Labeling Green - Our Daily Green

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Labeling Green

One of the first pieces of advice Our Daily Green gives folks is to read the label. However, it's often not enough to read the labels, it's also important to understand that some words are meaningless when it comes to green choices. They feel good words that are chosen as part of an advertising campaign to persuade the consumer that they are making a good decision by purchasing that product.

Always remember their goal is to sell their product, not protect your family and health. Many companies use terms very broadly and there are no standards. Here are a few examples to investigate past the word on the label.

eco graphics
Image from Creative Commons
  • Natural:  By USDA standards, food can only be labeled natural if it contains no artificial ingredients or added colors and is minimally processed. For example, high fructose corn syrup can be considered natural, as long as no synthetic ingredients are used in processing. 
  • Cruelty Free: different folks define cruel differently and there are no set standards for such a subjective word.  It simply means that it won't cause death or harm.
  • Fragrance Free: means that the product has no noticeable scent, which may be as a result of added chemicals that mask the product's scent. Yes, frangrance-free products may actually have more chemicals in them! Fragrance free is not chemical free. 
  • Biodegradable: The product must "return to nature" when left to the elements. There is no standard as to how long it would take or under what conditions. Additionally, the process to create a biodegradable product is often more harmful to the environment.
With a little understanding behind the motivation of the company, consumers can still make healthy and earth friendly choices.

For additional information, Mother Jones has an excellent downloadable guide

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