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Generation Y's 'Green' Cred Takes Tumble

So they don't actually know what their employers are doing, but they're sure they should be doing more.

They don't seem to be any better informed as consumers.

Ian Cross, director of the Center for Marketing Technology at Bentley College, surveyed more than 2,100 college students across the country, asking them which brands they perceived as the most and least green and why. Their answers, he found, "were directly tied to their perceptions and not necessarily reality."

General Electric (GE - Get Report) and Apple (AAPL - Get Report) landed on both lists. GE because of its alternative-energy products, like wind turbines (good) and for its pollution (bad). Respondents couldn't give a particular reason for placing Apple in either column.

More naively, they touted "Beyond Petroleum" as a green brand because of its green-themed ads. This, despite the fact that Beyond Petroleum is an advertising slogan for British Petroleum (BP), which landed on the "bad" list for polluting.

General Motors (GM - Get Report), Ford (F) and the brands Range Rover, Hummer and Chevrolet wound up on the "bad" list for producing gas-guzzlers in general, or SUVs and trucks in particular. But Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) topped the "good" list even though both have offerings with middle-of-the-road pollution ratings on par with vehicles from those other companies, according to the EPA.

Wal-Mart (WMT) has no green cred because of its low prices, despite its widely publicized eco efforts. Google (GOOG) and Ikea have plenty, but for no reason in particular. Nike (NKE) makes the "bad" list for polluting, though watchdogs say it's more environmentally active than Google.

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