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How green is that product?

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Yet it’s unclear how much of an impact all this green buying will actually have on the environment. Purchasing anything, regardless of how green it is, adds something to a person’s carbon footprint. And concern is growing over “greenwashing” – or misleading claims made by companies about the environmental benefits of their products.

“There’s so much greenwashing going on. It can be frustrating to find out which companies are really green,” says Amy Todisco, owner of, an online natural products store in Huntington, Vt. “When you find out that [some brands] are not doing what we thought they were doing, it’s very disheartening.”

Ms. Todisco has been researching products like laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, and personal-care items for more than 14 years. She’s found that many that are marketed as “natural” still use synthetic ingredients.

One of the challenges for consumers is that there are no uniform standards for “green,” says Celia Lehrman, deputy home editor of Consumer Reports.

As a result, products are appearing on store shelves in shades of green. One company may remove or substitute a few ingredients and call the result ecofriendly when, in fact, its product still contains traces of harmful elements. Another company may take an approach in which everything from materials to packaging to distribution is designed to be as ecofriendly as possible.

While this is the ideal, it can get complicated and expensive in a global economy, says Ed Stafford, an associate professor of marketing at Utah State University who has studied green marketing.

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