How to ensure you're 'buying green'

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The Independent Online

To avoid being 'greenwashed,' consumers cynical of corporate environmental claims can take a number of steps to ensure they are really buying 'green.'

A major barrier in consumers trusting in so-called environmentally friendly goods is the fear of 'greenwashing' - essentially the practice of companies using misleading PR or marketing that creates an erroneous perception of their brands' products as environmentally friendly. As a result of greenwashing, consumers are cynical or in disbelief about the majority of corporations' efforts to 'go green,' according to a study by Gibbs and Soell Public Relations released August 31.

Consumers wishing to avoid being misled by greenwashing can take a number of steps to ensure that they are truly buying 'green:'

Research the company: Each year PR Company Nikkei BP compiles an 'Eco-list' based on public perception of the brand and the brand's green efforts. The company to top the list in 2010 was electronics manufacturer Panasonic which has recently applied an eco-point system informing consumers of the green credentials of its appliances.

Website climatecounts.org also publishes an environmental ranking of companies, searchable by brand, sector or product type.

Understand the symbols: www.recycling-guide.org.uk  contains information on some of the symbols used in the United Kingdom and Europe to indicate that the product has been produced in an environmentally friendly manner or with recycled materials.

Buy products conforming to recognized standards: Choose appliances, certified with the 'Energy Star' label; this energy efficiency rating is recognized by the majority of countries throughout the world as the standard for environmentally friendly / energy efficient products. A full list of Energy Star products can be found by following regional links on http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=partners.intl_implementation

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