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Green-washing

Carolyn Bigda, who writes the business column Getting Started, recently warned about “green washing,” a term dubbed to describe companies that profess to be green and distribute green marketing materials, but only do the minimum.

“Green” is the new black, the latest fad. And companies are eager to tap into consumers’ growing desire to do their bit to address global warming and protect the environment.

In food products, for instance, the label “natural” suggests “organic” without meeting the standards required for an “organic” label. In fact, there are no government standards for labeling something as “natural” or “free-range.”

Other companies are playing the same game with vague claims like “eco-friendly,” “earth-friendly,” “eco-safe” – without a significant commitment to practices that warrant those labels.

Bigda advises consumers to conjure up a large measure of skepticism while wading through the hype and look for specifics. Don’t assume that a company’s green efforts are meaningful or substantial unless you have the information that backs that up.

Bigda offers some websites that can help you check out a company’s green claims:
For organic standards, check out www.ams.usda.gov/nop/indexNet.htm
For information about eco-friendly products and habits, go to www.newdream.org and www.greenerchoices.org
To find out what the FTC says about environmental claims, go to www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/eande/index.html

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