The Federal Trade Commission is revising its environmental marketing guidelines for the first time since 1998—and greenwashing crackdowns are expected to follow. The Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (or Green Guides) define green terms such as “recyclable” and “compostable” and outline general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims. The FTC is reviewing the guidelines in part because a number of terms—including “sustainable” and “carbon neutral”—were not commonly used last time the guidelines were updated.
The FTC uses the Green Guides to crack down on false environmental marketing claims, but it rarely takes action on such cases. In the 18 years the guidelines have been in place, the FTC has filed only 45 cases. Of those, seven were filed in the last year. As Americans have adopted more conscientious lifestyles, marketers have moved toward green advertising as the best way to sell their products. Unfortunately, as green advertising has grown, so has the number of greenwashing campaigns, which overstate a product’s environmental benefits. Stricter, more clear-cut guidelines—and better enforcement—should help combat this trend.
You don’t have to wait for the FTC, however. Learn how to avoid greenwashers’ claims with these tips on buying green. Check out as many resources as you can before making a purchase. The Good Guide, which offers in-depth product reviews, is a Natural Home favorite.