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"Green" Products: Not Always What They Seem

March 22, 2010

BOSTON - Don't always judge a product by its label - particularly when it comes to advertising for "green" products, warns Steve Benz with the Massachusetts Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. The group has been holding educational sessions around the state to let folks know about the marketing free-for-all going on when it comes to "green" claims. That's because the sector is so profitable, he says.

"The term "green" is very widely used and potentially abused by those who would benefit from its label. What we're trying to do is to get consumers to understand that, to be green, there really are performance measurements one needs to meet."

Organizations such as Consumers Union and I-SEAL are trying to clear up the confusion for consumers, Benz says. Both groups offer online databases to verify eco-claims. He commends companies that want to sell green products and services, but only if they do it right.

"From the manufacturers' point of view, from the service providers' point of view, there are a lot of reasons why going green is good. At the same time, there's a lot of pressure to brand yourself that way in the marketplace."

Benz points to some words and phrases - such as "LEED-certified," "natural" and "eco-friendly" - that can be misleading. False labels and claims are often called "greenwashing." While the Federal Trade Commission has issued statements discouraging companies from misleading consumers about how "green" their products are, Benz says it's still happening.


Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA