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Certified eco-labels ensure right choice

Terri Bennett McClatchy

Are you a green shopper? Do you regularly seek out products that claim to better for the planet?

These days, it’s getting harder and harder to know which products are truly better for you and the environment. Terms like “eco-friendly,” “green” and even “natural” are not regulated and have no clearly defined standards.

This means companies can use the terms to make their products look more environmentally friendly than they really are. It’s a practice called “greenwashing” and it’s a growing problem.

So how do you know which labels you can trust? Here are a few eco-labels with certification programs that are regulated, and what you can expect them to mean:

• USDA Organic is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and means the item is produced without using antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering and irradiation or sewage sludge.

Organic foods are also minimally processed without using artificial ingredients or preservatives.

• Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is the world’s leading certification program for sustainable seafood. All seafood products carrying the MSC label have been caught or raised in a sustainable manner that protects species from overfishing.

• Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests. It sets high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable way.

Paper and wood products that carry the FSC label are made from wood taken from well-managed forests.

“Biodegradable” is one label that can fool you into thinking you’re buying an eco-friendly product when you’re not.

Any product destined for the landfill is not going to biodegrade. Landfills are designed to keep moisture and oxygen out, which are necessary for anything to break down or degrade.

There is good news on the way for shoppers in the form of revised marketing guidelines that could soon be approved by the Federal Trade Commission.

Revisions to the “Green Guides” could dramatically change how far companies can go in making themselves appear green. It would tighten standards for words like “biodegradable” and others,making your job as a green shopper easier.

Visit to learn more about the proposed changes and how to share your comments with the FTC.

Knowledge is power. Do your part and use your power to support green products with labels you can trust are better for you and the planet.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist and host of, where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet.
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