Watch out for “greenwashing” claims

Published on Friday, 16 June 2017 11:55 - Written by MECHELE AGBAYANI MILLS, Better Business Bureau

Considering “going green” and buying environmentally safe products? You’re not alone. As an increasing number of consumers consider the environment when they shop, many are compelled to purchase an environmentally friendly or “green” products.

Unfortunately, many companies who claim to be “green” do not have the facts to back up those claims. The Better Business Bureau encourages consumers to watch out for “greenwashing,” green marketing claims that may be misleading.

Saving energy and reducing waste has become an important part of our mindset as consumers. Just keep in mind that not all environmentally friendly products are created equal.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, many marketers use “greenwashing” - the act of misleading consumers regarding environmental benefits of a product - to convince consumers their products are environmentally friendly. The FTC advises consumers look for specific information on packages and products that explain why the product is green.

So, how do you differentiate real “green” products from those claiming to be eco-friendly? The BBB and the FTC advise consumers seeking green products to watch for some red flags:

- Products advertised as “Free Of.” Companies that use claims such as, “free of,” “non-toxic” or “ozone-friendly” may be a concern. Products that are “free of” a chemical or ingredient should be able to prove that the product doesn’t have any more than a harmless trace amount of it - and that the product is free of any other ingredient that poses the same kind of risk. If a product’s label indicates that it is “non-toxic,” the product should have proof that it’s safe for both humans and the environment, or should specifically state which one the claim applies to.

- Products that claim to use less waste. A company stating its product produces less waste should have an example, statistic or comparison to back up its claim. The label should use language like “package is made from 85 percent post-consumer recycled material.”

- Biodegradable or compostable material. Lots of products claim to be “degradable” or “biodegradable,” which means they break down into elements found in nature when exposed to light, air and moisture. Others claim to be compostable, which means they should break down in a home compost pile. If a product says it’s degradable or compostable, the company should have proof that it will break down completely.

- Made with renewable materials, renewable energy or carbon offsets. Manufacturers should be able to tell you what percentage of the product or packaging was made using renewable materials or renewable energy.

- Official-looking seals and certifications. Some products may contain official-looking seals and certifications with words like “Earth Smart.” But what does that mean? Look for information on packaging that indicates connections the company has to the organization behind the seal. Consider doing some research of the seal and organization online.

For a copy of the FTC Green Guides, go to ftc.gov.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373 or report it via BBB ScamTracker