Eco-certifications aim to screen for green cred. But make sure you understand what they’re telling you – and what they’re not.
You see them on products ranging from sofas to tofu, face creams to yoga pants. They’re eco-labels, those little badges of apparent honor that reassure us that our money is well spent.
But is it?
The answer is: sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. It depends on the label.
Eco labels run the gamut from third-party verified and trustworthy to almost meaningless.
Consider a piece of furniture made from wood and slapped with the label FSC-certified. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification was created by environmental activists following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification was created by timber industry professionals in 1994 to lessen the threat of FSC on the industry. So while both certifications sound like bona fides, the standards are drastically different. FSC uses a third-party verification system, while SFI allows companies to self-assess.
You may encounter other labels such as Certified Organic, EcoCert, and Leaping Bunny. With all of these, it’s important to understand the process behind the certification. Not all certifications are indicators that the product is environmentally sound.
Given how many certifications are out there, it helps to have a working knowledge of which to trust, starting with a few of the most common, legitimate, and trust-worthy:
- USDA Organic for food, beverage, personal care products, or textiles
- LEED-Certified for buildings
- Energy Star for appliances
- Fair Trade for products made under safe, sustainable conditions
- Green Seal conducts scientific analyses on products’ environmental impact