A Down to Earth Day Quiz

You want to buy products that are good for the environment. But is grabbing the tree-covered package the way to do it? Take this quiz to test your “green” smarts:

  1. A product says it’s biodegradable. That should mean:
    1. it will completely break down in a landfill within five years
    2. it will completely break down in a landfill within 10 years
    3. it won’t be headed for a landfill
  1. A package says it’s recyclable. That means:
    1. everyone can recycle it
    2. you may or may not be able to recycle it
    3. it’s made of recycled materials
  1. You see a picture of a globe with the words "Earth Smart" on a product. That means:
    1. it’s good for the environment, so you’re good to go
    2. it has no environmental impact
    3. nothing, unless the package tells you more

Answers:

  1. c. it won’t be headed for a landfill. Even paper and food could take decades to decompose in landfills, which are designed to shut out sunlight, air, and moisture. A company shouldn’t say a product is degradable if the product is headed for a landfill, incinerator, or recycling center.
  1. b. you may or may not be able to recycle it. A company can say a product is recyclable or use the universal recycling symbol if most people who buy it can recycle it. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to recycle it where you live. Check with your city or county government.
  1. c. nothing, unless the package tells you more about why the product is good for the environment. Seals or certifications can be useful, but only if they’re backed up by solid standards and give you enough information to understand what they mean. A package also should tell you about any connections the company has to the organization behind the seal, if a connection might influence your opinion about it.

Want to know more? Read Shopping “Green” or visit ftc.gov/green.

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