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Big box stores emerge as “gentle green giants” while 100 per cent of toys surveyed get a failing grade

More than 95 per cent of consumer products claiming to be green are committing at least one of the “sins” of greenwashing, according to The Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition, conducted by TerraChoice. The study also finds big box retailers stock more “green” products and more products that provide legitimate environmental certifications than smaller “green” boutique-style stores.

The Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition is the third study conducted by TerraChoice to survey of green claims made by marketers and manufacturers on consumer products. The study surveys 5,296 products in Canada and the U.S. that make an environmental claim. Between March and May 2010, TerraChoice visited 19 retail stores in Canada and 15 in the United States.

Highlights from the study are listed below:

Consumers are changing the world for the better

In the 24 stores TerraChoice visited in both 2009 and 2010 (same brand, same location, same size), the number of “greener” products (products claiming to be green) increased by 73 per cent.

As consumers demand greener products, companies are attempting to meet that demand with more green products.

Green products exhibited slightly less greenwashing in 2010 than was present in the 2009 Sins of Greenwashing study: the proportion of sin-free products appears to have doubled in each of the last two studies, from less than 1 per cent in 2007 to less than 2 per cent in 2009, and to almost 4.5 per cent in 2010.

Greenwashing is still a significant problem: this year TerraChoice found that over 95 per cent of “greener” products commit one or more of the seven “Sins of Greenwashing”.

Companies improve with practice

  • Categories such as building materials, construction and office products contained more “sin-free” products than categories where “green experience” was less developed, such as baby products, toys, and consumer electronics.

Big box stores are gentle green giants

  • Big box stores are more likely to stock products that are “sin-free” than boutique stores.

Eco-Labeling is an important solution, and sometimes part of the problem

  • Use of respected eco-labels helps prevent but doesn’t eliminate greenwashing: of products certified by a recognized third-party certification, more than 30 per cent are sin-free.
  • Unfortunately, the use of false labels (a sin first identified in 2009 and dubbed the Sin of Worshipping False Labels) has increased dramatically, from 23.3 per cent in 2009 to 30.9 per cent in 2010.

BPA- and phthalate-related claims are skyrocketing

  • BPA-free claims increased by 577 per cent from 2009 to 2010.
  • Phthalate-free claims increased in 2550 per cent from 2009 to 2010.
  • Two-thirds of BPA and phthalate-related claims appear on toys and baby products.

Toys and baby products

  • 100 hundred per cent of toys and 99.2 per cent of baby products surveyed are guilty of some form of greenwashing.
  • BPA-free claims are up by 577 per cent since the 2009 Sins of Greenwashing study, appearing more frequently among toys and baby products than any other category studied.

Media Inquiries:

Dagmar Ebaugh
UL Environment
T: 678-872-0320

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