As I mentioned in a post yesterday, I was able to swing by BoHo Bodega, a green pop-up shop in Manhattan, this past weekend. Strictly green retail stores and pop-up shops certainly aren’t an anomaly in Manhattan but BoHo Bodega was special: for its five-days-only run, all proceeds were donated to Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC). Inside the small store, it was a frenzied scene as New Yorkers bought bagfuls of green products — particularly home goods like toilet paper, paper towels, laundry supplies and bath products — at discounted prices. It was an encouraging example of green consumerism at its finest.

However, as I left BoHo Bodega with a stash of green goodies, I couldn’t help but think of all the discouraging news that’s been plaguing eco-minded consumers trying to make a difference around their homes. I’m referring specifically to a recent audit revealing that not all EnergyStar branded appliances are up to snuff efficiency-wise, news that SIGG and Gaiam’s aluminum water bottles are not, in fact, BPA-free, and an FTC ruling that bamboo-fabric textiles are treated so heavily with chemicals that they’re not actually bamboo anymore. Yikes. Damaging stuff.

So what should we do about this? Make all green household purchases through a filter of skepticism and doubt — if we weren't already? Stop trusting companies that claim their products are super efficient and chemical-free? Give up for a while and wait for all the controversies to clear? 

I say, keep at it. Don’t lose faith. But proceed with caution. Be selective. Ask questions. Do your research. All this reconnaissance work may seem like a lot of trouble just for the single purchase of, for example, a washing machine or a water bottle, but as these recent revelations have proven, sometimes blind trust just won't do it. 

Some good news: In terms of appliances and some other products, looking at independent, third-party green claims validations is one way to ease any doubts. Yesterday, LG announced that they are the first electronics and appliance manufacturer to submit their products to the new, innovative UL Environment Environmental Claims Validation program. The ULE program, launched in January by Underwriters Laboratories, is “aimed at providing guidance and clarity of environmental claims to both the consumer and manufacturer.” As part of yesterday’s announcement from LG it was revealed, as a result of ULE validation, that the LG SteamWasher uses a minimum of 50 percent less water and energy than EnergyStar requirements and that the LG LCD TV uses 70 percent less energy than required by EnergyStar.

Says Teddy Hwang, president of LG Electronics USA, in a press release:

Using this comprehensive UL Environment third-party testing program to validate environmental claims such as energy and water efficiency will instill further confidence in our products’ performance and will help maintain consumers’ confidence in voluntary programs such as Energy Star.
In June, ULE made its first claim validation after confirming that EcoRock, a green building material from Serious Materials — winners of the Wall Street Journal 2009 Technology Innovation Award for the Environment category — does indeed contain 80 percent recycled content, is mold-resistant, mercury-free, and emits low levels of VOCs. In August, ULE partnered with the NAHB Research Center to help building product manufacturers secure “Approved Green” product seals.

Does a third-party “green” claims validation process like ULE’s up your confidence levels despite the recent flood of disconcerting news? Would you feel more secure if even more programs like ULE were instated to complement programs like EnergyStar? 

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Who can you trust?
Feeling let down by the recent EnergyStar audit? A new 'green' claims validation program may help to ease doubts about future purchases.