UL gives consumers tips on how to be green while spring cleaning

4 Min Read
UL gives consumers tips on how to be green while spring cleaning

Products on store shelves may not be as "green" as consumers believe them to be, according to UL, a world leader in advancing safety. Despite a 73 percent increase in supposedly "greener" products hitting store shelves over the past few years, UL says that what consumers read on some product packaging might not be as accurate and green as they think.


As spring cleaning chores begin around the home, UL is helping families recognize the importance of paying attention to product labels as part of the "spring greening" process. According to the recent Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition report developed by TerraChoice, a leading North American environmental marketing firm, 95 percent of these home and family products commit at least one sin of greenwashing.(1)


"Spring greening at home starts with understanding how to recognize legitimate green labels on products, but we all need to understand there's a difference between valid green claims and marketing claims often found on packaging," says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL. "That's why we're on a mission to help clarify what makes a product truly green and help consumers understand the tell-tale signs before they purchase products."


Consumers today are becoming more environmentally conscious and are making the switch to greener products for their homes. However, research shows they are, in fact, struggling with defining what makes a truly green product. A recent study found that 97 percent of consumers (a 7 percent increase from 2008) believe they know what the eco-friendly terms mean, yet their interpretations are often inaccurate.(2)


"The good news is we've found consumers are changing the world by demanding greener goods," says Scott McDougall, president of TerraChoice and author of the Sins of Greenwashing report. "Manufacturers and retailers are working to make headway in combating greenwashing, but there's still a long way to go."


"Unfortunately, validating green claims still lies in the hands of the consumer and their awareness of legitimate green labels and claims," says Scot Case, an environmental expert at UL and sustainability consultant for the Sins of Greenwashing report. "While UL is working diligently to help establish sustainability standards for building materials and products throughout the home, the basis for differentiating environmentally superior products can still be tricky without a little investigation and knowledge."


UL is helping families become more green-label aware by offering some simple steps:

• Examine the existing environmental claims on home and family products.
• Watch out for terms such as "all-natural" on product packaging, as this does not necessarily mean the product is environmentally-friendly.
• Watch out for claims of "eco-friendly" or "Mother Earth Approved," as these should be considered improper marketing if the label does not explain what makes the product safe for the environment.
• To help make sure products in the home have been independently tested and certified to meet certain industry standards of sustainability by a third-party source, UL recommends families look for a trusted green label or certification mark, such as EcoLogo, Green Seal, GREENGUARD or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labels such as ENERGY STAR, DfE and WaterSense.
• Families can also go to SafetyatHome.com to learn about UL's various trusted green labels and certification marks.


Drengenberg reinforces, "By taking a few moments to shop carefully for products with trusted eco-labels, going to UL's website SafetyatHome.com to learn more about being green, and replacing products that don't match the requirements, families can be confident they are taking the right steps to make their home safer for themselves and the environment."


For more information on how to green your home and be more environmentally conscious, go to SafetyAtHome.com.


(1) In 2007, TerraChoice Environmental Marketing launched a study of environmental claims made on products carried on category-leading "big box" store shelves. Based on the results of the study, six—and in later studies seven—patterns in greenwashing were identified, now recognized as the Seven Sins of Greenwashing.


(2) The 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker presents the findings of an online survey conducted March 7-8, 2011, by ORC Intl. among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,040 adults comprising 515 men and 525 women 18 years of age and older. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is +/-3 percent.


Source: UL


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