SEATTLE -- Many of us buy products because they are green. But a respected marketing group has come out with a new study that shows 95 percent of so-called green products are anything but.
TerraChoice, an Ottawa-based marketing firm owned mostly by Underwriters Laboratory of Canada, surveyed 5,296 products that made environmental claims. The firm visited 34 stores in the United States and Canada. The report shows many of the green claims were false or misleading, a term coined greenwashing.
King County Eco-consumer Tom Watson says a lot of people are confused about green labeling. He says look for labels you can trust like the Energy Star and the USDA Organic Seal. Watson says some of the worst offenders are cleaning companies, baby and cosmetic products. Also, beware of terms like eco-safe, eco-preferred and natural, which are meaningless.
"There are poisons like arsenic and mercury that are all natural," said Watson. He also says to be aware of the packaging. "That green leaf means nothing."
Some claims are true and some companies have made strides to improve their products. Watson points to a bottle of liquid dish washing detergent.
"They've taken the phosphates out, which is great, but it means less now to advertise because it's a law. All detergents have to follow that rule," said Watson.
The Federal Trade Commission is proposing stricter advertising rules and updating its Green Guides. It says to stick with big box retailers that are more apt to sell products with accurate claims.
Bottom line, do your homework. There are many shades of green.