It's called "greenwashing" and the problem is rampant. More than 95 percent of consumer products claiming to be "green" are misleading, according to the environmental marketing agency TerraChoice.
The three biggest culprits are children's toys and baby products, cosmetics and cleaning products.
TerraChoice found 73 percent more "green" products today than in 2009. The industry is growing so fast it confuses some of the most intelligent consumers.
Sarah Steenblink has two young children and is constantly disinfecting her home. Taking action for you ABC 4's Noah Bond gave the seasoned shopper a "green" label test.
First we showed her a green works product. "I see a very clear simple label," said Steenblink. The label claims the product contains "natural compostable cleaning wipes". "It'll decompose right? It's biodegradable?" said Steenblink.
Bond called Clorox to ask how long it would take the wipes to decompose. Clorox could not respond with an answer and there is no information on the company's website. "Natural compostable cleaning wipes" is a claim with no clear backing and don't expect the product to stop germs from spreading.
Bond found this recorded statement on a Clorox answering service, "Currently our green works products do not disinfect. Our scientists are focused on evaluating natural disinfecting ingredients and we hope to incorporate disinfecting into green works cleaners in the future."
"What do you think about even buying something like this?" Bond asked Steenblink. "I probably wouldn't. I feel like for three dollars I can buy what I know works," she replied.
Question number two takes us to Palmolive Gel Dishwasher detergent. Bond points to a product and asks, "What comes to mind when you see this right here Eco-plus?" Steenblink answered, "I would say earth friendly. Good for the environment."
The product is free of phosphates known to remove oxygen from water sources, but one ingredient is sulfuric acid or what you would find in acid rain.
The Federal Trade Commission, responsible for regulating the products consumers buy, is concerned about broad statements like environmentally friendly or eco-friendly.
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said, "In recent years, businesses have increasingly used 'green' marketing to capture consumers attention and move Americans toward a more environmentally friendly future, but what consumers think 'green' claims mean and what consumers really understand are sometimes two different things."
Sarah says she'll be even more skeptical of green labels. "You don't take them at face value?" Bond asked. "I don't. Maybe it's the old school in me," said Steenblink.
ABC 4 viewers have until Friday to tell corporations what kind of labels they want to see on "green" products. The Federal Trade Commission is turning to you for advice before it clamps down with new regulations.
Clink on the link next to this story to submit your comments.