This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

How to Spot Eco-Fraud in 'Green' Products

When it comes to going green, it's better to think big.

That's the argument being made lately by groups such as Greenpeace and the Environmental Defense fund. The reasoning: Large global companies can with a single decision have as much impact on the environment as tens of thousands of individuals.

Last week, this column looked at the difficulties consumers face when trying to spend their dollars in ways that will keep them and the planet healthier, reward the companies that are trying to be eco-conscious and push stubbornly old-school companies in a greener direction.

Our job as consumers, environmental groups say, is to encourage this responsible behavior with our buying decisions. So here are a few common-sense tips to guide you on an eco-friendly trip through the aisles of your local retailers:

Be Skeptical

Americans seem to have no problem with this piece of advice. According to a new survey from advertising research firm Ipsos Reid, 70% of Americans believe that when a company labels a product "green," it's just a marketing gimmick.

This skepticism is valid. In every category, but especially those where there are no government programs or standardized labels to guide you (like cleaning products or cosmetics), it can be easy for companies to use feel-good words like "natural" and even "organic" to create a healthy, greenish aura around products that aren't either one to more than a token degree.

For example, General Motors (GM)makes hybrid trucks under its GMC and Chevrolet labels that garner some of the worst ratings for fuel efficiency and air pollution. I asked Wal-Mart (WMT)how it manages to sell organic T-shirts for $4, a too-good-to-be-true price that makes you wonder what corners it is cutting. A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the T-shirts are made overseas with U.S. cotton, and that they are clearance items that originally sold for $5.77, a price still low enough to raise a skeptical brow.

The easy way to feel secure is to look for third-party labels that have known standards behind them. The USDA's organic label guarantees a minimum standard for a range of fresh and packaged foods and even natural fiber clothing .

Similarly, the not-for-profit Forest Stewardship Council adds its label to lumber and other products made from sustainably harvested wood that sell in stores such as Home Depot (HD). And Transfair USA's Fair Trade Certified label assures, among other things, that products found everywhere from Whole Foods (WFMI) to Starbucks (SBUX) to your local grocery store are grown in a sustainable way.

You can also look for objective third-party monitoring. is a Web site run by the EPA and Department of Energy that grades automobiles for greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and fuel efficiency.

Read 'Labels'

Ellis Jones, a sociology professor at the University of California at Davis, looks forward to a day when all consumer items carry standardized environmental impact labels similar to the nutrition labels that packaged foods carry.

Timberland (TBL) already has a prototype to follow. The company's shoeboxes carry a "footprint" label that, among other things, tells how much energy it took to produce those shoes and what portion of it was renewable.

1 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!


DOW 17,356.87 +288.00 1.69%
S&P 500 2,012.89 +40.15 2.04%
NASDAQ 4,644.3120 +96.4780 2.12%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs