Just about anyone can claim to be ‘green’ but unless they are Kermit or a company of Leprechauns, how would you know? There are two labels to look for to help consumers make the right choices in safe and environmentally friendly products. Let’s look at those labels and what they can tell us. Since the standards employed for granting certification are based on different criteria we will discuss them separately.
GREEN SEAL STANDARD
The Green Seal is the original eco-label and has set the standard for ‘green’ labeling for 25 years. The green seal standards for certification include not only concern for environmental toxicity and sustainability but also effectiveness. That is, do the products and systems certified actually work well? Do they clean? Green Seal certification is important because it comes from an independent 3rd party not for profit organization.
The focus of Green Seal is on cleaning products. The way your home is cleaned has a significant effect on you, your family and guests. How a commercial building is cleaned has an even greater impact in terms of numbers of people affected and the environment. Green Seal works to make not only the products but also the cleaning process greener by considering the equipment used and the training provided.
We have all heard the old adage “If it smells clean it is clean!” but this is far from true. Chemical and cleaning product companies figured out a long time ago that adding a chemical perfume or fragrance will make you think it’s clean, but that may be the opposite of green and does not necessarily indicate cleanliness. These fragrance chemicals can be harmful to the environment and unhealthy for some people and pets. This is why an independent standards monitor is so helpful in making the right consumer choices in cleaning products and services. To see a video about the Green Seal Certification process or for additional information about the organization, look here: http://www.greenseal.org/AboutGreenSeal/GreenSealVideos.aspx
The United States Environmental Protection Agency allows certain safer products to carry this label. The label tells you that the EPA scientific review team has screened each ingredient and has determined that the product contains only those ingredients that are safest among chemicals in their class in terms of health and environment.
The DfE team compares ingredients within certain classifications, in other words solvents are compared with solvents, surfactants compared with surfactants. The EPA then allows only those ingredients that are safest within each class to bear the DfE Label. The team, located in The EPA office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), uses predictive tools and models to determine that ingredients will not be toxic to human health and that they will biodegrade readily to non-polluting degradation compounds that will not be persistent in the environment nor threaten aquatic life.
The EPA’s Green Chemistry specialists work with the DfE program to screen for problematic chemicals including carcinogens, toxins and persistent compounds. But what may be more important to you may be the elimination of fragrance and dye chemicals that can adversely affect your health. Once exposed and sensitized to an allergen of this type, a person may suffer a reaction from even trace amounts in a product. That’s why the DfE program works at the ingredient level. If you are concerned about your health and the health of the environment always look for the DfE Logo. For more information go directly to the U.S. EPA website for this program here: http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/projects/formulat/label.htm.
For more information on the U.S. EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program (EPP) look here: http://www.cleangredients.org/resources/us-epa