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In the not-too-distant past, environmental product labels were almost universally suspect. Advertising claims and product labels commonly included such meaningless terms as “eco-friendly,” “green,” and “all natural.” However, regulation and oversight, coupled with initiatives to quantify and verify product attributes, have given consumers a means of confirming claims of marketers. Three developments, in particular, stand out:

• Product certification backed by independent third-party verification was introduced for many types of products.

• The advent of the internet permitted easy access to information of all kinds.

• Life cycle assessment, a method of systematically evaluating environmental performance across a wide array of impact categories, brought integrity to determination of environmental impact and allowed development of new information portals for consumer use.

This report examines environmental product labels (ecolabels), types of labels, verification of label claims, and cautions for consumers. Labels focused on various aspects of social responsibility are also discussed.

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