A Closer Look At "Green" Products

Correspondent Priya David and Terrachoice marketer Scot Case take a closer look at products labeled as being enviromentally friendly.
Go into any store these days and it's hard to miss all the "green" labels. By one count, manufacturers launched 328 supposedly environmentally friendly products last year, up from just 5 in 2002. CBS News correspondent Priya David looked into how well all those "green" claims really stand up.

Alberto Gonzalez opened a New York restaurant in the dead of winter in an economic slump, but incredibly, just three months later he's in the black....because he went green.

"We started Gusto Organics with the vision of bringing organics and sustainability to the mainstream," Gonzalez told David.

The food is 100% USDA organic, the furniture - recovered wood, the grill - energy efficient, the plastic - biodegradable, and the customers are excited.

"The food's good, the service is good and it is green which is very important to us," said customer Ed Williams.

The appetite for environmentally friendly products and services seems to be insatiable.
U.S. consumers are expected to double spending on green products next year to an estimated $500 billion dollars.

Scot Case of Terrachoice Marketing says the race for manufacturers to cash in on that demand has led to what he calls "greenwashing."

"Greenwashing," said Case, "is making a false or misleading environmental claim."

Case surveyed 1,018 product claims and only found one which satisfied his strict standards of having proof and being specific, transparent and relevant.

"What we're finding are a lot of generic claims: all natural," he said. "What the heck does that mean?"

"The claim here is that the product contains no CFC's," he said, showing one product to David.

"Which we have all heard are harmful to the ozone layer," she said.

"Absolutley," Case agreed, "but CFC's were actually banned in 1978."

"This one says 100% premium recycled," he said about another product, "there isn't any marking that this claim has been certified."

"This is a virtual tsunami of green marketing that cuts across almost every market sector," said James Kohm of the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC is responding by moving its review of packaging claims up by one year.

"We're concerned about the claims out there that are vague and the claims, quite frankly, that are untrue," said Kohm.

Case advises consumers to look for the certification by an outside auditor like Green Seal, EnergyStar or EcoLogo.

"This EcoLogo mark actually provides proof that the products are meeting a very tough environmental standard," said Case, "there are 34 pages of tests they have to pass."

"They come and audit absolutely everything we do," said Gonzalez, who welcomes the green standards at his restaurant and goes to great lengths to meet them.

For him, being green is not just for profit, but a promise he wants to keep.