Guide to Green Symbols

In Going Green, Uncategorized by Matty Byloos15 Comments

Understanding Green Symbols: A Consumer’s Guide

Marine Stewardship Council Certification Symbol for Sustainable Seafood
taken from the Marine Stewardship Council website.

Marine Stewardship Council Symbol

Marine Stewardship Council Symbol

“The MSC’s fishery certification program and seafood ecolabel recognise and reward sustainable fishing. We are a global organisation working with fisheries, seafood companies, scientists, conservation groups and the public to promote the best environmental choice in seafood.

The MSC is the world’s leading certification and ecolabelling program for sustainable seafood. Look for the blue MSC ecolabel when shopping or dining out. The MSC runs an exciting and ambitious program, working with partners to transform the world’s seafood markets to a sustainable basis. With experts we developed standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability. They ensure that MSC-labelled seafood comes from, and can be traced back to, a sustainable fishery. The MSC meets the highest benchmarks for credible certification and ecolabelling programs, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization guidelines and the ISEAL Code of Good Practice.”

Sustainable Forestry Initiative Certification Symbol
taken from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative website.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative Symbol“The Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) program is based on the premise that responsible environmental behavior and sound business decisions can co-exist. SFI program participants practice sustainable forestry on all the lands they manage. They also influence millions of additional acres through the training of loggers and foresters in best management practices and landowner outreach programs.

This unique commitment to sustainable forestry recognizes that all forest landowners, not just SFI program participants, play a critical role in ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of our forests. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative program is now fully independent. On January 1, 2007, a new, fully independent organization, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc. (SFI, Inc.) was created to direct all elements of the SFI® program. This independence solidifies the SFI program’s strong market position as one of the world’s leading forest certification programs.

The SFI® program has two on-product label types. Both are described below.

1. Percent Certified Content Labels (Chain of Custody)
The SFI program has four distinct percent certified content labels and also provides an additional claim regarding recovered fiber content. Certification to the SFI Chain of Custody Standard is required for SFI program participants to use any of the percent content labels.

2. Fiber Sourcing Labels
The SFI Standard requires participants to employ an auditable system to characterize the forest practices on the lands where they procure raw material. This is done by auditing the on-the-ground practices for a portion of the wood that is supplied to their processing facilities. The program emphasizes reforestation, the utilization of best management practices and enhancing the professional capacity of wood production operations.

The SFI labeling program also recognizes landowners certified under the American Tree Farm System® and Canadian Standards Association (CSA) programs, who supply raw materials to SFI program participants as a source equivalent to forests certified under the SFI program for fiber sourcing labels. In addition to the procurement system, the SFI Standard requires participants to support various training and education programs, all of which is designed to assist landowners in improving their capacity to practice sustainable forestry on all types of forest lands.

Forest Stewardship Council Certified

taken from The Forest Stewardship Council Forest Stewardship Council Symbol

Driven in part by the failure of an intergovernmental process to agree on a global forest compact, and the compelling question-“what is sustainable forestry?”- loggers, foresters, environmentalists, and sociologists came together in the first General Assembly to form the FSC in 1993. The Forest Stewardship Council was created to change the dialogue about and the practice of sustainable forestry worldwide. It’s purpose is to coordinate the development of forest management standards throughout the different biogeographic regions of the U.S., to provide public information about certification and FSC, and to work with certification organizations to promote FSC certification in the U.S.FSC-US has a national presence through the work of its Board of Directors, members, staff, and regional standards coordinators. Products bearing the FSC logo, which guarantees that the wood from a certified well-managed forest, are available across the world from a variety of mills, manufacturers, and distributors. FSC has developed a set of Principles and Criteria for forest management that are applicable to all FSC-certified forests throughout the world. There are 10 Principles and 57 Criteria that address legal issues, indigenous rights, labor rights, multiple benefits, and environmental impacts surrounding forest management.

Organic Exchange Symbol

taken from Organic
Organic Exchange Symbol
Organic Exchange is a 501(C)(3) charitable organization committed to expanding organic agriculture, with a specific focus on increasing the production and use of organically grown fibers such as cotton. Their long term goal is to grow the amount of certified organic land farmed for fiber production by 50% per year. Achieving this goal will produce a positive, significant, visible and measurable impact on the world. To support these efforts, Organic Exchange brings together brands and retailers with their business partners, farmers and key stakeholders to learn about the social and environmental benefits of organic agriculture, and to develop new business models and tools that support greater use of organic inputs. In addition, they raise consumer awareness about the value of organic farming and the availability of products containing organic cotton. Organic Exchange also creates solutions which improve environmental quality, enhance the livelihoods of farmers, increase profitability for innovative brands and their business partners and expand consumer choice. Their vision is to create a different kind of market where the promise of organic farming can be realized. A market where farmers are known and celebrated, where innovation design, social equity and stewardship of the land go hand in hand, where healthy and fair returns are shared by everyone in the supply chain and culminates in the delivery of functional, beautiful, sustainable products to consumers everywhere.

LEED Certified and the USGBC

taken from LEED Rating System at USGBC

United States Green Building Council Symbol LEED stands for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). This distinction is a property of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization that is devoted at its foundational level to increasing the use of sustainable and green building practices across the fifty states. The USGBC has in its ranks 12,000 plus organizations that span the breadth of the country and all facets of the building and construction industries. These member organizations work collectively in order to implement and advance building structures that are at once environmentally safe and sound, as well as profitable for the business person involved. Further, their structures are set up to be healthy dwellings in which to live, and healthy buildings in which to work. Membership is varied in its ranks, and includes developers, architects, general contractors, agencies of the government and other nonprofit organizations.

What Does LEED® Mean and Who Gets Rated? LEED’s “Green Building Rating System™” attempts to certify and push the advancement of a planet-wide implementation of green building and development practices. Their goal is to accomplish this through the creation of a universal set of tools and performance standards. LEED has certification and performance standards for divisions of building such as “New Construction,” which is designed to foster the growth of and distinguish commercial projects and new institutions conforming to green building practices at the highest levels; for “Existing Buildings,” LEED has instituted guidelines for maintenance and ongoing operation, which gives building owners and operators a standard of environmental excellence to reach for; there is even a set of standards for “Schools,” which serves to put special guidelines in place for the potentially unique nature of the concerns facing school spaces. In addition to these three divisions, there are also standards for “Commercial Interiors,” “Core and Shell,” “Retail,” “Healthcare,” “Homes” and “Neighborhood Development.”

Fair Trade Certified
taken from

Fair Trade Certified SymbolFair Trade Certification empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms and communities, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace. Fair Trade is much more than a fair price! Fair Trade principles include: —Fair price: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit. —Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited. —Direct trade: With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace. —Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade revenues.

The New Fair Trade Symbol

The New Fair Trade Symbol

Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification. —Environmental sustainability: Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations. TransFair USA, a non-profit organization, is the only independent, third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S. and one of 20 members of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO). TransFair’s rigorous audit system, which tracks products from farm to finished product, verifies industry compliance with Fair Trade criteria. TransFair allows U.S. companies to display the Fair Trade Certified label on products that meet strict Fair Trade standards Fair Trade Certification is currently available in the U.S. for coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, sugar, rice, and vanilla.

Best Aquaculture Practices Certified
taken from the Aquaculture Certification Council
Best Aquaculture Practices Certified Symbol
Aquaculture Certification Council, Inc. is a nongovernmental body established to certify social, environmental and food safety standards at aquaculture facilities throughout the world. This nonprofit, nonmember public benefit corporation applies the Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices standards in a certification system that combines site inspections and effluent sampling with sanitary controls, therapeutic controls and traceability.

The Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) retail-level certification mark is a trademark of the Global Aquaculture Alliance that is licensed to the Aquaculture Certification Council for use only by BAP-certified facilities.

Certified facilities may use this certification mark on retail packaging only if it contains shrimp farmed and/or processed in accordance with Best Aquaculture Practices standards, as affirmed by site inspections and auditing procedures implemented by the Aquaculture Certification Council. Certified facilities may include the mark in advertising and retail packaging only as provided in the Facility Certification Agreement and referenced publications.

The BAP mark reflects process certification only. It does not certify the condition, quality, or food safety status of aquaculture products.

Recycling Symbol
taken from
Recycling Symbol
The three arrows symbol is not an indication that an item can be recycled. The recycling symbol is unregulated, meaning that no authority controls who places the symbol on what product, be it recyclable or not.

The plastics industry uses the recycling symbol as an “in house” coding system to identify resin types. If you ask the plastics industry, they’ll tell you that the coding system isn’t intended for consumer use or to indicate recyclability.

The recycling symbol, or chasing arrows, is found on most plastic products and identifies the type of plastic resin used in the product.Of course, good recyclers are trained to look for the recycling symbol so it leads to confusion, but unfortunately you cannot use the symbol to determine whether or not a material is recyclable. Instead, you need to follow the guidelines for your community, not the labeling on the product.

Technically, almost everything manufactured could be recyclable if there was a reliable end-buyer for the material. The existence of a recycling market is typically dependent upon a manufacturer buying the product back for remanufacture. When an industry distributes a product and then uses virgin materials to manufacture new products, it creates a glut of material without a recycling market.

Therefore, for a material to be recyclable, there has to be a demand for it on the market, and that’s what determines what can and cannot be accepted.

On a related note: When you see a recycling symbol on a product to indicate that it is MADE from recycled content, you can trust that it was (though again, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is RECYCLABLE). We strongly encourage you to buy products with recycled content to further stimulate the market for recycled materials.

Green Seal Certified
taken from
Green Seal Certified Symbol
The Green Seal says that a product or service has been tested according to science-based procedures, that it works as well or better than others in its class, and that it has been evaluated without bias or conflict of interest. The Green “Seal of Approval” has come to stand for reliability, fairness and integrity.

Green Seal’s evaluations are based on state-of-the-art science and information using internationally recognized methods and procedures. To earn the coveted Green Seal a product must meet the Green Seal environmental standard for the category as demonstrated by rigorous evaluation, testing and a plant visit.

The Seal provides a business advantage, for it identifies a product as environmentally preferable, provides third-party corroboration of environmental claims, and distinguishes a product from competitors that can’t support their environmental assertions. The Green Seal may be used on packaging, in promotional material, in catalogs and in advertising for products that have been certified to meet the applicable standard.

Founded in 1989, Green Seal provides science-based environmental certification standards that are credible, transparent, and essential in an increasingly educated and competitive marketplace. Our industry knowledge and standards help manufacturers, purchasers and end users alike make responsible choices that positively impact business behavior and improve quality of life.

USDA Organic Certified
taken from the National Organic Program of the US Dept. of Agriculture
USDA Organic Symbol
The National Organic Program regulations prohibit the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge in organic production and handling. As a general rule, all natural (non-synthetic) substances are allowed in organic production and all synthetic substances are prohibited. The National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Non-Synthetic Substances, a section in the regulations, contains the specific exceptions to the rule.

Production and handling standards address organic crop production, wild crop harvesting, organic livestock management, and processing and handling of organic agricultural products.

Organic crops are raised without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Animals raised on an organic operation must be fed organic feed and given access to the outdoors. They are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.

Labeling standards are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product.

Products labeled “100 percent organic” must contain only organically produced ingredients. Products labeled “organic” must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. Products meeting the requirements for “100 percent organic” and “organic” may display the USDA Organic seal.

Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase “made with organic ingredients” and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. For example, soup made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients and only organic vegetables may be labeled either “made with organic peas, potatoes, and carrots,” or “made with organic vegetables.” The USDA seal cannot be used anywhere on the package.

Processed products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients cannot use the term “organic” other than to identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced in the ingredients statement.

A civil penalty of up to $11,000 can be levied on any person who knowingly sells or labels as organic a product that is not produced and handled in accordance with the National Organic Program’s regulations.

The NOP is a marketing program housed within the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Neither the OFPA nor the NOP regulations address food safety or nutrition.

Energy Star Certification Symbol
taken from
Energy Star Certified Symbol
ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.

In 1992 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced ENERGY STAR as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Computers and monitors were the first labeled products. The ENERGY STAR label is now on over 50 product categories including major appliances, office equipment, lighting, and home electronics. EPA has also extended the label to cover new homes and commercial and industrial buildings.

The typical household spends $1,900 a year on energy bills. With ENERGY STAR, you can save up to 30% or more than $600 per year, with similar savings of greenhouse gas emissions, without sacrificing features, style or comfort. ENERGY STAR helps you make the energy efficient choice.

If you are looking for new household products, look for ones that have earned the ENERGY STAR. They meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy. You can identify them by the blue ENERGY STAR label see above.

Organic / Sustainable Cotton Symbol
taken from the Organic Trade Association
Organic Cotton Symbol
Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production.

Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. It includes a system of production, processing, distribution and sales that assures consumers that the products maintain the organic integrity that begins on the farm.

Certified Organic” means the item has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations. Certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards which have been set.

Copyright 2008 Easy Ways to Go Green, Organic Eating Daily and Matty Byloos


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