Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Green Term of the Week - Eco-Labels

As companies scramble to draw in consumers who are concerned about the environment, more and more eco-labels are popping up on the packaging of products. An eco-label is a label on a product that identifies it as being green or organic or environmentally friendly or something else that gives consumers the impression that the product they are buying is good for the environment.

The problem with eco-labels is that many of them mean nothing. They are created by the companies who make the product or given by a green organization that doesn't have any specific standards or ways of ensuring that products really are what they say they are (or aren't). There are no governmental standards for them.

Some eco-labels are helpful. If a product is certified organic, for instance, it must meet a fixed set of governmental standards. Fair Trade Certified is also a meaningful eco-label. Something labeled environmentally friendly or cruelty free, however, are basically meaningless because there are no sets of standards for those labels.

There are so many eco-labels out there, and more are being created by clever marketing companies all the time. I found a very informative website put out by Consumer Reports that gives information on the majority of them: Eco-labels Center.

For each label there is a chart that answers several questions including:
How meaningful is the label?
Is the label verified?
Is the meaning of the label consistent?
Are the label standards publicly available?

There are also more details about the label under each chart.

I grabbed one of my green products and checked it out on the website. I choose Window Kleener by Earth Friendly Products. On the back of the bottle, there is a leaping bunny symbol. Turns out it's one of the meaningful labels that means that the product was made with compassion for animals. 
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