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Eco-Friendly Product Claims Often Misleading

America's store shelves are filled with products claiming to be good for the environment. Everything from shampoos and cleaning agents to granola bars claim to be "natural" and "earth friendly." But some environmentalists think you're being "greenwashed."

One of them is Scot Case, with the environmental marketing firm TerraChoice.

The firm says it found 1,018 products that made environmental claims, ranging from toothpaste to office paper, on retail shelves of six big-box retailers.

"When we dug a little deeper, we were actually shocked to discover that all but one were committing what we're now calling one of the Six Sins of Greenwashing," Case tells Steve Inskeep. The one product was paper napkins, but Case says the firm decided not to name specific products.

"There were examples of shampoos that claimed to be certified organic, yet when we investigated and tried to find any sort of evidence of certification, we found none," Case says.

The biggest sin was the sin of the hidden tradeoff — products that promote a single issue, such as recycled content, Case says. "That's important, but there are a wide variety of additional environmental considerations: Was there any pollution during the manufacturing phase? What are the aspects of the product that aren't made of recycled content — are they also environmentally friendly?"

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