According to an Ottawa marketing firm, 95% of goods are inaccurately marketed as “green” products. Many companies are making false claims about their products or misleading consumers.
According to a recent article in USA Today, the number of products marketed as “green” has increased by 73% in the last year. When in it comes down to it though, the biggest problem is that most companies are making claims without proof. According to the TerraChoice report, vague marketing claims are the second biggest problem.
The Federal Trade Commission recently proposed updating its guidelines for green advertising. The last time the guidelines were revised, marketers were warned to steer clear of broad claims like saying a product is “eco-friendly.” The FTC also advised against citing unqualified and unproven certifications.
Consumers should note, however, that green building materials and office goods were found to make fewer misleading claims, particularly when compared to baby and toy products. One of the reasons for this is that green building material producers have more experience navigating the waters of the green marketplace.
Green building material specifications:
Green building materials are made of renewable resources instead of non-renewable resources. Taking the environmental impact and expected life of the product into consideration, green materials are those that meet one or more of the following requirements:
- Resource efficient – this refers to products that are recycled, naturally renewable, locally sourced, refurbished, reusable, and/or durable.
- Indoor air quality – products in this category are non-toxic, moisture resistant, and/or emit low VOCs (volatile organic compounds), or require low VOCs to maintain.
- Energy efficient – these products help reduce energy consumption.
- Water conserving – these products limit water consumption inside buildings and landscaped areas.
- Affordable – these products are considered green when prices are considered in terms of life-cycle cost of the building material.
The TerraChoice report also found that some manufacturers are cleaning up their green act, making more truthful claims about their products. While the numbers are small at only 4.5%, the upward trend is a promising sign of things to come.
Interestingly, big box chains were more likely to offer products that made accurate green claims than small boutique shops. Experts believe this could be a result of big box stores having more influence over their suppliers.
While consumers should still be critical of green claims made by some manufacturers, they can be more confident in purchasing green building materials and supplies than in dealing with other product categories.