Looking beyond the 'green' label

LOS ANGELES From cleaning sprays to laundry detergents, green products are taking the market by storm.

"I want to do everything that I can to encourage healthy habits for my family and provide a clean, safe environment for us to live in," said Allison Grenier, "green" consumer.

But beware -- all that pretty green packaging can be deceiving.

"This is a product that has really nice packaging. When I turn it around, on the back, the first ingredient is chlorine bleach," said Candita Clayton, author of "/*Clean Your Home Healthy*/."

To ensure your product is truly green, avoid products with chlorine bleach and ammonia, or that say "danger" or "poison." Look for phosphate-free products and those made of plant-based ingredients like coconut and vegetable oil -- and check the biodegradability.

Clayton also says research the company to see if they meet official green standards.

"Actually, this is a designation the company itself has come up with," said Clayton.

Just because they carry one eco-friendly product line does not mean they are a green company.

"A company like /*Seventh Generation*/ is truly a green company," said Clayton. "Their sole purpose is to make good cleaning products that do not harm you, the environment, or your pets."

You can also make your own organic products. Water, vinegar and a few drops of an essential oil, like tea tree, is all it takes.

"Sometimes it takes a little more elbow, but really, isn't it worth it when you think about what you're absorbing in your skin?" said Clayton.

Watchdog Web sites can also help determine if a company or product is truly green.

Just takes a little extra work to get you the "green light" in your home.


GREENWASHING: In recent years, it seems as if everyone is becoming more environmentally friendly.

Whether you're truly a green fanatic or just following the trend, product marketers are tapping into it. But a 2007 study by /*TerraChoice*/, revealed more than 99 percent of 1,018 common consumer products may not be as green as they seem. Altogether, 1,753 environmental claims were made. Some products made more than one. Of the 1,018 products, only one was found not guilty of making a false or misleading green marketing claim.

BUYING GREEN: The next time you purchase a product, beware of potential green imposters. Words like "natural," "green," "eco," "non-toxic" and "biodegradable," may be too good to be true since they're not federally regulated. Terms like "organic" and "recycled" are, however, more closely monitored and verified with a symbol on the package. When choosing an eco-friendly product, look for the few certifications that are out there. For example, on appliances look for the /*Energy Star*/ logo; on food and cosmetics look for the /*USDA*/ organic seal. Look for the /*Green Seal*/ on household cleaning products and the /*Forest Stewardship Council*/ logo on wood and paper products.

If you have time before you head to the store or if you're purchasing a larger item, like a car, washing machine, or TV, do a little research ahead of time.

Check out Web sites like ConsumerReports.org, GreenerChoices.org and GreenerCars.org. For electronics, use the Electronic Product Assessment Tool, a Web site where you can evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes.

DO IT YOURSELF: If you feel like going the extra step, you could also put in a little elbow grease and create your own natural cleaning products. Essentially, do what your great-grandparents did and clean with vinegar, baking soda, borax, natural oils and water. Lavender and oregano are natural disinfectants.

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