What Does the Term “Green” Really Mean?
Green products are everywhere these days. But what does “green” really mean? The Federal Trade Commission, who sets the standards for green packaging and labeling, is getting tougher on the terms of “green” in the near future and will be updating its “Green Guides”. To help you navigate through the current “green” jungle, here is some helpful information on green packaging:
Organic is the ONLY term on the FTC’s list that’s federally regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. The makers of organic products must prove that their item is ““produced without antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation, or bioengineering.” There is no way around this so organic is indeed the best and most regulated.
This term is highly overused. If the product label is vague, use caution and research online. Most importantly, don’t assume that kids or pests can safely ingest anything marked “non-toxic.” The new guidelines will require that the product is safe for the environment and not harmful to humans.
After the new Green Guides are adopted by the FTC, a manufacturer can use the term “recyclable” freely but ONLY if communities nationwide have the ability to recycle its product. Do your homework before you buy a recyclable product and check if you are able to recycle locally. Another tip: the term “Recycled” is NOT covered in the Green Guides so take a closer look at products making these claims. “Post-consumer recycled” is the ideal content you are looking for because these products have been redirected from the landfills. Using these products helps reduce the waste trail when you actually purchase them.
This is the most confusing “green” term of all. The government does NOT regulate “Natural” products. It does not mean the same thing are healthy or organic so proceed with caution. Ammonia is a perfect example of this confusing label. It is a naturally occurring compound, yet it is also a toxic pollutant.
Buying something that is biodegradable might make you think it will break down on its own but many products with this green label require exact composting conditions to break down and there are products that won’t degrade even then. The new guidelines by the FTC will require that “degradable” products and packaging break down in normal conditions within one year. Items that you throw in the trash shouldn’t be considered biodegradable because they won’t break down in landfills. A better choice is to reduce the waste in the first place.
The new “Green Guidelines” for compost will require that products should take the same amount of time to break down that the rest of your compost pile does.
The FTC’s “Green Guide” revisions should be final this Fall. Since the guidelines aren’t regulations, be sure to do your research and read labels before buying a “green” product.