A lot of products are touted as green these days, and the claims may or may not be legit.


Greenopia, a company that publishes -- and sells -- green guides to cities (so far, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York), is beginning a weekly web series looking at the issue, and they’re going to have the guts to name companies, organizations or products they say are greenwashing.


To start it all off, they offer five warning signs to sharpen your own greenwash alertness:


Is the company upfront, or does it hide the evidence? A truly green product or group will be  transparent about their methods, sources for materials, packaging details, corporate commitments and the like. They will provide websites, phone numbers and other contact methods so you can confirm for yourself how green they or their product is.


Is the product certified by an independent organization?  Look  for logos like USDA Organic and stamps from organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council, EcoLogo or Green Seal. 

Is the claim vague, or specific?  Watch for potentially meaningless phrases  like  “our environmental commitment.” Or “all-natural” – a particularly common greenwashing phrase, Greenopia contends. “It sounds great and brings to mind images of nature and bunnies, but arsenic, lead, uranium and all sorts of other lovely toxic elements are also completely 'all-natural'."  

Is the claim irrelevant? Some companies will make claims about their products that are true, but aren’t important or particularly helpful, Greenopia says.  An example: An insecticide supposedly “green” because it is free of DDT, a product that’s been banned in the United States for decades. 

And then there’s outright lying. Shocked?  “Too many people scrutinize 'green' claims for this to last,” Greenopia says, “but companies are still get caught fabricating information entirely to look good, because sometimes they can get away with it.” 

Stay tuned.