"Green-wash" (verb) - the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. Before you buy, be sure to ask yourself these questions:
1) What type of environmental claim is being made?
Is the manufacturer making a single or multi-attribute environmental claim? While valuable, single-attribute claims do not address other potential important human health and environmental issues. Environmental leadership standards such as EcoLogo and Green Seal examine all of the relevant environment impacts of a product category along with the products currently available in the market when developing a standard.
2) Is a copy of the environmental standard or testing protocol available for review?
If a manufacturer cannot or refuses to provide a copy of the environmental standard or testing protocol, one might suspect that the claim is only a marketing ploy. When they do provide a copy of the standard review it carefully and ensure that it:
- References appropriate national or international environmental and performance standards and that these:
- Have a clear, consistent meaning (e.g. anyone should be able to read it, interpret it and know how to evaluate products against it)
- Are verifiable, in other words different reviewers would likely reach the same conclusion about whether a product meets the standard or not
- Multi-attribute standards should be based on the entire lifecycle of the products from raw material extraction, manufacture, use and disposal
3) How was the environmental standard or testing protocol developed?
It is preferable that standards and testing protocols be developed in an open, public, transparent process. The standards setting organization should make records of the standards development process available for review.
4) Who developed the environmental standard or testing protocol?
The most trusted standards are those developed in a consensus-based process by broad stakeholders groups. Standards developed consistently with ISO 14024 protocols will make a list of stakeholder groups available upon request. You should be less trustful of standards developed by an individual manufacturer or trade association.
5) What process was used to verify that products actually meet the standard or passed the testing requirements?
It is important to note that a stringent verification process is relatively meaningless is the standard is not meaningful. Standard verification procedures include (from most rigorous to least rigorous)
- Independent third-party certification with on-site audits - An independent organization verifies the products meets the standards based on a review of the product, additional information provided by the manufacturer and after an onside visit to verify the accuracy of the latter.
- Independent third-party certification without audits
- Self registration with random audits- Individual companies identify products meeting the environmental standard on their own but the standard setting organization conducts random audits after products are registered to ensure compliance
Widely Accepted Environmental Standards
Single Attribute Standards
Chlorine Free Products Association
Forest Stewardship Council
Energy Star Program
Kreg Weiss is a co-founder of My Yoga Online and certified Hatha Yoga Teacher. Several years ago, Kreg discovered yoga while teaching health and fitness. Yoga dramatically transformed Kreg's approach to teaching health and wellness as well as changed his personal life bringing new direction in finding physical, mental, and spiritual growth.