While some product companies have taken a genuine interest in “going green,” others have acquired the bad habit of “Greenwashing” – putting up a green front, better known as the “green sheen,” and misleading consumers regarding their environmental leadership and the environmental benefits of their products. Many products in stores today are marketed with deceiving labels designed to make them look environmentally friendly. In truth, these labels are often vague, dated and irrelevant, or unverifiable. Some of them are just plain fake. A number of labels advertise a single green attribute of a product, like its recycled content, while diverting attention from other ways in which its company negatively impacts the environment. Paper product companies, for example, will often promote their products’ recycled content but say nothing of their greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing.
Greenwashing has created a confusing marketplace where many Americans are purchasing products with meaningless eco-labels and certifications. Some shoppers may have become so fed up with sifting through false advertising that they’ve given up trying to buy green products altogether.
GoodGuide is attempting to remedy all of this by giving credit where credit is due – GoodGuide devotes an entire section of its environmental rating scale for product-level data to certifications. Products get higher ratings if they’re marketed with trustworthy, third party eco-labels. The more of these certifications a product boasts, the better. GoodGuide also rewards products that have single certifications from organizations like EcoLogo or Green Seal, which indicate that a product has multiple “green” attributes.
Paper products are prime examples of items for which GoodGuide offers ratings that incorporate third party certifications. “Cascade Enviro Bathroom Tissue” gets an “8.2” overall Environment rating on GoodGuide. The website shows that this product is certified by EcoLogo, and this certification helps to boost its rating. You can also see which organizations haven’t certified Cascade Tissue, like Green Seal or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), by scrolling to the bottom of the featured product’s page.
By directing consumers toward products with trustworthy certifications, GoodGuide is working to prevent environmentalism from becoming nothing more than an empty slogan on product packaging. What’s more, GoodGuide helps consumers to look past a product’s labels and consider its overall environmental impact. “Seventh Generation 2 Ply Bathroom Tissue” is marketed with zero third party certifications, but its GoodGuide Environment rating is “7.9,” not much lower than Cascade’s. That’s because the company that produces this tissue gets really high ratings for its environmental impact, resource management, and overall commitment to sustainability. So, GoodGuide helps us to weed out the Greenwashers in two ways: by pointing us toward legitimate environmental certifications and by highlighting those green attributes that aren’t obvious from a product’s labels, alone.
Here’s a sampling of the certifications that GoodGuide considers when evaluating products: