What does “green” mean?



We hear terms like “green,” “sustainable,” “recycled,” and “environmentally friendly” an awful lot, along with several of their avatars. They’re trendy buzzwords, like “natural” or “low-fat.”

But those shouldn’t just be buzzwords. They should actually mean things — specific, definable things. The promotional product industry is one step closer to that mark with the revised guidelines now out from the US’s Federal Trade Commission. Marketers and promotional product suppliers and manufacturers now have greater clarity — and greater restrictions — on just what they can and cannot say. Failure to comply with the FTC guidelines can result in fines. It’s an excellent step forward.

What does this mean in practical terms? Well, for example, think of the number of carrier or tote bags you’ve seen that have been stamped “recyclable” or had tags that said “Recycle me!” While these may be technically recyclable, the proper recycling facilities are often not readily accessible to the average consumer — so the statement is misleading. These types of bags (non-woven, plastic) do not, in fact, meet the FTC Guidelines for environmental marketing, and misleading consumers about them could be grounds for a fine.

The same standards are applied to terms like “eco-friendly” or “earth-friendly”. Moving forward, suppliers and distributors can no longer use these terms to make vague statements about the environmental attributes of a product.

One step closer to “Say it like you mean it.”

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