Consumer empowerment: Helping shoppers to buy green [Archived]


As pressure mounts to lead sustainable lifestyles, policymakers and companies alike are mulling new ways of encouraging shoppers to buy green. But consumer groups warned against confronting shoppers with too much information and warned that companies' green claims are often not independently verified. 

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The European Commission wants to convince consumers that making an effort to protect the environment can benefit their pockets as well as the planet.

In 2012, the EU executive is planning to table policy recommendations on consumer empowerment in the EU, which are expected to focus on product labelling.

Private housing and transport have been singled out in Brussels as areas where consumers can help to protect the environment.

Consumers can contribute by insulating their buildings or installing solar panels or requiring electricity produced by renewable energy sources. They can also change their fuel-powered cars for electric ones or turn to energy-efficient heating systems and appliances. 

But with growing numbers of companies touting a wide variety of green claims, consumer groups warn that it is becoming increasingly difficult to know who to trust.

And in any case, many simply cannot afford the luxury of buying 'green' products which often tend to be more expensive.

More generally, others warn that consumers should not be expected to take all the responsibility as they may lack the time or the motivation to check all the information made available to them.