Everywhere you look, products are labeled "green." Most of the people Jane and I are friendly with seek to leverage their spending as part of a commitment to improving the environment (or at least, helping to stave off disaster). We jokingly refer to this as middle-class guilt. Marketers are, of course, aware of this trend in consumer thinking and seek to exploit it. I recently heard a term which describes this practice quite well... "Greenwashing."
The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices. This is often portrayed by changing the name or label of a product, to give the feeling of nature, for example putting an image of a forest on a bottle containing harmful chemicals. Environmentalists often use greenwashing to describe the actions of energy companies, which are traditionally the largest polluters. -- Source Wikipedia
This can also hold true for the issue of animal welfare. We've all seen egg cartons labeled "cage free," and you know what that means!
Cage-Free:As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as "cage-free" are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but generally do not have access to the outdoors. They have the ability to engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting, and spreading their wings. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no third-party auditing. -- Source HSUS
We should be saavy consumers. The EnviroMedia Greenwashing Index suggests that we look at a companies website and look for information on their environmentally sustainable practices. They also suggest running an internet search using the company name and "environmental." This should indicate if there are any serious concerns against that company. This can also hold true for those of us looking to purchase products that are animal-friendly, simply replace "environmental" with "animal welfare."
As our dollars seem to be buying less, I'm sure most of us want to make sure that when we spend a bit extra to do something good for the animals or the environment, that extra money is actually benefitting those causes!