A recent post on the Environmental Leader website highlighted some of the ‘green’ guidelines recently updated by the Federal Trade Commission, for communicating environmental claims on everything from toothpaste to tires. According to the FTC website, the guidelines are made to ensure ‘voluntary compliance with such laws by members of industry’. Those found in contravention, however, could face ‘corrective action’. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but if the FTC is anywhere as humourless as US border guards, it’s not something I’d risk an eco-friendly natural-latex rubber-glove interview over. So here are the Green Briefs Notes from the article. You can link directly to the whole legal-beagle article here (it’s a good read) and for policy weenies, the FTC document resides on a large server here.
Basic Idea 1: Avoid the general, go for the specific. By now we should all know that terms like ‘Eco-Friendly’, ‘Natural’, ‘Planet-Friendly’, ‘Green’ and ‘Whale-Lovin’ are pretty vague. OK, I made the last one up. But you get the idea. If you have a legitimate claim, spell it out. Better yet, get your product or service certified by a legitimate third-party organization.
Basic Idea 2: Pay close attention to the ‘able’ in Compostable, Degradable and Recyclable. If your product only breaks down in a large scale, commercial composting facility, better make sure there’s one nearby that your customers can get it to on garbage day if you want to call it ‘compostable’ without further explanation. Same goes for ‘recyclable’. Unqualified recyclable claims should only be made where product or package can be recovered from the solid-waste stream through a recycling program for reuse or use in manufacturing. Otherwise you have to say something like ‘recyclable where facilities exist’ – which is quite lame.
Basic Idea 3: Don’t claim your product is ‘Free Of’ one toxin if you’ve replaced it with another. There are more synthetic chemicals these days than you can shake a test tube at. If you are removing the bad-boy ingredient of the week and adding something else that does the same thing, better make sure it doesn’t have the same M.O. And no shady semantics with taking stuff out that has nothing to do with the category. ‘PVC-Free Applesauce’ might get you a visit from the FTC.
If you are in Canada, ignore the above. Apparently, our fair nation trusts its manufacturers and snake-oil salesmen a lot more, because even though we launched some similar ‘DRAFT’ legislation back in 2008, it does not seem to yet have been given teeth.
But why not just do it right-ish in the first place? You may have to export to the US or Europe someday, and in the meantime, your Green Karma will build nicely.
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