Don’t Be Fooled by Green Scams: the 2013 Report

On Earth Day, it seems like everyone is trying to sell green products or eco-friendly companies. But some of these claims are just slick marketing: they’re green scams. Click on the images to view the slideshow, or scroll down for our report and news release. And cast your vote for the worst one!



View our news release here.

Download Executive Summary here [pdf].

Read and download the full text 30-page report

DON’T BE FOOLED 2013: Executive Summary

Green marketing isn’t a new trend. Countless books, experts, and seminars agree: advertising a product as earth-friendly, or a company as a good eco-citizen is a good way to stand out from the crowd. But with so much emphasis on marketing, it’s tough for green-minded citizens to shop their values — and that undermines the environmental movement. This year, on the day after Earth Day, The Green Life is releasing our annual “Don’t Be Fooled” report to call out the worst green scams.

Here are, in alphabetical order, the top 10 green scams from the past year:

Amazon: Despite FTC action ordering them to stop, Amazon continued selling rayon sheets labeled as “100% bamboo.”

Apple advertises the new Retina Macbook Pro laptop as “the world’s greenest,” but experts say it’s the “least repairable, least recyclable” computer in a decade.

Audubon International: certifier of golf courses under dubious standards, using the well-known name and bird logo, despite no affiliation with the Audubon Society

Canadian Tar Sands: the Canadian government spent millions to run ads calling tar sands oil extraction “responsible,” while undermining environmental protections

Kashi: Their cereal stretches the meaning of “all natural” with genetically-engineered ingredients.

McDonald’s & Marine Stewardship Council: a partnership to sell “sustainable” fish sandwiches, despite a murky record for protecting fish and wildlife

Organix: A hair-care brand. Most of their products aren’t organic.

SherwinWilliams: their Dutch Boy Refresh paint claimed to be “zero-VOC” – but most colors actually contained dangerous VOCs.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative: an industry-dominated group that greenwashes paper and wood

Two Sides: A paper industry group that pressures banks and utilities to stop offering paperless billing

15 thoughts on “Don’t Be Fooled by Green Scams: the 2013 Report

  1. Fisherman

    The Marine Stewardship Council started with noble ideals but has morphed into a self-serving bureaucracy that is much more interested in growing its size by signing up new fisheries than in maintaining consistent high standards. Worse, it has attempted throw its weight around in an attempt to dictate dubious policies to some of the best managed fisheries in the world. This has been most notable in Alaska, where the state Dept. of Fish & Game has earned global respect as the shining star of sustainable fisheries management. Alaska was so fed up with the MSC that they bailed out altogether and now use the international Food and Agriculture Organization’s Responsible Seafood Management program instead. So I wouldn’t put much stock in Macdonald’s affiliation with the MSC.

  2. Pam Murphy

    Jeff, I have worked in the environmental field my whole life and I think this list is joke. You should focus on things that you know something about. Two Sides is a very credible orgaization and they are actually preventing geenwashing by large corporations.

  3. Mary Cato

    could rank them also, although all should be ashamed (or prosecuted/penalized for fraudulent advertising, if govt/regulators had sufficient resources) – hard to choose for ‘worst’ between McD/MSC & Canadian tar sands – went with the tar sands

  4. Katie Hopkins

    Hi Jeff, Audubon International is actually one of over 500 organizations with “Audubon” in the name. In fact, the logo you have included is for a different organization called ISC Audubon. Our official name is the Audubon Society of New York State, and we started as one of the many independent chapters of the National Audubon Society. Presently we do business as Audubon International to reflect the scope of our programs. We have a number of environmental education programs, and we do certification to recognize the sustainability achievements of organizations, including golf, but also hotels, cemeteries, businesses, and communities. We are looking forward to your report, as we are always open to feedback in order to improve our programs and increase our transparency. In the meantime, please have a look around our website ( Hopefully that will clarify some things!

    1. Jeff Gang

      Hi Katie –
      Thanks for your feedback. When that graphic was prepared, we used the wrong logo, and referred to ISC-Audubon, not Audubon International. It’s been fixed, and I apologize. Our goof.
      Please take a look at our report for our analysis of Audubon International.

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