When you go to the store, you probably notice the colorful multitudes of eco-product labels. The claims are diverse, touting everything from “100% recycled materials” to “cruelty-free” farming methods. But how can you tell if your money is going toward a good cause or a clever marketer? Here are a few tips to remember…
What to Look For
Like any marketing claim, eco-labels are only as strong as the review process that backs them. The best labels are certified by independent organizations with consistent standards, transparent operations, and effective oversight. You can view ratings of specific labels in the GreenerChoices.org eco-label database. Most of the well-known labels, while not always uncontroversial, are safe bets.
LABELS WITH CLEAR STANDARDS:
What to Avoid
The Federal Trade Commission recently released draft revisions to its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, also known as the “Green Guides.” These recommendations are intended to help reduce vague environmental claims and increase the labeling of specific, clear benefits. However, shoppers should still be wary of labels on products that are not backed by third party accreditors. Without consistent standards, the shopper is unaware of how these claims are defined and enforced.
Sometimes, even if a label is true, it can still be misleading. For instance, a product might claim to be “phosphate free,” but close examination reveals that all products of that type are phosphate free. The shopper believes they are getting an added benefit from that particular product, when in fact they are not.
LABELS THAT MAY BE MISLEADING:
When it comes to eco-labels, research is the best tool. A background check may help you save a few bucks or put your money toward a genuinely good cause. But if you’re short on time, always remember to look for familiar certifications and avoid vague claims.