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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is responsible for regulating advertising, has just revised its "Green Guide" to eco-labeling.
The FTC warns that:
- Explanations of specific attributes, even when true and substantiated, will not adequately qualify general environmental marketing claims if an advertisement’s context implies other deceptive claims.
- Marketers [are] not to imply that any specific benefit is significant if it is, in fact, negligible.
- If a qualified general claim conveys that a product is more environmentally beneficial overall because of the particular touted benefit, marketers should analyze trade-offs resulting from the benefit to substantiate this claim.
The FTC did this, according to The New York Times, to reduce the confusion caused by the proliferation of eco-labels.
In surveying consumers, the F.T.C. found that products that were promoted as "environmentally friendly" were perceived by consumers to have "specific and far-reaching" benefits, which, the government says, they often did not have.
"Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making these claims nearly impossible to substantiate," the commission said.
No wonder the public is confused. The Consumer Reports Greener Choices index of eco-labels goes on for pages, and the international EcoLabel index currently lists 432 icons and programs.
But the FTC guide says nothing about claims that a product is natural, organic, or sustainable.
"Natural" still has no regulatory definition. Of "natural," the FDA says:
From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.
"Organic" is defined by the USDA through its National Organic Program.
"Sustainable" has no regulatory definition.
Will the FTC's guide help alleviate confusion? Perhaps, if companies follow it.
Click here to see What Food Product Labels Really Mean
Beauty Brand Truly Organic Must Pay $1.76 Million for Making False Vegan Claims
Florida-based beauty brand Truly Organic must pay $1.76 million in a settlement it reached with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over making false claims. The FTC found that Truly Organic&rsquos ingredients did not match its &ldquoorganic&rdquo and &ldquovegan&rdquo labels, with some products containing non-organic ingredients, dairy-derived protein lactose, and honey. FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra explained during its hearing that Truly Organic&rsquos falsified claims harmed both consumers (who were looking to buy organic and animal-free products) and other beauty brands that truthfully make these claims. Truly Organic&mdashwhich sells its products at retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Ulta&mdashdid not admit nor deny the FTC&rsquos claims during the settlement proceedings. &ldquoThese kinds of lies are rare&mdashbut they do occur,&rdquo Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said. &ldquoMost company executives are either more ethical or more realistic about getting caught. We support the FTC&rsquos important work here, which is crucial for both consumers and animals.&rdquo
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What Does "Eco-Friendly" Actually Mean?
The term &ldquoeco-friendly&rdquo gets thrown around a lot &mdash you see it on labels for everything from sandwich bags to sheet sets. Since it&rsquos used so often, it can be hard to understand the importance of eco-friendly lifestyles and products. And if you aren't sure what the word truly means, there's a greater risk of being misled by companies claiming to be conscious of the environment.
According to Merriam-Webster, the official definition of eco-friendly is: &ldquonot environmentally harmful.&rdquo When it comes to products, that means everything from production to packaging needs to be safe for the environment. But here's where it gets tricky: The FTC Green Guides say that in order for a product to be properly labeled as eco-friendly, the packaging must explain why it is environmentally responsible. Otherwise, it might not even be safe for the environment based on how consumers actually use the product. These misleading marketing claims are often called "greenwashing" (keep reading for more on that topic).
We&rsquore passionate about all things sustainable at the Good Housekeeping Institute: Our team regularly evaluates products for the Green Good Housekeeping Seal, an emblem earned based on its environmental impact, and we recently wrapped up our third annual Raise the Green Bar sustainability summit and the launch of our first-ever Sustainable Packaging Awards. When we look at products in our labs, we assess them for safety, quality, ease of use, and more before sending them out to readers on our panel to test at home &mdash that's how you know you can trust our advice and recommendations. We're here to help you decode eco-friendly claims to make smarter decisions for your household and the environment.
A cheat sheet of "eco-friendly" terms
"Environmentally friendly," "eco-friendly," and "earth-friendly" are just other words for "not environmentally harmful."
"Green" is a "casual term that people use in exchange for any word relating to eco-consciousness," says Birnur Aral, Ph.D., Director of the GH Institute's Health, Beauty, and Environmental Sciences Lab. "It's a multi-faceted term, but it generally implies better practices for both the environment and the people involved." When we surveyed over 5,000 people from our consumer panel, we found that 65% think the word "green" is synonymous to environmentally friendly and eco-conscious.
"Sustainable" and "sustainability" can be defined in many ways, but it's generally "the practice of making sure we don&rsquot deplete the natural resources while maintaining a prospering economy for future generations," says Aral. "It is thought to have three pillars: people, planet, and profit. For a business, this means that ensuring the wealth of employees (and people related to that business) and minimizing or even reversing its environmental impacts should be as important as turning a profit for it to be sustainable in the long run."
Our environmental experts prefer to use the term &ldquosustainable&rdquo rather than eco-friendly. Why? When it comes to product production, everything has some sort of negative impact on the environment (think: water usage, energy and product waste, etc.), and that means there really aren't products that actually fit the definition of eco-friendly. Keep in mind, when we call something sustainable, it means that a single attribute is good for the environment &mdash not necessarily everything about the product.
How to spot (and avoid) greenwashing
Greenwashing is a term used for when a company deceptively puts eco-friendly claims (think: "environmentally friendly," "sustainable," or "green") on its product packaging. In most cases, they are broad claims without any support to back them up. Here are a few examples of deceptive claims to watch out for, according to our environmental experts:
- A bottle of laundry detergent is labeled&ldquofree of phosphates.&rdquo Since phosphates were removed from this type of product decades ago, any reputable detergent manufacturer has already phased out the ingredient. This is considered greenwashing because phosphate-free laundry detergents are already the norm.
- A comforter or sheet set is labeled&ldquoall natural.&rdquo While the product may be made with plant-based materials like bamboo, the raw materials go through a series of manufacturing processes that synthetically alters them. This claim is deceptive because &ldquoall-natural&rdquo suggests that the bedding came straight from nature. "There actually is no such thing as 'bamboo' fiber since it's really rayon," says Lexie Sachs, director of the GH Institute's Textiles Lab. "Plus, the process involves toxic chemicals that are dangerous to the workers, wildlife, and environment where it&rsquos produced."
- A yoga mat is labeled "biodegradable" or"recyclable." Because of the conditions at landfills, these materials won't break down quickly, and you can't recycle a yoga mat with curbside pickup or even bring them to a U.S. recycling center. These claims are considered greenwashing since they state an environmental benefit, but no meaningful benefit exists.
- A company displays an environmentally-friendly symbol that doesn't exist. Watch out for fake eco-friendly symbols created by brands. Even if a product has a green logo that says "earth friendly," it means nothing if the company designed it themselves. You can find more examples of misleading environmental claims in the FTC Green Guides.
How to find products that are truly eco-friendly
When it comes to products, there are ways to "make smart and educated decisions before you purchase something new," says Sabina Wizemann, senior chemist at the GH Institute's Health, Beauty, and Environmental Sciences Lab. That's where our rigorous testing comes in &mdash our experts help you find the products that actually work and are less harmful to the planet. "An effective product is less likely to be thrown away or replaced," which cuts down on waste, says Wizemann.
Look for products with established, third-party emblems like EcoCert Cosmos for organic cosmetics or Fair Trade Certified ingredients. Don't get greenwashed by products with false emblems and bold claims: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Below are the logos you can actually trust. They signify a certain aspect of the product is environmentally friendly:
A guide to shopping smartly and sustainably
Be mindful about how much you're buying.Above all, only buy what you need. A product requires a lot of energy and resources before it even gets into your home. If you buy fewer products, you'll lessen the impact on the environment via a lower demand for its production process. If you find that you're stocking up on barely-used products, it's time to reevaluate.
Buy second-hand textiles. For clothing and bedding products, the best way to live sustainably is by reusing products. &ldquoWhether you're sharing clothes with friends or buying from a site like eBay or ThredUp, giving a garment new life is more eco-friendly than creating something new," says Sachs. "That's still true even if an item has recycled or natural fibers, because of the amount of energy and water that's required in the textile production process.&rdquo
Opt for reusable items.Remember to bring reusable bags for produce and pantry items when you go shopping to cut down on plastic waste. Switching to reusable sandwich bags (our favorites are made by Stasher) and beeswax food wraps will help replace hundreds of single-use plastic baggies that would eventually end up in landfills and oceans. You can even be conscious of your effect on the environment with your single-serve espresso and coffee: Nespresso took a step in the right direction by making fully recyclable capsules.
If you must buy new, buy recycled. When shopping, look for sustainable fibers like Tencel and organic cotton. Tencel uses chemicals that are less toxic and less wasteful than those in similar fibers (like rayon), while organic cotton uses less water than conventional growing methods, explains Sachs. And avoid 'bamboo' fiber at all costs.
Use plant-based cleaners. "Look for products that contain safer ingredients, like plant-based cleaners and those with EPA Safer Choice certifications," says Carolyn Forte, director of the GH Institute's Home Care and Cleaning Products Lab. Even though ingredient transparency isn't required by law yet, more and more companies (like Seventh Generation) are choosing to list all ingredients in a product. This encourages companies to use more renewable resources that are better for the environment. Plus, people simply like to know what ingredients are in their products and where they come from.
Opt for concentrated cleaning and health products. The best option for the environment is cleaning concentrates that you can dilute with water in reusable containers, like Brandless Cleaning Concentrates. Forte says this helps eliminate excess packaging and waste.
Seek minimal packaging.Avoid products with secondary packaging and films. Instead, look for items with minimal packaging made of recycled materials (like cardboard and aluminum instead of plastic). For example, bar soaps are usually a great option because they often have little packaging and can be completely used. There are even toys (like the Green Toys Fire Truck) that are packaged with sustainable materials. To learn more about why we chose the below products, check out our Sustainable Packaging Awards.
Beware of These 5 Eco-Friendly Fast-Food Meals
Fast-food establishments touting eco-friendly fare have been soaring in popularity. It’s a misconception that all meals created with more-sustainable options are healthy — the nutrition still matters. Here are five meals offered by popular fast-food joints around the country that are anything but healthy, each followed by a menu choice that's a better bet.
This Virginia-based chain serves burgers made from grass-fed, free-range cows. One Elevation Burger (with two beef patties) with mushrooms, cheese and ketchup with a side of fries contains 1,165 calories, 63 grams of total fat, 20 grams of saturated fat, 96 grams of carbohydrates and 1,190 milligrams of sodium.
The Kid’s Burger (with one beef patty) with lettuce, tomato and Elevation Sauce — skip the fries, and drink water. This eco-friendly meal weighs in at 340 calories, 14 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 32 grams of carbohydrates and 590 milligrams of sodium.
Peet's coffee roasting plant is certified LEED Gold, which means it meets eco-friendly criteria. It also sells a variety of fair-trade and organic coffees. Order a large Milk Chocolate Almond Mocha made with almond milk and you’ll be guzzling 365 calories, 6 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 75 grams of carbohydrates and 335 milligrams of sodium.
There are plenty of hot or cold beverages that are eco-friendly and calorie-friendly. A large Cafe Americano has 5 calories, 6 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates and 0 milligrams of sodium. Add skim milk for an additional 22.5 calories.
This delicious Mexican chain offers pork, beef or chicken that’s naturally raised. According to the Chipotle website, this means that the animals were raised in a humane way, fed a vegetarian diet, never given hormones, and allowed to display their natural tendencies. Order a burrito filled with chicken, brown rice, black beans, cooked vegetables, fresh salsa, cheese and guacamole and you’ll be downing 870 calories, 45 grams of total fat, 11.5 grams of saturated fat, 72 grams of carbohydrates and 1,680 milligrams of sodium.
Enjoy your favorite fillings in a burrito, but ask for it to be sliced in half when ordering. Enjoy half the calories now and put half in a to-go container for later. You can also opt to split it with a friend.
With 23 locations throughout the United States and Canada, this fast-food chain offers a variety of proteins for your burger patty. Turkey, beef and chicken are more traditional choices, while lamb, elk, bison and ostrich are for the more adventurous type. Bareburger prides itself on serving organic foods and animals that are grass-fed, pasture-raised and antibiotic-free.
Order a Hog Wild Burger made from wild boar and topped with chickpea onions, fried egg, pickled green tomatoes and pimento cheese on a brioche bun and that’ll be 940 calories, 56 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 59 grams of carbohydrates and 1,570 milligrams of sodium.
Make your own burger with bison, queso fresco, wild mushroom, tomato and pico de gallo. That’s 470 calories, 38 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 19 grams of carbohydrates and 690 milligrams of sodium.
This bakery and sandwich chain touts the use of organic and local ingredients. Many of its locations contain green building elements like efficient appliances. You can find their calories alone on their menus, though not on their website. Based on the information on their Madison Avenue location in New York City, ordering a Basil Chicken & Mozzarella Tartine will set you back 720 calories.
The Kale Caesar Salad topped with grilled chicken is 430 to 440 calories and will help you reach your recommended daily servings for protein, veggies and carbs.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.
FTC Issues Advice on 'Eco' Claims - Recipes
Ryan Schuchard, Former Associate Director, Climate Change, BSR
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released its long-awaited draft guidance on environmental marketing. The so-called &ldquoGreen Guides&rdquo tell companies how to prevent misleading customers&mdashand avoid FTC actions against them.
Why now? The FTC says consumers are confused about environmental claims such as &ldquosustainable&rdquo or &ldquooffset,&rdquo which lack consistent rules for usage. In response, the FTC&rsquos proposed guidance does three things:
- Requires claims to be substantiated. Companies should communicate on specific issues for which they provide competent and reliable scientific evidence and avoid ambiguous umbrella terms like &ldquogreen&rdquo or &ldquoeco-friendly.&rdquo
- Prescribes action on targeted issues. While the FTC leaves methodology mostly to companies, it advises on a few issues where deception is rife and solutions are particularly obvious. For example, the guides say that if companies generate renewable energy onsite and then sell their environmental attributes separately, they shouldn&rsquot also say that they use that renewable energy themselves. Categories of specific advice include: certifications and seals, degradability, compostability, ozone-safe/ozone-friendly, recyclability, free-of/non-toxic, renewable materials, renewable energy, and carbon offsets. See the FTC&rsquos cheat sheet.
- Defines where to tread carefully. The FTC acknowledges that some issues are difficult to provide blanket guidance on. For example, life-cycle assessments and ecolabeling are complex and require context, while the determination of carbon offset quality may be better handled by agencies with more expertise. In cases where the FTC &ldquolacks sufficient information on which to base guidance,&rdquo it promises to analyze claims on a case-by-case basis.
What does this direction mean for business? I asked three individuals. Kevin Myette, director of product integrity at outdoor retailer REI, told me: &ldquoGuidance on green marketing claims has been extremely loose for years, and as a result, industry and marketers have operated virtually unchecked for too long. The FTC&rsquos action to further define the rules is not a bad thing as they are only asking for the truth.&rdquo
Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Erica Plambeck was similarly hopeful. She told me that the guidance &ldquowill increase incentives for retailers like Walmart to invest in the measurement of environmental performance and to provide detailed information about environmental performance to consumers. Transparency will lead to improvement.&rdquo
Finally, Dara O&rsquoRourke, founder of the Good Guide&mdasha product-rating initiative&mdashsaid that more FTC involvement isn&rsquot only good for consumers, but also for business. That&rsquos because &ldquothe more there is transparency, the more the leading firms will do well in the marketplace. It&rsquos a win for smart, thoughtful, progressive companies. This is basic &lsquoEcon 101&rsquo.&rdquo
What to do next: In the near term, leave any suggestions you have for finalizing the Green Guides below (with your name and affiliation) or contact me, and we&rsquoll aggregate and submit your suggestions to the FTC before the comment period closes on December 10.
Other Fitness and Weight Loss Products
Using an electronic muscle stimulator alone won’t work. You might have seen ads for electronic muscle stimulators claiming they will help you lose weight, or get rock-hard abs. But, according to the FDA, while these devices may temporarily strengthen, tone, or firm a muscle, they haven’t been shown to help you lose weight — or get those six-pack abs.
If you decide to join a gym, make sure you know what you’re agreeing to. Not all gym contracts are the same, so before you commit, read the contract and confirm that it includes everything the salesperson promised. Also find out if there’s a “cooling-off” or trial period, and check out the cancellation policy. Do you get a refund if you cancel? You also can look for reviews online from other clients to help you decide if you want to join that particular gym.
Home exercise equipment can be a great way to shape up — but only if you use it regularly. Some exercise equipment ads promise you can shape up and lose weight quickly and without much effort. The truth is that to get the benefits of exercise, you have to do the work. If you decide to buy exercise equipment for your home, first check out online reviews to see what other customers’ experiences have been. And find out the real cost of the equipment. Some companies advertise “three easy payments of $49.99,” but you have to consider taxes, shipping, and any other fees required to make the equipment work.
FDA, FTC Issue Warning Letters to 7 Companies for Coronavirus Claims
Silver Spring, MD—The FDA and FTC issued warning letters to seven companies for selling fraudulent COVID-19 products, according to a press announcement from FDA. The warning letters are the first to be issued by FDA for unapproved products intended to prevent or treat the coronavirus.
FDA, the release says, is concerned that products claiming to cure, treat, or prevent serious diseases like COVID-19 may cause consumers to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment.
The letters were issued to Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., Xephyr LLC doing business as N-Ergetics, GuruNanda LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC, and The Jim Bakker Show. The products cited in the letters are teas, essential oils, tinctures, and colloidal silver. The FDA and FTC have given the companies 48 hours to respond and describe the specific steps they have taken to correct the violations.
Related: Impact of Coronavirus on Supplement Industry “Very, Very Serious” Industry Warns Against Supplements Claiming to Treat Coronavirus NPA Urges FDA: Take Action Against Coronavirus Claims
FDA and FTC will continue to monitor social media, online marketplaces, and incoming complaints to help ensure that the companies do not continue to sell fraudulent products under a different company name or on another website. An FDA cross-agency task force has been established and dedicated to closely monitoring for fraudulent products related to COVID-19. The task force has reached out to major retailers to ask for their help in monitoring their online marketplaces to remove more than three dozen listings of fraudulent COVID-19 products.
FDA notes in their press release that there are currently no vaccines or drugs approved to treat or prevent COVID-19. There are investigational vaccines and treatments under development, but the products are in the early stages of product development and have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.
FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., said in the release: “The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health. We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one. We understand consumers are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and urge them to talk to their healthcare providers, as well as follow advice from other federal agencies about how to prevent the spread of this illness. We will continue to aggressively pursue those that place the public health at risk and hold bad actors accountable.”
FTC Chairman Joe Simons added: “There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus. What we don’t need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims. These warning letters are just the first step. We’re prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.”
Companies that sell products that fraudulently claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19 may be subject to legal action, including but not limited to seizure or injunction.
FTC Issues Advice on 'Eco' Claims - Recipes
It ain't easy being green -- or so the Federal Trade Commission hopes with its newly revised guidelines for labeling products as "eco-friendly."
The agency has made it much harder for businesses to legitimately slap green labels on their products, saying any claims need to be rooted in science or the agency may take action.
"In recent years, businesses have increasingly used 'green' marketing to capture consumers' attention," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz. "But what companies think green claims mean and what consumers really understand are sometimes two different things."
The new Green Guides advise companies that they will need "competent and reliable scientific evidence" to back up claims, along with recommendations for when to use words like "degradable" and "recyclable" in advertising and packaging. ("Degradable," for example, can only be employed if a product is capable of decomposing in a landfill within a year. To use the word "recyclable," the facilities needed to recycle it must be widely available &ndash as opposed to only available in a few places with very good recycling programs.)
Green Guides aren't enforceable as law, but the FTC can take action if it decides a company's marketing is unfair or deceptive. Generally this takes the form of a cease and desist order, which can then become a fine if violations continue.
"Most companies really do want to comply," Leibowitz said. "They want to sell products in an environmentally friendly way. But for those companies that don't, that fall on the wrong side of the final Green Guides, we're going to go after them."
The Green Guides were last updated in 1998, meaning until now there were no guidelines about using now-common phrases like "renewable materials" and "renewable energy." The proposed update suggests companies provide specifics.
Certifications and seals of approval make up an entire section of the proposed revision, versus one page in the 1998 guidelines. This is partly because there are now hundreds of certifications, many of which are created by companies themselves purely for marketing.
It's "really noise in the system and you really don't know if they're created by the brands themselves or they're third-party certification programs," Chris Nelson, director of global commercial development for UL Environment, told the Chicago Tribune. UL Environment certifies environmental marketing claims.
The FTC recently took action against three companies for environmental claims, including labeling paper plates biodegradable and saying that textiles made from bamboo were "environmentally friendly." The FTC says claims must reflect normal use, and while a lone plate left outside might degrade, the rest are more likely to end up in a landfill, where nothing degrades quickly. As for bamboo being environmentally friendly&mdashyes, it can be used to make rayon, which was the fabric in question, but the manufacturing process itself is hardly good for the environment.
Fraud alerts are available in different situations and have different benefits.
Who can place one: Anyone who suspects fraud can place a fraud alert on their credit report.
What it does: A fraud alert will make it harder for someone to open a new credit account in your name. A business must verify your identity before it issues new credit in your name.
When you place a fraud alert on your credit report, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus.
Duration: A fraud alert lasts one year. After a year, you can renew it.
How to place: Contact any one of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You don’t have to contact all three. The credit bureau you contact must tell the other two to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
Extended fraud alert
Who can place one: An extended fraud alert is only available to people who have had their identity stolen and completed an FTC identity theft report at IdentityTheft.gov or filed a police report.
What it does: Like a fraud alert, an extended fraud alert will make it harder for someone to open a new credit account in your name. A business must contact you before it issues new credit in your name.
When you place an extended fraud alert on your credit report, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus twice within one year from when you place the alert, which means you could review your credit report six times in a year.
In addition, the credit bureaus will take you off their marketing lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers for five years, unless you ask them not to.
Duration: An extended fraud alert lasts seven years.
How to place: Contact any one of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You don’t have to contact all three. The credit bureau you contact must tell the other two to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.
Active duty alert
Who can place one: Active duty service members can place an active duty fraud alert.
What it does: An active duty fraud alert will make it harder for someone to open a new credit account in your name. A business must verify your identity before it issues new credit in your name.
In addition, the credit bureaus will take you off their marketing lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers for two years, unless you ask them not to.
Duration: An active duty fraud alert lasts one year. After a year, you can renew it for the length of your deployment.
How to place: Contact any one of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You don’t have to contact all three. The credit bureau you contact must tell the other two to place an active duty fraud alert on your credit report.
Free credit monitoring for active duty service members
Active duty service members can get free electronic credit monitoring, which can detect problems that might be the result of identity theft. To sign up, contact each of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
1. Start small &mdash but start now.
One of the most important things to remember as you are transitioning into more sustainable living is little changes add up. And they can add up fast. So don't feel you have to overhaul everything all at once. Start with easy tweaks like switching to energy-saving light bulbs or drinking tap water instead of bottled (our environmental experts have assessed a wide range of water-testing kits to help boost your confidence), buying less overall, and being conscious about how you dispose of goods, from mattresses to clothing and beyond.
Check out the stories below for more ways to make daily efforts to live a sustainable lifestyle:
Hooked on Phonics Settles With FTC on Advertising Claims
Under an agreement disclosed this week between the makers of the reading program Hooked on Phonics and the Federal Trade Commission, the manufacturer must abandon its advertising campaign or conduct far more research into the program’s effectiveness--and disclose any evidence of failure.
Orange County-based Gateway Educational Products, maker of Hooked on Phonics, agreed to a settlement that bars the parent company from making unsubstantiated claims about the program’s ability to teach people to read. The settlement, which was signed Aug. 29, was made public Wednesday by the commission.
The FTC had charged that Gateway was making sweeping, unproven promises that the program could teach anyone to read, regardless of their limitations. Gateway admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, and will pay no penalty, said Christian S. White, acting director of the commission’s bureau of consumer protection.
“They offered a one-size-fits-all solution--you have reading problems, this is the product,” White said. “Gateway’s evidence just doesn’t back up these broad, sweeping claims.”
The claims, according to the commission, included statements that Hooked on Phonics can teach even those with reading problems, such as dyslexia that the product improves users’ reading levels and classroom grades significantly that it can teach reading at home, without a tutor that it teaches comprehension of the meaning of words, and that it has helped almost 1 million people learn to read at home.
The commission also said that testimonials by people who have taken the program are used misleadingly in commercials and do not prove that their experiences were typical of the average user, which is a violation of federal law.
Neither the commission nor Gateway would discuss specific steps that the company must take if it wants to continue its highly successful sales pitch. Gateway spent $35 million on advertising in 1993 and recorded $60 million in sales.
On Wednesday, Gateway released the results of a yearlong study of several first-grade classrooms in the Inglewood Unified School District. Although the results showed vast improvement in students’ reading skills, the FTC apparently did not find the results adequate to support Gateway’s broad claims of success.
In addition to calling for more research to back up Gateway’s marketing campaign, the settlement requires the company to make available to FTC officials all research findings, including complaints from consumers, “that contradict, qualify or call into question” its claims.
Hooked on Phonics emphasizes identifying sounds with letter symbols. It is made up of coordinated workbooks, cassette tapes and flash cards. The learner listens to the tape while following in the book to hear the correct pronunciation of letters and words. The program kit costs about $230.
Some reading experts are not so sure that the program is as effective as testimonials claim.
Alan Farstrup, executive director of the International Reading Assn. in Newark, Del.--a not-for-profit education group--said he is concerned that the program overstates its benefits as it makes its money from illiterate people who tend to be poor.
Gateway officials released a statement Wednesday.
“The Federal Trade Commission has not challenged the effectiveness of the Hooked on Phonics program in helping large numbers of consumers, including those appearing in its advertisements,” read the statement. “Gateway has worked out advertising ground rules with the FTC to which we are strongly committed.” The officials refused further comment.