Greenwash Watch: The Six Sins

A study released today by Terrachoice Environmental Marketing randomly surveyed 1,018 common consumer products ranging from toothpaste to caulking to shampoo to printers, and found that 99% were guilty of some form of "greenwashing." They have separated greenwashing into six categories, listed below.

TerraChoice President Scott McDougall says "The products we surveyed made a total of 1,753 claims, and 99% per cent committed at least one of the Six Sins of Greenwashing. "

We note that TerraChoice is a private company that includes in its client list the Green Building Initiative, which we have described as greenwash. So while they perhaps should not be casting the first stone, and it while it would have been so much more poetic with seven deadly sins of greenwashing, it is worth reading at ::Terrachoice.


1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: e.g. "Energy-efficient" electronics that contain hazardous materials. 998 products or 57% of all environmental claims committed this Sin.

2. Sin of No Proof:
e.g. Shampoos claiming to be "certified organic," but with no verifiable certification. 454 products and 26% of environmental claims committed this Sin.

3. Sin of Vagueness:
e.g. Products claiming to be 100% natural when many naturally-occurring substances are hazardous, like arsenic and formaldehyde. Seen in 196 products or 11% of environmental claims.

4. Sin of Irrelevance: e.g. Products claiming to be CFC-free, even though CFCs were banned 20 years ago. This Sin was seen in 78 products and 4% of environmental claims.

5. Sin of Fibbing: e.g. Products falsely claiming to be certified by an internationally recognized environmental standard like EcoLogo, Energy Star or Green Seal. Found in 10 products or less than 1% of environmental claims.

6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils:
e.g. Organic cigarettes or "environmentally friendly" pesticides, This occurred in 17 products or 1% of environmental claims.

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