Defining “green” products

When a consumer goes shopping, there are many products that claim to be “green.” Unfortunately, what exactly this means is unclear and may be just plain wrong. This process, which has come to be known as “greenwashing,” might be limited once the Federal Trade Commission develops new guidelines:

The guides originally were developed in 1992 and last updated in 1998. For the past two years the FTC has worked to revise them to account for consumers’ increased interest in environmentally conscious products and product-makers’ increasingly noisy marketing claims, a practice that’s come to be known as “greenwashing.”…

Some companies have complained in the past that the government did not strictly enforce the existing Green Guides, leading to more consumer confusion. So the more specific rules are welcome.

If these new guidelines are enacted soon, consumers may discover fewer “green” products on the shelves.

While it may not be the most ethical activity, is it a surprise that numerous companies have claimed to have “green” products when these sorts of items draw extra attention from some consumers?

The noisy biodegradable SunChips bag dies a quiet death

The biodegradable SunChips bag has been pulled from the market because it is not convenient enough for customers. The issue? It is too noisy:

The noise of the bag — due to an unusual molecular structure that makes the bag more rigid — has been compared to everything from lawnmowers to jet engines. There’s even an active Facebook group with more than 44,000 friends that goes by the name of “Sorry But I Can’t Hear You Over This SunChips Bag.”

“Clearly, we’d received consumer feedback that it was noisy,” says Aurora Gonzalez, a Frito-Lay spokeswoman. “We recognized from the beginning that the bag felt, looked and sounded different.”

The bag illustrates the sometimes unexpected bumps that can trip up companies trying to do the right thing environmentally. SunChips sales have declined more than 11% over the past 52 weeks (excluding Wal-Mart, which doesn’t share its data), reports SymphonyIRI Group, the market research specialist.

A little noise doesn’t seem to be a bad price for having a compostable bag. If products have to be convenient to be successfully green, then one might suggest many consumers aren’t terribly serious about being green.

Also, what is with the journalistic trend of using the size of certain Facebook groups to lend weight to certain “movements”? “Even” 44,000 Facebook users are against the product – is the company reacting to this group or other consumer pressure or data?