Green Certifications: Familiar Seals

half-leaf-300A new report shows that consumers do look for familiar eco seals. What are you looking at when you see that merit badge sash of seals? What do these familiar seals mean, and how will they help you make green choices? We’ve separated the list into four types of seals:

  • Memberships
  • Awards
  • Pledges & Petitions
  • Certifications


Memberships

Memberships often let you know what community or professional organizations the website belongs to. For manufacturers and retailers of baby products, you will find a variety of memberships from community review directories like The Babywearer and Diaper Pin to Real Diaper Association and Miracle Diapers, both charities dedicated to cloth diapers, or the Real Diaper Industry Association, a cloth diaper industry trade association.

When do memberships help you make greener choices? Green America Business Network has members who also go through a rigorous screening process before they can display the business seal of approval. Green America looks more at the impact of the overall business than the individual products, but this seal is a great start in your search for greener products.


Awards

You may notice that a lot of cloth diapers and baby carriers are described as “award-winning.” What are the awards, and what do they mean? Below are some of the awards you will find on baby products.

iparenting media awardFor the iParenting Media awards, a manufacturer submits a product and pays a $300 fee. Then, paid reviewers put the product through their evaluation system. If chosen, the product is then promoted by iParenting Media.

For the Mr Dad Seal of Approval, a manufacturer submits a product and pays an evaluation fee of $129.95 to cover administrative costs. Those products chosen for approval then carry a seal from “America’s Most Trusted DadTM,” who is a newspaper columnist and radio host on fathering topics.

PTPA Media, Parent Tested Parent Approved, also requires manufacturers to submit product and pay a $400.00 to cover administrative and promotional costs. The product is reviewed by four reviewers and PTPA Media. If chosen, the product can carry a seal and will be included in promotion and media.

Great Gear of the Year Award from Shape You for sports, health, and fitness products requires a $75 submission fee. If the product is not chosen for award, it will still be featured on the website for one year.

Best Product Award by Orca Communications Limited (PR firm) is found in their Best Products for Babies & Kids Media Guide. They gather images and information about new products so media don’t have to do separate research.

Book or magazine endorsements often carry the logo of the publication. Whether these products are submitted for review or chosen by the editorial staff varies.

None of these awards listed tells you whether the product itself is lower impact than any other. Many product awards are marketing opportunities that don’t give you the kind of information you need to make greener choices. As alluring as the words “award-winning” can be, don’t be misled into thinking that awards give you information beyond meeting criteria that are not always made public.


Pledges & Petitions

I Took The Handmade Pledge! BuyHandmade.orgHave you seen bloggers and website owners declare I Took the Handmade Pledge from BuyHandmade.org? Or, maybe you have seen a blog with a badge that says My Blog Fights Climate Change from the 350 Challenge. Pledges can give site visitors an indication of commitments, while petition seals and banners are often posted in order to activate visitors to become signers.

Among the seals you might see on natural parenting websites are breastfeeding petitions like the Canadian Breastfeeding Protection Petition from the Infant Feeding Action Committee and the Breastfeeding Petition to President Obama from the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit).

Another common seal within the past year has been support for handmade toys linking to a petition to save micro-businesses from heavy-handed U.S. regulation at Save Small Businesses from the CPSIA from the Handmade Toy Alliance. Similar petitions have circulated for other children’s products, such as CPSIA Impacts on Children’s Apparel Industry.

While pledges and petitions won’t tell you about products specifically, they can give you an indication whether your values and those of the business owner align.


Certifications

energy-starA certification mark is a kind of trademark that carries a legal assurance. Not all certification seals are certification marks. There are a lot of eco-labels and certifications for green building, but there are only a few eco labels that conscious consumers have become quite familiar with to the point that they actually seek out these labels. Energy Star, for example, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a mark consumers look for.

While a seal from the Better Business Bureau has nothing to do with green or environment, it does show that the business has been accredited and adheres to the BBB standards and code of business practices. This is a great baseline for good business practices.

One of the most common certifications you are most likely to see on children’s products is an organic seal. Certified Organic varies by country. In the U.S., the Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program oversees organic certification. In Canada, organic certification on a national level is new this past summer. Cloth diapers and baby carriers can be made with certified organic materials, and whole products can be certified organic. Beyond organic is Demeter biodynamic certification.

Eco Logo is a Canadian government certification for sustainable products based on lifecycle. Green Seal uses science-based sustainable standards and is most often found on building and facilities-related materials. You might find it on household cleaners. More likely on products for home and family is a common seal like the Green Goodhousekeeping Seal.

Another kind of certification that isn’t about environmental impact so much as a generally healthy environment for you and your family is the Asthma and Allergy Friendly Certification, which can be given to any product that is marketed allergy-friendly.

Certification seal and certification marks give you the kind of substitute trust you need when you are far removed from the producers of the goods you use. Legal guarantees, standards, and third-party certification gives people reassurances. They should not, however, be substitutes for building trusting relationships with producers who are engaged in their communities and working to lower their impact in ways very much like you are.

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