Center for American Progress

It’s Easy Being Green: What Does That Certification Mean?

It’s Easy Being Green: What Does That Certification Mean?

Find out which products really are green with this quick guide to trusted environmentally friendly and energy efficient certifications.

With the new wave of green products hitting the shelves, it’s natural to question which products are truly green and which aren’t. Many companies engage in “greenwashing,” or putting eco-friendly labels on products that do more harm than good.

There is currently no federal regulation that addresses this problem. However, the Federal Trade Commission recently started a series of hearings to evaluate green marketing claims.

The best thing to do is look for labels like “organic” or “recycled” that are actually regulated by the federal government. Terms like “environmentally friendly” and “nonpolluting” are too vague to be useful. Here are some key certification labels to look for:

Energy Star: When shopping for home appliances or electronics, look for this U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy designation, which is given to energy efficient products. Energy Star gives recommendations on everything from dishwashers and steam cookers to roofing, windows, and computers.

USDA organic: The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program gives this seal of certification—found on food and cosmetics—to any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that meets certain standards for ecologically based practices such as cultural and biological pest management and exclusion of all synthetic chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones.

Green Seal: This nonprofit provides scientific environmental certification on everything from household cleaning products to paints, appliances, and vehicles. Green Seal judges products and companies on their environmentally responsible production and purchasing, energy efficiency, and other product-specific qualities.

Forest Stewardship Council Certification: The international Forest Stewardship Council accredits inspectors that then examine forest operations and manufacturers. Their stamp of certification appears on paper and wood products that the inspectors prove are produced from responsibly managed forests and/or processed and created in an environmentally friendly manner.

This feature is part of a new series from CAP recognizing those who are taking action to address climate change and help create a low-carbon economy.

To learn more about the Center for American Progress’ policies on energy and the environment, please see:


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