This sustainable life: The green dilemma

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When it comes to environmentally- friendly shopping, there are gradations of green. The number of “eco-”products on the market rose 73 per cent between 2009 and 2010, according to TerraChoice, a North American environmental consulting fi rm. But how many are really low-footprint alternatives?

“Greenwashing” is a trick that marketers use to make a product look more earth-friendly than it actually is. This is often by labeling products with vague, unsupported references to their lack of environmental impact.

To help remedy this, Terra- Choice puts out a yearly report called “The Sins of Greenwashing.” Here are some highlights from the 2010 report, to help you discern the products that are forest green from those that are merely sea-foam.

DO: Know what third-party certifi ed logos look like. If you have the Photoshop skills to make a logo look legit, you’d bett er believe marketers do too. Don’t get caught “worshipping false labels” (one of the seven sins of greenwashing).

DON’T: Fall prey to vague claims, like the ubiquitous “all natural.” “Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous,” the report said. “All natural” isn’t necessarily “green.”

DO: Check to see if there is an invitation to “read more” about green initiatives by visiting a product’s website. Even if you don’t do further research, the website itself is a good indication of responsible practices.

DON’T: Buy products because they are wrapped in green packaging and spatt ered with cool fonts and leaf graphics. Read. Know what you’re buying and where you can fi nd proof of any claims on the package.

DO: Support “green” products — even if you think they might be greenwashed. It still sends a message, and the TerraChoice report indicated that as companies catch up over time, greenwashed products actually do become more legitimate.

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