of toxins such as CFCs, which are banned anyway.
According to Case, "greenwashing is rampant," and what the United States needs to overcome it is a unified, enforceable environmental certification label that consumers can trust. Indeed, a walk down the cleaning supply section of any grocery store can make even the most conscientious shopper dizzy. Case recommends EcoLogo or Green Seal as trusted certifications to look for. He also recommends the standardization of labels that frequently pop up on products, such as "non-toxic," "natural," or "fragrance free."