Photo: How to avoid greenwashing

Greenwashing refers to the vague and misleading claims manufacturers make about their eco-friendliness. (Credit: Microsoft Images)

Whether you're born to shop or find it a necessary evil, you're right to suspect that some manufacturers are making vague and misleading claims about their degree of eco-friendliness. It's called "greenwashing".

A study by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing tested more than 2,000 self-described environmentally friendly products in North America, and found only 25 were indisputably "sin free". The rest had been greenwashed.

That means about 98 per cent of items labeled "natural" or "environmentally friendly" are making untrue claims, or committing at least one of what TerraChoice calls The Six Sins of Greenwashing. Kids' toys, baby products, cosmetics, and cleaners are most often guilty of this deceit.

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The "Sin of Vagueness" is a common one. It means a claim is so poorly defined or so broad that its true meaning is likely to trick the consumer. A certified label on the other hand, like the USDA Organic, will have a fixed set of regulated standards often verified by an independent or third party organization. Unfortunately, there is no such control over terms like "all-natural" on consumer products.

A guide to eco-labels

Don't fret. We made it easier for you to understand labels and claims found on everyday products. Download our Eco-label Guide. It highlights some of the most common certified eco-labels you'll run into on your path to becoming a sustainable shopper.

It'll help you make informed decisions. After all, you want to reduce your environmental footprint, not get fleeced!

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