Green (i.e. environmentally friendly) products are no longer on the fringes of consumer options. They’re mainstream. In fact, “being green” has turned into such a marketing plus that companies are using green language to promote products that aren’t at all environmentally sound. As a result, consumer groups and government bodies are working to combat fraudulent greenness.

How can you tell if your “green” product isn’t green at all? You can begin by being aware of the six sins of greenwashing (how long before greenwashing makes the dictionaries?). Those sins are pretty obvious when you think about them. They all deal with either deceptive claims or hidden tradeoffs/consequences.

For example, terms like “non-toxic,” “all-natural” and “chemical-free” are meaningless without clarification. Everything is natural. Also, in many product categories “going green” is of little or marginal benefit. Organic cigarettes don’t really pollute the air any less than regular ones and green lawn-care chemicals are still bad for the environment.

For those who want to make environmentally sound consumer decisions, understanding what is and what really isn’t beneficial is of great importance. Green consumers should take the time to make sure they really understand the products they’re buying.