Shop smart: Don’t be “green-washed” by misleading products

Consumers can use eco-labels to purchase household goods that are water and energy efficient.

Being good stewards of the environment is important to many people. Many marketing campaigns recognize this importance and use “green” to describe their products. Sometimes marketing and reality are one in the same, but other times environmental claims are excessive, based on fallacies and amount to “green-washing.” Be a smart consumer and learn how to evaluate home products so that you use your money in a way that reflects your values.

Start by reading labels.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, eco-labels can result from:

  • Third-party certification of products that have been tested or evaluated by an independent lab or party
  • Testing and evaluating done by outside labs or groups hired by the company
  • Testing within a company’s own labs
  • No testing; products are just labeled “green”

The three major government certifications are WaterSense, EnergyGuide and ENERGY STAR labels.

The WaterSense label is on faucets, faucet aerators, showerheads and toilets that meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria for efficiency and performance. WaterSense products must be 20 percent more efficient than other items and are independently tested and certified.

EnergyGuide labels are on clothes washers, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators, stoves, air conditioners, water heaters, furnaces and heat pumps. The labels allow consumers to compare the energy use, efficiency and standard operating costs of similar models. Manufacturers use standard U.S. Department of Energy testing procedures to derive the information.

The ENERGY STAR label covers heating and cooling equipment, windows, roofing, home electronics, appliances, lighting, light fixtures and many other products. The label means that the item meets or exceeds the energy efficiency specifications set by the EPA and the Department of Energy. These specifications are significantly higher than the national average for the product line. ENERGY STAR is a voluntary labeling program.

It is possible to make decisions that help the environment in your everyday life. Choosing water and energy efficient products for your home is one avenue. Reading and understanding product labels especially the major environmental certifications contribute to being green and not “green-washed.”

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