Walk into just about any store these days, and you're likely to come across at least a handful of products with some sort of eco-seal. The logos are on food, cleaning products, paint—even soccer balls and T-shirts! And while it's great that companies are taking steps to be greener, sometimes it can be hard to tell what a logo actually means. To help, here's the lowdown on some of the most common seals you'll see on shelves.
Design for the Environment (DFE)
Where you'll see it: On more than 2,500 products, including hand soap, cleaning products like dish and laundry detergent, and fabric softeners; brands include Clorox Green Works and Murphy's Oil Soap.
What it means: Scientists from the EPA, which established the seal, screen the ingredients in each product to make sure they're safe for people and the environment. Plus, to get a DfE seal, a product has to list all of its ingredients, including fragrances, either on the label or on the company's website—something that non-certified cleaning products aren't required to do.
Fair Trade USA
Where you'll see it: On more than 11,000 products in the U.S. including tea, soccer balls, and chocolate. Products from brands like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Ben & Jerry's, and Avon all carry the seal.
What it means: First used in the U.S. in 1998 for coffee (it was around for decades before in Europe), the Fair Trade Certified label ensures that the farmers and workers who make the products are paid fair prices, work in safe conditions, protect the environment from harsh chemicals, and reinvest in their local communities.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
Where you'll see it: On items made with forest products, like office paper, greeting cards, building materials, and furniture. More than 4,000 companies in the U.S. sell FSC-certified products.
What it means: Started in the '90s, FSC certification guarantees that the company practices responsible forest management. That means they use methods that minimize the waste from harvest, protect indigenous people, and monitor growth so forests aren't harmed.
Where you'll see it: In over 320 different categories, including paints, household cleaners, and personal care products. Hotels and restaurants can also earn the seal. What it means: Created by the nonprofit Green Seal, every item with is logo has to meet environmental and human safety standards from hen it's created through its disposal. (For instance, one requirement for paper towels is that they are made of 100 percent recycled material.) For hotels and restaurants, the seal shows that the company has ken green measures, like minimizing waste and reducing water use.
Where you'll see it: On products including makeup, lotion, and deodorant, from brands like JASON and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. Some household cleaners and pet products have it too.
What it means: For the past 14 years, the logo has been displayed on products that aren't tested on animals. (The companies as well as those that supply their ingredients can't test on animals.) Yearly, companies show written confirmation that they're sticking to the standards.
Where you'll see it: On more than 600 home (top seal, left) and personal care products (bottom seal, left) including detergents, cleaners, and shampoos; brands include Aubrey Organics and J. R. Watkins.
What it means: This seal was established by the Natural Products Association, a nonprofit membership organization for the natural products industry. It certifies that the product is made of at least 95 percent natural ingredients and comes from a source found in nature (think plant extracts). Products also have to be free of ingredients that pose a risk to human health or the environment, like parabens or phthalates.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
Where you'll see it: On organic cotton and wool products like tees, polo shirts, bedding, and baby clothing by manufacturers like Naturepedic and econscious.
What it means: To wear this label, the material has to have at least 70 percent organic fibers, meet specific standards (like no GMOs), and companies have to practice social and environmental responsibility by, for instance, properly managing waste water and following child labor laws. The International Working Group—an organization made up of trade and nonprofit groups—oversees the seal.
By: Arricca Elin SanSone