The truth about
WE ARE NOW LIVING in a world in which environmental factors have become a concern in everything that we do. From recycling to fuel efficiency,
most Americans are now concerned with how their
lifestyle affects the sustainability of the planet.
Furthermore, many are now watching the types of
products they use and are making sure these products are environmentally friendly.
According to the American Marketing Association, green marketing is the marketing of products
that are presumed to be environmentally safe.
Green marketing incorporates a broad range of
activities, including product and advertising modifications as well as changes to the production process and packaging.
Green marketing is a technique that is growing
exponentially. One of green marketing’s challenges
is the lack of standards or public consensus about
what constitutes “green.”
How can we, as consumers, know what to
believe when it comes to green marketing? Sure, we
want to buy products that are sustainable or are
made with concern in regard to the environment,
but it seems as though every company is making a
claim about being green. Recently, the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) began reviewing its Green
Guides to lay out the groundwork for what consti-
tutes a green claim. The Green Guides were designed
to help marketers avoid making environmental
claims that are unfair or untrue.
However, I have found that referring to these
guidelines can also help consumers decipher what is
real when it comes to green shopping. The Green
Guides break down the guidelines in this manner:
biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, recycled
content and ozone safe. These are the pillars of what
defines a product or a company as green.
In addition to the original Green Guides, the
FTC and the Council of Better Business Bureaus
have recently issued some key revisions to the guides:
■ Marketers should not make unqualified general environmental benefit claims such as “green” or
■ Seals and certifications are considered
endorsements. This means that marketers may need
to disclose any material connections with the certifier. Third-party certification does not eliminate a
marketer’s obligation to have substantiation for its
■ A claim that a product or package is biodegradable means that it will completely decompose
no more than one year after customary disposal.
I RECENTLY purchased
a brand-new personal
computer [not at Costco].
Immediately, I began to
experience problems. After
spending hours on the phone
with numerous departments
and specialty service people,
the problem has not been
solved, the computer is
unusable, yet they will not
replace it as I am locked into
a service contract that
provides technical support
rather than replacement.
What can I do?
■ The Greeen Guides address claims of recy-clability and introduce a three-tiered analysis for
disclosing the limited availability of recycling programs.
■ Marketers making renewable-energy claims
should specify the source of the renewable energy. If
a company sells Renewable Energy Certificates
(RECs) for the renewable energy they generate, it
should not represent that they use renewable energy.
When shopping for green products, it is important to understand what “green” really entails. Many
companies simply claim to be green as a way to
attract shoppers who are conscious of the environment and want to do their part. Other products have
been designed legitimately to be environmentally
friendly, and it is these products that we
want to buy. While at times it may be
nearly impossible for the consumer
to decide what is green and what is
not, these Green Guides should help
restore clarity and integrity to the
process, so that by the time the
product is on the shelf it will
have earned its green label.
The FTC has a variety
of consumer resources to
help explain certain environmental claims and other
energy issues. The agency
has issued two brochures
that are an excellent starting point: “Sorting out
‘Green’ Advertising Claims,”
www.ftc.gov; search “green
advertising claims”) and
“Eco-Speak: A User’s Guide
to the Language of Recycling,” (
“language of recycling”).
For more information
about the Green Guides, consult the FTC’s Energy &
Environment website at
WRITE DOWN the names
of every contact you speak
with, as well as details of
what was discussed. Take
this evidence and talk to an
executive at the corporate
level of the company. Make it
clear that no matter what
your service contract
states, you have
spoken to many
people at several
departments at the
company, and still
does not work.
Since you have
shown that it is
a lemon, the
company must either
exchange it for a new
computer or do a direct
When members buy a
computer at Costco, they
get free technical support
from Costco’s Concierge
Service. Costco also has a
90-day return policy on
© 2011 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
AMY CAN TRELL
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate. Visit his blog at
www.fightback.com. He is a frequent guest on radio and television
stations. Consult your local listings for dates and times.
More in archives
On Costco.com, enter
“Connection.” At Online Edition,
search “David Horowitz.”
AUGUST 2011 ;e Costco Connection 13
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