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That “Green” Cleaning Product Could Still Damage Your Health

Be especially wary of supposedly eco-friendly cleaners boasting fragrances.

Image by Mysid via Wikimedia Commons

While “greenwashing”—marketing products as good for the environment when they are not—is nothing new, according to a paper released earlier this month, allegedly ecofriendly cleaning products may also not be very good for your health. One possible problem? The fragrances often associated with pristine countertops and lemony kitchen floors that are included in many cleaning solutions.

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Are VCs Greenwashing, Or Just Nervous?

Some think that investors are talking a way bigger green game than they’re following through with.

Heightened consumer pressure on companies to behave responsibly has led to frequent accusations of greenwashing: a practice by which an organization insincerely displays concern for the environment in an attempt to improve their reputation, and further their own agendas.

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Are Wealthy 'Super Greenies' Really that Earth-Friendly?

Instead of pushing us to keep up with the Joneses, marketers wants us to keep up with the Greens. But green living doesn't require an 150K salary.

The “Super Greenies” are an annoying bunch. To begin with, they exhibit saint-like dedication to the green catechism. They bring cloth bags to the grocery store to carry home their locally grown, organic food and eco-friendly cleaning products; when they must drive, they make sure to take their hybrid vehicles; they use rechargeable batteries in the electronic products that they later recycle; they donate time and money to environmental causes. And on top of that, they are more educated and make more money than most Americans: more than $150,000 each year.

But, according to Scarborough Research, a company that provides consumer insights to media and marketing companies, Super Greenies also indulge in behaviors that are decidedly not environmentally friendly. They’re 60 percent more likely than the average American to own a second home. They’re 85 percent more likely to have spent more than $500 in one year on fine jewelry. Apparently they really like photography, and are more likely than others to buy cameras, as well as TVs, perfumes, skin care products, men’s clothing, and a host of other items.

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Ninety-Five Percent of "Green" Marketing Is Misleading

We all know marketers try to mislead us into thinking their products are "eco-friendly" or whatever. But now we can quantify the phenomenon.

We all know marketers try to mislead us into thinking their products are "eco-friendly" or whatever. But now we can quantify the phenomenon (it's huge):

More than 95% of consumer products marketed as "green," including all toys surveyed, make misleading or inaccurate claims, says a report today.

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Excellent New Government Guidelines Will Make Greenwashing a Lot Harder

The Federal Trade Commission's new rules warn companies not to use useless, vague labels like "green" and "eco-friendly," among other things.


So let's say your detergent comes in a package that says "Biodegradable!" Sounds great, right? But what does that mean, exactly? Does it decompose in 3 months? Three decades? This is the rampant problem of "greenwashing": marketers using misleading labels to make customers think their products are "eco-friendly," or whatever, when they're not.

This week, the Federal Trade Commission did us all a favor. It announced it's working on a new set of guidelines that will ensure the labels on the stuff we buy follow common sense. Among the proposed changes: Marketers shouldn't use labels like "green" or "eco-friendly" because they're too vague; if something's labeled as "biodegradable," then the entire package should "completely break down and return to nature" within a year; and if something's called "non-toxic" it should be non-toxic for humans and for the environment generally. Shopping responsibly should be a lot less confusing.

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