Green Products? How Do You Really Know?

  • Green Seals of Approval

    Green products can be plastered with various labels, but what do they mean and are they worth it?  Here’s what you need to know about some of the seals you’re likely to see next time you’re at the grocery store.Photo Credit: TheTruthAbout...
    Energy Star
  • Energy Star

    For an appliance to qualify as an Energy Star certified product, it has to use new technologies that mean 10% to 50% in energy and water savings compared with regular versions of the appliance, according to the joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. For example, an Energy Star Certified fridge or freezer that’s 36 inches high or smaller with less than 7.75 cubic feet in volume has to be at least 20% more efficient than federal standards using certain Energy Star formulas for calculation. Photo Credit: tom.arthur
    USDA Organic
  • USDA Organic

    Despite the recession, organic food seems to be all the rage. Even Wal-Mart has pushed its own line of organic products.  But products labeled “USDA Organic” don’t necessarily have to have all-organic ingredients to get the label. According to the USDA, “organic” foods can contain as much as 5% non-organic ingredients not counting added water and salt. The ingredients that are organic have to be listed as such in the ingredients list. Products that are 100% organic will likely be labeled as such. Products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients can be labeled “Made with Organic” ingredients and products with less than 70% organic ingredients can include “some organic ingredients on their label. Photo Credit: USDA Agricultural Marketing Service
    Smart Choices
  • Smart Choices

    The Smart Choices label is meant to identify healthful foods for consumers on the go who may not have the time to inspect all nutrition facts and ingredients. To get the label, products have to have limited total fat, saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and sodium, according to the Smart Choices program. They should also contain beneficial ingredients like vitamins and fiber.Photo Credit: Smart Choices
    Fair Trade Certified
  • Fair Trade Certified

    First of all, it’s important to note that Fair Trade certification is only available in the U.S. for coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, flowers, sugar, rice and vanilla. The label identifies goods produced by “democratically organized farmer groups [who] receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products,” according to TransFair USA, a group belonging to Fairtrade Labeling Organizations, an international organization. In addition, companies producing fair trade-labeled products have to ensure that workers have fair labor conditions like safe working conditions, living wages and no child labor. “Importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace,” Transfair explains. “Additionally, agrochemicals and genetically modified organisms are strictly prohibited,” the group notes. Photo Credit: TransFair USA
    Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified

    This certification means a product was developed and produced with its ecological, economic and social impact in mind. The Rainforest Alliance is a New York-based organization hoping to help improve consumer and company behavior to help promote environmental sustainability. The Alliance scopes out and monitors farms and their practices that ensure conservation of water, wildlife and the ecosystem and that workers are fairly treated, among other standards. Photo Credit: Rainforest Alliance
    Design for the Environment
  • Design for the Environment

    It may not be easy for a product to get the Design for the Environment or DfE label. The EPA’s seasoned chemists look at all of a product’s ingredients, considers their impact on all animal and plant life and compares the products to similar ones on the market.  Only the best products in their class with the safest ingredients get the DfE seal. The products “are inherently safer or do not irritate sensitive skin … break down quickly and do not harm fish or are safer for use around family pets,” the EPA says. Photo Credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
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