Understanding the New Green Guide

be smart about going green

Companies know that using eye catching, environmentally friendly sounding marketing claims makes them attractive to consumers. But how do you know if that earth friendly lingo is true? When it comes to green claims, there’s some big news that's hot off the presses: The Federal Trade Commission just released its updated “Green Guide.” Now if a business promotes something as “green” what that means can no longer be a “gray” area. 

Uncle Sam’s consumer watchdog agency warns companies now better be able to prove any green claims with scientific evidence! If a product has some seal or stamp of approval on it, the certifying organization better be real and there better be data to back it up.

What’s that mean for you? It’s the first time the FTC updated its green guidelines in 20 years, so this is a pretty big deal. The rules are not laws, but having this new “rule book” helps the feds sue companies for deceptive advertising if investigators find it was telling a “green lie." So businesses are on alert to make sure they’re accurate.

“The introduction of environmentally friendly products into the marketplace is a win for consumers who want to purchase greener products and producers who want to sell them,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “But this win-win can only occur if marketers’ claims are truthful and substantiated. The FTC’s changes to the Green Guides will level the playing field for honest business people and it is one reason why we had such broad support.”

When you’re shopping how can this new green guide help? First, you have to realize that anything you buy that has packaging is going to have some environmental impact, but some there are some key terms from the guidebook you may see on store shelves, which you should understand. For example, what the heck does “Free Of,” VOC-Free,” “Non-toxic,” “Biodegradable” and even recyclable and recycled mean?

The FTC has a great “Cliff Notes” version of all these terms and more right here, you can even print it out and take it with you shopping.

Bottom line what's a good rule of thumb to remember if you want to go green? Environmental attorney Brian Dunkiel says, “Consumers are smart. If a claim does not make sense or is too good to be true, it is probably not a valid claim. Consumers ought to look for claims that are specific and precise. In other words, a claim that a product is made of renewable fast growing bamboo is more likely to be a more reliable claim than a more generic claim that a product is made of renewable materials.”

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