Ten Ways to Avoid Greenwashing
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Many families today are trying to live greener by choosing products that make a claim to be organic, natural otherwise more environmentally friendly. However, it's difficult to always tell just by looking at the label if a product is truly green.
Greenwashing refers to the act of falsely marketing a product as sustainable when the product or manufacturing process is not eco-friendly. To help consumers avoid being misled by improper or false label claims, NSF International offers tips:
- Look for meaningful claims. Be cautious of products making generic claims of "100% natural" or "environmentally friendly" with no backup.
- Avoid products that make irrelevant claims, i.e. that a product is "CFC-free" (CFCs were banned more than 20 years ago).
- Look for a seal or certification mark from a recognized, independent third-party specializing in green claims. Check with the certifier to verify the product is truly certified.
- Check out the product's packaging. While a product may be green, is the packaging green as well and can it be disposed of in an environmentally safe way?
- Don't be misled by pretty pictures or use of earth-friendly colors on product labels. Just because a product label shows a forest doesn't mean the product inside is green.
- Look at the ingredient list on the product. A long list of ingredients or ingredient names that are difficult to pronounce may be harmful to you or the environment.
- Avoid products where fragrances are a key ingredient.
- Read product usage instructions and avoid those that display warnings on the label, such as "caution" or "use in well-ventilated area," which typically indicate that the product is hazardous to you and/or the environment.
- Question percentage claims, such as "this product contains 50% more recycled content." Fifty percent more than what?
- Be cautious of hidden trade-offs. For example, many products today are more energy efficient but may still be produced from hazardous or non-recyclable materials.
For additional green living tips, contact the NSF Consumer Affairs Office at email@example.com or download our Green Living fact kit.
NSF International is an independent, not-for-profit public health organization that certifies products and writes standards for food, water and consumer goods. NSF has a 65-year history of protecting public health, safety and environment worldwide and is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment.