Thursday, November 15, 2007

The eco-friendly myth

Credit Jacquelyn Ottoman for calling marketers onto the carpet today with a great, short piece in the Sustainable Brands Weekly e-newsletter.

Her premise? That claims such as "environmentally friendly" and "ozone friendly" can be misleading to consumers. There's really no such thing as a completely eco-friendly product, she writes. All products use at least some resources and create waste that's not natural to the planet.

She goes on to point out key takeaways from the FTC's Environmental Marketing Guidelines, including:

  • Be specific. Marketers are liable not only for inaccurate statements but also for consumers' misinterpretations of their claims.
  • Don't overstate. Biota’s water bottle was theoretically biodegradable, but not compostable in backyard composters or even many municipal composting facilities. Bad press from this claim helped sink the company.
  • Qualify terms such as “refillable,” “energy-efficient,” and “reusable.” Answer the key questions: How much? For how long? By whom? Where? Compared to what? Avoid saying “recyclable” if products or packaging are theoretically recyclable but not collected by municipal recycling programs.

  • You can read more from and about Jacquie on the Sustainable Brands Web site, and sign yourself up for their great weekly newsletter here.

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