Buying Green Feels Good, But Does It Do Good?

By Candice Choi, AP Personal Finance Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Does it matter if your makeup is 100 percent vegan?

The growing lexicon of eco-friendly product descriptions may have you wondering what they all mean. Even if you feel better about buying a product that sports an Earth logo, you may be fuzzy on what benefits it brings.

"There's a lot of green noise in the marketplace of labels. It really muddies it up for the labels that are actually meaningful," said Urvashi Rangan, director of Consumers Union's GreenerChoices.org.

Environmental marketing claims have become so pervasive that the Federal Trade Commission is reviewing its green marketing guide for businesses, a year earlier than planned.

For now, the agency suggests consumers be wary of vague terms like "environmentally friendly" or "better for the Earth" that are short on specifics. Still, it's easy to assume such labels denote superior health or environmental perks.

To honor Earth Day, a cheat sheet on five terms that often provoke confusion.

BIODEGRADABLE

This means the materials in a product will break down and degrade back into nature within a reasonably short time after disposable.

No formal verification is required for products to carry the label, and it's up to companies to back up their claims. It also may not be clear whether the description applies to the packaging or the contents, said Laura Koss, a senior attorney at the FTC.

Some products, such as shampoos or detergents, have always been biodegradable, yet may now be trumpeted as biodegradable as a marketing tactic.

Even if a product is biodegradable, the process may not occur as quickly as expected. That's because trash often ends up in landfills, where degradation occurs very slowly due to a lack of sunlight and moisture.

There are more specific labels. For example, the "certified biodegradable" label for soaps, detergents and cleaners signifies a much more specific standard, but its use is still very limited. Issued by the Scientific Certification System, it means 70% of a product will degrade within 28 days. It also means any remaining product is not toxic to fish and other sea life?

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