Are some hybrids just greenwashed?

Image Gallery: Hybrid Cars With carmakers more interested than ever in promoting fuel-efficient hybrid cars, it's important to look beyond the label. See more hybrid car pictures.
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Ah, nothing like going green -- and with so many green products on the market, it's easy. You can sweep out all of your toxic cleaning products for Earth-friendly ones and then…oops. The new products may be Earth-friendly, but they have more packaging than your old cleaning supplies. OK then, on to the grocery store, where there's organic asparagus, so you know no pesticides were used. Perfectly green, right? Right, except for the fact that the asparagus was flown in from New Zealand, and while it's green, transporting it to the U.S. definitely wasn't; that long flight spewed tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Some companies are more interested in making green than actually being green. Since more people are concerned with the environment, those companies are starting to greenwash their products to make them more attractive to shoppers with environmental concerns. What's greenwashing? It's an attempt to manipulate data or information so that a product or action looks more environmentally friendly than it actually is. While every choice we make has some environmental trade-offs, greenwashing is a willful misrepresentation with the goal of gaining the public's goodwill or increasing a company's profits.

A lot of companies engage in greenwashing, and carmakers are no exception. With gas prices on everyone's minds, people are looking for clean, fuel-efficient cars to go easy on the environment and their wallets. Automakers know this and, faced with dismal sales, want to capitalize on it. In order to do that, they exaggerate how environmentally friendly some of their cars are and outright cover up some of the damage so-called clean cars actually do to the Earth. As hybrid cars gain popularity, they've become fertile ground for all sorts of greenwashing. The most common types of greenwashing used on hybrid cars are "hidden trade-offs" and "lesser of two evils." We'll cover what those mean in more detail later.

Keep reading to find out which hybrid cars are truly green, and which ones just come in shades of green.