Familiar with the most popular green cleaning product certifications? Or, are you having difficulty deciphering which products are more eco-friendly than others?
When it comes to choosing green products to add to your cleaning supplies, it can often be confusing due to the various third-party certifications. There are a large variety of eco-friendly cleaning solutions and supplies available today that have adhered to various guidelines and standards to become certified.
In this blog, we will share the most popular green certification organizations and programs.
Why are these certifications important?
Cleaning products are necessary for maintaining attractive and healthful conditions in the home and workplace. In addition to the obvious aesthetic benefits of cleaning, the removal of dust, allergens, and infectious agents is crucial to maintaining a healthful indoor environment. But cleaning products can present several health and environmental concerns.
Cleaning products that are branded with a certified ecolabel are deemed safer for human health and the environment by an environmental authority. This certification is given only to products that have reached designated environmental standards, which are often related to biodegradability, low VOC content, low toxicity, less water and air pollution, and low energy usage, ultimately putting less risk of hazardous exposure to people and the planet.
Avoiding “greenwashed” products
Make sure you are closely reading the labels of products, as some may give off the initial appearance of being “green” when they are in fact not. You should be able to easily locate a certification logo such as EPA Safer Choice or Green Seal.
Here's a review of the most commonly used certifications in the cleaning industry:
EPA Safer Choice
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice label indicates that every ingredient in the product has been through an EPA review, meaning that the scientific review team has screened each ingredient for potential human health and environmental effects and that- based on currently available information, EPA predictive models, and expert judgment, only the safest chemicals are used. Previously known as the Design for the Environment (dFe) label, more than 2,000 products currently qualify to carry the Safer Choice Label. These products must disclose a complete ingredient list to consumers for complete transparency. Products with the Safer Choice label help consumers and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients, without sacrificing quality or performance.
Products have to pass the EPA's stringent criteria in order to earn the Safer Choice label. Once a product meets the Safer Choice Standard, EPA conducts annual audits to ensure their standards continue to be met. All products must perform comparably to conventional products.
Green Seal pioneered the ecolabeling movement in 1989 with a mission to transform the economy for a healthier, greener world. Today it’s an environmental leader and remains an independent, nonprofit organization that uses rigorous, science-based programs to identify eco-friendly products and achieve leadership levels in sustainability. Green Seal certifies a large assortment of cleaning products from paper products to floor care solutions.
Those that have been certified have met the same performance and quality requirements you would expect from the traditional, non-green counterparts due to the performance criteria in each of the Green Seal standards. Green Seal certification is not just a ‘one-time deal’. Companies establish an ongoing commitment to health and the environment through annual compliance monitoring and work toward continuous improvement. Green Seal also complies with the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides.
UL’s ECOLOGO certifies products, services, and packaging that have a reduced environmental impact. It has various performance standards for cleaners, laundry detergents, trash can liners, sanitary paper, and personal care products. To be certified, a product must undergo demanding scientific lifecycle testing. The ECOLOGO certification specifies criteria for safer chemicals and materials, using recyclable material, and minimized pollution during production, use, and disposal of products and their packaging.
Back in 2002, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiated the USDA BioPreferred program as part of the Farm Bill. The Program is an accreditation for products with demonstrated biobased content – meaning the ingredients come from renewable biological sources derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials.
The USDA Certified Biobased product label actually lists the percentage of biobased content in each product. The move was made to help consumers identify biobased products and increase the demand for renewable commodities. Biobased products replace the need for many petroleum-based products, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. By reducing the need for mining and burning of fossil carbon, we can avoid the release of new carbon into the atmosphere and help control climate change.
Manufacturers who have been awarded the rights to use the USDA certified biobased label on a product have submitted test evidence of the biobased content for that product to the USDA and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
It’s important to note that EPA-registered products, like disinfectants, sanitizers and virucides, aren’t eligible for third-party green certifications. This is an EPA regulation. However, if a product is EPA-registered, the bacterial and viral kill claims, the environmental impact and toxicity have all been verified by third-party sources.
Of course, there’s a lot more to choosing the right green cleaning product than just looking at the certification. It’s a good start, though.