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Ken McEldowney is executive director of Consumer Action, a consumer education and advocacy nonprofit organization.

Consumers are faced with a dizzying array of eco-friendly marketing terminology — claims like “natural,” “recyclable,” and “green” are all over products in supermarket aisles. And surveys have shown that people, especially the under-40 set, are increasingly willing to pay more for products they perceive as sustainable. Unfortunately, many of these claims don’t pass the smell test.

One of the worst offenders when it comes to misleading consumers is the ubiquitous carton — that staple of packaging for everything from dairy and nut milks to wine. Many carton manufacturers claim their products are primarily plant-based and 100-percent recyclable, with a smaller carbon footprint and a commitment to emissions reduction. But while many of them may contain “plant-based” cardboard (so-called because it is made from paper, which is made from trees), they may also have plastic spouts and layers of plastic and aluminum, which makes them extremely difficult and expensive to recycle. (Some also tout “plant-based plastic,” which has al... Read more

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