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BBB warns consumers of 'greenwashing' ahead of Earth Day

The Federal Trade Commission says greenwashing is a tactic to mislead consumers into thinking a product is environmentally-friendly. Buzz words like "free of", "non-toxic" or "ozone-friendly" need to be investigated. (CBS Austin)

Austin is one of the greenest cities in the country but before you pledge to protect the planet, the Better Business Bureau has a warning.

"How do you tell? How do you tell? You can look on their website but you don't really know do you," said one Austin woman riding her bicycle downtown.

Finding earth-friendly products is no sweat in a city that strives to "go green".

BBB Regional Director Adam Price says Earth Day on Saturday, April 22nd may be the hook, just don't get snagged.

"Every company will strike when the iron is hot," said Price. "Consumers are paying a premium for things they think is better for the environment. In reality often times it's not."

The Federal Trade Commission says greenwashing is a tactic to mislead consumers into thinking a product is environmentally-friendly.

Buzz words like "free of", "non-toxic" or "ozone-friendly" need to be investigated.

"What does that mean? If it says non-toxic? Does that mean for people or the environment?" says Price who offers questions consumers need to ask.

Even a recycle symbol doesn't tell you how much of the product is made from recycled material or if a product is biodegradable or compostable, the company should have proof that it will break down completely.

The FTC can fine a company for making a false claim and has conducted crackdowns in the past, but sometimes a product has to be proven to be harmful to your health.

"It's a very grey area because there's so much advertising out there," said Price.

Advertise honestly is one of the BBB's core values and they want companies who promise to protect the environment to deliver.

"You have to do your homework first. You can't just believe a seal that's on a website or on the back of a package and take it on face value," said Price.

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