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Learn about and avoid greenwashing

Greenwashing is the business practice of misleading consumers through “green” marketing about the environmental benefits of using a product or service when no such benefits really exist. Companies and businesses have been found to use greenwashing as a marketing tactic to attempt to appear like they are adopting environmentally beneficial practices. Greenwashing hurts consumers and businesses that really are taking steps to be more environmentally sensitive by degrading consumer confidence in the information they are receiving about products and services. Transparency is the key to avoiding greenwashing. Look for products and services that clearly provide information about ingredients and environmental benefits.

Environmental marketing company TerraChoice released a study called "The Six Sins of Greenwashing," in December 2007. The study found that 99% of 1,018 common consumer products randomly surveyed for the study were guilty of greenwashing. According to the study, the 6 sins of greenwashing are:

• Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: e.g. “energy-efficient” electronics that contain hazardous materials. 998 products and 57% of all environmental claims committed this Sin.

• Sin of No Proof: e.g. shampoos claiming to be “certified organic,” but with no verifiable certification. 454 products and 26% of environmental claims committed this Sin.

• Sin of Vagueness: e.g. products claiming to be 100% natural when many naturally-occurring substances are hazardous, like arsenic and formaldehyde. This occurred in 196 products or 11% of environmental claims.

• Sin of Irrelevance: e.g. products claiming to be CFC-free, even though CFCs were banned 20 years ago. This Sin was seen in 78 products and 4% of environmental claims.

• Sin of Fibbing: e.g. products falsely claiming to be certified by an internationally recognized environmental standard like EcoLogoEnergy Staror Green Seal. This occurred in 10 products or less than 1% of environmental claims.

• Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: e.g. organic cigarettes or “environmentally friendly” pesticides, this occurred in 17 products or 1% of environmental claims.

    EcoLogo Program

    EcoLogo is North America’s most widely recognized and respected certification of environmental leadership. By setting standards and certifying products in more than 120 categories, EcoLogo helps you identify, trust, buy, and sell environmentally preferable (“green”) goods and services. On this website, you’ll find more than 7,000 EcoLogo-certified products from hundreds of manufacturers.

    Green Seal

    Founded in 1989, Green Seal provides science-based environmental certification standards that are credible, transparent, and essential in an increasingly educated and competitive marketplace. Our industry knowledge and standards help manufacturers, purchasers, and end users alike make responsible choices that positively impact business behavior and improve quality of life.

    Greenpeace: Stop Greenwashing!

    Greenwashing Index

    The Greenwashing Index provides an online interactive forum that allows consumers to evaluate real advertisements making environmental claims.