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The Green Life: Sorting Through the 'Wash

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November 12, 2008

Sorting Through the 'Wash

Greenwashing We’re in an era in which anything labeled “green” or “eco” is automatically more purchase-worthy than objects that don’t carry that same feel-good appeal. And companies are realizing that the new status symbol no longer looks like, say, interlocking C's, but rather a visible statement that says, “I’m conscientious.” (Remember the fashionistas’ mad rush for Anya Hindmarch’s un-plastic bag?)

In response, big businesses (notably, GE, GM, and BP) and politicians are branding themselves as good for the planet, often at the expense of honesty or integrity, and often in ways that range from unabashed exaggeration to subtly questionable PR doings. They greenwash. And it’s hogwash.

So how’s a concerned consumer to distinguish between what’s real and what’s contrived? Thankfully, resources exist to guide us to the truly green products and past those that merely claim to be. Click below to see the best sites we've found on the matter.

EnviroMedia's Greenwashing Index: Videos and ratings of now-playing ads, news related to greenwashing, and user-generated commentary.

Greenpeace’s greenwashing site: Spotlights on specific ad campaigns, news about ongoing investigations in specific industries, and writings about possible solutions to the problem.

TreeHugger’s “Greenwash Watch” posts: A category on the popular enviro-blog which disassembles companies' statements that their products are green.

The Guardian's new greenwash column: Fred Pearce exposes the "absurd claims or downright lies that big business makes about its green credentials."

Adrianne Jeffries' "Is It Green?" posts at Inhabitat: The blogger investigates whether products marketed as eco-friendly, from vacuum cleaners to printers, actually are.

CorpWatch's Environment section: The big-business watchdog names names.

Stop Greenwashing: A relatively new site which aims to raise awareness about greenwashing.

Green Guerrillas Against Greenwash: Directed against PG&E in San Francisco, this site decries what it describes as the utility company's dirty, deceptive ways.

Know of others? Do tell.

--Avital Binshtock

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