Efforts to go green are becoming more and more widespread, and one place that's evident is on supermarket and department store shelves. Nowadays, labels on foods and other household products often display seals and certifications vouching for their eco-friendliness, but what do those emblems mean and which ones can you trust?
As the growth of green products outpaces the labeling systems, there have been many attempts to create well-known labels, but it can take a huge, well-known organization like the federal government to make a successful program. Jen Boulden, co-founder of Green Web site IdealBite.com shares some reputable certifications that let you know a product is environmentally sound:
Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, and in 2006 alone, Americans saved enough energy with the help of Energy Star to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars — all while saving $14 billion on their utility bills.
Energy Star qualified bulbs use about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. They can save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime, and produce about 75% less heat, so they're safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.
Home electronic products use energy when they're off to power features like clock displays and remote controls. Those that have earned the Energy Star certification use as much as 50% less energy to perform these functions, while providing the same performance at the same price as less-efficient models. Less energy means you pay less on your energy bill. Visit www.energystar.gov for more on these standards.
The Organic Foods Production Act and the National Organic Program (NOP) are intended to assure consumers that the organic foods they purchase are produced, processed, and certified to consistent national organic standards. The labeling requirements of the new program apply to raw, fresh products and processed foods that contain organic ingredients.
It also means no pesticides and fertilizers, no genetic engineering, no irradiation and sewage sludge are allowed for use in production. And if we are talking about animal products, the animal must eat all organic food, and cannot receive growth hormones or antibiotics.
To use the term ‘organic’ a product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. To use the words ‘made with organic ingredients’ a product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. And any product with less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the word organic on the front of the package, but can list out each ingredient that is organic on the side or the back. For more information, visit www.ams.usda.gov.
Fair Trade Certified
The Fair Trade Certified mark guarantees consumers that strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of an agricultural product. Fair Trade Certification is currently available in the U.S. for coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, flowers, sugar, rice, and vanilla. TransFair USA licenses companies to display the Fair Trade Certified label on products that meet strict international Fair Trade standards.
Fair Trade Certification empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms and communities, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace. It's usually associated with "green products" because being kind to the earth and the earth's people go hand in hand. It's the notion of "consuming with a conscious."
Also, a lot of Fair Trade products are also usually organic because the fair trade cooperatives want to ensure the health of the farmers and the land, and so therefore they aren't working with lots of pesticides and other chemicals. For more information, visit, www.transfairusa.org.
Forest Stewardship Council
Forest certification enables consumers to make informed choices when selecting wood and other forest products. The Forest Stewardship Council, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is the global and national leader in the independent certification of forests managed to exemplary standards covering environmental, social and economic issues.
FSC promotes responsible forest management through a third-party certification program that is used as a market-based tool for ensuring that the world's forests are protected for future generations. By selecting products with the FSC label, consumers can "vote with their wallets" by supporting forest products that have come from well-managed forests. There are currently more than 67 million acres of FSC-certified forestland in North America and more than 225 million acres globally. Further information about FSC-US can be found at www.fscus.org.