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'Don't Be Fooled' Reveals Top 10 Greenwashers

Earthday Resources for Living Green and ecopledge.com celebrated April Fool’s Day by releasing their 10th annual "Don’t Be Fooled" report, documenting "misleading advertising by companies polluting the planet."

This year’s report names 10 companies and coalitions, ranging from oil to biotechnology companies, attempting to create the image of environmental friendliness while diverting attention from their poor environmental track records and recent misdeeds. The report also contains a brief explanation and history of greenwashing, a look at how organizations like the Federal Trade Commission are combating misleading claims, and tips for consumers to use when making everyday purchases.

"It’s like the Jetsons meet the Flintstones," says Rachel Heller, coordinator for Earthday Resources. "We have fossil fuel dinosaurs and new age biotech companies painting their selves green to cover their poor environmental records. "They are taking advantage of the concerns consumers have for our health and for the planet."

"Greenwash" is defined in the 10th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as the "disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image." Its inclusion in the dictionary indicates the significance and permanence of a growing trend among corporations to take advantage of the many consumers who look for products with little environmental impact. Increasingly, Americans are basing their purchasing decisions on the environmental and social impacts of products and manufacturers. According to LOHAS Journal, a trade magazine, this growing market represented $546 billion globally and $226.8 billion in the U.S. in 2000.

One greenwashing example cited by the report is Kraft Foods, which advertises "luscious, natural ingredients" in its "Selects" line cereals. One of these cereals was found to contain genetically modified organisms, which have unknown environmental and health risks and frequently go untested. "Advertising genetically modified food as natural is misleading to consumers," says the report.

"Consumers need to beware of false claims and demand that companies make changes to lessen their impact on the environment," says Heller. "Corporations cannot hide the truth behind millions of dollars of advertising. We will continue to inform the public of which companies are hurting the environment and which ones are helping it."

To obtain a copy of "Don’t Be Fooled," call Earthday Resources for Living Green at 877-EARTH-46 or visit www.earthdayresources.org.

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