REwatch: Validating Green Marketing Claims

2014-02-09T09:15:00Z REwatch: Validating Green Marketing ClaimsMichelle Krueger Times Columnist nwitimes.com
February 09, 2014 9:15 am  • 

More and more, companies are promoting the “green” attributes of their products and/or packaging, betting on consumer preference for things that are good for the environment.

When it comes to measuring environmental impact and making proclamations of

“green,” “environmentally safe” or “eco friendly,” the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces standards known as Green Guides.

According to the FTC, the message of these guides for businesses is you must have sound science to back up the green claims you make for your products. The message for consumers is when you’re shopping, look for specific information - or trusted certifications - on packages and products that tell you what makes the product environmentally friendly - and worthy of a green promotion.

Commonly referred to as the road map for green claims, the Green Guides provide measurable parameters for a wide range of declarations including free of (such as VOC-free, non-toxic, ozone-friendly and less waste), seals and certifications, biodegradable and compostable, recyclable and recycled, renewable materials, renewable energy and carbon offsets.

For example, the FTC explains that seals and certifications such as a picture of the globe with the words “Earth Smart” on a product are only useful if they are backed up by solid standards and give you enough information to understand what they mean. The package should also tell you about any connections the company has to the organization behind the seal or certification since certain connections might influence your opinion.

FTC-required EnergyGuide labels help you compare the energy use of similar models of clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, televisions, water heaters, window air conditioners, central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps and pool heaters (labels are appliance-specific).

As of January 2014, some of these appliances are being rated with updated energy efficiency tests and have new labels with bright yellow numbers. Until this process is complete, you will need to be sure you are comparing all yellow numbers or all black numbers. It’s also important to note that some EnergyGuide labels feature the ENERGY STAR logo, which is reserved for products that are better for environment because they use less energy than standard models.

Probably one of the most widely known “green” labels, the ENERGY STAR mark is usually blue – 100% cyan is the preferred color – for clarity, air, sky and the environment. A voluntary program of the US Environmental Protection Agency that was first introduced in 1992, ENERGY STAR helps businesses and individuals save money and protect the environment through superior energy efficiency.

Since its inception, more than 4.5 billion ENERGY STAR labeled products have been sold, with more than 85 percent of American households recognizing the label that distinguishes energy efficient products, energy savings at home, energy efficient new homes and energy-saving strategies for buildings and plants.

When it comes to our homes, ENERGY STAR “blue” can reduce energy bills, improve comfort and help protect the environment with green remodeling and building guidelines. By improving the performance of an existing home or designing and building a new home that delivers energy efficiency savings of up to 30 percent when compared to a typical new home, ENERGY STAR standards and products deliver better quality, better comfort, better durability and better overall value for homeowners.

Along with EnergyGuide and ENERGY STAR, there are more than 400 green certification systems with labels designed to distinguish green products. Here’s a look at a few others you may come across when it comes to your home:

• LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes - a US Green Building Council program that promotes sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, sustainable materials selection and indoor environmental quality. The program is based on a system that awards silver, gold and platinum certification levels based on the amount of points that a project is able to generate using green building strategies.

• Certified SMART Products - ratings of sustainable, sustainable silver, sustainable gold and sustainable platinum given to building products, fabric, apparel, textile and flooring coverings that meet rigorous standards for life cycle assessment and green practices throughout the supply chain for LEED credit.

• UL Environment - Underwriters Laboratories, one of the country's largest certification bodies, now offers a service to validate a variety of sustainable claims.

• CRI Green Label and Green Label Plus - issued by the Carpet and Rug Institute, these labels indicate that carpet, carpet backings, cushions and adhesives emit low amounts of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).

• Floor Score - developed by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) in conjunction with Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) tests and certifies hard surface flooring and flooring adhesive products for compliance with rigorous indoor air quality and low-VOC emissions requirements.

• WaterSense - issued by the US EPA for products that are 20 percent more water-efficient than average products in the same category such as toilets, faucets, urinals and showerheads.

• FSC Certified – issued by the Forest Stewardship Council to accredited forest managers, manufacturing companies and controlled wood producers that exhibit responsible consumption of forest products.

While it’s probably more important than ever to call out marketers for “green washing,” it’s equally as important to recognize the value of labels you can rely on when it comes to “greening” your home and the environment.

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