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These Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee plants are grown under natural shade created by native tree species on this Guatemalan coffee farm.

Dear EarthTalk: There are so many eco-labels out there these days. How can I tell which ones are valid and not just “greenwashing”? — Penny Rasmussen, Calumet, Minnesota

With countless products now available labeled as “eco-friendly,” “safe for the environment” or “organic,” it’s hard to know which ones are actually good for the planet. Many are legitimate, but lots of others feature deceptive or unsubstantiated claims. And even the legitimate labels vary a lot in meaning. Truly valid ecolabels are awarded by independent third parties, not the companies who sell products on which they’re featured. These days many companies are placing misleading claims and nonsense labels on their products to create the illusion of environmental friendliness, a practice known as “greenwashing.”

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