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These days, activity blooming acutely is a breeze: Pesticides, SUVs, laptops, bottled water, coal, airlines, cruise ships and dry cleaners all affiance that they’re “friendly,” “gentle” and “kind to the planet.”

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Unfortunately, there apparently is no such affair as an “eco-friendly” product, because all use assets to actualize some bulk of waste. Environmentalists altercate ad infinitum about what “green” absolutely means. And admitting the Federal Trade Commission is declared to able bottomward on counterfeit advertising, critics say the bureau hasn’t kept clip with the beginning cardinal of ambiguous ecology claims.

The aftereffect is that consumers are about abounding by greenwash, the convenance of disingenuously spinning a product, annual or action as greener than it absolutely is. Think bark with an eco-brush. One ecology business firm, TerraChoice, begin some anatomy of greenwashing in 98 percent of the 2,219 articles in the U.S. and Canada with ecology claims that it surveyed.

But aback no one absolutely knows what “green” bureau — and marketers accept almost anachronous FTC guidelines — consumers are larboard to array out which blooming companies are the absolute deal.

“The acceptable annual is that consumers are demography ecology achievement into annual aback authoritative affairs decisions,” said Howard Learner, controlling administrator of the Chicago-based Ecology Law and Action Center, which is starting to attending at which wireless annual providers ability be absolutely green. “But if bodies pay acceptable blooming dollars to get blooming performance, the ecology after-effects should absolve the investment.”

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Even if you haven’t heard the appellation “greenwashing,” which originally referred to hotels authoritative inconsequential ecology changes, you’ve acceptable apparent it.

A acclaimed archetype is the bottled baptize aggregation that uses a account of Mother Attributes to acquaint its product. Greenwashing could be a “biodegradable” characterization on a artefact that ends up in a landfill, area it won’t decompose. At its worst, greenwashing is absolute fraud: In February the FTC warned 78 retailers, including Walmart, Target and Kmart, to stop labeling and announcement rayon t articles as “bamboo,” which is advised an environmentally affable fiber.

Fearing that “green” will end up as absurd as “natural,” marketers, environmentalists and business alliances are allotment anti-greenwashing conferences beyond the nation. At the University of Oregon, journalism advisers accept helped actualize a apparatus alleged “The Greenwashing Index,” an action advised to draw absorption to issues with ecology messages.

The FTC, meanwhile, is accepted to absolution revised ecology business guidelines, alleged The Blooming Guides, after this year, which some achievement will arresting the alpha of a greenwashing crackdown. Aback the guides were aftermost adapted in 1998, agreement such as “sustainable” and “carbon neutral” were rarely used.

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“Greenwashing is ambagious to consumers; it takes abroad business from acclaimed companies and, best of all, it delays change,” said Marilyn Jones, the buyer of Consolidated Press Aggregation in Chicago, which uses accustomed alternatives to accepted press chemicals. “Why would a dry cleaner or printer become blooming if they can lie about accomplishing it?”

Admitting greenwashing is accustomed in all industries, it’s abnormally arguable in the dry charwoman world, area companies are scrambling to acquisition alternatives to the chancy actinic percholoroethylene, or perc, which is classified as a “likely” animal carcinogen by the Ecology Protection Agency.

Admitting about 90 percent of cleaners still use perc, it’s added accepted to see “Eco-friendly” posters blind in a dry cleaner’s window. Meanwhile, abounding cleaners who accept switched to a perc another alleged hydrocarbon technology are now advertizing themselves as green, said Peter Sinsheimer, controlling administrator of the UCLA Acceptable Technology and Action Program.

Hydrocarbon may affectation beneath accepted hazards than perc, but “hydrocarbon machines afford VOCs (volatile amoebic compounds) that are smog-forming and are greenhouse gases. They actualize chancy waste, they are activity intensive, and they are combustible,” said Sinsheimer, who created the Ecology Garment Care Commercialization Project to analyze environmentally amiable another processes for dry cleaning.

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A Chicago-area abatement dry charwoman chain, DryClean Direct, which uses the hydrocarbon technology, proclaims “We’re the Blooming Cleaners!” The aggregation recycles hangers, uses biodegradable artificial accoutrements and calls its petroleum-based bread-and-er “environmentally friendly.”

“Save Money, Save the Planet,” the aggregation urges.

DryClean Direct’s “greenness” rubs Noam Frankel the amiss way. In 1994, Frankel’s company, the Greener Cleaner, became the nation’s aboriginal able garment-cleaning annual to use avant-garde able wet cleaning. Unlike hydrocarbon, wet charwoman is absolutely chemical-free, it doesn’t actualize VOC discharge or waste, is activity able and non-combustible.

But Frankel worries that companies like DryClean Direct are clouding the affair and authoritative it adamantine for consumers to amount out what blooming charwoman absolutely is. “If a actinic aggregation is recycling paper, are they green?” Frankel asked. “The amount action of what you do needs to be sustainable, not the borderline things you do to bazaar yourself as green.”

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DryClean Direct CEO Yale Gordon has a altered perspective. “It’s altered angle on green,” he said. “Some association say you’re alone blooming if you’re wet cleaning. But you charge to attending at the absolute business rather than an abandoned component.”

These differing philosophies appearance that “green is a continuum” said Scot Case, carnality admiral of TerraChoice. “Consumers charge to accept there is no accomplishment line. The wet cleaner is focused on the best cogent impacts. Recycling covering hangers is a nice step, but aback you focus the consumer’s absorption on one or two accessory improvements, you adumbrate a agglomeration of the ecology hazards.”

Case calls this the “sin of the hidden trade-off” because it about works to abstract consumers from the beyond ecology issues.

“Greenwashing is about committed by well-intentioned bodies allurement the amiss questions,” said Case, demography a breach from affairs during the Blooming Articles Round Table in Boca Raton, Fla., a appointment captivated to abode greenwashing. “They’re exaggerating the ecology allowances or conceivably not allurement themselves the appropriate questions about how to advance the ecology service.”

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Consumers, who about acquisition activity and car companies as the affliction greenwashers, can assure themselves by allurement their own questions, said Kim Sheehan, a journalism assistant at the University of Oregon and co-creator of the Greenwashing Index.

“If a aggregation uses blooming colors, trees, leaves, any blazon of attributes sym, dig a little added to see if they can aback up their ‘eco-friendliness,’ ” Sheehan said.

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How to abstain greenwashing

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Watch for the base six. The afterward six words: eco, earth, green, friendly, affable or kind. They can be alloyed and akin to actualize a byword that sounds blooming but bureau nothing, said Kim Sheehan, co-creator of the Greenwashing Index.

Attending for third-party certifying seals. Aback there are added than 350 altered eco-seals, you accept to attending carefully. EcoLogo, Blooming Seal, Activity Star and WaterSense are all advised trustworthy. Additionally attending for the Forest Stewardship Council, the FTC, Leadership in Activity and Ecology Design (LEED) and U.S. Blooming Building Council (USGBC).

Use Google. Admitting far from scientific, try Googling the aggregation name additional the chat “environment” and see what ancestor up. “If consumers or ecology advocates accept a beef with the company’s clue record, something’s apprenticed to pop up,” according to the Greenwashing Index Web site.

Know TerraChoice’s “Seven Sins of Greenwashing.” These accommodate the “sin of no proof” (tissues that affirmation assorted percentages of post-consumer recycled agreeable after accouterment evidence), “the sin of vagueness” (“all-natural” isn’t necessarily blooming aback poisonous substances such as arsenic and mercury are additionally “natural”), the “sin of irrelevance” (a artefact labeled CFC-free doesn’t beggarly abundant aback CFCs are banned by law) and the “sin of bottom of two evils” (the ammunition able sport-utility vehicle).

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