Is it green enough?

Vol. 43 No. 4

Lisa Comer is a senior attorney in the Office of Policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and has been employed by the EPA for over twenty years in various capacities including environmental policy and enforcement counsel. The findings and conclusions expressed in this article represent the author’s personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect past, current, or anticipated EPA or federal policy. This article intends to offer a rather simplified picture of a very complicated green products marketplace.

Over the last two decades, the U.S. green products marketplace has become a confounding place for manufacturers, retailers, standard-setters, institutional purchasers, and consumers, alike. A multitude of players, hundreds of labels, and exhausting claims all color the “green” world a confusing shade of grey, creating a nearly impenetrable and entangled space. The resounding question for any interested buyer is: “What is a green product—and how can I tell?” For manufacturers or retailers, the complexity in this space is equally telling. The absence of a widely accepted definition for green and the myriad of associated standards and labels spell out uncertainty in the manufacturing of and investment in green products. Recognizing that all products, no matter how green, impact the planet in some way, achieving clarity around choosing the “right” green product for both consumers and companies is not a simple task.

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