Monday, December 12, 2011

TerraChoice and the Seven Sins of Greenwashing

From TerraChoice and their Seven Sins of Greenwashing - -
  1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-off - - A claim suggesting that a product is "green" based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues.  Paper, for example, is not necessarily environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a sustainability-harvested forest.  Other important environmental issues in the paper-making process, such as greenhouse gas emissions, or chlorine use in bleaching may be equally important.
  2. Sin of No Proof - - An environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification.  Common examples are facial tissues or toilet tissue products that claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing evidence.
  3. Sin of Vagueness - - A claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer.  "All-natural" is an example.  Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous.  "All natural" isn't necessarily green.
  4. Sin of Worshiping False Labels - - A product that, through either words or images, gives the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement exists; fake labels, in other words.
  5. Sin of Irrelevance - - An environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products.  "CFC-free" is a common example, since it is a frequent claim despite the fact that CFCs are banned by law.
  6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils - - A claim that may be true within the product category, but that risks distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole.  Organic cigarettes could be an example of this Sin, as might the fuel-efficient sports utility vehicle.
  7. Sin of Fibbing - - Environmental claims that are simply false.  The most common examples were products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified or registered.

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