Deciphering markets’ new eco-friendly labels

Deciphering markets’ new eco-friendly labels

How to locate which products are actually ‘green,’ environmentally sound

Updated: 4:56 p.m. ET July 26, 2007

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?  

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 shares some reputable certifications that let you know a
product is environmentally sound:

Energy Star
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.

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.

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 for more on these standards.

USDA Organic
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.

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.

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

Fair Trade Certified
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.

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

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,

Forest Stewardship Council
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.

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