The phrase “going green” has been a popular force over the years as more individuals and companies try to save money while at the same time help the environment through the use of energy-saving products and services. Not only are more businesses reducing their carbon output by purchasing eco-friendly supplies and recycling supplies, but products are now being produced that allow customers to live an eco-friendlier lifestyle. But, how does a customer know that your product is “green?” By labeling your products with an official green certification seal, customers can see that your product is eco-friendly and officially approved by the U.S. government as being “green.”
Companies that wish to communicate to customers that their products are eco-friendly can do so by getting a green certification from an independent, third party and labeling their products as environmentally sound. There are numerous third parties that have been verified by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a reliable source for obtaining an eco-label for products, including the following:
- Green Seal – The official Green Seal was developed in 1989 to allow companies to promote their eco-friendly products through a specific certification process that meets the nonprofit organization's environmental standards. Since its inception, the Green Seal organization has certified everything from household products, construction materials and paints to paper products. Once a product has met the rigorous standards of the Green Seal Certification process, the business can then use the Green Seal-certified mark on its eco-friendly product.
- Scientific Certification Systems – For more than 25 years, the Scientific Certification Systems has been using internationally-recognized standards for certifying the following: accessories, adhesives, apparel, building and construction products, building décor, flooring, food and agriculture services, forestry, furniture, home and garden products, jewelry, mailing, packaging and shipping supplies, office supplies, paints and coatings, paper and pulp products, plastics, precious metal, reclamation process or programs, rocks, textiles and fiber, wood products and wall coverings.
- U.S. Green Building Council – The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nonprofit organization that certifies cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. The USGBC uses the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system to recognize green building construction and design. Developed by the USGBC in 2000, LEED certification provides a framework for identifying a building, home or community that is energy efficient and has achieved high environmental standards in site development, water savings, material selection and indoor environmental quality.
- The Chlorine Free Products Association – Companies that produce chlorine-free products can promote this accomplishment through accreditation from the Chlorine Free Products Association (CFPA). Once the certification process is completed, companies can promote their chlorine-free products through the use of the Totally Chlorine Free or Processed Chlorine Free Certification Mark administered by the CFPA.
- ENERGY STAR – One of the most well-known eco-friendly marks for energy-efficient products and services, the ENERGY STAR program is a joint venture developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Originally established to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, the ENERGY STAR label is earned by companies that have products or services that meet the energy efficiency requirements and product specifications set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Products that are able to earn this mark include appliances, computers, electronics, building products, and heating, cooling, and plumbing systems.
- USDA – Food products can obtain the official “organic” certification through the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program. Organic is a term that identifies food products that have been produced without synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering. Approximately 30,000 farms and processing facilities have passed the certification process of the USDA, which allows these facilities to label their products as “organic.”
- Green-e – For over a decade, the Green-e energy certification program has been certifying renewable energy certificates, utility green pricing programs, and competitive electricity products that meet the organization's environmental and consumer protection standards. Products that have met the requirements for renewable resources set by Green-e energy standards can use the trademarked Green-e logo to identify that their product is a certified renewable energy option for customers.
Beware of Fraudulent Agencies
As with any type of certification process, companies should be aware of fraudulent businesses that claim to offer environmentally sound certifications for products and services. For example, last year the Federal Trade Commission banned the fraudulent firm, Tested Green, from selling environmental certificates. More than 100 companies paid between $190 and $550 for certificates that were never tested or certified as “green.” Websites such the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Small Business Administration offer many resources to help find reputable third party certification organizations for validating eco-friendly products. So while going green can be exciting for a company, it's a good idea to do a little digging around before you pay for certification.