It’s not enough anymore for us to simply compare prices, quality and performance when buying. Growing environmental pollution and toxic waste makes it necessary to consider how every aspect of consumerism will impact the environment. Responsible consumers work on finding ways to reduce waste and save energy, but sometimes we need help knowing which products are the safest and most eco-friendly choices.
Choose products with the word “organic” on the label. Organic products may cost you a bit more to buy, but you will be contributing to a cleaner environment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set national standards on how the word organic can be used on food labels. Foods may only carry the official USDA organic seal if they are 100 percent organic, containing only a single ingredient. If they contain more than one ingredient, then the product must be 95 to 100 percent organic. Look for the USDA organic seal on cosmetics as well.
Select consumer products packaged in recycled or biodegradable materials. If a product is not made from 100 percent recycled materials, the label must tell you what percent of the material is recycled. A triangular symbol that looks like chasing arrows indicates that a product or its packaging is made from recycled materials. It can also mean that a product or its package is recyclable. Biodegradable means that a product will break down when exposed to air or moisture. The drawback is that the process can take decades.
Purchase large appliances, windows or electronics with the Energy Star label. This means that the product performs as well as or better than a comparable product but uses less energy. Windows with the Energy Star label are energy efficient, saving consumers heating and cooling dollars.
Look for the Green Seal, which means that a product produces less toxic pollution and waste. Do not buy chemical products which contain chlorine, phosphates or nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). Stay away from petroleum-based household cleaners, as these are all things that are bad for the environment. Products sporting the Green Seal are better for both the environment and people’s health.
Shop for new furniture made of wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The logo on the product tells you that the wood came from a forestry operation that meets rigid environmental standards. You can also choose new flooring, molding trims or furniture made from cellular PVC lumber, a recycled plastic material. Not only is this material an affordable, low maintenance alternative to wood, it saves some of the planet’s trees.
Try to find paper products with the FSC logo as well. Purchase computer paper, facial tissues, paper towels, toilet tissue, greeting cards and gift-wrap made from recycled paper. Products that contain 100 percent recycled content are best, but it helps even to use products that are made up of at least 30 percent recycled products.
Search product packaging for a website or telephone number for the company’s customer service department if you can find no government or other official seal or logo of certification. Contact the company for more information about the ingredients or materials contained in its products, in addition to the manufacturing processes used to produce those products. You can also check consumer reports about green products on the Internet.