It's non-toxic, biodegradable and all-natural. Its manufacture is energy-efficient. It's the ultimate in eco-clothing.

The fur coat.

According to the Fur Council of Canada — fur, like organic lettuce and solar power, is green.

The furs that are green are abundant, and never from endangered species, said Alan Herscovici, executive vice president of the nonprofit industry group.

Fur farms use leftovers from the human food supply, and the harvest of wild fur is crucial to maintaining ecological equilibrium.

"Too many beavers can cause flooding and too many foxes can decimate the songbird population," Herscovici said.

As for the alternative — synthetic fur — it's made from non-biodegradable petrochemicals.

Green sells. So, whether it's chocolates, eco-travel or a full-length mink or muskrat coat, more manufacturers are labeling their products as environment-friendly or "green" in an effort to broaden appeal and boost sales.

But all that glistens is not green, said Ted Martens with Sustainable Travel International, a nonprofit group that promotes eco-friendly travel.

"Unfortunately, too many people are taking the green name and running with it for marketing purposes," said Martens, the group's director of outreach and development.

Surrounded by all that is verdant, it's no wonder we're confused: Who determines what is green? And how do you evaluate whether a product or service really is green?

"It's a bit of a stretch to say that wearing fur is going to help the environment," said Bruce Cox, executive director of Greenpeace Canada, commenting on the fur council's campaign — www.furisgreen.com. "They present this idea that they are the stewards of the environment. There's a good chance the coat the model is wearing was a farm-raised fur that was electrocuted. I don't think a lot of people actually buy the message."

Is there a soldier of fortune on your gift list?

BAE Systems in Arlington, VA., is developing "green" armaments, including lead-free bullets and a hybrid electric drive system for combat vehicles as part of the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems program.

"Anybody can make a green claim; it's up to the consumer to understand what that claim means and to decide if they want to do business with that company," said Scot Case, vice president of TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Group, located in Reading, Pa.

More than 30 million Americans are "true Greens who regularly buy green products" according to Mintel International Group, a Chicago market research company.

As a result, everything from furniture polish to sexual aids (no potentially harmful phthalates) are suddenly turning "green."

Greenwashing — the act of misleading consumers into believing that a company's environmental practices or its product or services are environment-friendly — is pervasive, Case said.

Inaccurate, unsubstantiated and vague claims are common green-washing ploys, as is the "hidden-trade-off," a marketing strategy that boasts a product's environment-friendly attributes, but fails to mention its drawbacks, "such as an appliance that is said to be energy-efficient, but is full of mercury," Case said.