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Bankrate's 2007 Living Green, Saving Green Guide
Fact & fiction
Many truths and untruths are circulating. What's true?
Fact & fiction
Products hyped as 'green' often fall short
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When green isn't green
The differing definitions of green can sometimes cause green advocates to battle over what is really green or what is greener. One case in study is ethanol, which has recently been touted as a cleaner and greener fuel that cannot only help save the environment but can help wean the United States off foreign oil. But Todd Larsen, corporate responsibility programs director for Co-op America, says ethanol isn't really a green solution. Millions of acres of land, argues Larsen, would need to be cleared to plant more corn, more environmental damage would occur from the run-off from fields and a food crop would be diverted to energy. It would ultimately raise the price of corn, he adds, putting pressure on the world's poor that won't be able to afford a major staple of their diet.

If each of the 1.7 million rental cars in the U.S. were a hybrid, more than 9 million gallons of gasoline would be saved -- every time the tanks are filled.

"A true green solution (or greener solution) would be to increase the fuel efficiency of the cars and create more hybrids and plug-in vehicles," says Larsen.

The demand for more fuel-efficient cars has significantly increased in the past couple of years but may be due more to the increased price of gas than consumers' desires to leave a smaller "footprint." Nevertheless, automakers have been eager to respond by promoting and advertising more fuel efficient vehicles. Green advocates all agree that as demand for green products and services increases, so will the supply.

But at times, there appears to be greenwashing even within the green community itself. Al Gore, one of the leaders of the environmental movement, has been criticized for his nongreen policies when he pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement while serving as vice president. The agreement opened the door to some of the unfair trade practices which many green organizations are speaking out against today. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, for example, offers report cards on greenwashing organizations that try to mask testing products on animals. Meanwhile, PETA also has its critics, who say that the organization kills more animals (through euthanasia) than it helps.

Ethanol isn't a 'green' solution -- it would mean clearing millions of acres of land, create pollution from run-off and deprive the world's hungry.

It might also be a fair observation to say that nothing in the civilized world is truly green. Those that live the hardcore green lifestyle note that no matter how green a product may be, chances are it is shipped to stores on smoke-belching trucks and handled by underpaid workers at some point in the supply chain. Within the green realm are certain levels of greenness that range from buying a compact fluorescent light bulb to living strictly off solar power, boycotting big chain retailers and riding a bicycle.

Using 'green' to make green
Oil companies are far from being the only greenwashers. Everyone from big-box retailers to small service providers and corner stores use the tactic to cater to a greener market. Large corporations may be reluctant to change their ways because of the costs involved, but as more consumers demand green products, going green can also be good for profits. Shepp says green values can coexist with the pursuit of profit.

-- Posted: Oct. 4, 2007
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