Third-party Green Certifications Give DIY Projects Environmental Authenticity

Third-party Green Certifications Give DIY Projects Environmental Authenticity

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Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 11:00am

CONTENT: Article

By Erin Vaughan,

Reprinted with permission of author by SCS Global Services 

If you buy a product that claims to include “50 percent more recycled material,” how do you know how much “50 percent more” really is? Did the manufacturer go from 20 percent post-consumer materials to 40 in its newest offerings? Or is the manufacturer simply obscuring the fact that its recycled content increased from just one percent to two? Herein lies the problem with unverified advertising claims.

The word for it is greenwashing, the corporate practice of touting vague or misleading environmental claims for a product. Greenwashing is nothing new—the idea has been floating around since the late 1980s since green marketing claims emerged as a major force in the marketplace. But now, with site-level LEED certifications and green retrofit loans hanging in the balance, getting honest about the real benefits of environmental materials is crucial.

The FTC has set forth a set of fairly detailed instructions for the kinds of claims that are appropriate and not misleading. However, that doesn’t mean that lapses don’t happen—in fact, manufacturers sidestep the rules all the time. For instance, you may remember the public outcry last year when it was revealed that Volkswagen's “Clean Diesel” technology wasn’t as clean as it claimed to be. In response, the FTC slapped VW with a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief on behalf of consumers. These kind of issues are only getting more prevalent—the Greenwashing Index, a consumer watchdog site run by EnviroMedia Social Marketing and the University of Oregon, contains hundreds of entries for inaccurate advertising across a huge range of industries.