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Seven Myths of Green Marketing that Stand Between You and Today’s Hottest Business Opportunity

The green marketplace represents lots of opportunity to make green but education –for marketers and for consumers alike, is key to tapping the potential it represents and avoiding indavertent greenwash.

According to the Natural Marketing Institute, 83% of U.S. adult claim to be at least some shade of green, ranging from the dark green “LOHAS” (Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability) consumers to “Conventionals” (the folks like me who fish aluminum soda cans out of the trash bin), to the lighter green “Drifters” who enjoy making the scene in the Whole Foods Market with cloth shopping bag in tow.  In the past few years, the market for green consumer products has mushroomed to $290 billion, representing now well-known brand names such as Stonyfield yogurt, Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, and of course, the iconic Toyota Prius. And major consumer product manufacturers are quickly snapping up pioneering sustainable brands such as Aveda (Estee Lauder), Green & Black’s (Kraft General Foods), and Burt’s Bees (Clorox).


But greenwashing is rampant. The fact that most of it is inadvertent points to the need to dispel longstanding myths of greening that persist among both marketers and consumers.


To take maximimum advantage of the opportunities greening represents, take a moment to get up to speed on the seven myths of green marketing that I describe in more depth in my new book, The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding, which are as follows:


Myth #1 Green products don’t work as well.

Fact: Method, Tide Coldwater, and Clorox’s Greenworks brand have been developed specifically to work as well or better than alternatives.  Mainstream consumers are attracted to these brands particular benefits of fragrance and design, saving money on energy bills, and safety in the home. These benefits are so potent, they typically take the lead in consumer communications.


Myth #2 Green products are more expensive.

Fact:  Thanks to economies of scale due to high volumes, many green products today are competitively priced versus "brown” counterparts; others often can make up for premium pricing many times over during their lifetimes due to savings on energy and water.  CFL light bulbs and hybrid cars are just two examples of products that can save money on energy/fuel despite costing more upfront. Ads for one Kenmore Washer even promises that money saved on water and electricity pays for the companion dryer.


Myth #3 Only specialty stores sell green products.

Fact: Major supermarkets now carry their own brand of organic products. Safeway for one, now has a 300- item USDA certified “O Organics” line, and Wal-Mart is quickly making “green” a priority for vendor selection.  Distribution in Target is one reason why the Method line of household cleaning and personal care products is growing so quickly, and Wal-mart now stocks the Seventh Generation brand.


Myth #4 Green products aren’t really “green".

Fact:  No product can be truly “green” since all products use resources and create waste. But products can be “greener,” denoting a continuum toward sustainability. Consumers understand this intuitively – and that’s why they are willing to cut favorite brands some slack when they are not environmentally perfect.


Myth #5 Natural products are more healthful.

Fact: Arsenic is a natural substance, yet deadly!  Even biobased or renewable products can have more environmental impact than synthetic ones, so a life cycle assessment of green products is a must for making greenest choices.


Myth #6 Compostable products and packages will degrade in landfills.

Fact:  No product, even those labeled “compostable,” will typically degrade in landfills. That’s because landfills are designed to be sealed off from the elements.  Compostables like the SunChips bags made from corn will only degrade in industrial composting facilities or in backyard composters at very high temperatures.


Myth #7 100% recycled products are better for the environment than 10% recycled products.

Fact: Depending upon how far recyclables must travel to recycling centers for processing (creating greenhouse gases in the process), products with 10% recycled content could actually be environmentally preferable to more recycled counterparts.  Ditto for organically grown produce: if it travels from California to New York, it might be preferable to buy the regular veggies from the local greenmarket.



Jacquelyn Ottman is an expert adviser on green marketing to Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. government.  She is the author of the just released, The New Rules of Green Marketing:  Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, February 2011), 252pp. $21.95








Jacquie Ottman is a pioneer in green marketing, who's been advising Fortune 500 companies and U.S. government ecolabeling programs (Energy Star and USDA Certified Biobased, among others) since 1989.

She's the author of 5 books on green marketing and… [Read more about Jacquelyn Ottman]

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