Certifications Help Consumers Conquer Green Confusion

What’s that, you say? You want to shift your spending to greener goods but you don’t have a clue what’s "green" and what’s being "greenwashed"?

You’re not alone. Polls show that confusion is one of the top reasons why shoppers don’t buy more eco-friendly products.

Certifications and standards help solve the problem in two ways. First, they set meaningful environmental goals (for saving energy, protecting air and water quality as well as public health, conserving wilderness and wildlife) that motivate manufacturers to be more ambitious in reducing their environmental footprint. Second, they inspire confidence in consumers, who value the "third party verification" of a company’s eco-claims. It’s one thing for a business to crow about how green it is. It’s far more reassuring if someone else says so, too.

Earlier, we reported on Greenzer.com, an e-commerce portal that helps consumers by linking to products that are either certified sustainable, "inherently" green (like reusable shopping bags), or have predominantly green attributes. 

, the newest site in the green shopping spectrum, has also made certifications and standards the cornerstones of its recommendations.

A GreenYour product must meet one or more of the following:

1. Green Certification: The product or its principal components are
certified and labeled by a credible environmental organization such as EPA’s
Energy Star program, USDA Organic, Greenguard, Green Seal, EcoLogo, or the
Forest Stewardship Council.

2. Green Attributes: The product or its principal components are
extracted, harvested, manufactured, distributed, consumed, or disposed in an
environmentally or socially responsible way. Green attributes also can relate to
materials or ingredients that are ecologically responsible in nature, such as
post-consumer recycled content paper, organic cotton, or bamboo, as well as
socially responsible business practices, such as Fair Trade practices.

3. Green Yield: The product allows the consumer to reduce his or her
direct greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water use, or waste. Examples
include reusable water bottles, public transportation, CFL lightbulbs, or
low-flow fixtures.

Already, Greenzer.com has compiled a catalog of 15,000 products that meet its criteria. GreenYour.com is adding certified products to its site as fast as it can. That’s encouraging news, given how much stuff is still being manufactured with little concern for planetary impact. Websites like Greenzer.com and GreenYour.com are helping create momentum that, at some point, should transform  every product and service in the marketplace.

5 Responses to Certifications Help Consumers Conquer Green Confusion

  1. mateo bueno September 23, 2008 at 6:46 am #

    hey diane! thanks for the coverage! this IS a challenging space for green sites. at GY we want to be inclusive of many different products at different price points, but the #1 priority is for products to pass the green smell test and kick the greenwashers out of the the park! fortunately, our users have been awesome at informing us of new products that should be included and products that should be taken out. the power of the web and the people!

  2. Diane MacEachern September 23, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    Thanks for the info. Keep up the great work!

  3. Michelle October 2, 2008 at 1:29 pm #

    Hey guys!
    I work for Green Students Fundraising and we actually sell these bottles as a part of a fundraising program!
    Check it out at http://www.greenstudents.ca

  4. Josh October 10, 2008 at 12:07 pm #

    While I appreciate the efforts that you are making and it is definitely in the right direction, I hope you are not confusing your readers and consumers regarding certification. Hundreds of certifications and eco-labels exist, but there are very few that are actually third-party certifications or validations. Many of the certifications you listed are still nothing more than manufacturer self-declarations. This only promotes greenwash in the marketplace and does nothing to aid consumers in making accurate choices about environmentally friendly products.
    I really like your blog and enjoy reading your posts. I just wanted to clarify a thorny issue plaguing many industries right now.

  5. Diane MacEachern October 12, 2008 at 12:22 pm #

    Actually, all of the certifications I list are independent, third-party verifications. I agree that companies that self-certify generally do more harm than good. The ones listed in my blog are not industry self-certifications, but standards established by independents or the government. Thanks for writing.

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