Greenwashing: What it is, How it Hurts, and How to Avoid it.

October 4th, 2010 | Posted by tjones in Environment

from flickr user wstryder

It’s been an exciting time to be involved in the environmental movement.  Awareness of, and enthusiasm for, new ways of living and doing that are kinder on our earth and for our health hasn’t been this universal for decades.  It’s certainly a source of hope that our world is becoming a greener and safer place to live.

But for all the heightened excitement over greening, we face a new problem – greenwashing.

At its most basic, greenwashing is when a company spends more on improving the image that it is environmentally-friendly than on actual environmental initiatives.  There are numerous examples of this kind of flagrantly unethical action – so much so that the Federal Trade Commission set out in 1998 to create “green guidelines” to prevent companies from misrepresenting themselves to the public.

Greenwashing hurts because it misleads the consumer into thinking they are purchasing a product with earth-friendly qualities it does not possess, while improving the reputation – and bottom line – of deceptive companies.  It can, in effect, allow more environmental degradation to occur, without the public opposition that environmental degradation usually deserves.

Green Depot believes in full transparency, and effectively avoids greenwashing in every green product it carries.  We achieve this through our proprietary filter, a robust set of criteria by which the consumer can focus on the environmental benefits that are most important to them.  Every product is rigorously vetted to ensure the consumer knows exactly what they are buying.

We award icons to green products based on the CLEAR system.  That is, products are judged on five criteria:

1. Conservation (recycled, reclaimed, reused; rapidly renewable; protected/stewarded; non-polluting; safer chemistry; durable; water saver; waste reducer)

2. Local (low carbon footprint, local business stimulant)

3. Energy (energy-conserving design, renewable energy source, daylighting, local)

4. Air Quality (non-toxic, non-allergenic, no or very low VOCs, no combustion gases, no particulates, mold fighter, air purifier, sound insulator)

5. Responsibility (responsible manufacturing, development of green jobs, environmental protection, truthful marketing).

To learn more about the standards we apply to our green and environmentally-friendly products, you can visit our green filter page.

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