‘Eco-friendly’ this, ‘green living’ that, ‘carbon footprint’ the other. There is a near-overwhelming amount of environment-related discourse in today’s culture, and it’s easy to become confused between fact and opinion. Marketers love to promote products as good for the environment, but more often than not they use terms which are not even regulated with little accountability.
But first you have to ask yourselves these questions:
1. Can I get along without it? There’s an environmental cost to every product. Reusing current items is often the most eco-friendly strategy.
2. Can I make it myself? Many cleaning products, for example, can be made at home from common ingredients like baking soda and vinegar.
3. Can I buy it used? Buying second-hand clothing, cars or computers avoids the eco-costs of manufacturing new ones. Check yard sales or classified advertisements on Internet sites like Craigslist. The Freecycle Network, a Web site connecting people by region, facilitates passing on used items for free.
A good clue to give you further confident that the product is not what it claims is when you see the word ‘refined’. For example, you spot a tub of coconut oil that claims to be 100% organic and then in tiny letters has the word ‘refined’. Refined essentially means it was modified: usually chemically. At the very least, it is diluted with something else, so you’re getting a really washed-down version of the product. At the very worse, you’re getting other things added in: things which completely impair the quality of the product.
So, consumers beware, and start to become obsessed with food labels (the small print, not the marketing on the front) so that you’ll make better purchases and get the best for your buck.
How to Tell if a Product is Eco-Friendly?
That being said, there are ways to tell eco-friendly products from the others. In all instances, the overall quality of a product can only be determined by a seal or logo from an objective organization that has carried out quality tests and deemed it worthy of passing such a test.
Thus, with regards to eco-friendly products, all you have to do is examine the item and look for a seal or logo from someone who isn’t the company. Here are some you should look out for:
1.Focus on Specific Claims
A good place to start is by looking at the claims the company makes about their product—whether that’s on their website, in their advertisements, or on the packaging of the product itself. Pay special attention to how detailed and specific they are. It’s easy to claim that a product is “green” or “all natural,” but broad statements like that don’t really mean anything when you get right down to it. If, on the other hand, a product is advertised as being made from 100% recycled material, that’s a very specific detail—one that’s much easier to trust.
2.Look for Official Certifications/Labels
One of the most reliable ways to judge a company’s eco-friendliness is to see how it’s been judged by reputable third-party organizations. Check their website or the label of the product itself for green certifications. In particular, look for Energy Star (for energy efficiency), USDA Organic Seal (for organic products), Forest Stewardship Council (for products made from trees in responsibly managed forests), and Green Seal (for general sustainability). we will explain what each organization do:
- Energy Star
Energy Star is a blue and white logo that is given by an organization of the same name. It is a voluntary program that is actually an offshoot of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You’re not going to see energy star on an eco-friendly clothes item. It’s only for products which use energy, such as electrical appliances. As such, you know that the product you’re buying is energy efficient if it has the energy star logo on it.
- USDA Organic Seal
Despite the fact that many companies can display the word organic on their packaging without getting penalized by the USDA if they follow the (too loose) guidelines, a USDA organic seal means that it certified as organic. Companies which haven’t certified their product can’t place the word on the principle display panel, but they get around this by placing it just at the edge of it in big, bold letters. Only products certified as organic can display the seal, so make sure you’re not fooled by false advertising and keep an eye out for the USDA organic seal instead.
- Green Seal
Green seal uses scientific research to determine whether a product is green or not. If it meets their requirements, it can proudly display the seal on its labelling.
3.Check the Company’s PR
Generally, the things that third parties say about the company are more trustworthy—but it’s also worth looking into things that the company says about itself. Check the business’s website, particularly the About Us and media room pages. CompanyFolders.com has a great example of this, devoting a special page specifically about their eco-friendly initiatives and printing practices.
You can also check to see if a company has won any awards or accolades for their sustainability efforts. There might also be published corporate social responsibility reports or sustainability reports; these are often the best way to find facts and statistics.
4.Research the Company Externally
Invest a bit of time into researching the business in question. Do a quick Google search and see what the media is saying about what the company does to help the environment. Be sure to seek out reputable, trustworthy sources with a long history of integrity. Ethical Consumer, for instance, profiles and rates companies on their eco-friendliness. Try using the Aspiration app and check out the business’s Aspiration Impact Measurement; this is a score that is based on things like greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, and other stats.
The Importance of Eco-Friendly Products
Eco-friendly doesn’t just mean a product is good for the environment. It also means it’s good for you and your family. The importance of eco-friendly products is much more than just making sure more trees are grown, or your carbon footprint emission is reduced. It also means that when you buy products that you and your family will use, you will be confident that it is safe and non-toxic.
Eco-friendly products aren’t just a fad or the result of parents worrying over nothing. There have been true, real-life instances of kids and animals dying from the toxic leaching of chemicals into their body. One particularly tragic case is the 2008 Chinese milk scandal. Oh, this was just terrible. Over 6200 babies got sick and at least three actually died from the infant formula they drank. It’s terrible to think that a company would do this to babies just to boost profit margins.
You see, the manufacturers of the formula wanted to give a false reading of the protein levels in it. Melamine is a cheap way of making a product look like it has more protein that it actually has. It disguises itself as protein. Thus, this company wanted to
You must be very careful what you buy and because there are always ways of getting around federal regulations with regards to food labelling, no one truly knows what’s in the food we buy. It’s best to eat raw meat and produce as much as possible. Moreover, if you’re a new mother, you might want to opt for breastfeeding instead of feeding a baby formula. The 2008 scandal happened in China, but who’s to say American formula manufacturers have more integrity? Better safe than sorry.
Traditional lunchboxes and storage containers contain melamine, the very substance that caused such a catastrophe in China. Now, the American government will tell you that it’s perfectly safe to use these lunchboxes because the levels aren’t high enough to do any damage. However, it is difficult to trust government guidelines when they are constantly being updated. It is always in the aftermath of an emergency that the FDA will suddenly warn you of the dangers of a particular substance.
As parents, you want to reduce the risk of your loved one getting ill as much as you possibly can. Luckily, there are alternatives to traditional lunch boxes that don’t leach and will ensure the safety of your entire family. Whether you’re making a packed lunch or storing leftovers, you can rest assured that you won’t be eating toxic chemicals along with your food.
Being socially responsible isn’t about putting every single decision you make through a “purity test.” No company is perfect, after all. But you can make reasonable choices on a day-to-day basis. Try to frequent sustainable businesses that make an effort to maintain a low environmental impact.