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Six Sins of Greenwashing

December 4, 2007

Eco-friendly products are often a sham. According to a study by TerraChoice, many manufacturers are committing the Six Sins of Green Washing, upwards of 1018 products! Here are the sins:

1. The Sin of the Hidden Tradeoff is committed by suggesting a product is “green” based on a single environmental attribute (the recycled content of paper, for example) or an unreasonably narrow set of attributes (recycled content and chlorine-free bleaching) without attention to other important environmental issues (such as energy, global warming, water, and forestry impacts of paper).

2. The Sin of No Proof. Any environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information, or by a reliable third-party certification.

Examples:

• Household lamps and lights that promote their energy efficiency without any supporting evidence or certification

3. The Sin of Vagueness is committed by every claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the intended consumer.

Examples:

• “Chemical-free.” In fact, nothing is free of chemicals. Water is a chemical. All plants, animals, and humans are made of chemicals as are all of our products.

4. The Sin of Irrelevance is committed by making an environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant and unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. I

5. The Sin of Lesser of Two Evils.

6. The Sin of Fibbing is committed by making environmental claims that are simply false.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2007 8:21 pm

    Wow, some of the examples given on the original article are so obvious that it is crazy that the manufacturers get away with it.

    It reminds me of the line from Tommy Boy when Tommy says, “Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time. But for now, for your customer’s sake, for your daughter’s sake, ya might wanna think about buying a quality product from me.”

    This also reminds me of the fiasco surrounding ‘carbon offsets’. Some may be legit, but much of it seems not to be.

  2. April 14, 2008 4:55 pm

    Any time there is a corporate/political/financial system created such as the carbon offset and carbon trading systems, there will be those who think only of how to make a killing off of these “artificial constructs”. Carbon offsets have a place, but we’ll achieve more with simpler, more direct actions towards genuine sustainability.

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